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Restaurants grow sales via the internet

Restaurants grow sales via the internet

Restaurants grow sales via the internet

Paul McGarrity looks at how restaurants are growing their customer base and sales via digital and social media.

While I’m not a huge fan of either multinationals or takeaway pizza, I can’t help but admire Domino’s which has reported massive gains in online sales over the past year.  

Last week, the pizza chain revealed it had increased e-commerce sales in its last quarter of trading by 57pc, throughout its UK and Ireland franchise network.  That’s impressive growth in what is a highly competitive industry.  The company’s success also demonstrates how digital and social media aren’t viewed as optional add-ons for the restaurant sector, but are now placed at the very heart of how restaurants market, sell and serve.

Domino’s

Domino’s online success is the result of placing new technology and social media at the very heart of its business.  Domino’s probably understands its customers better than any other brand.  It knows its customers are very strong users of the internet and social media and develops its whole business - from taking orders, marketing to customers and hiring staff - via digital media.

However, Domino’s’ introduction to the power of the internet wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.  In 2009, two monumentally idiotic employees in its Conovo, North Carolina branch thought it would be a good idea to film themselves placing cheese and salami up their noses before garnishing a pizza with them. Unsurprisingly, the video went viral causing a PR crisis for the brand.  After a slow reaction to the internet storm, the company’s chief executive eventually released a media statement and turned to social media to help quell the issue. The incident was a learning curve for the brand and since then it has invested heavily in selling and marketing online.

Every part of the Domino’s customer journey, from brand awareness to sales and customer service, has a very strong digital dimension. If, for example, you search for ‘pizza delivery Belfast’ the brand is highly visible on Google search engine results for that particular phrase, making it more likely for a potential customer to click through to a website of their local Domino’s franchise.  Critically, the company also makes it very easy for customers to select and buy from its websites.  In contrast to many businesses that sell online, Domino’s has a fast and efficient e-commerce process that maximises the number of people completing purchases.

But it’s the brand’s use of PR and social media that really sets it apart, and acts as a huge driver for online sales.  Facebook and Twitter, two of the most important social media sites, lie at the core of Domino’s marketing.  Last year Domino’s celebrated its 50th anniversary by offering customers 50pc-off pizzas in a campaign that culminated in a record week of sales for the brand.  It was able to use Facebook advertising to micro-target its main audience, and encourage them to visit a dedicated Facebook app where they could use an online voucher for a local franchise.  The viral nature of Facebook and Twitter were also leveraged as people shared the competition online with their own social media friends.

Mourne Seafood Bar and Social Media

It’s not just global brands using digital media to grow and retain customers.  Mourne Seafood Bar is one of the real success stories in the Northern Ireland restaurant scene.  It uses social media effectively to communicate with customers and promote its restaurants, which include the Mourne Seafood restaurants in Belfast and Dundrum, Home Popup in Belfast and The Belfast Cookery School.

For Mourne Seafood, using social media had a number of distinct advantages over traditional media. According to Bob McCoubrey, co-owner of Mourne Seafood Bar, “Twitter is a direct, fast and free way to promote the restaurants and we use it to advertise new menus, promote deals and offers, as well as for customer service queries”.

Through its Facebook page, Home Popup features regular updates on new menus and engages with its customer base.  The restaurant is steadily growing its Facebook fans who can see regular posts from the restaurant in their news feed. The restaurant also benefits from the viral nature of social media as its Twitter followers and Facebook fans often share its content online. For example, if Home Popup posts a new offer or dish, fun photo, or interesting comment, its social media followers will sometimes share these posts on their own Facebook page or retweet them on Twitter. 

The opportunities and benefits from social media also extend to answering customer service questions and even sourcing suppliers.  Twitter, in particular, has also allowed Mourne Seafood Bar to discover and trade with local suppliers who are also using social media, including Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil whose products are now sold in the Belfast Cookery School.

One of the reasons Mourne Seafood Bar is so successful on social media is that it doesn’t use it to exclusively focus on promoting products and offers. The content posted on Twitter, for example, varies widely from posting quirky photos of its makeshift ‘Oyster’ Christmas tree to questions on New Year resolutions. As McCoubrey says, “You don’t want to bore people as a business; you have to mix it up a bit and also show people you are a human being”.

Paul McGarrity is director of Octave Online Communications, an internet marketing consultancy based in Belfast.

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