How Restaurants Can Utilize New Technology to Connect with Customers
Dr. Gary Edwards

In May, Taco Bell embraced a new social media campaign, encouraging its Twitter followers to add them on Snapchat—a photo messaging app that allows users to send each other temporary photos that disappear after a few seconds. Taco Bell announced its release of a new burrito through messages sent via Snapchat, becoming one of the first brands to engage with fans over social media in such a direct fashion.

According to a recent Empathica survey, social media’s influence on customer behavior can’t be ignored—nearly 3 in 4 consumers use Facebook to make retail or restaurant decisions, and half of consumers have tried a new brand due to a social media recommendation. This new form of social engagement gives brands innovative marketing opportunities.

The Relationship Between Restaurants and Social Media

Traditionally, customers that had a great experience with a brand would share their thoughts with their friends or family by word-of-mouth or by writing reviews in newspapers or magazines. Now, customers have the ability to create social connections with brands and other potential and current customers through social media—a form of engagement that restaurants should embrace for the following reasons:

  • It improves customer experience. Restaurants that engage with customers on social networking sites enable guests to share their dining experiences—positive or negative—with their social communities. Social media participation by restaurants then allows them to receive valuable customer feedback.
  • It demonstrates transparency. When restaurants encourage guests to post photos and feedback on social media platforms, they demonstrate transparency. This show-and-tell mentality empowers customers to trust the brand and impels them to come back in the future.
  • It creates brand advocacy. Social media participation becomes a platform for branded promotional engagement when restaurants integrate social networking into their customer experience management strategy. The more brands positively interact with customers, the more affinity customers feel for the brand.

Tips for Leveraging Snapchat for Restaurants

Using Snapchat to proactively leverage social engagement is a great way for restaurants to connect with fans and drive customer loyalty, as seen by Taco Bell’s successful use of Snapchat. Restaurants can achieve similar success with Snapchat and other social media technologies using several strategies:

  • Host contests and promotions. Showcasing contests or promotions via Snapchat engages fans in a fun, exciting way. For example, restaurants can promote a certain dish by encouraging customers to order the item by picture when they visit the establishment. These marketing initiatives help bring in new consumers and strengthen the brand’s connection with existing customers.
  • Deliver special dining offers and discount codes. Snapchat offers restaurants new opportunities to utilize special discounts and offers. Restaurants could Snapchat their fans pictures that contain discount codes, which customers can redeem by using screenshots saved on their mobile devices. By directly connecting with Snapchat users in this manner, restaurants empower fans to feel an intimate connection with them.
  • Have customers send in “selfies”. Restaurants can encourage customers to send in images of themselves at one of their locations to forge personal connections with their social followers. By inspiring customers to share their self-generated images, or “selfies,” restaurants improve brand advocacy and customer loyalty while elevating the quality of the customer experience.
  • Give exclusive sneak peeks. A fun way to engage fans is to give them sneak peeks of signature dishes and drinks or seasonal items before they hit the menu. Sharing exclusive content via Snapchat emboldens customers to participate in a restaurant’s social community, fostering a sense of camaraderie among restaurant fans.

Though other social media platforms are important for leveraging a restaurant’s social community, Snapchat offers brands exclusive marketing opportunities unavailable through other social mediums. Snapchat’s unique structure gives its users a sense of urgency, since photos delete themselves soon after landing in the inbox. Restaurants can capitalize on this urgent quality by sending out compelling offers and promotions that fans can’t ignore.


Dr. Gary Edwards, Chief Customer Officer at Empathica, is responsible for oversight of sales, marketing, client strategy, marketing science and retail insights. Gary is involved in solving business challenges with research and technology solutions. He has served a key leadership role during program development, implementation, and follow-up with clients for the past eight years at Empathica. For over 15 years prior, Gary led worldwide and domestic research projects in customer and employee research.