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Restaurants Unsure of Best Social Media Strategies

Restaurant operators have moved strongly into social media, but a survey of 166 restaurant managers finds a mixed picture in the way restaurants use social media. Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) recently released a study, "Social Media Use in the Restaurant Industry: A Work in Progress," by Abigail M. Needles and Gary M. Thompson. The study found that many restaurants are moving ahead without having well-defined social media goals. Needles, a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University, is a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, where Thompson is a professor. The study is available at no charge from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.
"Our respondents believe social media are important, but they have a difficult time in terms of measuring whether social media activities increase customer loyalty, bring in new customers, or boost revenues," said Needles. "We found that these restaurant operators generally rely on non-financial measurements to determine their return on investment. In fact, we found a lot of uncertainty surrounding how to measure the financial returns of social media."
Added Thompson: "Restaurant operators have the right idea about social media, but they need to focus on a particular goal and a specific market segment. Then they can select the appropriate social media channel. Most of the restaurants in our study are on Facebook, but perhaps Foursquare or blogs would be a better choice, once they refine their goals."
Industry Strategy: A Key Focus of the Cornell Hospitality Research Summit
The importance of strategic thinking resonated in numerous presentations at the 2012 Cornell Hospitality Research Summit (CHRS), as explained in a newly released proceedings, "Hotel and Restaurant Strategy: Key Elements for Success," by Glenn Withiam. The new proceedings publication, which provides summaries of more than a dozen CHRS strategy presentations, is available at no charge from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.
Since the goal of most strategies is to build customers' patronage and loyalty, CHRS presenters aimed many of their analyses at the foundations of customer brand loyalty, including employees' attitudes and actions, a well designed physical environment, and an appropriate set of service offerings. For a strategy to succeed, organizations must align their activities with their stakeholders' attitudes. A critical element in brand management is to measure whether brand marketing efforts are hitting their intended target.
Like other hospitality industry segments, restaurants are moving rapidly to integrate technology in their operations, notably with social media. Although loyalty programs are an inevitable part of the competitive scene, true loyalty comes through excellence in service that involves attention to detail, hospitality, and appropriate service. For many chains, franchisees are integral to ensuring the brand's success and thus it's important to consider the dynamics of a franchise system. Consumer research is also critical to a restaurant's success.

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