Our proven guide to digital marketing for restaurants
Getting new customers can be tough, but I’ve helped numerous businesses to master digital marketing for restaurants, and now I’m going to share this knowledge with you too.
The high demand for a quality service and experience is making running a restaurant even more difficult.
If you aren’t already busy dealing with staff and a busy kitchen, you now have to think about the impact of reviews and aligning with other apps for orders, bookings or deliveries.
Yes, the digital world is for sure changing how businesses operate, but this constant evolution also offers a great way to engage with new customers and cook up more custom.
I’m going to show you ten easy tactics that you can use to get noticed by more people online and fill up your restaurant.
1) Get found on Google
When I’m asked about digital marketing for restaurants I always open with the same piece of advice: make sure your business is set up properly online, so search engines like Google can find you.
You have to put the time into optimising Google My Business by adding a better description of what you do, directions, other amenities that will help you stand out (e.g parking) and recent photos of your restaurant.
ComScore predicts that by next year, 50% of all searches will be made by voice. This also includes Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa, which is powered by Yelp.
I can’t stress how important it is that you register your business in other online directories to get found easier, so make sure your copy has got all the keywords in that you want to be found for.
Here’s a list of 50 free directories you can register on straight away to help you get optimised for searches. All you’ll need is some time and template descriptions so you can be consistent across the web.
2) Own those reviews
Google loves to show users content that is useful and relevant to them so that people will keep coming back to use their search services.
Reviews help give platforms like Google a benchmark of what’s worthy to show and validates your business, so you start appearing higher in searches.
77% of UK shoppers consult online reviews before acting, so if you’re not thinking about your reviews, you need to be.
Gathering reviews has become competitive as giants like Google and Facebook will use the data they collect for their own marketing revenue-generating purposes. Use free products like Google Beacon which improves location detection and better prompts people to give their feedback.
Because these platforms use location services, they automatically prompt people for reviews soon after they have left by sending a push notification, so if you feel your diners have had a good experience, then you should also encourage them to leave a review.
84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and that’s why platforms like TripAdvisor are so popular.
It’s incredible the number of business who aren’t owning their TripAdvisor pages and aren’t able to reply to some of the not so great reviews. In fact, Trip Advisor can generate up to 20% of overall traffic to your website and engaging with positive reviews has been shown to increase repeat custom.
You should be checking free platforms like TripAdvisor, Lonely Plant and Open Table, and updating descriptions and pictures, especially when it’s reported that every one-star rating increase on Yelp brings a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.
3) Collect email addresses
Getting new customers through the door and turning them into repeat customers is important and embracing emails is a great way to generate repeat custom.
There are loads of ways you can capture email addresses, here are some of my favourite techniques:
a) Website newsletter subscribers
b) Online reservation functions
c) If people phone to make a reservation, ask them for their email address
d) Loyalty cards – in exchange for the email address
e) In-store competitions and feedback cards
f) Email login for free WiFi access
g) Paperless receipts (if technology allows) – ask to email it instead
Just remember to stay GDPR compliant and ask if it’s ok to get in touch with them.
Once you start growing your email list then share your best content with them, latest events and offer them discounts and offers so they feel valued.
Setting up automation is key to getting the best of this. Once you get a new email subscriber, you can send them on a journey of a welcome email followed by an email with an offer or discount (roughly a month later) that can be used by friends or family.
You can even resend emails to those who may not have opened them and, depending on the data you’ve collected, you can send happy birthday emails too.
4) Plan your content
With so much to think about when running a business, and especially a restaurant, it’s hard to find time during the day to capture great content that your diners will love.
Instead, take the time to plan out what you need and when you can get it – spending just a few hours a week on this will rocket your engagement.
Think about some of the ‘behind the scenes’ images you can take. Maybe you want to showcase the team spirit, how you clean every night or the care that goes into the fresh preparation.
If you do any charity work or support a local youth team, then make sure you get this across in an authentic way.
If something inspirational happened at your restaurant, share it, or do something crazy like breaking a World Record for the most eggs cracked in a minute.
5) Get active on Social Media
This is one place you can compete with other restaurants or franchises in your area.
There are so many social media platforms to choose from and each one attracts a different audience. I’ve found that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat work the best overall.
The key here is to use platforms that allow others to share your content or like it, so it appears in feeds of their friends. And don’t forget to engage with those who’ve left comments on your posts.
Make sure to use native content, which is using images and video designed for that platform. There’s plenty of free apps to help you do this and make content look amazing.
If you’ve got a following already, here’s an excellent guide on how to achieve the best organic reach.
6) Paid ads
Once you’ve developed some great content, you can generate more awareness by paying to put it in front of your chosen audience.
Don’t just boost your posts, use tools like Facebook’s audience targeting to reach the customers you’re looking for. Start off with splitting audiences down to students, parents and locals – then push relevant ads to them.
Remember, there are more ads than there is space for, so the better your ad content engages, the more chance you have of it appearing in News Feeds.
Facebook Local is the latest tool that you should check out – it gives you data on people nearby, like the top age group, your busiest times and other insightful information like whether your trade is made-up of locals or tourists.
Location-based targeting is amazing too. Just imagine you can create a digital boundary around a postcode (or even a competing restaurant) and then send them ads of your restaurant, which will appear in their favourite apps.
You can even set some automatic pathways with your paid marketing, so when someone sees one of your videos in full, the next ad they will see can be an offer. Or, if they’ve been on your website, you can send them remarketing ads with a promotion.
7) Have a functional, professional website
Your website is your online home and having a simple, clear design with some select features can increase customer conversion by 70%.
Technology has made it easy to add in useful tools onto your website like online ordering, reservations, events calendars and image galleries.
But before thinking about these extras, you should get the basics right. The main reasons diners come to your site are to check things like your location, parking, opening times, phone number and more about the menu.
So, make sure these are on display in the header or easily accessible with just one click.
It’s while potential customers are on your website that you can maximise from the e-visit by showing your best food pictures and décor, along with ad banners with the latest offers.
Also, introduce pop-ups encouraging them to join your email list or add exit page takeovers to promote lunch menus, for example.
8) Create online partnerships
Everybody is talking about influencers and using them is a fantastic way to get you noticed.
You don’t need to pay a massive celeb to come in, instead just look up some food bloggers in your area. If they’ve got a good following, invite them down for a free meal in exchange for an honest and open review.
Ask a local event organiser if they want to use your space for a team building exercise, kids day or even a singles night. You might not make much on the night, but it will fill up your restaurant on a quiet night and spread the word across town.
If there are events taking place nearby, say your restaurant is near the city centre, then align to some of the events through using hashtags.
You can even pair up with event organisers and give away a free meal for two on their social media. That way you are reaching even more people and raising the profile of your brand.
9) Blogging and talking
Blogging brings bags of benefits.
It helps you with SEO for your site, but it also builds a relationship with those reading your content, eventually leading to more customers.
The layout of your blog matters – 80% are predicted to use their mobile while they read it, so use a layout that works.
a) Be genuine: get your chefs to give some tips and tricks
b) Invite guests: Team up with someone else or guest post somewhere else, like the local magazine
c) Evergreen: Create quality content that will always be relevant, like recipes and health advice
d) Quality over quantity: having something in-depth outweighs pumping out volume
e) Tone: Speak with your audience, don’t talk at them – It will help keep users engaged
If you can spare a little more time, you should try being a little more creative and try podcasts.
Remember that once you’ve created your content, soy shouldn’t expect people to just find it. You will need to actively promote it so it can be found and indexed by search engines.
10) Capture and sharing
This is a gold mine if you can get this right.
I’m sure you’ve seen it – people get their food and the first thing they do is take a picture.
If you see this happening, this is great! They will most likely be sharing this on a social media platform, including Whatsapp, where their friends and family will see it.
Embrace it. Try and make your food as photo-worthy as possible when presenting and let them know of any hashtags, filters and name @handles.
If it matches your setting, you can put these on graphics anywhere you like. Perhaps create a little setting where diners can take a selfie or picture. Find a corner to create a vintage set up, flashing neon sign or even a cardboard cut out.
You’ll be surprised at how many people take pictures and share them – and it’s free marketing for you that will go out to an audience that is probably similar and relevant!
So is digital marketing for restaurants worthwhile? Absolutely, and we’ve seen the results first-hand.
There’s nothing stopping you from using digital marketing and SEO to get more restaurant customers through your door.
Just dedicate some time to test out our online tactics and see how it impacts the flow of new diners into your restaurant.
If you don’t have the time, then we’d love to work with you – just get in touch and we can share more of our ideas.
Have you used any of these marketing tactics? Leave a comment on what worked for you.