This is a recurring theme in all fields of activity. Large companies themselves are struggling to find their strategic angle to initiate a real digital transformation, weighed down by far too many multipurpose communication tools.
In the restaurant industry, this is all the more difficult when you want to offer a plant-based offer on your menu. In this case, a real digital strategy is necessary, and in order to keep consistency in the communication of the offer.
A website to host the menu
The evolution of Facebook now makes it possible to create company pages, which brings a lot of flexibility to communication. This is why some restaurants prefer to use a Facebook page as a showcase site rather than creating a real website. However, is this a good idea?
In the case of a restaurant offering a plant-based offer, the website is nevertheless essential to present the concept and values of the restaurant as well as to host the menu.
Indeed, the problem with Facebook pages is that we often focus on photos and customer reviews. But we forget that the objective of a vegan customer is to be sure that they can eat plant-based when coming to a restaurant. Photos and reviews from other customers will never be enough to guarantee that plant-based options will be available. Access to the menu is therefore essential.
Restaurants that do not have a website therefore use their Facebook page as their main site. And here it gets tricky because the menu is very often missing. However, corporate Facebook pages have adapted to host menus. In fact, there is a “View menu” button that you can easily add and that allows you to download your menu in photo or pdf format.
It i also understandable that some Chefs do not plan the menus in advance, leaving their creativity free. But in the case of a restaurant that offers a plant-based menu, a minimum of information will be necessary, at the risk of missing out on interested customers.
Vegans therefore often have to be content with photos and sift through Facebook comments to hope to see any information that will be useful to them. But in the era of web 2.0, finding a restaurant that suits you should be able to be done in just a few clicks.
Search sites for SEO
We could say that all is not lost and that “friendly” sites are there to help us in our research. Sites such as TripAdvisor or La Fourchette make it possible to search for restaurants by theme and to have access to customer opinions.
However, when browsing these sites, we notice that the filters are incomplete. They sometimes make it possible to refine your search for restaurants with a specific theme, but the vegan/plant-based theme is currently absent. At best, the vegetarian filter will be present but we will then have to go through this theme to do our own sorting.
These filters show a search result that is often limited to traditional restaurants with a plant-based option or to real vegetarian restaurants. To have access to the plant-based offer, the matter becomes more complicated.
At Gault & Millau, a “veggie-friendly” filter is available, but you will find more traditional restaurants offering vegetarian options. The plant-based offer does not appear there and the real vegan restaurants are not yet listed.
The Michelin Guide website does not contain any filter associated with the plant theme.
Vegans are therefore not helped in their search and in response to this lack of information, specialised search websites such as VegoResto or Happy Cow are developing.
Social networks to talk to customers
The role of the Facebook page is essentially to share the life of the restaurant, talk about its menus, interact with customers via live videos, announce events…
An Instagram account will also be essential, as for everything related to catering. The visual experience must be taken into account and culinary photos are a “must”. If the restaurant offers veggie options, this should be considered in Instagram communication using dedicated hashtags. Before doing so, an analysis of hashtags related to the plant-based theme will be of great help, to avoid falling into a void or nonsense. Beware of overly generic hashtags like #veggiefood or #healthyfood which will not help vegan much in their searches. It will be better to use more specific hashtags like #veganfood or #veganoption.
The Twitter account is very appropriate for Chefs who wish to speak and interact “live” with their customers (with the possible help of a Community Manager). It brings a more human side to communication and shows the Chef’s commitment. Restaurant Twitter accounts will rather be used to engage membership through activities such as contests, incitement to retweets, etc. Here again, attention should be paid to the hashtags used. In this area, the hashtags #plants_gastronomy or #vegan_gastronomy can be interesting to use.
Twitter and Facebook are nowadays often hijacked to serve as a relay for Instagram photos. It is also a strategy that should not be neglected.
Other social networks may be useful depending on the size of the restaurant and the Chef’s desire to communicate by other means.
In the restaurant business, communication is essential for all the reasons we know. The matter is still delicate in the plant-based catering and the (too fast) evolution of social networks does not always leave time to have a real reflection on its web strategy. What should be remembered is to keep consistency between your catering offer and the way you communicate it. Assuming your plant-based offer and highlighting it on the web is the key to attracting the right customers.
In terms of communication, anything is possible as long as it is coherent.