Ggiata Delicatessen in Los Angeles doesn’t make your usual sales pitch.
In a recent video on the restaurant’s TikTok account, co-owner Jack Biebel talks for 15 seconds about the new “fadeaway statue” of the Dallas Mavericks’ retired power forward Dirk Nowitzki, which was unveiled in Dallas late last year.
“I treat their account as a person, instead of like a business,” said Jack’s sister Maddy Biebel, who runs the socials for Ggiata.
It’s called brand point of view by marketers.
Restaurants need to spend more time doing that kind of promotion, according to BentoBox, a marketing platform for restaurants that included social media in its trends report for this year.
“In 2023, restaurants that never had Instagram accounts will get them; restaurants that never thought about TikTok will download it to see what the buzz is about,” it reads. “‘While search engines remain the number one source of new diners, social media is on the fast track to becoming a must-have digital property.”
10 minutes, 3 million viewers
Social media has the potential to create “an interesting United States of Restaurants,” networking with each other and instantly informing customers of menu changes and pop-up events, according to Emily Schultz, senior brand editor at BentoBox.
But while businesses have many social media platforms to choose from, she cautions restaurants should focus on one.
“Restaurants are so stretched thin now, as we know. Cultivating a really strong community, making sure you are brand POV and all of that looks really good on one platform,” she said in a phone interview. “The restaurant industry is still super-heavily on Instagram and Facebook, whereas diners are definitely on TikTok.”
Schultz said Ggiata is really good at the newer platform, TikTok.
“I think that what a lot of people want to follow small businesses on TikTok is for their story, and for the people behind the businesses,” said Maddy Biebel.
The restaurant was founded by three high school friends from Montclair, N.J.: Noah Holton-Raphael, Max Bahramipour and her brother Jack. It opened its first location on Melrose Avenue and recently added a second in West Hollywood.
Maddy Biebel studied geology at UCLA and was working as an archaeologist in construction when “the boys” asked her to run their TikTok account. She said she had zero academic background in digital marketing.
“I’ve known them since I was a kid, since I was literally born, and was able to treat their account like a person instead of like a business, which is where a lot of businesses fall flat, because I think they’re too product-focused.”
Maddy Biebel publishes a lot of videos to TikTok, but many of them are only 5 seconds long, and they tend to show the owners goofing off. Occasionally she brings in influencers or local comedians to do skits.
And Ggiata posted several videos from the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where it was one of the food vendors. One shows the boys dancing in an empty field to the sound of crickets with the subtitle, “When you get the set time wrong but you’re still vibing.“
“It was super-important for me to create content that felt like it’s coming from the boys, felt like it was coming from the employees, to really capture people’s attention.”
“In probably 10 minutes I put together a minute-long video of that, and it blew up. It got like 3 million views and thousands of followers overnight.”
TikTok has 755 million users, according to Statista Research & Analysis, and there is evidence the platform is affecting people’s attitudes toward food. In October, Nation’s Restaurant News reported that 51.8 million people have visited or ordered from a restaurant after watching a TikTok video about it. It also reported that 53% of millennial TikTok users have gone to or ordered from restaurant after watching a TikTok video.
The Food Network’s current season of “Worst Cooks in America” is devoted to content producers on TikTok or Instagram.
And the Wall Street Journal recently reported that videos tagged #tinnedfish have gotten more than 25 million views.
Schultz said she isn’t seeing restaurants using TikTok in a business way. But Newport Beach-based Chipotle Mexican Grill has built it into recent campaigns, including the launch of “Freepotle” rewards and a fundraising campaign for food banks. Irvine-based Taco Bell included a TikTok video in its relaunch of Mexican Pizza last year.
El Pollo Loco, based in Costa Mesa, has been active in carving out an identity on TikTok, marking Hispanic Heritage Month last fall with a series of inflencer partnerships.
The chain’s TikTok videos from its Dia de los Muertos celebration in Los Angeles got millions of views.
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“We’re going to be working with a slew of TikTok influencers that represent various Latino cultures to really amplify that representation that we feel makes our people so special,” said Gabe Alonso, vice president of digital marketing, in a September interview.
“We really want to connect with the next generation of not only our consumers but other Latinos as well to show that we are a brand that represents who they are and how they’re growing into their own within the broader American culture. TikTok for us is a very important tool in creating those connections with the next generation of consumers, in particular Gen Z.”
Social media is a hard nut to crack, said Margaret Campbell, associate dean and department chair at UC Riverside’s School of Business.
“You need to be an authentic participant, and that can sometimes be hard. People are on social media to achieve their own goals, and brands have to be very careful about how they participate in a way that seems authentic as opposed to being pushy.”
Maddy Biebel said she relies on her instincts when posting TikTok videos.
“If I’m not super excited about a video I’m posting or an idea that I have, it’s probably not the best one. Even if something is like the biggest trend right now, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It doesn’t make sense. It will look weird to everyone else if it feels weird to you.”
Where: 5009 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 7998 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.