In our latest blog, Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insights Director at KAM, shares how consumers make decisions about which pubs and restaurants to visit and what drives their choices… 

“Halfway through this life I used to feel free. Was it just a dream? Think you’re so carefree, but you’re just seventeen, so much like me.

Channeling Sharon Van Etten, who, in my mind, perfectly sums up that feeling when you reach middle age. Romanticising those halcyon days of youth, whilst also accepting the realities of what the present and future hold. It can often be easy to look cynically at the younger generations of today (Gen Z in particular). 

The shape of hospitality has changed.

Whether forever or just for the foreseeable the shape of hospitality has changed. One thing, however, never changes – the importance of understanding the way in which customers think and behave. Influencing these thoughts and behaviours is becoming harder.

To better support hospitality operators and brands as they adapt to the world we now live in, KAM Media recently partnered with Zonal to create a research study that tracks the hospitality customer’s decision process, from plan to plate. We followed the customer journey from the initial decision to leave the house and venue choice through to ordering, paying and leaving a review. One thing stood out. The younger generations are unique in how they interact, engage and experience hospitality.

The younger generations are unique in how they interact, engage and experience hospitality.

Every customer will follow this journey and at each key touchpoint, there are opportunities for brands and operators to influence the decisions that customers make and to surprise and delight. BUT these can also be key ‘stress points’ for customers along the journey.

Choosing a hospitality venue

Let’s start at the beginning. We’ve made the decision to go out somewhere for food and/or drinks. However, how do we choose a venue and, crucially, what are the best methods for operators and brands to influence this decision?

61% of consumers use at least one ‘tool’ to help them choose a venue. With the remainder happy to visit the places that they usually go to. This represents a huge opportunity to influence the decision. General internet searching and seeking recommendations from friends and family are the main sources of help for consumers.

Gen Z and Millennials heavily reliant on Instagram

However, we see huge generational swings when it comes to the use of social media, with Gen Z and Millennials heavily reliant on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for ideas and inspiration. Brands and operators need to ensure they are targeting the right channels which fit with their strategy and target customer base.

Drivers of choice

What are consumers looking for when they are searching for inspiration on venues? Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM chats more about this in our recent Statchat vlog:

Menus and prices are key pieces of information that customers are searching for, alongside customer reviews. (Remember price doesn’t mean ‘cheapest’, it means ‘within my expected budget for that occasion.’)

We see nearly 1-in-3 customers looking up photos of the venue and the food. This is considerably higher with Gen Z and Millennials, with nearly 1 in 2 looking for photos of food. We know how important ‘Instagram-ability’ is for this generation and they eat with their eyes, and in many cases with their phones before they even consider using their mouths!

All age groups rely on reviews, but interestingly, whilst 35’s-and-overs rely more on customer reviews, those in the 18-24 bracket are far more likely to be influenced by ‘expert’ reviews, in particular those of bloggers and influencers through social media.

Focus on your target customers

Be aware of the ‘routes to information and influence’ that match your target customers – and invest time, effort, and money into maximising your reach. Consider the channels that your customers will be using and the type of information that is most likely to impact and influence their decisions.

There’s no quick fix though – it needs dedication to keep it up-to-date and relevant. We eat with our eyes – make sure you have quality photography across all digital. This isn’t just about food, but your venue too. Remember that we consider occasions and atmosphere to be key drivers of destination, so photography needs to capture the ‘vibe’ rather than just what things look like.

Social channels should also be a ‘window’ into your brand. This is the opportunity to show your customers the ethos and values your company upholds. From sourcing through to staff. Let the customer in, be honest and build their trust.

The journey from plan to plate has many opportunities to stumble but also many opportunities to influence. Whether you’re seventeen or you’re just like me, we all just want to be understood.”

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