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51% of ‘Hungry Searchers’ search restaurants from maps and by food type as journeys go mobile

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Increasingly mobile consumers looking to eat do so on their mobile phones and their searches for what and where to eat increasingly start with a search engine or a map, a new study finds.

New research from Yext into the ‘Hungry Searcher’ reveals how important third-party platforms have become in determining where consumers choose to dine, with 27% of consumers looking for a table ‘on-the-go’.

The study, conducted among 2,000 consumers in the UK, identified just one fifth (20%) of customer journeys now start with the restaurant’s own website. Instead, half begin with a search engine, 12% begin on map apps such as Google and Apple Maps, a further 7% start on review sites such as Yelp and Foursquare, while 5% begin on delivery sites such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Jon Buss, MD UK, Yext, explains: “Third-party services such as these have enabled consumers to make more informed decisions on-the-go. This shift is impacting the restaurant more than any other. An average restaurant may see over 10x the amount of traffic happening across these new experiences compared to just 2.7x in other industries.”

You are what you eat

Additionally, the research noted a shift in what consumers search for, with 51% of consumers now relying on searching by food type, i.e. ‘Italian food’ as a means to choose a restaurant, raising important questions around how restaurants are marketing themselves online.

Comparing this year’s findings to the study Yext ran in 2017, the number of consumers exhibiting this behaviour has already risen by 6%. Alongside this, 13% are now using specific food items such as a ‘burger’ or ‘pizza’.

A recent Yext study among 400 marketing decision-makers identified 89% of hospitality respondents, the largest proportion of any sector, agree that improving their web listings is crucial for their organisation if they are to increase sales. With 37% of consumers looking for a restaurant online every week, the business opportunity is huge.

Lee Zucker, Head of Industry, Food Services & Hospitality, Yext, says: “Restaurant chains have to start tackling some of the big questions when it comes to data architecturing. It’s no longer enough to promote the brand on its own, or simply list menu items on a page inside the restaurant’s website. Restaurants have to be able to publish the information customers want across the whole network of sites and apps they use day-to-day. We see that when this is done properly, there’s significant ROI for restaurant brands across all segments from QSR to fine dining”.

Kitchen and web must be gluten-free

Beyond simply the food people want to eat, ordering food is a complex process with the logistics of pick-up, dietary requirements and an available table all weighing into the equation. In fact, 81% of consumers include (attribute) terms like ‘takes reservations’, ‘has outdoor seating’, ‘drive-thru’ or ‘gluten-free options’ in their search query.

Also worth noting is the speed at which this information is needed; 12% of people expect this information at their fingertips one hour before they visit or pick-up an order from a restaurant.

“There’s still a place for a really strong brand identity” adds Buss. “However, as the ways consumers look for places to eat and stay change, so are the strategies that businesses need to use to reach and engage with these potential customers. Being known for what you do means putting this information out there first for consumers to find. And it has to be consistent everywhere for it to stick.”

“Our newly published report, Brand Control in the Age of AI surveyed 400 marketing decision makers found food and hospitality businesses in the US are ahead of the curve in recognizing this. According to the data, 74% of those who see the need to improve their marketing strategy saying that enhancing the way they manage their brand online will increase customer loyalty.”

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