Marketing and Sales

Food bloggers emerging as important influencers for halal restaurants

by Haroon Latif, DinarStandard | 12 December, 2016 | General
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Food bloggers emerging as important influencers for halal restaurants

As the halal food industry matures, and as consumers demand greater dining options, bloggers and ratings platforms are playing a key role in influencing the brand awareness and choices of patrons at halal restaurants. With the emergence of popular blogs such as Halal Gems and HK Finds, how can halal restaurants work effectively with the emerging force of halal food bloggers?

YOUR PAIN POINTS ADDRESSED  ASK YOURSELF
Scenario: You own a halal restaurant chain and are considering contacting halal food bloggers  

How can halal restaurants effectively leverage halal food bloggers?  

How important are food bloggers for restaurants seeking to attract new customers?
What role do halal blogs and restaurant ratings platforms play in addressing demand for more halal dining option, and who are the leading players?
What are the key considerations and challenges in effectively leveraging halal food bloggers?

Food bloggers are emerging as key influencers in determining consumer choices on brands, home cooking, and restaurants, away from ‘traditional’ direct advertising.

Restaurant bloggers will visit restaurants and provide pertinent details of their experiences, including pictures of their meals. They play an important role in generating publicity for and raising awareness of restaurants while providing honest feedback on their experiences.

PR practitioners in the food industry are actively targeting bloggers alongside journalists to build brand awareness. In a 2014 survey by Boutique PR agency CRED communications of over 40 food and beverage bloggers around the world, almost all respondents indicated being contacted by PR agencies.

Technorati lists over 20,000 food bloggers based around the world, whose blogs focus either on cookery or restaurants.

GLOBAL RESTAURANTS INDUSTRY VITAL STATS
SIZE  GROWTH ADVERTISING & MARKETING

$2.7 trillion (2014): Global restaurants industry estimated at $2.7 trillion in 2014 

$2.9 trillion (est 2015)

$0.8 billion (2015): United States biggest market

(Source: Research and Markets)

6.4 percent: Between 2010 and 2014

6.8 percent CAGR: Projected to grow to $3.8 trillion by 2019

(Source: Research and Markets)

$460 million (2015): Direct advertising spend, based on U.S. marketing expenditure in 2011 of $100 million, assuming the U.S. has captured the same share of both restaurant advertising and industry revenue, and that the market has grown in line with historical CAGR

(Source: Marketing Charts)

EMERGING HALAL FOOD BLOGGING LANDSCAPE

The halal food industry is maturing, with consumers globally demanding more product choice, more flavors, and a greater variety of dining options.

In particular, non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries are seeing a growing need for halal food blogging as their minority Muslim populations increasingly seek out halal food options.

“The early halal consumers were economic migrants. They needed access to halal meat. Now we are a complete generation and a half on – we are completely embedded within the fabric of society. Consumers have numerous unmet needs. We now want to progress and have more options,” Imran Kausar, co-founder and CEO of UK-based halal food brand Haloodies, told Salaam Gateway.

To help Muslim consumers understand and effectively evaluate the broadening landscape of halal food products and services, dedicated ratings websites and food blogs have emerged.

U.S.-based Zabiha Halal was the first and is the most-established guide to halal restaurants and halal markets globally. It was launched in 1998, and according to its founder Shahed Amanullah last year, the website was used by over 10 million people annually. The website is comprehensive, with global coverage of restaurants, retail stores and halal food brands rated based on user reviews.

Reflecting the broader global trend, halal food bloggers are now beginning to emerge, playing an important dual role in creating a searchable database of halal restaurants and helping restaurant goers make informed choices.

UK-based Halal Gems, founded in 2009, is one of the leading food blogging websites with an interactive digital magazine for halal diners. It provides a service to find halal food restaurants based on criteria and ratings through its mobile app and website. The service also allows users to leave restaurant reviews and currently features more than 450 restaurants primarily located in the UK. Halal Gems has over 21,000 likes on Facebook and 10,500 Instagram followers.

Sameer’s Eats, founded in 2010 and based in the U.S., is a halal food show and blog that features information about halal restaurants and meals in the country. Sameer’s Eats mainly posts pictures and videos of food online through social media and its website and has only focused on restaurants in the northeastern region of the United States. The founder has 3,500 YouTube subscribers, nearly 20,000 Facebook likes and 15,200 Instagram followers.

HK Finds, founded in 2013 by Bahraini Hessa Khalifa Al Khalifa and based in the United Arab Emirates, is a food blog and Instagram account that reviews different restaurants and food festivals around the UAE and London. The blog has been featured on Bahraini TV and Hessa has an Instagram following of over 100,000.   

CHALLENGES AND CONSIDERATIONS

As restaurants seek to leverage blogs to boost their brand, there are several considerations:

Pick the right bloggers to work with and expect them to be honest about your restaurant

As restaurants leverage halal food bloggers, restaurants should actively approach the food bloggers, but they need to first have a solid understanding of what bloggers do.

Speaking about how her team works with restaurants, founder and CEO of Halal Gems Zohra Khaku, said, “We do run the marketing for a few restaurants - that’s our main income stream. We also do restaurant memberships – promoting them on social media. However, we will support restaurants that meet our standards and requirements. We want to be true to our users.”

Support the bloggers to scale and gain the right level of recognition

Blogs are still an emerging concept in the halal food space – restaurants, and brands alike, would benefit from supporting the development of bloggers.

Haloodies co-founder and sales director Noman Khawaja said, “In the halal world these bloggers serve as ambassadors for the halal food industry, but are few and far between. It’s an area where traditionally our culture hasn’t pushed for someone to go down that career choice.

“As a brand producer we have a responsibility to help these bloggers. If we help them grow, they have this fanbase that we can capitalize on. This new movement of halal is very young  so we all have to help each other,” added Khawaja.

SUGGESTED ROADMAP
Identify and work closely with bloggers
Be prepared for honest feedback and be prepared to adapt
Support bloggers and help them to gain broader recognition, in turn boosting your own business' profile

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