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Does Instagram influence where customers dine out?

The social media channel boasts drool-worthy food photos, but how much does it impact restaurant choice?
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Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurateurs are installing new lighting, purchasing new servingware and even cooking up more photogenic menu items to catch the attention of Instagram’s prolific food photographers. While these Insta-influencers may have thousands of followers, how much impact do they have on consumers’ choice of restaurant?

To answer that question, SevenRooms, a restaurant reservation and guest management platform, commissioned research and consulting company YouGov to poll 1,206 consumers. Here are the results, released in a report at the beginning of December.

Sources for restaurant recommendations

Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family have the greatest impact on choosing a restaurant: 53% of consumers rely on this tried-and-true method. While solicited recommendations are still the most common, consumers are increasingly browsing friends’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other personal social media platforms for ideas.

Restaurant review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are also impactful, chosen by 30% of those surveyed, but Instagram was cited as a source by only 10% of respondents.

How today's guests are finding new restaurants

Source: SevenRooms

Who are the decision-makers?

Data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic also reveals some interesting trends around restaurant visits. Customers who eat out the most frequently—characterized as heavy users—are key decision-makers when it comes to choosing a restaurant, according to the company’s Consumer Brand Metrics survey. Many times, these people are dining solo for a weekday lunch or breakfast on the go, so it makes sense that they would decide the destination. Lighter users typically eat at restaurants for a special occasion, so the destination is more likely to be a group decision, finds Technomic.

Age is also a factor. Millennials are more likely to choose the restaurant for a group visit, with 67% of 25- to 34-year-olds saying they are the dining destination decision-makers. Those in the 35-44 age group are close behind at 64%, while older consumers are more apt to participate in a group decision.

But the decision-making process is constantly in flux. “As newer generations of guests are relying more heavily on sourcing information from digital platforms like Instagram, we’ll continue to see a rise in this medium’s influence,” Joel Montaniel, CEO and founder of SevenRooms, said in a news release. “For many diners who grew up in today’s digital-first world, friends and families’ posts on social media are becoming another form of word of mouth recommendations, and restaurants need to be sure to provide experiences that people want to talk about both online and off.”

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