Is Social Media the key to a restaurants success?

For many cafes, bars and restaurants one big factor for success is social media. A good social media presence can make or break a new business. In order to better understand the influence that social media can have on local companies I looked at the Facebook pages of three restaurants in Bangor.

The first was King Street Kitchen, a traditional small cafe that serves up anything from a Fry-up to a Chicken Maryland. The second was a dine-in Indian restaurant, Yaks, that focused on Nepalese and contemporary Indian cuisine. The final restaurant was the North Down location of Tony Macaroni, a UK-wide chain of restaurants with 17 locations.

According to a poll held by Sprout Social, a popular social media management company, 75% of people will purchase a product in-person if they have already been made aware of it on social media.

A screenshot of a social media post

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The data scraped from each of the restaurants Facebook pages shows a stark difference between those that have seen the page and those that made the trip to dine in. The only restaurant that averaged above 50% was Yaks.

What is it about Yaks that makes its social media presence so popular? Competitions, vouchers and customer interaction. In just the first week of February they offered a 15% discount for those who used a link on their Facebook page, they held a competition for people who like, share and tag a post from their page and they also asked questions of their customers inviting feedback and interaction.

According to local food blogger Allan Wilson, “It’s normal for [people] in Bangor to whinge about the lack of diversity and range of food found in town and they do have a comparatively contemporary and friendly restaurant in Bangor compared to usual standards.” He believes that the relative scarcity of unique restaurants in Bangor has led to Yaks popularity, “It’s pretty much standard Chinese, Indians, pizza and kebabs that make up Bangor’s town centre.”

Aaron Hanna, head chef and owner of the King Street Kitchen believes that his low Facebook check in rate was down to the age of his customers. As a small local café, he caters to an older client base who relies more on word of mouth and recommendations from friends rather than online reviews.

His use of Facebook is relegated to updating the daily specials and over the Christmas period advertising that he can supply free meals to those who could not support themselves. Mr. Hanna said that, “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made to come to Bangor, and we hope to be here for many, many years to come.”

In these uncertain times, restaurants will have to rely on their social media presence. No longer can they rely on walk ins and snap decisions. The COVID-19 lockdown has turned every restaurant that remains open into a takeaway. Each restaurant covered in this article has had different responses to the pandemic.

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The data taken from Statista shows a staggering 100% reduction of seated restaurant diners due to COVID-19. The only way restaurants and cafes can survive is by online business.

Yaks have closed both their sit-in and takeaway branches of the business and besides a short post on Facebook apologising for their closure, have yet to post anything else. King Street Kitchen have also closed their doors and do not offer delivery, instead Aaron Hanna has used his Facebook page to keep tabs on the community and deliver a positive message. He cannot make money during the lockdown but instead he keeps the restaurant visible.

In contrast to the two local businesses, Tony Macaroni’s have remained open for takeaway, offering a zero-contact collection service and advertising that they offer complementary meals for NHS staff and key workers.

These differences will mean life or death for the businesses once lockdown has been lifted. Only time will tell if the local restaurant industry will survive the massive changes and shifts in buying habits brought on by the recent pandemic.

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