A recent study by MomentFeed revealed that the rate of unbranded searches (people looking for a generic food or product type) has skyrocketed over the past two years. That acceleration rate is the highest among restaurants. According to the report, it climbed 322% from 2017 to 2019.
The fact is that proximity, immediacy, and convenience (including delivery) may have become as important as food quality. In addition, the proliferation of mobile devices and consumers’ hunger for new experiences have fed the trend of the brand-agnostic diner. “Customer disloyalty is sweeping the globe,” according to Nielsen.
Here’s an example: Jamie loves a particular brand of chicken sandwich, but she’s really hungry, has a yearn for a crispy bird on a bun, and doesn’t have much time for lunch. She searches “chicken sandwich” on her phone and is instantly presented by a range of options. She looks at reviews (as do 92% of restaurant consumers), photos of the food and the location, distance from her office, and perhaps delivery time. She sees her favorite brand, but it’s .4 miles further than a new and appetizing option. A previously loyal fan of one brand, she decides to try something new. If she likes it, she’ll tell her friends. Sales are lost with a few taps on a screen.
As Google enhances its Google My Business pages and refines its search algorithm, savvy multi-location food brands are becoming more aware of the imperative to stay “top-of-search.” How do you do that?
- Keep local information current and specific: Update location openings and closings, hours of operation, delivery options and specialty items.
- Remain diligent about monitoring and responding to online reviews, which has an impact not only on consumer perception but also on search ranking.
- Stay on top of what people are searching for and ensurie that local menus focus on those words. For example, keto and plant-based options are on the upswing. If you have them, flaunt them online but at a local level.
- Partner with a company that has unique expertise in mobile-local search optimization and can streamline the update process, while understanding the ongoing needs of your business.
All of this is even more critical today because more than half of searchers never get past what they see on Google. Your GMB storefronts have become as important as your physical locations when people are looking to eat.
Building brand loyalty is more difficult than ever and broad-reach marketing campaigns will fall flat if fast-casual restaurants aren’t also focusing on consumer behaviors at the exact moment of decision-making and hunger. Loyalty programs and exceptional and unique consumer experiences are powerful ways to incentivize repeat business, but your smartphone cred can ultimately have an impact on how far someone will walk, drive, or wait to eat YOUR chicken sandwich.
Topics: Systems / Technology
Nancy A. Shenker is Content Strategist for MomentFeed and Founder/CEO of theONswitch marketing and a professional writer, and speaker. She has spent more than 30 years in the events, food, retail, SaaS, and small business worlds, focused on delivering meaningful and memorable experiences and bottom-line results. A former executive at Reed Exhibitions, Citibank, and MasterCard, she has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNN, and other media. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.