With restaurant traffic declining year-over-year in the United States as consumers increasingly shift to on-demand online ordering brick-and-mortar food services are in need of tools to adapt to the changing landscape.
Given restaurants’ special needs, Digital Knowledge Management platform Yext has launched Yext For Food, which is intended to help food services businesses find greater balance in how their physical locations are discovered online. (Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here).
In a conversation with GeoMarketing, Lee Zucker, head of Industry, Food Service, at Yext, cited a blind study the company undertook found that 83 percent of consumers read a restaurant menu online before deciding on a restaurant to go to.
As a result, restaurants that stand out with rich details about their locations and menu items attract more business. According to the Yext study, over 76 percent of diners are more likely to choose a restaurant with in-depth attribute information available, like price range, dress code, and meals served.
When it comes to competitive advantage, it’s worth noting that consumers are particularly impatient when seeking a place to eat: over 67 percent of diners considering three or more options before deciding where to eat, noted Zucker, who was hired to launch Yext For Food. Previously VP of Sales and Restaurant Partnerships at food tech startup Slice, Zucker has also served as director of Enterprise Sales at SinglePlatform.
Among the features of Yext For Food that restaurant brands can avail themselves of:
- Publish menu item details across leading online platforms. Restaurants can control and feed in their menu data to Google, Yelp, Facebook, Bing, Foursquare, AllMenus, delivery.com, MenuPages, and more, making them discoverable for the specific dishes they serve in more places and across more types of searches that diners perform.
- Sync more information from the Yext Knowledge Manager to new food search platforms. Postmates, Zomato, delivery.com, MenuPix, and Slice are now part of the Yext PowerListings Network, allowing restaurants to control their information across more resources that consumers use to decide where to eat.
- Manage new types of restaurant details. Restaurants can now label themselves with attributes like price range, meals served, attire, happy hour specials, and more in the Yext Knowledge Engine, and publish those details throughout intelligent search.
GeoMarketing: What’s the origin behind Yext For Food?
Lee Zucker: The introduction of Yext For Food reflects the massive shift in the platforms that consumers are using every day. It used to be when you searched, you would go to a website, such as a platform’s third-party site. Today, with the role of Connected Intelligence and voice-activated digital assistants, you get more direct answers, rather than the ten blue links on a page.
What’s unique about restaurants is that food is the most searched for local business category. The methods that consumers are searching for food is actually way ahead of the ways that they’re searching for any other type of brick-and-mortar, local business.
The services at their disposal – whether it’s Alexa, Siri, Google Home, or just typing in the search of Google – has altered their search habits in ways that are more sophisticated compared to their interactions with other verticals such as retail, or medical.
Aside from the superficial differences between text and voice search, how does the sophistication that animates consumers’ food-related queries manifest itself?
When it comes to food, people are being more specific. It’s not that they know exactly what restaurant they want, but they’re being specific in the cuisine or the actual food item that they want.
For example, over 68 percent of consumers search for cuisine or a food item not by the restaurant’s name. That has tremendous implications on the food industry.
Restaurants, historically been buying keywords that represent “at” words. They’re advertising against their brand names, which is important for brand recognition and brand presence. But more consumers than ever before are searching for “pizza near me” or “ice cream open now” or “outdoor seating” or “reservations accepted” or “delivery.”
What other ways does the food services category differ from other verticals when it comes to search activity?
Consumers are searching for things that aren’t pertaining to a specific brand, but rather for the need and the wants in the moment. About 30.26 percent of people will eat within the same hour that they have searched for a restaurant. 63.89 percent of people that are searching with a restaurant will actually transact with that restaurant within 24 hours.
What that means is that they’re searching for three-plus restaurants, within a single search. First, they’re searching for a cuisine or a food item, unbranded. Then they select the three to four restaurants that they might want to try, and they’re looking through the details of that, and they’re looking at that menu information. 83 percent of people look for the menu before they dine at a restaurant. So that presents more specific challenges for food services brands and Yext for Food is about addressing those concerns.
What’s the main impact from using voice-activation that food services brands should be aware of?
In a larger sense, half of all searches are going to be done by voice by 2020. I would estimate that 20- to 30 percent of searches right now are being done by voice. Therefore, if you’re not appearing with unbranded and structured data when someone searches on Google Home, or Alexa or Siri, you’re not going to be found by that percent.
The way that consumers are searching and the different places that they can go … it makes it so much more important that a restaurant brand is everywhere.