Is money spent maintaining your website a good investment? An in-depth study of where people get information about restaurants indicates it probably is, as the Internet beats outs newspapers, printed guides or any other information source to find about your operation. The marketing implications here are huge.
Ever wonder exactly where people go to gather information about restaurants in the digital age? The people at the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism did, so they conducted a big-time study to find out.
The Pew Center followed a survey methodology significantly more rigorous than the anybody-can-answer online polls often used today. Pew made 43,000 phone calls to whittle down the list of potential participants to the 1,501 landline and 750 cell phone respondents who comprised the final sample.
Pew wanted to know where people get news and information about restaurants. They learned that not everyone actively looks for restaurant information. Only 55 percent of surveyed adults said they do.
Yet this 55 percent are the people whose attention restaurants want to get. “People who actively seek out information and news about local businesses and restaurants are a diverse and somewhat upscale group,” the Pew report says. “As distinct populations, they are more likely to live in relatively well-off households – those earning $75,000 or more – and have college educations. In addition, the 55 percent of adults who get information about restaurants, bars, and clubs are more likely to be women, young adults, urban, and technology adopters.”
Digging deeper, of this 55 percent who seek out restaurant information, 51 percent head for the Internet to find it. Specifically, they use:
• search engines —38 percent of respondents rely on them;
• specialty websites—17 percent rely on them; and
• social media—3 percent rely on social networking sites or Twitter.
The numbers don’t add up exactly because the survey accepted multiple answers if respondents volunteered them.
Newspapers were a preferred information source for 31 percent of information seekers, with 26 percent relying on printed copies and 5 percent turning to newspaper websites.
Even in the Internet era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth information is a go-to source for information about restaurants. Nearly one-quarter—23 percent of adults—say they rely on worth of mouth to learn more about restaurants.
Relatively few respondents—only 8 percent—get restaurant information via local TV, via either broadcasts or station websites.
This is good data that comes from a much-respected source. Keep these results in mind when you’re deciding how and where to allocate your marketing and advertising funds for next year.
For many restaurants, it looks like the money you spend on your website is a smart investment, particularly if you focus on optimizing search engine results. Yelp and similar review or city guides websites might be worth a look, but be sure to inspect any service’s web metrics for your particular market before committing any money. Newspaper ads still have merit, but TV may no longer be part of most restaurants’ marketing mix.
The biggest surprise in the findings, however, is how few people turn to social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter to find out information about restaurants. It’s especially curious because, as the Pew researchers are careful to note, this survey’s respondents are likely to be “…young adults, urban and technology adopters.” If these people—exactly the kind of customers most restaurants want to attract—aren’t social media users, then who is?