Franchise restaurant operators consider social media reviews and search engine rankings more important than traditional advertising and promotions and more than two-thirds (69 percent) are confident in their ability to manage their online activities, according to survey results announced today by GE Capital, Franchise Finance.
Fifty-six percent of survey respondents consider customer ratings and comments on social media sites more important influencers of store traffic than traditional advertising and promotions, and 35 percent consider them as important. Moreover, 45 percent consider search engine rankings and consumer reviews on sites such as Yelp! and UrbanSpoon more important than traditional advertising and promotions, and 43 percent consider them as important.
“Restaurant consumers are connected online so it’s imperative that franchisees meet them where they are,” said Shannon Tolbert, chief marketing officer of GE Capital, Franchise Finance. “We’re seeing an intense battle for market share among brands in the U.S. Those who reach consumers through social media and digital marketing strategies will likely have an edge.”
Forty-five percent considered their ability to manage their social media reviews and search engine rankings satisfactory, while 24 percent said their capabilities were excellent and that it was an area of focus for them. Meanwhile, 29 percent admitted they could be better at it and said they had no resources or limited resources to devote to this.
Nearly one-third (32 percent) report spending more than $10,000 annually in online advertising, social media management and search engine optimization, including tools, services and people, and 26 percent report spending less than $10,000 annually. Thirty percent indicated they didn’t know how much they were spending. Only five percent reported spending nothing.
“Restaurant operators are making use of social media because they realize it’s a simple, cost-effective way to connect directly with consumers,” added Kevin Runnels, the digital communications leader of GE Capital, Franchise Finance. “We know they’re deploying more social media resources this year — a trend that will likely continue over the next few years.”
The restaurant industry survey was conducted March 30-April 2 at the annual Restaurant Leadership Conference. The 104 respondents were composed of franchise restaurant owners/operators (46 percent); C-level decision-makers in a restaurant franchise (22 percent); independent restaurant executives (13 percent); and other industry participants (21 percent).
Most respondents fell into one of two segments: 35 percent own 101 stores or more, and 22 percent own 1-10 stores. More than one-half (58 percent) of respondents operate quick-service restaurants, while 24 percent operate full-service restaurants.
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