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Total Digital Management (Food & Beverage) – Part 1 of 3

A comprehensive marketing strategy for hotel-based food & beverage offerings in the digital age

INTRODUCTION

It is a fact of life that we are more digitally connected than ever. Studies show we spend an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes everyday online,[1] growing an e-Commerce and online lifestyle. Hyper-convenience and personalisation, down to the segment of one, are no longer predictions but reality.

Traditionally the hospitality business has been slow to react to innovative technology; instead trusting tried and tested methods. Whilst attentive service, delicious food, and spotless hygiene are still basics to operations, those without a solid digital strategy run the risk of being left behind.

MODERN TRENDS

Amidst the pandemic, hotels are positioning more and more their food and beverage outlets as a part of their core proposition. In many cases, they can provide 50% of their revenues and are a key differentiator in a crowded marketplace. They should be considered a profit center rather than a loss-making amenity. Hotels have embraced modern dining concepts like farm-to-table, localisation and casualisation with gusto. With the rooms side already fully embracing digital ecosystems, it is time for F&B to follow this path.

Here are the touchpoints in the marketing funnel for hotel F&B outlets that could improve with a digital makeover. We will go through the stages of Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Loyalty in this 3 part series.

AWARENESS

Digital Shopfront 

The hotel industry has long understood the importance of having a brand website, but that understanding does not seem to have filtered down to their F&B offerings. Strategic Hoteliers understand their outlets have to not only appeal to in-house guests but also to residents and visitors in their locations to truly thrive.

As hotel occupancy levels fluctuate seasonally, having a more stable business base reduces risk of revenues. To appeal to this customer base, outlets need to shed their image of being stuffy and overpriced. As a result, it is better to position themselves as an independent brand which just so happens to be located in a hotel. Hotels which make this pivot are on-trend to make their outlets more inviting to the local community. They can become a hub of activity by hosting events not only appealing to in-house guests or the well-heeled. 

An Independent Brand

Genuine brand differentiation requires more than a funky logo and a fancy name. A standalone website is ideal for establishing this identity. Additionally, this microsite allows the outlet to tell its own story and structure without the restrictions of a rigid template hidden inside a chain’s site. This is the digital shopfront that will give your guests a taste of what is on offer.

Furthermore, a microsite allows you to increase your online presence by providing landing pages for marketing campaigns run on social media or PPC. Advertising online in banner ads and other formats can be a good return on investment, as long as you are getting help from experts on bidding. Moreover, don’t forget to help customers find you by investing in SEO to bump up your organic search ranking. For example, in research conducted in Southeast Asia, outlets saw an increase in their total reservations by 30%, which transforms into an increase in profitability of 87% of the outlets.  

Tip: Make sure you're updating content on the site, such as news and menu updates, to maintain relevancy and optimal ranking on searches. 

Social Media

A savvy social media strategy is important for any outlet looking for growth. Food and drink is the most popular interest (39%) [2] on Instagram (IG) for the UK, and globally there are over 33 million posts [3] with #pizza. Create a strategy that includes a mix of influencer marketing, interactive promotions and captive content. 

The sentence “Content is King” has never been more accurate. Prioritising resources to produce quality media is just as important as delivering service day-to-day. Dishes can become viral through how visually appealing and “grammable” they are. This encourages posts and tags. Remember, studies show that we eat with our eyes first [4].

Video Media

Don’t ignore the rise of video-based content shared as Posts and Stories format on IG. Especially with the rise of Instagram Reels trying to copy TikTok. Video content does not have to cost a fortune to produce. Professional looking videos can now be recorded on any decent smartphone. We have seen that the best photography and videos, in many cases, are done by chefs and owners that are passionate about their food.

Social Media allows direct engagement with your customers, building a closer relationship that would otherwise be impossible. Social media is also an ever-expanding advertising platform with a third of 16-24 year old’s discovering new products and services via ads [5]. There are ways to optimise your account for sales with strategic ad spend and distinct calls-to-action (CTA) via buttons and landing pages.

Tip: Posts that mention another handle on IG gain 56% [6] more engagement, so your outlet social media pages should be referencing back to the property accounts.

Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3.

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