By Katja Schroeder, Expedition PR
Restaurants, from five-star establishments to the local coffee shops around the corner, have discovered the power of tech, most notably in the form of social media.
A good example is the food truck rave. Some of food trucks have amassed an impressive online following by Tweeting their daily specials, route and even open positions. Boston-based MeiMei Streetkitchen (@meimeifoodtruck) shared its recent job opening by picture with 2,800 followers.
MeiMei StreetKitchen @meimeifoodtruck 3 Apr Hi friends, we’re hiring! Know someone who wants to join our team of food truck bandits?
Visit http://meimeiboston.com/jobs pic.twitter.com/DIsCRyWzXB
Kogi (@kogibbq), a Korean barbecue taco truck in Los Angeles, has more than 102,000 followers. That’s 17,000 more than star chef Marcus Samuelson, the founder of New York’s hot spot Red Rooster, although @MarcusCooks had just successfully published a bestseller book.
While a hundred thousand fans on Twitter is an impressive feat, it’s not quite social media rock stardom in the food industry yet. Over 817,000 people follow the musings of Food Network Star Bobby Flay (@BFlay). His Food Network colleague Giada De Laurentiis (@GDeLaurentiis ) has 792,000 Twitter fans.
As reported by Mashable, a study by the National Restaurant Association showed that about 45% of consumers have already chosen where to eat with the help of an online site, such as Yelp.
The study also showed that 27% of diners have viewed or posted reviews. Consumers love to share their views on food. They are flocking to food sites and apps like Foodspotting and foodgawker. Most of them also love a good deal, often offered by ScoutMob, Groupon or LivingSocial. Foursquare recently announced a partnership with OpenTable that allows diners to make reservations using their Foursquare account.
While grandmother’s recipes might still rule in the kitchen, it’s not your grandmother’s marketing style anymore.
“Follow us on Twitter” messages pop up on websites, menus, stickers, and billing receipts.
“You Tweet. We tweet. We all Tweet, @ShakeShack” says a chirpy sticker on Shake Shack’s paging system that customers get to alert them when their food is ready to pick-up at the counter.
The popular Burger joint chain also uses Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare and Pinterest.
The list of food sites is growing by the day. QSRWeb compiled the 35 top restaurant apps (see infographic below), a selection of the currently most used apps for foodies to find new places, score deals and rewards, check ingredients and share their experience – good or bad – via social media.
Online tools not only help diners decide on where to eat but also on what to eat. New York-based Restaurant Comodo created an Instagram menu, directing patrons to pictures of food posted on the popular photo-sharing site to help them decide what to order. People snap pictures of the restaurant’s Latin-American dishes and share them on Instagram using the #ComodoMenu hashtag.
While some restaurateurs have achieved social media stardom, the impact is more profound.
The food industry has turned the much talked about customer experience management theory into a reality. Restaurants, food trucks and food producers use social media to engage with their customers, find out what they like, and get new customers into their doors. Technology also helps educating consumers about food and making healthy food more accessible.
Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs started using social media and web-based systems.
Nextdoorganics, a year-round CSA (community supported agriculture) program that features a variety of locally-sourced, mostly-organic produce and small-batch foods, created a social media kit with images, posters and sample messages that members can use to promote the CSA via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Members can confirm, skip or cancel orders with SMS.
To bring the local farmers market to homes, Farmigo created an online marketplace. The idea is to connect communities of people, like offices, community centers or schools, to multiple local farms. Members can use Farmigo’s online marketplace to select their weekly deliveries of locally -harvested food from a number of participating farms. They can also track their orders and billings. The produce can be picked up weekly at a chosen delivery spot.
Has technology already changed the way you choose your food and share it with friends? Do you have a favorite “foodies” app. Let us know. We are always looking for new apps and sites.