How to Market a Restaurant: Ideas, Tips and Trends
The ideas, tips and trends in restaurant marketing are immeasurable. As technology evolves and consumer preferences modify themselves to keep up, successful marketing strategies need to be tested and adjusted, as well.
While the still tried-and-tested traditional marketing strategies remain quite powerful, digital and online marketing strategies are constantly evolving and challenging marketers to come up with new ideas and clever, customer-engaging campaigns.
These digital marketing techniques are not solely attached to your website and what you can do with it. They also include other channels, such as your social media pages, your pages on ratings websites, search engines, and your mobile app. Even your guest WiFi can be used as a powerful restaurant marketing tool.
Today’s restaurant industry is as competitive as ever. With this amount of stiff competition, it is imperative to be on top of your marketing game at all times and gain any advantage you can get over your competitors. If you haven’t paid special attention to learning how to market a restaurant, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
Below, you’ll find 20 effective ways to market your restaurant in 2020. Keep in mind that as you branch out into various marketing channels, it is important to keep a consistent brand voice and personality. Likewise, you should aim to keep your look and feel as consistent as possible, including imagery.
Restaurant Marketing Starts with Your Website
Your company website is the virtual epicenter of your brand. This is where customers go to see your menu, order take-out, discover upcoming specials and events, and more. It should also be the source of your brand identity in terms of look, feel, and personality.
To maximize the traffic to your website, and garner the attention of potential new customers, special attention should be paid to the website to help it rank highly in the search engines. This is known as search engine optimization, or SEO. While there are entire college degrees designed for SEO professionals, the main idea is to provide original, educational, entertaining and compelling content for your customers.
Make sure to include keyword phrases that your customers would be searching for, such as Italian Restaurant in Atlanta. Make sure the phrase flows naturally in a sentence and doesn’t sound forced. Just write naturally and you should be fine.
It is also important that other websites are linking to yours. Find local directories and other websites to link to yours. A good way to think about this is that if you publish entertaining, educational, compelling content, others will naturally link back to it.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. It allows you to manage your own information, which will appear when someone searches for your brand name, or your location on Google Maps (see image). Plus, businesses that verify their information with Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers.
All you need to do is create a free Google account (if you don’t have one already), log in and claim your business. You’ll immediately be able to enter all of your company information. You can even create events and posts that will appear in your search results. This is also great for attracting new customers.
Newsletters and Email Marketing
If you’re not building a customer list with contact information, you are simply leaving money on the table. Place a form on your website that allows customers and potential customers to sign up for a newsletter.
Then, send out an email newsletter to them on a consistent basis with relevant, compelling content. Some restaurateurs will include coupons or specials in the newsletter to entice readers to visit. This is a very powerful form of email marketing that has been highly effective for decades. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent. If you choose to send it monthly, make sure it is sent out on the same day every month.
The more people who sign up to your email marketing newsletter, the better. So, consider adding an incentive, such as a free dessert, to all new subscribers. Also, make sure the sign-up form is displayed prominently on every website page, if possible.
Social Media Restaurant Marketing
Social media is a necessary part of running any business today. Even if you do not have pages on any of the popular social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, you can bet that your customers are out there posting, tweeting, and Instagramming things about your restaurant. You can also bet that potential customers are reading it.
The more engaged you are with your clientele, the more loyal they become, and the more they’ll spread the good word. A well-developed social media marketing plan can bring a large percentage of business through your door.
From making improvements to driving sales, customer engagement is key when you market a restaurant. What if you don’t have an audience? There are many ways to engage fans over social media. Here are some tips for boosting your Facebook followers:
- If you don’t have a Facebook group, consider making one. If you have one but don’t participate, start. This gives you a built-in audience to respond to the content you share.
- When you need people to like your page or join your group, one thing you could do is host a contest. To get 100,000 likes on their Facebook page, Qwertee gave away 1,000 free shirts in a week. This approach works when you have multiple platforms you can boost the signal for your content on. Create graphics, videos, blog posts and more that people can share to spread the word. 35% of fans on Facebook like a page so that they can enter the contests.
- Videos less than a minute can have big results. The best length for Facebook engagement is around 1 minute and 30 seconds, and Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video each day. Your videos could be about anything from promotional content, to food and drink items, to a behind-the scenes look at your restaurant.
- People like sharing their opinion, especially if it’s easy and fun. Before you start innovating, you could have fun polls. You might ask people to decide between your two most popular desserts. For one option, people could like the post. For the other, they could share it.
Photos and videos are a win-win for social media, especially Instagram. Obviously, you should use them on your networks, but try these tricks for an added bonus:
- Attract customers with shareable photos and videos on your Wi-Fi landing page. It’s the first thing they see, so make it worth the sign-in.
- Make your splash page social-friendly with like, share, pin and tweet buttons.
- Spread the word by asking customers to check-in with social sites when they sign into your Wi-Fi.
- Engage customers with shareable deals, customized for each social media site so their friends can share, too.
- Retain customers and gain new ones by asking for reviews.
All of these capabilities are native features in the Bloom Intelligence platform, and they help build positive connections between your customers and the members of their social networks.
Twitter is another great platform for restaurant marketing. It allows you to post images and text, so you can share a quick message with any image you’d like to share. Twitter gives you the opportunity to engage with your guests using quick, simple messages. If you’re short on time and want to get started, Twitter is a great option.
Restaurant Marketing with Online Paid Advertising
This is more of an advanced strategy, and one that will require an investment. Paid advertising is most often done using Google (Google Ads) and Facebook (Facebook Ads). These can be quite powerful, as they can be configured with unique targeting features, personalized ads, and a thorough dashboard to monitor and analyze results.
You can even tell them the type of person you want the ads to be displayed to, based on their internet browsing history, or their demographic information.
Google Ads is the most used and most popular online paid advertising platform to market a restaurant. When you do a search in Google, many times you will see advertisements at the very top and/or the very bottom of the results page. These are Google Ads, and you can advertise your restaurant in this space.
Google allows you to configure where you want your ads to be seen, meaning you can display your ads only to searchers who are in a specific distance of your restaurant(s).
Once you’ve created your ads, you can tell the system which searches you’d like your ads to appear on. There is no limit to the amount of search phrases you can enter. When someone searches for any of the phrases, your ad will appear.
Then, you set a budget cap. You’ll never pay more than the monthly cap you set, and you can adjust it or pause the campaign anytime. Ads are displayed in order using a Google algorithm which considers the relevancy to the search term, and the maximum bid per click you have set in the system.
As mentioned above, this is an advanced strategy for most restaurateurs. It is necessary to keep a constant eye on the performance of your account. You’ll want to tailor your settings to be as high on the search page as possible, without spending too much per click. Results can be powerful using Google Ads, but if attention is not paid to the account, your monthly budget cap can be spent with very minimal ROI.
Facebook Ads is very similar to Google Ads. Configuration can be as simple, or as complex as you’d like it to be. With more than 2 billion people using Facebook every month, it is entirely possible to narrow down your desired audience to the specific type of customer you want the ads to appear to. Facebook Ads are generally less expensive than Google ads. However, Google Ads can reach a much larger audience.
You Must Know Your Audience
With any type of marketing campaign, knowing your audience is crucial. The best campaigns start and end with the audience in mind. Since paid advertising takes a bite out of your marketing budget, you obviously want to make sure you gain the highest ROI possible.
To do this, you need accurate, reliable, and comprehensive data about your actual customers. For brick-and-mortar business owners, WiFi marketing and analytics can gather this powerful data for you – whether customers log into your WiFi or not. Then you can sort and filter the data to make accurate, data-driven decisions about who your ideal customers are, and for whom you should configure your paid advertising audiences.
Ratings and Reviews Websites for Restaurant Marketing
In today’s digital age, reviews on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp are archived and available instantaneously to anyone with an internet connection. In fact, when searching for a restaurant or hotel online, customer reviews on these popular sites are among the first to pop up in the search results.
Because of this, many potential customers make up their mind about the quality of an establishment as soon as they see the highlighted rating appear on their screen, before they’ve seen any marketing materials, visited the location’s website, or even visited the location itself.
TripAdvisor tallies up a staggering 390 million unique visits a month, with 435 million available reviews on nearly seven million restaurants, accommodations and attractions. Yelp, though not at quite the same level, still attracts an impressive user total, about 174 million figuring in monthly mobile and desktop visits, with about 115 million posted reviews.
The popularity of these sites speaks clearly to their importance.
Given these numbers, it is obviously important to stay on top of your ratings and reviews on these powerful websites. So, whenever you see a bad rating or review, respond with T.A.C.T. And whenever you see a great rating, respond in T.I.M.E.
Create a Ratings Feedback Loop
Using the Bloom Intelligence advanced automated marketing suite of tools, it becomes quick and easy to create a ratings feedback loop.
Bloom users create the initial message that is sent to their customers. This message will typically thank them for a recent visit and ask them to provide a rating of their experience – from one-half star to five-stars. The message can be configured to be sent after a specific amount of visits to your restaurant so they do not get the message after every visit.
Then, a rating threshold is configured for which a follow up message will be sent. For instance, if the threshold is set at 2 ½ stars, then if the customer gives a rating of 2 ½ stars or less, a follow-up message can automatically be sent. In this case, the follow up message would offer an apology for providing anything less than stellar service. It can include an incentive to get the customer back through your door for that valuable second chance.
The idea is to grab the customer’s attention and offer some kind of resolution to their issue before they get to an online ratings website. If they know their issue is being addressed in a friendly and positive manner, they will most likely refrain from complaining online. Over time, this will mitigate many negative reviews that would have been sitting online – damaging your reputation – for years to come.
Likewise, if the customer gives a good rating in the initial message, you can follow up with a message thanking them, and include links to your pages on Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, or any other online ratings website. Over time, this will greatly increase the amount of positive ratings and reviews you have online. As a result, you’ll see more new customers coming through your doors.
Customer Loyalty Programs
Customer loyalty programs are enormously popular in restaurants all over the world. Owners and operators know this customer-engaging marketing strategy has a potent capability to expand their customer base and extend the overall average lifetime of their customers.
When executed properly, a loyalty program can turn your occasional customers into frequent patrons, increase your per-person-average, and elevate your bottom line. The audience may be smaller in terms of your overall marketing efforts, but that shouldn’t discourage you. These participants have opted in. They expect and are ready to receive your offers, updates, coupons, and messages. And they are the ones who are going to actively engage with them.
Are you currently offering a customer loyalty program? Is it truly working for your establishment? Are you seeing a positive ROI? Do you have the means to collect and measure the data that can tell you these things?
A WiFi marketing and analytics platform can act as your loyalty program. For instance, Bloom can track your customer visits for you and can trigger an automatic message with an offer or rating based on individual customer behavior.
You can send them an automated message once they reach your predetermined visit count, for instance. You literally set it and forget it, and Bloom will handle the rest.
When a customer redeems the offer, Bloom will track that data too. This allows you to measure the tangible ROI you need to manage your loyalty program effectively.
Other Online Restaurant Marketing Ideas
If you or a member of your team have a knack for writing, try finding an online food blogger who accepts written work from other authors. This a great way to get exposure for your restaurant while also demonstrating your love for food and great customer service.
While you will most likely not be permitted to directly promote your restaurant, you will likely be able to provide an author bio that will be published on the page. That is where you can let the world know how great your restaurant is.
Plus, you’ll be able to add a link to your restaurant’s website. This can increase your website traffic through direct visitors from your link. Also, it can provide a boost to your website’s search engine rankings, since they will see a link from an authoritative website pointing to your website.
You can also seek out food bloggers in your area who do reviews on local restaurants. Contact them and ask them to review your place of business.
Finally, get your restaurant listed in local directories and on food apps. This may require some legwork. Find apps that list local restaurants and make sure you are in their database. Also, find online directories for your area and create listings for your restaurant.
Local Media, Magazines and Newspapers
By taking your marketing efforts offline, you are covering all your bases, so to speak. Publishing in newspapers and local magazines can sometimes be pricey. So you want to make sure your advertisement gets in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
The best days to have your ad run are Sundays and Fridays. On Sundays, coupons are the main attraction, so you might consider adding a coupon or special in the Sunday paper. Likewise, Fridays are the days when local event and happenings are published. So, you might think about Friday as another option.
WiFi Marketing and Analytics for Restaurants
One of the fastest-growing marketing strategies in the restaurant industry is WiFi marketing and analytics. We’ve mentioned WiFi marketing several times earlier in this guide. A WiFi marketing and analytics platform like Bloom Intelligence can quite literally fuel every strategy on this list. When deciding how to market a restaurant, WiFi marketing should be at the top of your mind.
Utilizing your existing WiFi access points, the platform will be able to sense every visitor who enters your place of business with a smart device. This will be a very large percentage of your customers. You’ll have real-time (and be building historical) footfall metrics like dwell times and repeat visits. This is even if they don’t log into your WiFi.
If they do log into your WiFi, a detailed customer profile will be built containing the customer’s data. This data includes contact information, demographic data, and all of their past behavior data.
Over time you’ll build a customer list of thousands of your actual customers. The list can be sorted, filtered and analyzed to discover who your best customers are. You can then send automated marketing messages to these segmented lists, increasing ROI and decreasing costs.
Amazing analytics tools.
“This is an integral part of our local store marketing program. We use the e-mails we collect to tell our existing customers about various promotions, specials and discounts, and the analytics tools are amazing at capturing and displaying smart device activity in and around our store.”
~ Ron Murray
Atlanta Bread Company