This Restaurant Is Using TikTok to Reach New Customers
Featuring an interview with the team at Ggiata, a neighborhood Italian deli with over 22k TikTok followers.
I first heard of Ggiata on my TikTok FYP. I don’t remember the exact video, but it featured the owners of the sandwich shop riffing on a trending sound and relating it back to their Jersey roots. I clicked over to see the restaurant’s account—after scrolling for 10 minutes I felt like I knew the guys behind the restaurant, I was VERY hungry for one of of their sandwiches, and I knew I needed to visit immediately. The “I just found this” to “I need it immediately” pipeline on TikTok is very short.
Since then I’ve seen a good handful of restaurants pop on TikTok, but the platform still doesn’t feel big for that specific industry. I get it—it can be time consuming (I promise it doesn’t have to be), can at times feel too personality-forward (especially if you aren’t comfortable on camera), and overall requires a good amount of time spent consuming to create (that can be true). But here’s the thing: TikTok is a really powerful discovery platform. Unlike IG (in its current state), TikTok elevates accounts they think you might be interested in, even if you aren’t following them yet. The result? Ggiata told me that their TikTok account is the single largest driver of new customers to their store.
Below you’ll find my interview with the Ggiata team—they talk about making time to create content, their favorite TikToks they’ve filmed, views on paid media, and lots more.
BUT FIRST…A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR DASH HUDSON
Dash Hudson, the all-in-one social entertainment marketing software I used when I was at Bon Appétit, has a very exciting announcement! They are releasing a robust line of solutions and features for TikTok! Think: creative performance insights, auto-publish scheduler, and community management. To further deepen engagement and discoverability on TikTok, Dash Hudson even developed three proprietary tools:
Entertainment Score, an exclusive metric that measures how well a video is entertaining an audience
Trending Video Notifications, a tool to enable quick action on a video gaining momentum
Trending Sounds, a time-saving feature that curates the most popular and up-and-coming sound trends
I manage TikTok for a few of my clients and these are such a game changer. I loved using Dash Hudson for Instagram back at BA and am really excited to see they are adding TikTok to their repertoire.
Click here to learn more.
Rachel Karten: Hi! Let’s just dive in. When did you start the TikTok account for Ggiata? What specifically prompted creating it? I feel like you were one of the first restaurants to really embrace that platform.
Jack Biebel: During our time as a Cloud Kitchen in 2020, we successfully ran paid advertisements via Instagram and Facebook. These ads generated a meaningful percentage of our order volume and served as our store's 'foot traffic' while we operated as a delivery-only restaurant with no storefront.
As we transitioned to a brick and mortar store in March 2021, we wanted to find ways to be less reliant on paid marketing as these impressions are only available as long as you're willing to pay for them. We also wanted to continue investing in our media capabilities generally. We were almost exclusively posting food photography on Instagram at this point, and we felt like there was more media formats to tell Ggiata’s story.
In early 2021, TikTok was highly nascent in the restaurant space and it felt like a blank canvas for us to start creating authentic content about the story, personalities, recipes, and culture behind Ggiata's brand. Further, TikTok’s virality provided an opportunity to generate more brand impressions for Ggiata while not spending any money on paid advertisements.
RK: Also, worth noting, you have a TikTok manager—a role most restaurants likely don't have. How did that role come about?
JB: We were (and still are) extremely grateful that I have a brilliant and creative younger sister, Maddy Biebel, who was making a career transition into Social Media and Marketing when we were opening our brick and mortar store.
In early 2021, I spoke with Maddy a lot about the marketing potential TikTok had for Ggiata, and that investing in this platform now felt imperative for our long-term success. After a few of these discussions, I asked her if she wanted to help us launch Ggiata's TikTok account.
Maddy intimately knew Ggiata's brand story considering my co-founders, Noah and Max, were basically her other older brothers growing up in Montclair, New Jersey. She was able to rapidly craft a vision for how we would weave our humor, food, friendship, and culture into a presence on TikTok.
RK: How would you describe your TikTok strategy? I feel like you are ON IT with the trending sounds.
JB: We think about our TikTok as a tool to tell Ggiata's story, so a lot of our 'strategy' is informed by the happenings of our business and brand. As part of that strategy, we are always looking for ways to incorporate trending sounds and visuals into our content because that's crucial for videos to perform well. Maddy is extremely good at keeping her thumb on the pulse regarding what TikTok trends exist and which trends we could use to highlight aspects of Ggiata's menu, culture, humor, etc.
During weeks where we have a brand collaboration, new menu item, or a pop-up, we're intentionally crafting content around these milestones. For instance, we were serving food at Coachella in April, and Maddy was finding amazing ways to present our experience down there.
RK: How does your TikTok strategy differ from your Instagram strategy?
JB: Fundamentally, I think our TikTok strategy takes Ggiata's brand and presents it in a more raw and humorous way, whereas our Instagram is more curated and aesthetically focused presentation style. I also think if you read any marketing thought leader talk about the difference between Instagram and TikTok he/she is saying something similar (Rex Woodbury writes a lot of awesome stuff about this).
An example of this would be for Coachella this year, we posted a recap slideshow on Instagram that was really beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.These pictures contained food, our team, visuals of the festival etc. On TikTok, we’re pretending to be news anchors reporting on the festival, mocking how me and Noah got lost walking back to our RV, capturing behind the scenes videos of our team, and doing voice overs to TikTok trends about music and festival memes.
Given the virality of the platform, we look at TikTok more for brand growth and exposure because the audience we can reach is so large, and it's not restricted to just the people who follow you.
Instagram is more biased towards talking to a group of people who already follow you. So in that sense, we think of that account for using photography to share the beautiful moments and milestones Ggiata has experienced with our existing customers/followers. We also really love the user-generated content of Instagram. It's so fun to repost and engage with the amazing photos our customers take of our food, store, and merchandise.
RK: How do you carve out time in your day to film TikToks? Lots of restaurants I talk to simply don't have the time to invest in social the way they want to
JB: We have two filming days every week. On Saturday mornings, you can find Maddy corralling me, Noah, and Max to do different videos in our store, and then during the week, Maddy finds time to work with our culinary team to film various aspects of the menu.
Also as you alluded to earlier, we have a designated TikTok manager. This is obviously unique now, but I think this will be commonplace in a few years the way a standard social media manager is now.
RK: Have you noticed an uptick in people who say they heard about you on TikTok? This platform definitely allows for way more discovery than Instagram.
JB: Absolutely. I would say TikTok is the single largest driver of new customers to our store. When you think about it, the majority of people that see Ggiata's brand in a given week or month are doing it via TikTok because of the virality aspect you mentioned.
RK: I feel like with TikTok you have to be willing to put yourself out there in terms of showing your face/personality/etc. Was that something you guys have always been comfortable with?
JB: Very true. You definitely have to be comfortable trying new things on camera.
I think what's worked well for us is that our vision for the TikTok always starts with what's best for Ggiata, so we have a firm conviction in anything we're creating. Additionally, Maddy has known me, Noah, and Max our entire lives, so she does a great job directing us as we make content—even when someone shows up late to Saturday morning filming!
RK: Is there a viral (or not!) TikTok of yours that you are particularly proud of?
JB: I'll let Maddy answer this one—here are her top picks and a brief explanation of why they made her list:
MB: Emily Mariko Makes a Caprese (BTS)
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This was our first truly viral video. I really like this one because it almost didn’t happen; we posted an “Emily Mariko makes a caprese” video the day before that didn’t do as well as we wanted it to. I actually think I edited this video together in about 10 minutes before dinner, which were the outtakes from the original Emily Mariko video. Just really the most wonderful surprise and a reminder to just keep posting.
Going to the Deli—The Spins by Mac Miller
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We came up for the concept for this one in one of our first month after opening the deli. This one wasn’t by any means our most successful video (it actually was taken down by TikTok at one point because of Max sticking his head out the car window), but I think it’s definitely one of the more wholesome videos we have up. It’s fun to see how far the deli has come since the beginning.
Can’t Find a Deli Sandwich Like the Ones Back Home featuring Max
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This was our first TikTok trend that gained any traction. And it was such a huge conversation in the beginning of the account as to whether it was worth our time making these types of videos. I definitely was a big proponent of participating in the trends so this was a sigh of relief for me. Max might fight me on this but I think it was this that convinced him to start listening to me on Saturday mornings. Either way, it was cool to watch them get excited about the video’s success which is all you want for your clients/older brothers.
RK: Any final advice for restaurants that are thinking about getting on TikTok but don't know where to start?
JB: Focus on using TikTok to help you tell your brand’s story. Restaurants are such exciting businesses with amazing people, food, and culture—I think keeping that front and center is the key to finding a strategy that works for you.
Once you start an account, make sure you are posting frequently. TikTok is a massive algorithm that is recommending videos to people based on recent data points they’ve captured. If you aren’t posting they aren’t going to have new opportunities to recommend your content to users.
Also, find someone that can help you edit videos well. Some TikTok videos don't require editing, but I think the more invested you get in the content, the more you'll want to find someone who can help you take a lot of unstructured content and weave it into an exciting video.
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