Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Conquering the Digital Age at the Zomato Restaurant Summit

The internet and the emergence of social media can be considered one of the greatest equalizers yet, allowing small businesses to compete and engage their market on equal footing with the leading players. With it comes new challenges and opportunities, shifting from traditional strategies to innovative marketing solutions. Zomato, the world's largest online and mobile restaurant discovery service, held the first ever Restaurant Summit last May 19, 2015, with the country's leading local restaurateurs, industry experts, and foodies converging at Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.  

The one-day summit was a unique forum to share ideas and insights, discuss trends and issues, and learn best practices bringing the industry to the digital age.

At the formal Press Conference, Zomato's dynamic management team (L-R) led by Mara Navarro, Maketing Manager; Prashant Kala, AVP for Sales; and Anton Ojeda, Zomato's Country Manager, welcome guests to the first ever Zomato Restaurant Summit. "There will always be something new to talk about in the restaurant industry," shared Zomato Philippines Country Manager Anton Ojeda. "In the advent of fast-changing technology and ever evolving social media, the industry needs to come up with ways to keep up. With the summit, Zomato hopes to let the industry know that we are here to lead the sector and help them take their businesses to a whole new level."

At the plenary sessions, Sam Oh hosted different panels of industry experts on building brand love and managing crises in the age of social media; investment opportunities in the local market, crafting rewards and incentives for loyal customers, as well as integrating technology in the restaurant business. 

Today's business realities are no longer the same as before, and food entrepreneurs and restaurateurs must change, adapt, and evolve to keep their businesses relevant or risk fading into the dust bins of the past. As an observer of the industry, it was an eye-opening experience to hear first-hand how industry leaders approach and manage social media and create meaningful connections with consumers, staying top-of-mind despite the ever-growing list of choices.

Throughout the plenary sessions, social media itself was highlighted with a large screen displaying real-time tweets on the summit. Based on data provided by Zomato Philippines, Filipinos have become more and more reliant on the internet when it comes to dining options, choices, and reviews, with more on-line netizens more open to giving their restaurant feedback based on their own experiences through blogs and social media accounts. "The internet is so massive, you can find almost everything there. And with the way people rely on it to make decisions such as where to eat, the restaurant industry must take advantage of what technology and social media can do to help their businesses get more visibility in the digital space," added Anton Ojeda.

In the afternoon, simultaneous breakout sessions were conducted, focusing on diverse topics including keeping the business sustainable, wooing the millenials and captivating the Gen Y and winning their loyalty, food tourism, and the evolution of Filipino restaurants, with industry leaders and key influencers sharing their own accounts on the impact and use of social media.  

Throughout the breakout sessions, the different speakers provided a deeper understanding on how to maximize social media to drive your business, including tapping the viral nature of new media for tactical promotions and brand activations. Each post in any of the social media accounts provides meaningful exposure, and yes, each photo of your dish must be Instagram-worthy to add more bite to your post. The pervasive presence of smartphones and internet connectivity allow small business owners and restaurateurs to directly engage with their customers, all without the prohibitive cost of traditional media, and in effect, leveling the playing field. Exciting times lie ahead...

The nuts and bolts of running a restaurant business may remain the same, but the infusion of new media adds a whole new layer to the way things are done. And the potential of new media are limitless, offering infinite possibilities to those who dare.  The choice is pretty clear, run the business the way it was run for so many years, or refresh it with a whole new perspective using social media.

The impressive turnout of participants and guests indicated the need for such a summit, bringing the entire industry together with a shared passion.

Adapt. Change. Evolve. Technology waits for no one. The summit clearly established Zomato as a key player in the sector, evolving from a mere dining directory resource to a relevant enabler at the forefront of the restaurant industry. That in itself is a clear example of maximizing technology and new media, constantly changing and evolving, reinventing and transforming your business to stay relevant and in step with the new consumer. Congratulations to Zomato Philippines, can't wait for the second Restaurant Summit...

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