Digital technology has changed the way consumers and restaurants interact. People expect to learn everything possible about an eatery from where the business is located to its menu offerings to the regular ebb and flow of business with a few clicks and taps. Consumers are also utilizing digital technology to let the world know about their restaurant experiences and they are not shy about sharing their opinions of those interactions.
Competition for restaurant clientele is fierce with a number of studies finding that more than 55% of restaurants failing in the first three years. To give your restaurant the best chance of not only surviving but actually thriving, your marketing strategy has to be top notch. To help your efforts, we’ll take a look at some effective marketing strategies for you to consider.
But before we get into the strategies, it is essential that your restaurant’s brand identity has been fully fleshed out. Consistency is imperative as consumers move from your website to your social media profiles to external apps like Yelp. If you present multiple “faces” of your business, people will become confused and quickly disinterested. Know who your target patrons are and build your brand identity in a way that embraces the needs and interests of your ideal audience.
A professional website is a must have for any food business. Today’s public is all about immediate gratification and they want to know all about you NOW! (and it’s 2 am, of course). A sleek, sexy, well-functioning website is your 24/7 billboard and informational center. It tells people who you are, where you are, and what you are all about. It also gives you somewhere to drive traffic from any of your marketing campaigns.
A functional online menu is an excellent feature to include on your website. (Please don’t make anyone download a pdf.) Publish a crisp, clean, easy to read menu that is accurate in regards to regular food options, specials, and pricing. Include colorful images of your delicious menu items. If you regularly change up your offerings, be sure to ask your website developer to train you how to make updates or be prepared to have professional assistance on retainer to help with that task. It also doesn’t hurt to offer information regarding ingredients in different dishes so consumers with varying food preferences or allergies don’t have to search for that information.
While not a must, it certainly is convenient to offer online reservations. Consider signing up for Open Table or another online reservation tool to allow customers to book reservations for your restaurant online. It’s all about making things easy for your patrons!
Featuring a blog on your website is a fabulous way to engage with your customers and foster an online community. Share stories about your restaurant journey, funny anecdotes, recipes and other things your customers might find interesting. Your blog page is a great place to recognize different kitchen, bar, and wait staff. You can also use that channel to push out announcements about upcoming events or changes happening in your business.
SOCIAL MEDIA - RESTAURANT PROFILES
There is a high demand for visual content nowadays and high-quality photos of your amazing food and drink offerings will help not only your website but also your social media efforts. You can also kick things up a notch and include video clips of people enjoying themselves in your establishment or friendly waitstaff providing excellent service. You may want to consider hiring a professional photographer and/or videographer to create some top-notch visual content for you to use. You can try it on your own with your smartphone just know that taking really great food photos can be harder than you might think as lighting is often a key factor in producing amazing quality pics.
In regards to restaurants, Instagram and Facebook are two key social platforms to make the most of. Setting up your social accounts is only the first step. It is important to regularly post to your social feeds and to stay on top of interactions happening there. Your restaurant’s social accounts can be used to tell people about discounts or to share special coupons. You can post those delicious looking photos of your menu items and push out newsworthy information like special events, positive press, or industry recognition you might receive.
User-generated content (UGC) is an excellent way to get post-worthy material while engaging with your followers. Encourage people to check-in when they visit your establishment and to post pictures of their experience there. Respond to followers’ posts with a small discount or free something or other.
Hashtags are another way to encourage users to help your social media efforts. Use hashtags to your advantage by either creating and consistently using brand specific hashtags or researching and using relevant trending food and restaurant hashtags. These tags help people find out about your restaurant and let followers tag your establishment when they post their pictures.
There are a number of social media management tools out there like Hootsuite and Buffer that can be used to help with the scheduling posts and keeping tabs on all of your social media accounts. If that is beyond your technological talents or you aren’t sure how to get things started, you may want to consider hiring a social media expert to assist your endeavors.
Social media can also be part of your marketing strategy as it quickly and inexpensively puts your restaurant in the feeds of potential customers. Social media marketing also opens channels for customer feedback and different social platforms provide a wealth of information about your customers and their online behaviors.
Another advantage of social media marketing is that it allows you to customize your target audience in a number of ways. You can geo-target by specifying strategic zip codes around your location. You can increase your ad pushout leading up to traditional meal times to catch those hungry customers who are thinking about where to stop for dinner. Your marketing team and social media expert should be able to define your target audience, their food needs, and patterns, and create a social media marketing campaign to drive traffic through your doors.
INTERNET “OTHERS” for RESTAURANTS
Claim and complete the profile for your business on Google, Yelp and other search engines and platforms.
Verify the accuracy of your restaurant’s online information. It’s important that the details are exactly the same no matter where a consumer is looking and that contact information, specials and your menu are up to date.
Set up Google Alerts to notify you when your restaurant name or other designated keywords appear in content on the Internet. This allows you to monitor who is talking about you and what they are saying.
Encourage visitors to review you on Google, Yelp, etc. Be sure to check your reviews so you can respond with thanks for positive posts and handle negative publicity quickly, politely, and professionally. (Not a bad idea to privately contact a negative reviewer to learn more information without having it blasted across the Internet.)
Be aware of your online reputation. If you run into a stream of negativity, you may want to consider working with an expert in this area to work on re-establishing your restaurant in a positive light.
Email marketing is another key marketing strategy. There are two solid ways to build your email list – offer a simple online form to your website visitors and ask customers to fill out forms when they visit your restaurant. You can use email communications to showcase new menu items, weekly specials, events you might hosting and more. This is also an excellent channel for offering coupons or other discount opportunities. A quarterly or monthly email newsletter is another way to regularly communicate with your loyal customers. Talk to your marketing agency about the best email marketing strategies for your restaurant.
RESTAURANT OUTREACH AND CONNECTIONS
Consider ways to leverage the network of food bloggers and influencers in your area. Some major foodies have large numbers of followers and an incredible influence on their restaurant choices. Invite them to your restaurant and write an online review about the experience. It doesn’t hurt to offer incentives like a free appetizer or something to encourage them to visit.
Take advantage of mobile food apps by listing on them to give your restaurant even more channels to be discovered on. Partner with one of the many delivery services like GrubHub and UberEATS that are cropping up. They are yet another avenue through which potential customers can learn about you and it provides a bit of social proof as well. When possible, source local ingredients. In addition to bringing in customers, this will help you build a positive reputation within your community.
FUN RESTAURANT EXTRAS
Offer a loyalty program. You can either do this in-house, with punch cards and such, or you can utilize the integrated loyalty programs offered by some of the mobile food apps we mentioned earlier. A number of these apps offer consumers a discount, free item, or meal after they have visited an establishment a certain number of times.
Contests are a fabulous way to increase brand recognition. Contests can be offered online through your website and social media accounts or can be run offline with handouts and notifications supplied as people visit your restaurant. You can also mix the two approaches by starting a contest in your physical location that asks customers to share content or information online.
Business card giveaways are easy, in-house way to encourage repeat customers. (BTW - it doesn’t hurt to have blank cards available for people to write in their information.) Ask visitors to drop their cards into a raffle bowl and pull out weekly or monthly winners. The prizes can be as small as a discounted food item or as extravagant as lunch for the winner and some friends. This type of contest also provides you with more names and contact information to add to your email list!
Offer discounts and coupons to encourage not only repeat business but also new customers. You can push out different offers on different channels. Your email newsletter subscribers might be offered a 10% discount, your Instagram followers a free dessert – the possibilities are endless and will allow you to craft offers that speak to different segments of your audience.
Strategy Driven Marketing currently works with some amazing bar and restaurant owners to help them make the most of their marketing efforts. We push out weekly social media promotions and announcements that have awesome engagement results and, more importantly, drive traffic through the doors of their establishments. We use social media marketing best practices to target and retarget relevant audiences and to get people excited about becoming and staying loyal customers.
We’ve also built sleek, modern websites that showcase all our clients have to offer from images of delectable menu options to the monthly baggo league schedule. These device responsive, SEO-friendly websites are developed to allow our clients, as they wish, to handle their own weekly updates and menu changes, training provided, of course. That being said, SDM experts are always happy to be on call to handle those tasks, as well.
We know that real results are your ultimate goal and can share real campaign statistics to show how SDM can help you establish strategic marketing efforts that will grow your restaurant business. Contact us today to talk more about what SDM can do for you!