Leslie Park Lynn is a 15 year restaurant industry veteran.
As a busy restaurant operator it’s hard to find the time to think strategically about your business. Dealing with the day to day operations of your restaurant is a big job that leaves little time for anything else. But keeping your concept current and your brand fresh is a critical component to customer acquisition and retention and is one of the most important factors in ensuring your long term success. You must continually evolve if you want survive in such a crowded market place.
The bigger restaurant brands put a lot of resources into staying out in front of new and growing trends. To do this they utilize teams of analyst, focus groups and marketing experts to help them put their finger on the pulse of what consumers are looking for. With this knowledge they can build a developmental pipeline for their menu and chart their concept’s direction months ahead of current market trends.
But how can smaller restaurant operators accomplish this without these resources? Say hello to Google Trends.
What is Google Trends and how can it benefit your restaurant?
Every day millions of consumers search Google for things that are of interest to them. Google stores this data and makes it available to anyone who is interested enough to learn how to mine it. Google Trends is a portal into the minds of consumers worldwide and you, as a restaurant owner, need only to invest a little time to get valuable information that can keep you well ahead of your competition.
Like most of Google’s tools, Google Trends is robust, dynamic and, best of all, relatively simple to use. It’s also very intuitive so with a little practice you can be slicing and dicing data in no time. And, you won’t just be looking at this information from a 60,000 foot view. Google Trends will let you drill down from worldwide, to country, to region and even to city level information. Yes, that’s right: Local level information about what’s on the minds of your target market. That’s pretty amazing!
Putting it to work for your restaurant
Let’s say you are interested in expanding the beer selection in your restaurant to include some up and coming brews.
You know this is the right move because your existing and target market includes a healthy segment of beer drinkers that tend to gravitate towards trendy beers. But which additions will resonate with who you are looking to attract? Let’s see what Google Trends has to say.
At the top of the page in the search bar I typed in “beer.” In the drop downs below it I selected
“United Kingdom” from the list of locations, “Past 90 Days” from the time period selection, “Food & Drink” from the category and “Web Search” from the last drop down.
What you will see first is the interest over time. This shows the consistency of interest in beer over the time period selected.
When looking at the next block of data it starts to get more interesting. This is city level data. You can toggle back and forth between city and subregion if you want to but for now let’s look at it by city. You can see a high level of interest in the search term, which is “beer”, from the cities listed here.
Now as we scroll down the page we see information about other searches related to beer. This is where you will find what’s trending in the subject matter you are looking at. You can look at it from two perspectives: top searches and queries or which ones are gaining momentum or “rising.”
The most valuable of these is the rising searches. The top searches are good to look at but we all know that what’s on top today may be falling tomorrow. You want to know what’s up and coming in order to stay ahead on the competitive front.
In looking at the rising data on topics related to beer and queries specifically about beer you can see the percentage they have increased over the last 90 days. When you see the term “breakout” this is something you should really pay attention to. Breakout means that searches for that term grew more that 5000 percent. That’s pretty impressive.
Now, of course, you will need to filter your results to make sure they are relative to your interest. For example, black desert beer is referring to a video game and not to an actual beer and Andre the Giant is a person but the rest of the information is golden. Barbell Brew represents the hot trend of “muscle food” right now and one you should certainly look at when considering food and beverage additions for your restaurant.
You can look at data over shorter or longer periods of time but 90 days is a good starting point. The data will continually evolve so take time to do a few inquiries over a week or so to get a good feel for what’s happening around the topic you are interested in. For instance, in the several searches I ran over a few days time I saw interests in gluten free, vegetarian and craft beers emerging.
Staying ahead of food and beverage trends creates a competitive edge for your restaurant
With a little exploration and time you will soon be quite proficient at working with Google Trends. The possibilities are endless as you can search anything such as interest in ethnic food, certain ingredients or even recipes. You can use this information to plan the evolution of your restaurant concept rather than guessing about what might be of interest to your target market. Instead of following the market get out in front, keep your concept fresh and your customers coming back for what’s new and exciting at your restaurant.