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Foursquare trumps Yelp in restaurant sector: report

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August 2, 2012

Independent restaurants are active on foursquareFoursquare’s presence in the restaurant sector is outpacing Yelp’s when it comes to how these merchants connect with their patrons via the Web, according to a new report from Restaurant Sciences.

The survey of U.S. restaurants found several key areas where foursquare is outpacing Yelp’s popularity. For example, 86 percent of chain restaurants have a presence of foursquare compared to 81 percent for Yelp.

“A big surprise was that less than five percent of independent restaurants have a mobile-enhanced Web site, but more than 70 percent were active on Foursquare,” said Terry Dankel, a spokesman for Restaurant Sciences, Newton, MA.

“Chain restaurants are ahead of independent in all areas of online marketing, however independent restaurant are taking better advantage of social marketing, with Twitter tweets and Facebook likes outnumbering those of chains by 30 to one,” he said.

“With more than half of America with a smartphone, consumers are increasingly searching for a restaurant on their mobile phone. It is essential to have a mobile site that makes it easy for consumers to get the information that they need quickly – the menu, the hours of operation, the ability to press a button and call the restaurant.”

A broad presence necessary
Key findings from the report include that chains and independent restaurants report an average of more than 300 foursquare check-ins per location. Chains are also nearly ten times more likely to have a mobile site than independents.

As smartphone penetration grows, consumers are increasingly using their devices to search for restaurants and find reviews. Users are also engaging with social media via their phones.

Foursquare’s strength in the restaurant space could continue to grow thanks to the recent introduction of Promoted Updates from the company.

Promoted Updates appear in a user’s Explore Tab and showcase special offers and events at nearby businesses. When users search a term in the Explore tab, they might see a relevant, promoted special deal at a nearby location.

For example, a recent promoted deal from The Standard Miami offered foursquare users half off drinks.

While the findings suggest foursquare is being embraced by restaurants, these businesses still need to make sure they have a broad presence so they can reach as many mobile users as possible.

“Yelp is an expert at gathering user content,” said Andrew Osis, CEO of Poynt Corp., Calgary, Canada. “Foursquare is good at finding people that are in your store – and even that is wearing off, as customers are becoming fatigued with telling the world where they are.

“Securing the critical new customers – and subsequent new revenue – is the ideal place to leverage mobile,” he said. “Mobile is quickly becoming central to helping customers that are looking for a solution – ‘I need food, and I need food near me.’

“Utility and functionality are the key dimensions here.”

Minimizing customer frustration
With Google reporting that 64 percent of consumers searched for restaurants from their mobile phones over Valentine’s weekend this year, the next step for many restaurants in optimizing the online presence is the establishment of a mobile site, per Restaurant Sciences.

Currently, chains are ahead of independents, with about half of chains having adopted some form of a mobile site compared to the almost non-existent mobile presence for independents.

The one area where independent restaurants bypass chains in the use of Internet marketing is in leveraging localized social media, such as Foursquare, Yelp and Twitter. This may be because they are independent and do not have a corporate structure using one Web site or Facebook page to represent locations. Therefore, they are better able to leverage localized online marketing.

“With ever increasing consumer adoption of mobile, restaurants should take advantage on all mobile technology,” Mr. Dankel said.

“Consumers get frustrated trying to use desktop sites on a mobile device and consumers will gravitate to those restaurants who make it easy for consumers on a mobile device,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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