Why Every Stage of the Dining Experience is Social

There’s no shortage of beautiful meals and restaurant façades on social media. We’re digging deeper into why every stage of the dining experience is a social one, online and offline.

Discovering New Restaurants

When potential diners are trying to decide where they’re going to eat, they consult many resources — often within the same search — including friends, review sites like Tripadvisor, and food media. What do these all have in common?

Since diners have limited time and money to spend on any given experience, they want to make it count. And they often use multiple sources of information to research and validate their selection. More consumers than ever trust online review sites and social media for recommendations on where to eat both near home and while traveling.

The vast majority of surveyed consumers share that their dining decisions are based on online reviews, with up to 72% in some markets also noting they have been influenced by restaurant photos. This holds whether it’s for locals or travelers — an average of 78% of our respondents across the U.S., U.K, France, Spain, and Italy used Tripadvisor to research local restaurants, while a whopping 85% of the same respondents used Tripadvisor while traveling.

Dining Invites Connection

One of the main reasons people dine out is to connect with other people. Think about your patrons and what they care about. If you don’t know, spend some time observing their behavior — or ask them!

Does your typical diner need quiet and private ambiance or are they seeking a high-energy place to mingle? When you design your experience, think about the ways the space can either connect or separate your diners. Your setting, atmosphere, technology, and noise level can all impact whether or not diners can enjoy being with their dining companions.

“Some places I want to visit because I want to Instagram a particular food item.”

Connecting Isn’t Just Limited to In-Person

Most people — 74% in the United States alone — share some aspect of their dining experience on social media, especially on Facebook and Instagram. Larger groups of diners are even more likely to share, with 90% of respondents posting to Facebook. Instagram came in a close second at around 50%.

When someone shares their dining experience on social media, they’re creating a virtual connection with people in their network. The good news for restaurants? Encouraging social media sharing means free marketing.

Make your restaurant social-media friendly by adding your social media handles or hashtags to your menu or building share-worthy experiences in your cuisine. Think about the subtle ways that show off your restaurant’s personality, like:

  • A checkholder that’s an old library book
  • An eye-catching wall mural or neon sign
  • Creating a colorful tablescape
  • Building aesthetically pleasing mise-en-place, even if it’s not “fine dining”
  • Incorporating live entertainment into your experience

It’s not about making your restaurant unique or different — you already are. It’s about showcasing who you are in a way that lends itself to today’s culture of online sharing. And the small creative touches can drive serious online momentum.

Diners Want Memorable and Shareable Experiences

As a restaurateur, you know that the food is only one very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to running your restaurant. How your restaurant makes diners feel — whether they’re celebrating a big event, having their first date, or just relaxing after a long week of work — defines how your guests remember your restaurant and whether they would recommend you to others. What defines memorable and shareable? An experience that stimulates all the senses, not just taste. While great food remains the backbone of any restaurant, you should also engage sight, sound, smell, and touch from start to finish as a diner walks in.

Think about how you can incorporate each sense:

  • Sight: Think about your lighting, your tablescapes, and your overall decor. Your lighting plays a huge role here — whether it’s an intimate atmosphere or cheery and well-lit. You’ll also want to make sure your design elements — signage, menus, and so on — are aesthetically pleasing and have font sizes large enough to read.
  • Sound: According to Zagat, 24% of diners cite excessive noise as their number one complaint. Investing in ways to help diners hear each other or in a musical background that matches your brand will differentiate you from the competition.
  • Smell: Scent plays a huge role in dining choices. Choose which smells you want to combat and which ones you want to use to make diners’ mouth water.
  • Feel: Is the space airy and open or cozy? This is also where food presentation comes into play. When you choose your table linens, servingware, and seating fabrics, think about how they’ll feel to someone dining at your restaurant.

Don’t Worry About Tradition

Think about how you can expand your brand by opening up different experiences in your restaurant. Experiment with chef’s tables, wine pairing dinners, market tours and cooking classes, specialty dinners or taking your concept mobile with a food truck.

An awesome experience doesn’t have to be a flashy menu item, or even an avant garde installation. It comes down to the hospitality you offer.

Take Eventide Fenway, a fast-casual seafood restaurant. General Manager John Myers’s number one goal is to deliver food to the customer as fast and seamlessly as possible. So rather than yelling name after name after name, servers ask for a phone number for the table as guests sit down, who then receive a text when their order is ready. This allows Eventide to maintain a quiet, relaxing atmosphere without sacrificing speed. It’s an unexpected and delightful atmosphere in a restaurant concept that is traditionally noisy — and it’s something they couldn’t have done five years ago.

When it comes to driving traffic to your business, think about what memories you hope your overall experience will create, not just the food on the menu.

Get social with Tripadvisor

Get social with Tripadvisor

Last Updated: 2 January 2019

© 2020 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved.

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