Unlike food truck owners, brick and mortar restaurant owners are proving to be very close minded when it comes to using social media to their advantage. A recent survey by MustHaveMenus , revealed that nearly half of the 1,300 restaurant owners, managers and caterers that they polled, do not use social media to attract customers. What this survey shows, is that while mobile eatery owners almost entirely use social media as their sole form of customer marketing, a large percentage of stationary eating establishments are social media holdouts.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • 42% of restaurant owners and managers invest in social media efforts (including blog participation, and managing their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  • 12% of restaurants and caterers hire someone to manage their social media presence.
  • 23% of respondents do not believe that they need to use social media as a marketing tool.
  • 23% of respondents believe that they don’t have time to devote to social media, along with all their other restaurant management duties.

“Running a restaurant or catering business doesn’t leave much spare time for owners and managers,” said Jim Williams, CEO of MustHaveMenus, a leading online provider of restaurant menus and marketing designs for the food service industry. “But we believe that social media deserves that extra effort as a marketing vehicle. Eating is a social occasion, and social media is a great way to turn a great meal into a tip for friends, family and foodies.”

“Social media can seem scary to a lot of restaurant owners,” said Matthew Dorian, Director of Marketing for Referral Circle, a social media marketing firm for independent restaurants. “The key to being successful with social marketing (or any marketing for that matter) is to engage and interact with your guests through the mediums that they are already using. Find where your guests are lurking and focus on those spots.”

Although this may be scary to them, the scarier fact they should be aware of is the social media usage increases being show in most age categories. Over the past year social media growth is attributable to more GenXers (those between ages of 32-45) and Boomers (46-65 years old) joining in. For Generation X, usage from 2009 to 2010 increased from 70 to 85 percent. Usage among Baby Boomers increased from 54 to 76 percent. Among the Millennials/GenY (those 13-31 years old) usage grew from 84 to 91 percent over the last year.

All of this high tech social media may be new to these restaurant owners but in the food truck industry, social media is a must have source for customer outreach. Some of the avenues that these hold outs could use that food truck operators already use could be:

  • Announce the new menu or drink specials of the day
  • Promote a happy hour event or special restaurant event
  • Solicit ideas for new menu items or specials of the day on Twitter.
  • Offer a special prize for people who follow you on Twitter by a specific time and date, to be entered to win a free bottle of wine or gift certificate.

These ideas are already being used by the food truck nation for years now, hopefully if given enough time, our brick and mortar brethren can learn the ways of the new world, instead of keeping their heads in the sand afraid to use these tools.