TikTok Has A Huge Impact On Where Users Eat, New Survey Reveals

While TikTok might be full of food hacks, it appears that the social media platform is influencing more than just food trends. According to a new survey conducted by MGH, Inc., a franchise restaurant marketing and communications company, the findings (as released on PR Newswire) show that those short, stylized social media clips are actually driving viewers to take a seat at the table. In fact, 36% of users reported visiting or ordering from a restaurant that they had seen on the platform, with that type of engagement imploring restaurants to rethink their social media strategy. 

As Ryan Goff, EVP, Social Media Marketing Director at MGH said, "Often restaurants and other businesses are hesitant to invest in new platforms, but the increasing popularity and breadth of users — coupled with direct feedback from users — demonstrates the power of TikTok and should encourage restaurant owners to add this platform to their marketing mix."

With TikTok having the "all-time highest number of downloads recorded in a given quarter" (per MGH) and currently touting a following of 65.9 million monthly users, the social media platform could be the lifeline that restaurants are seeking in these difficult times. 

Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, says, "After 15 months of lost revenue, restaurants and bars are barely hanging on by a thread." While an enticing video might not be an instant shot in the arm, the reality is that social media buzz creates a narrative that engages people. Beyond the mesmerizing photo of appetizing food, those videos capture a story that people long to experience. Whether it is the atmosphere, dish, or vibe, those few moments entice people with the promise of something new, different, or trending — and it gives restaurants the chance to tell their story in a whole new way.

Two big reasons make TikTok users want to try a new restaurant

According to the recent MGH, Inc. study, as released on PR Newswire, TikTok users seem to be enticed to try a new restaurant for two prominent reasons. First, 55% commented that the food they see in TikTok videos appears appetizing and makes them want to try it. While this statement is subjective, it could impact how and what restaurants serve. For example, a dish with a rainbow of colors might photograph better than a mishmash of brown hues. Although many people appreciate that food is enjoyed with all the senses, a TikTok video is more about the visual. (Unfortunately, no one has created smell-o-vision for a smartphone, though that would be genius!)

The second reason stated by 51% of respondents is that they are drawn to a unique food item that they think they can't get anywhere else. For restaurant owners, appreciating that a menu needs to stand out in the sea of sameness might be the key to having more seats filled in the dining room. In some ways it seems that having the "best" food might have been replaced by having the "most innovative" and have the chance to go viral.

Another interesting finding from the study is the fact that 45% of the respondents mentioned they'd travel to another state just to visit the restaurant they came across on TikTok, meaning the impact of the social media platform on the dining industry may be even bigger than we think.