Technology & Equipment

TikTok has a big influence on users' dining choices

Over a third say they've visited a restaurant after seeing it on the app popular with teens, a new study shows.
Chipotle and TikTok
Photo courtesy of Chipotle

TikTok, the fast-growing social media platform popular with teenagers, is apparently having a big impact on where its users eat.

That's according to a new study from marketing agency MGH, which found that 36% of TikTok users have ordered from a restaurant after seeing a video about it on the platform.

More than 65 million Americans actively use TikTok every month, scrolling through an endless stream of light-hearted or funny videos that are served up by an algorithm to reflect their interests. And what happens in the app can sometimes have an impact outside of it.

In March, a pasta recipe that spread quickly on TikTok led to a feta cheese shortage. More recently, a song called "Fancy Like" that prominently references eating at Applebee's went viral, impelling the chain to bring back its Oreo Cookie Shake.

The users who make those videos, called creators, are even more likely to base their dining decisions on the app, MGH found. A whopping 65% of people in that group said they have ordered from a restaurant after seeing in on TikTok.

Key factors driving those decisions are the food itself, particularly unique items. Fifty-five percent of users told MGH they have visited a restaurant from TikTok because the food looked appetizing, and 51% went because they saw a unique menu item. Others were enticed by a "cool atmosphere" (38%), interesting presentation (36%) or a great view (29%).

And the app's influence on dining behavior is not necessarily related to convenience. Some users said they have traveled great distances to eat something they've seen on the app. One-fifth have gone to a different city, and 16% have gone to another state to visit a restaurant from the platform.

A few restaurant chains have carved out a niche on the app to considerable success. Dunkin' last year partnered with TikTok influencer Charli D'Amelio to launch a special cold brew in her name—and saw cold-brew sales rise by 45% within two days. Chipotle has used the app to find prospective hires and recruit influencers to help shape its digital strategy.

But it's not content from the brands themselves that appears to be swaying users. The 701 TikTok-ers surveyed by MGH said their restaurant behavior is most heavily influenced by users they know personally, while videos from food bloggers and influencers ranked second. 

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