If a meal is enjoyed at a restaurant, but no one Instagram’s the food, did it ever happen?

This piece of silly pop philosophy has a serious point. It highlights the fact it is no longer good food alone which will encourage customer loyalty in the food and beverage industry.

Before, travel guides and word of mouth recommendations would mean the survival or death of a hospitality business. Now, three quarters of hotel guests will check TripAdvisor before staying at a given place and over half of all diners will check reviews of a restaurant before choosing to eat there.

This is because food is only part of the appeal. The overall experience takes in many factors, including service, atmosphere and, importantly for brand loyalty programs, how it reflects on their lifestyle choices. With competition in an often saturated market on the rise, brands need to choose a loyalty program which will set them apart. Social&Loyal helps navigate the hospitality industry to maintain customer loyalty in an often precarious market.

 

Locals and tourists

It is rare to find two groups which have such disparate opinions of each other. Locals hate tourists for their relative ignorance on local policy. Tourists revere locals for being the sagacious gatekeepers to the “real” cultural experience they travelled across the world to enjoy.

If you look on TripAdvisor, recommendations from locals have a higher cache than even lifestyle and tourist guides. Maintaining a business in the food and beverage industry means catering to both in a way which doesn’t alienate one or the other.

One of the best ways to forge brand loyalty in local communities is to be part of it. Buying locally sourced produce (whether for sale or distribution), using local businesses for changes to your property and investing facetime with other local businesses will help earn good will. It will also have a considerable economic effect on the area in which your business is located. This helps your area prosper which improves ROI in your own business.

Keeping the locals happy whilst enticing tourists can be tricky. Whether it is a bar or restaurant, locals will often be put off if tourists appear to take over. Tourists, however, love local character. One of the best ways to keep the balance is to know your market. Appealing to the right demographic will work for both parties.

If you want to encourage high end custom, locals will appreciate attracting tourists in the same bracket. It could mean more business opportunities in the area. It will also help locals encourage tourism, rather than fight against it. Treating them both special is feasible. Finding the right rewards for both will keep them happy as well as loyal.

 

Diversification

Recent studies prove that to keep custom in the food and beverage industry, diversification is paramount. To reach the highest demographic possible, you want to cater to high end clients as well as casual diners. To do this, you often need to offer different aspects of your brand. Fine dining downstairs with a bistro style menu upstairs is a classic example.

However, with all these points of sale, building a loyalty platform can be tricky. For distributors, this is even more challenging. Retail stores are having to vie with online competition like never before. Larger corporations are often underselling on your product, so making your custom worthwhile has never been more important.

A transactional based loyalty program might be difficult to maintain. Building your brand loyalty will take a more blanket approach. If you build a recognizable name, but lack integration of your services, it will be difficult to push forward.

Many food and drink distributors have been reluctant to use technology to their advantage. But with diversification being so high, if you don’t respond quickly enough you may be left behind. Responding quickly to the market requires technology. Government changes, shifts in global markets and food and drink trends need to be exploited quickly. If not, someone else will get there first. Finding the right loyalty program software can be incredibly useful.

 

Social media

This is where social media comes in. Feedback from surveys is important, but the information is difficult to collate and implementing changes can also be a slow process. With food and drink, social media trends are too powerful to ignore.

For distributors, finding your next product starts with something as simple as keeping an eye on relevant hashtags. Food bloggers and lifestyle gurus have a power which many big corporations have been ready to exploit. Often this will involve promoting products through individuals, an avenue you might want to explore if you haven’t already.

The nature of food blogging is to respond to trends and innovate them. Their innovation is also a great way to understand the appeal of certain products. Through them you can also tap into a pre-existing market.

For restaurants and bars, a healthy social media presence is important. This is partly because you will have one whether you like it or not. With all the Instagramers taking pictures of your food, you better hope it looks good with or without a filter. Curating your own social media presence with professional photos and interesting offers means you will be in control. If you leave it to customers alone, you allow others to build your reputation for you.

 

Loyalty programs

Engaging with customers through social media as well as point of sale will mean finding a new way to foster brand loyalty. Build your brand as a lifestyle and social media users will want to promote you as a way of promoting themselves. Offering discounts and rewards for sharing your product or service can be as easy as catering a dinner for two. These customers get an experience on the house and you get free promotion through their followers.

With over a third of tourist spending on so-called “foodie experiences”, diversification in the food and beverage industry has never been more important. Building loyalty will take a lot of work to make your brand stand out. But, this is where the good news comes in. It can also be the most fun and rewarding part of your business.

Integrating your product with venues, entering street food markets, building promotion around a particular chef/personality or promoting farm to table by touring the farm are just some ideas of how your brand can be reflected as a lifestyle. Inventiveness is rewarded with loyalty, so be creative with your rewards.

 

If you want to learn how your brand can use loyalty program software, set up a free consultation with our loyalty experts today!

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Johnny Reyes
PM & UX/UI Specialist
Product management

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