Local restaurant operators might not realize it yet, but the consumers most likely to dine out are the same people who spend a lot of time using social media. New research from the National Restaurant Association finds that social media users represent the kind of patrons these establishments want: The ones who return frequently. Restaurants who haven’t  taken the plunge into social media are likely to start doing so soon.

For now, Facebook represents the most frequently used social media platform with 74% or more of restaurant operators saying they maintain a presence on the site. Over half of all operators also use or plan to start using Twitter and online site reviews such as Yelp within the next 2 years. When it comes to publishing restaurant blogs, fine dining establishments lead the way at 62% and these restaurants are also most likely to use phone apps such as Urban Spoon. (54%). The quick service sector is more likely than other restaurant types to use YouTube (50%) and text messaging (64%). Flickr or other photo sharing sites are most popular with fine dining operators (42%). But even casual dining spots (32%) and family dining outlets (39%) use photo-sharing sites.

This active participation in social networks by restaurants will help them reach valuable clients. The NRA data shows that 30% of consumers who call themselves social media-savvy interact with Yelp. This number is slightly higher than the 27% of connected adults that use Yelp. In addition, about 94% of the social media-savvy group enjoys eating at restaurants while only 88% of the general public says the same.

[Eler, Alicia. Study: Social Media-Savvy Consumers Dine Out More. Readwriteweb.com. 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2011]