To the modern restaurateur, it should come as no surprise that the advertising game has changed. If you run a restaurant and have recently decided to abandon traditional advertising methods (like newspapers and direct mail) in favor of more technological methods (like search engine and social media), you’re not alone.
In fact, the Toast Restaurant Success in 2017 Industry Report found that digital advertising in restaurants is set to increase by up to 36% in usage this year, while print ads are set to decrease by up to 31%.
These shifts are due to a myriad of reasons, but one of the key takeaways of the report is that – despite industry shifts – the vast majority of restaurateurs are holding out hope for a successful 2017. 92% of restaurateurs remain optimistic for their sales this year, while 87% asserted their belief that the success or failure of their business is in their hands.
Below are some of the key areas covered by the 2017 Restaurant Success Report and what restaurants should take note of now that the year is almost half over.

The Growth of Social Media in Restaurants

A head chef? Check.
Tables? Check.
A Facebook account? Check.
Social media might as well be on the list of restaurant essentials. According to the report, 96% of restaurants use social media while 75% plan to advertise on social media this year.
Social media lets a restaurant’s brand live outside of its walls. Taking a photo, coming up with a clever caption, and posting it to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook takes all of five minutes, so no wonder 19 out of 20 restaurants are using it in some capacity.
Where social media is not growing rapidly in restaurants is in visual content. Instagram may be the second most popular social media site for restaurateurs, but it seems that the images and videos are stopping there. Less than half of all restaurants plan on being on YouTube by the end of 2017 – the same goes for Snapchat.
As 2018 nears and these sites grow in usage, it should be interesting to see how restaurants will adjust their social media priorities to meet their customers where they are online.

Shifts in Restaurant Advertising

Since social media is free, restaurants can use their marketing budgets to advertise elsewhere. The results are in, and the most popular paid advertising outlet for restaurants in 2017 is…social media!
This may come as a surprise, but sponsored social media posts allow restaurants to target those in certain demographics in a more accurate and cost-effective manner than direct mail and newspaper ads. That’s why social media ads will increase by 20% in usage by restaurants in 2017, while newspaper/magazine and direct mail ads will drop by 31% and 6% respectively.
Pushing the digital marketing train even further are search engine ads. While they remain the 4th most popular advertising method of choice this year (behind social media, community event/charity sponsorship, and newspaper/magazines), they saw an increase in usage of 36% compared to historical numbers.
Given the amount of people who probably Google terms like “pizza near me” on a daily basis, this doesn’t seem like an opportunity to miss out on.

Restaurant Technology in 2017

Websites, gift cards, and an email database are the most popular forms of restaurant technology in 2017, while restaurants are slow to adopt more innovative technology like kiosks, table top tablets, and server handheld tablets.
According to Toast’s Restaurant Technology in 2016 Report, this innovative restaurant technology is perhaps being viewed more positively by restaurant-goers compared to restaurant owners. The majority of restaurant-goers think handheld tablets and tabletop tablets improve their experience, while 65% will use a self-order kiosk some or all of the time they dine out.
For those willing to embrace this new technology, this could represent an opportunity for tech-savvy restaurateurs to meet the needs of guests while more reluctant owners stick to more traditional technology.

Challenges to Restaurant Success

Despite that aforementioned positive outlook these restaurant owners have, there will always be a bump on the road – or in this case, quite a few.
So what are these problems? Well, it’s actually who – and it’s staff. The most commonly named challenge to running a restaurant in 2017 is hiring, training, and retaining staff. With a hospitality turnover rate of 72.9%, this is not just a problem. Arguably, it’s an epidemic. Technology can help to reduce this rate as it keeps staff engaged and increases their morale. 
Attracting customers, high operating costs, and tough competition was also identified as frequent challenges – all of which are legitimate threats to restaurant success.

Achieving Restaurant Success in 2017

With seven months left this year, there’s still plenty of time to learn from other restaurants and attempt to achieve success in your own business. With smart marketing and social media campaigns, innovative technology, and a strong staff, restaurants will be one step closer to a successful year.
For all the information on Restaurant Success in 2017, download the full report for free here.