Much like preparing your customer’s favorite dishes, the marketing of your restaurant is like a fine art or science. A complex combination of ingredients that leads to the finished product – a beautiful, elegant, tasty dish.
Similarly, when marketing your restaurant you will need to combine the many available digital platforms to ensure that you are always top-of-mind and that your presence reflects your restaurant’s story.
The world of marketing can be a daunting place. With the growth of the internet and social media among “the millennials”, the transition from the traditional marketing methods to the digital world needs to be embraced. Ignore it and you face being left behind in the cloud of dust as the social media train steams down the tracks.
Do you want to be left standing in the station? Or sitting first-class as the train keeps rolling?
While the main theme of the tips pertains to the “online” world, there is still much you can (and should) do to promote your business offline (more on this later!).
Trends Affecting Marketing in the Restaurant Industry
Marketing your restaurant is no longer the same as it has always been. It is vital that restaurant owners embrace digital marketing and cultivate an online presence. This presence will be pivotal in your success. It can also be used as a springboard for any further ventures you pursue with the business.
Gone are the days of the Golden Pages. I mean, does anyone look for a restaurant there anymore? People have moved to the internet to track down what they’re looking for – and for good reason!
The internet is now more accessible than ever before. This is owing to the growth of smartphones, 4G internet connections and complimentary wi-fi in public spaces. If someone is looking for somewhere for lunch or dinner, their smartphone is the first port of call.
These users will use search engines and consumer review sites to find local restaurants and decide who will get their custom. They want to see the restaurant’s menu before visiting. They will almost always opt for those who have a strong online presence over those who have so far failed to embrace the internet.
In saying that, embracing the internet, alone, will not guarantee their custom. The competition have already began building their presence, but it’s not too late for you to join the party!
As a restaurant owner or manager, you shouldn’t be placing all of your faith in traditional advertising and word-of-mouth referrals. I’m not saying to skip these methods completely, they still provide some returns.
What I am saying is that you should be taking advantage of all of the opportunities that the internet presents.
Here’s a quick exercise for you to complete:
- Go to Google.
- Do a search for your type of restaurant in your location.
Where do you rank in the search results? Do you even make it on the first page of the results?
Now, put yourself in your potential customers shoes.
They do a quick Google search as you have just done and they check out the results on the first page. Considering what you saw when you done your Google search, will those potential customers be banging down your door to give you their business?
Academic research indicates that a whopping 91% of searchers do not go past page 1 of the search results and over 50% do not go past the first 3 results on page 1.
Rather than giving your competition all the business, ask yourself what ways can you market your restaurant online to change the outcome?
Our 10 Marketing Tips to Successfully Promote Your Restaurant
Have a visually appealing, functioning website.
Firstly, can your customers and potential customers find your restaurant online? Make sure they can with a functioning, well-optimized, visually appealing website. The website needs to serve its purpose and do what you need it to do. You need to get them to your website before they find your competitors. Then you need to make sure that your website does its job by helping them to pick you! You can show off your menu. Show appealing pictures of some of your best dishes. Create a food blog. List your daily specials. Announce upcoming events in your restaurant. Direct visitors to your social media profiles and online review site profiles.
Engage in local SEO practices.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of growing your visibility in organic search engine results. Now, more than ever, local businesses need to realize the importance of having a website and implementing an internet marketing strategy. 72% of all searches are related to a search for local content. Therefore, you need to be sure that your website will show up for those searches relevant to your restaurant.
Keep monitoring review sites.
Your reputation will make or break you. With this in mind, pay close attention to what people are saying about your restaurant online. Many new visitors will read your reviews before deciding to dine in your restaurant. Too many negative reviews (or the inability to attempt to resolve bad reviews) can inevitably turn potential customers away and ruin your business. Online review sites are where your offline diners can tell the online world about their (hopefully enjoyable) experience. You should take time every day to thank visitors for their positive reviews and respond to and respectfully resolve negative reviews.
Approach local food bloggers.
Ask well-known, local food bloggers to review your restaurant in return for a free meal. A positive review will help to solidify your reputation. Further, the outside link to your website on the local blogger’s blog will help with your ranking, from an SEO perspective.
Build and grow an email list.
Email marketing is not only effective, it is a relatively inexpensive, fast and direct method of reaching your customers. It is an on-demand tool and helps to keep them “in the know”. You can promote your e-newsletters through social media, on your website, and inside your restaurant. You will decide what will work best for you over time.
Grow your social media presence.
As discussed above, your social media presence is pivotal to your success and staying “top-of-mind” with your customers. A strong social media presence will strengthen your word-of-mouth marketing through your interactive and interesting social media exploits. Your social media presence gives you the ability to represent your brand. It also lets customers share their stories and lets you engage with your customers 365 days as year. That kind of interaction is priceless for any business.
Provide an incentive for people to pay attention.
If you are constantly bombarding your customers with your restaurant specials on Facebook, they will quickly lose interest and pay no attention. Mix it up. Don’t be afraid to have fun! Be a part of the local community and give back to your loyal customers. Give your customers an incentive to follow you on social media. Provide them with fun, exciting, interesting content and create a ‘buzz’ around your business.
Run contests and giveaways.
People LOVE contests and giveaways. It is a great way to reward your loyal fan base, grow your social media following and bring more customers into your business. Giving back to your customers is a sure-fire way to give them a reason to come back again and again.
Freshen up your menu.
If your menu is already very well designed and works well, this tip may not be applicable to you. If you do, however, have an unappealing or outdated menu you will want to consider freshening it up. An unappealing menu will suggest to your customer that the food or experience will also be unappealing. This might sound funny but it’s the way the human mind works.
Don’t be afraid to ask!
It’s not cheeky to ask your regular customers and loyal fans offline to ‘Like’ you on Facebook. Ask them to follow you on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, and help spread the word. Some of them may not even have been aware of your social media channels and will be more than happy to do so. Send an email. Call those you have a good relationship with. Or simply walk right up to their table while they’re enjoying your restaurant. At the end of the day, your most loyal fans will be your best form of marketing!
The 99:1 Rule
So now that you have some of our marketing tips for your restaurant and what you SHOULD do to help grow your business, we think it’s only right to share something with you that you SHOULD NOT do!
If you decide to work with a digital marketing agency, whether it be ourselves or another provider, it is very important that you follow the 99:1 Rule to ensure you get the best service possible.
It is fair to assume that once you have paid a digital marketing agency to take control of your online marketing and social media presence that you would expect them to do 100% of the work. This, unfortunately, can never be the case. It is why we pride ourselves on taking 99% of the workload off of you, the restaurant owner.
As for the other 1% – it’s far more important than you may think.
The restaurant owner will inevitably need to take some responsibility for the successes and stumbling blocks that will happen along the way.
Although we would love it, we can’t be inside your restaurant every day and night to know all about your menu changes (unless you tell us), promote your loyalty program, catch all of the smiling customers and fill them in on all of the amazing benefits of liking your page on Facebook, or to deal with any complaints that may arise.
With that in mind, you may have already guessed what will bring you the most success when working with a digital marketing agency: Being an interactive client.
As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango”. That has never been truer when it comes to working with a digital marketing agency.
Luckily for you, we will do 99% of the work. All we ever ask of you is the other 1%!
Without your help and feedback, your digital marketing efforts will not bear the beautiful fruits we know are possible.
We would love to hear from you…….how are you currently running the marketing for your restaurant? What marketing plan do you have in place? Do you have any other additions for our list of tips?
Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below and share this post with a restaurant friend!
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Author: Ricky Peters, Founder of Black Sheep Social
Ricky, a qualified Chartered Accountant, founded Black Sheep Social in 2017 to do something different than the corporate world he was used to. With big dreams and goals of creating a business that helped people grow their businesses and fulfill their dreams, he has created a company that creates reliable results, consistently.