Restaurants can be highly lucrative, but they operate in a highly competitive environment. And nobody knows this better than we do here at Digital Restaurant, which is why we have compiled a list of 25 great marketing tips for your restaurant.
Hopefully these tips help you navigate the world of restaurant marketing. But, if you want some professional help, we’re always here to lend a hand, supply some brilliant software, and create some bespoke strategies for you.
1. Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation, commonly known as SEO, is a vital part of any restaurant marketing campaign. With so many people taking to the internet to find out about restaurants in their areas, or restaurants offering the food they’re craving, you want your restaurant to not only show up on the search engine results pages, but rank as close to the top as possible. Simply put, if a user types ‘restaurants near me’ into Google, for example, you want your restaurant to be the top of the list.
• Get a (responsive) website
Some restaurants leave their online presence to social media and review sites, but this is not advisable. Having a website makes it much easier for customers to find you and, importantly, trust you. A professionally designed site does wonders for your restaurant’s image, and it is possible to optimise it to do well in the results of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. But, with so many users searching the internet on their phones, it is crucial that your site is responsive, giving it the ability to display correctly on a variety of devices and screen sizes.
• Feature a blog
Blogs are excellent resources for SEO. This is because search engines’ bots read the content of blogs and check it for relevance when a user conducts a search. So, if you have written a blog post about Italian food, for example, and a user searches Italian restaurants in Google, your blog is considered relevant to the search and will be displayed in the search results. Then, by clicking on your blog, the user goes through to your website and you have a chance of creating a new customer.
You can optimise your website and blog for search and let them build towards the top of the results pages organically, but this can take a lot of time. So, to speed things up and see almost instant results, you might consider running a Pay-per-Click campaign. This way, the search engine will put your restaurant’s website at the top of the results pages and, if the user clicks on it, you pay the search engine a predetermined amount of money. But, to keep within budget, you can tell the search engine the maximum amount you want to spend each day.
2. Create a Digital Menu
Users will, in most cases, visit your restaurant’s website for one of two reasons: either to check details on your restaurant (where you are located, what business hours you keep, your contact info, etc.) or to view your menu. And, you’ll probably find the latter is the more common motive. So, you absolutely need a digital menu on your website. Make it impressive, but keep it easy to use and ensure that it stays true to your restaurant’s image and your physical menu.
Having your menu available online not only helps get diners interested in your restaurant, but can actually decrease turnover times. This is because customers who have previewed your menu already have a good idea of what they are going to order when they step inside your door.
3. Use Google+ as an SEO Tool
With almost three quarters of the world’s online users preferring Google, this search giant is definitely one which your campaign should not ignore. And, if you want to be noticed on Google, using Google+ is a very, very good idea. The reason for this is the fact that Google looks to its own resources before looking elsewhere when displaying search results.
So, when users are searching for restaurants in your area, or your restaurant in particular, it helps if Google has all of the information that it needs to recommend your restaurant.
You might have noticed the information that pops up to the right of the list of results on a results page. This is called the Knowledge Graph, and it contains star-ratings and reviews by users as well as contact details and information. Google loves to populate this graph from the information it has in Google+. So, to stand a good chance of being noticed on Google, make sure your Google+ account is updated.
4. Photograph Your Food
The last few years have seen food become the second most searched category online, following adult content, which has led to the slightly taboo yet well-meaning term, Food Porn. Regardless of how you feel about this phrase, you can’t deny that it represents a vast amount of people who like to look at food – which is prime pickings as far as potential customers go.
Because of this, you should be indulging foodies’ fetish for well-crafted consumables, and creating beautiful imagery of your restaurant’s food. But, a word of warning, food photography is decidedly tricky, with improper lighting rendering a delicious dish looking wholly unappealing. So, if at all possible, don’t go the DIY photography route and instead hire a professional.
Once you have photos that will inspire foodies’ taste-buds, get them onto the screens of your target audience via any and all social media channels.
5. Lean Heavily on Instagram
Instagram is exceptionally useful for restaurant marketing because showing food to a hungry person is much more effective than describing it to them. So, this is definitely a platform that you should use to show off your professionally-taken food images. But, you shouldn’t stop there. You can use Instagram for much more than just product-focussed posts.
Some businesses choose to keep their actual products in the background in favour of showing the lifestyle that their products allow. For example, if you run a restaurant that serves health-conscious food, you could create content that shows people out in nature or at the gym. Similarly, if your restaurant serves Caribbean food, you could create your content to show a relaxed, beach-centred lifestyle.
6. Embrace User-Generated Content
If you like the idea of sharing images of your restaurant’s meals online, but don’t want to go with a professional photographer, beginning a user-generated content campaign is a great idea. In fact, it is a great idea regardless.
User-Generated Content is essentially content (often photographs and videos) that has been created by customers and posted online. This is great for your restaurant for two distinct reasons.
Firstly, user-generated content is known to be created by consumers, not professionals, and is thus far more credible to their peers – your prospective customers.
Secondly, content created by customers is perfectly acceptable in candid form. Since it is not created by professionals, it doesn’t matter if it is not professional-quality. This means that you can generate a lot of content on your restaurant for free, and no one will hold the production quality in a negative light.
7. Tweet Wisely
Because of the way it is designed, Twitter is a very in-the-moment type of social platform. You’ll often see tweets that are no more than a few minutes old filling up your feed. But, this is a great feature for you to exploit in your marketing campaign as it lets you target people at specific times of the day.
If your restaurant is located in the centre of a city, you might want to target office workers and entice them to pay you a visit during their lunch hours. You could offer a lunchtime special and time it to go out just as they all start thinking about lunch.
8. Run Facebook Ads
Facebook has almost 2 billion active users worldwide, making it a hugely valuable resource. With so many users logging on regularly, you can still target the precise customers that are right for your restaurant and reach a large amount of people. This is the beauty of Facebook Ads.
Facebook Ads let you choose who you would like to see your ad. You can filter your results based on age, geographical location, likes, and much more. This means that you end up with your ad being shown to your ultimate target market. And, to make them even more attractive, Facebook Ads are relatively cheap to run.
9. Be Active on Social Media
As we’ve established, social media is very important for getting your restaurant noticed by the people who would most enjoy your food. But, setting up accounts is not enough. You need to be regularly posting content and engaging with your customers – that means responding when they ask questions and commenting when they post about your restaurant.
This can be a full time job, and you would rather spend your time actually running your restaurant. So, as with photography, this one is best left in the hands of professional social media management services.
10. Send Out an Email Newsletter
You can use your website to collect users’ email addresses, perhaps by offering a discount coupon when they sign up. You can then contact these customers every so often (not too frequently or you may annoy them) in order to remind them of your restaurant by offering some brief news and a few promotional offers.
11. Use Text Marketing Campaigns
Text (or SMS) marketing campaigns work in a similar way to email newsletters. But, with these, the goal is to get your customers’ phone numbers so that you can send them promotional text messages to garner repeat visits.
You could use your menu to offer a voucher or free dessert if they text ‘pudding promo’ to your dedicated number. Your system will send them back a voucher for a free dessert, which they show to their server. This allows you to create an SMS list which you can use as you would an email list.
12. Run Competitions
With restaurants, competition prizes don’t have to be excessively fancy. A free meal is more than enough to get customers excited. And, if you run your competition well, you can get a lot of engagement on your website and social media platforms. This can also lead to your customers sharing the competition entry with their social connections, which is great for improving your brand recognition.
13. Get an Online Booking System
With so many diners taking to the internet to find out about restaurants, there are a lot of potential customers online. In order to capitalise on this, you want to make the step from online searching to visiting your restaurant as short as possible. This is why it is excellent business to give online users the chance to book with your restaurant on the spot. For this, you need a trustworthy online booking system.
You’ll want to be able to customise the system to suit your needs as a restauranteur (like assigning tasks to staff and being reminded of upcoming events), and you will also want the system to keep tabs on your clientele, so you’ll know if you’re losing repeat customers.
14. Get Involved with Food Apps
Sites like Ubereats, Just Eat and Deliveroo put diners in touch with local restaurants – often offering suggestions that they might never have encountered on their own. So, if you are looking to have your restaurant discovered by a new segment of diners, these apps can be very useful.
Of course, with these types of services taking their cut, your margins are going to be lower. But, this might be worthwhile as your restaurant is connecting with new clients. Then, once your restaurant starts generating some buzz, you can offer this service yourself. We’ll offer more on that later.
15. Introduce a Loyalty Programme
Loyalty programmes aren’t exactly cutting edge when it comes to marketing. But, the reason that they have been around for such a long time is they work. The principal is that repeat business is rewarded. So, if diners visit your restaurant frequently, they accumulate points which can then be swapped for free meals or coupons. You can customise these coupons to suit their ordering habits, which shows that you value your customers enough to pay attention to their tastes.
16. Create a Presence on Review Sites
Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor feature reviews from the community of diners. And, as we mentioned with user-generated content, the opinions of consumers’ peers means a lot more to those consumers than the opinions of marketing professionals. So, it is important that you actively comment on your reviews.
Be sure to thank the diners who give you positive reviews, and tell them that you are looking forward to seeing them again. Also, be sure to handle any negative reviews carefully. Don’t get into arguments with customers who did not enjoy their experiences; instead, tell them how sorry you are about the fact that they are unhappy and ask them how you could have made their dining experiences better.
17. Use Influencer Marketing
Never miss an opportunity to invite food bloggers and other influencers to your restaurant. This could be as a result of your opening, having hired a new head chef, having redecorated, and so on. Having influencers make positive statements to the public about your restaurant is excellent for your marketing campaign. However, be sure that you don’t pressure them into writing about you, or make them feel that you are trying to bribe them. Instead, invite them for a free meal – on the grounds that you think they’ll enjoy it – and let your restaurant’s food and atmosphere do the rest.
18. Connect with Local Media
Just because online marketing is popular and effective doesn’t mean that you have to ignore offline marketing tactics. Don’t discount the sway that magazines and newspapers still have. So, in addition to your online efforts, contact local media outlets and invite them over to your restaurant for a complimentary meal. If that gives rise to great reviews, be sure to post those on your social media channels.
19. Use Events as Marketing Opportunities
Another way to connect with customers in the real world is through events. If you want to take advantage of big crowds of hungry people and get them back to your restaurant, events offer a great opportunity. Basically, you need to give people vouchers offering a discount or free dessert if they visit your restaurant. But, use the opportunity to get creative, making the vouchers something interesting, like lobster crackers if you are offering a seafood special.
20. Match Your Marketing Medium to Your Target Market
If you are catering to pensioners who like to visit your coffee shop mid-morning, you may well find that more of them read the newspaper than log onto social media each day. So, if you wanted to offer a special – perhaps a free scone with a pot of tea – then putting the voucher in the newspaper might be better. Think of where your target market is going to be looking and then focus your marketing efforts there.
21. Offer Food Outside of Your Restaurant
Of course, you could ensure that your target market is looking at you because you are directly in front of them. Instead of trying to get diners to come to you, you could go to them.
Do you specialise in health and protein shakes? If so, set up a stand outside a gym or a sports field and attract people fresh off the back of a workout or a game of football. Alternatively, if you offer good on-the-go food, you could buy a van and offer your food in built-up areas around lunch time.
22. Offer Online Ordering
Another way of making sure that your food reaches your target market is to deliver it directly to them. We mentioned food apps a little earlier, which are good for marketing except they cut into your margins. So, to keep your profits healthy, you could offer the same service from your very own website.
By taking your own delivery and take-away orders, you don’t have to pay commission, and it is easy to integrate with local delivery services like Quiqup or Jinn. Look into Food Pilot for more on this.
23. Inspire Local Word-of-Mouth
Modern customers like to feel appreciated, so showing that your restaurant cares about its community will sit very well with your local patrons. You can do this by geo-targeting local residents through online ads, or running ads in local publications, and offering discounts. Also, sponsoring local school events expresses that you are fully invested in the community and are willing to give something back.
24. Go Local or Even Grow Food Yourself
Another way to support your local community is to use ingredients grown by local suppliers in your meals. The people in your area will really appreciate this, which may cause them to choose your restaurant over those of your competitors.
If you really want to impress, however, you could grow the food yourself, as some restaurants are now doing. This could be at a site away from your restaurant, or in the restaurant itself. With millennials being a very health-conscious generation, you are bound to attract customers by joining the ranks of the restaurants growing ingredients on-site.
25. Make Your Health-Conscious and Environmental Choices Known
As mentioned in the previous point, millennials are a health-conscious group. So, if you are making health-conscious choices for your restaurant (like this restaurant abandoning cow’s milk), there’s no sense in keeping quiet about it. You need to appeal to anyone who would appreciate your choices, doing so in-store and online, so that they know to come to your restaurant for healthy, organic, or morally-sourced food.