5 minute read
Restaurant Marketing 101
As much as the restaurant experience is about great food and great service, it’s also about great marketing. An easily searchable website combined with an effective social media strategy is as important to the success of your restaurant business as what you cook in your kitchen and serve your customers.
The best ingredients make the best food; let’s take a look at the best ingredients of a marketing strategy that make your restaurant stand out in this highly competitive business. The best ways to “get found” online by your customers include:
- An inviting, updated website with interactive digital and print menu
- Online ordering
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Good reviews
- Social media
- Email campaigns
- Promotional campaigns & events
- Loyalty & rewards programs
Restaurant Websites that Wow
These days if you have a business of any kind, you have a website. Alas, too many businesses, and restaurants in particular, seem to think a website is just a sort of online business card. You post your hours on a Facebook page, maybe show some pictures of food. Even worse are those restaurants that get a DIY web builder and basically do the same thing, post hours with some out of focus pictures of food and some cartoons that make your site look as fresh as dead fish left out to flounder.
An effective website that actually markets your restaurant business—as opposed to just being a signpost—provides a professional depiction of your restaurant using high resolution photos and graphics combined with downloadable print and digital menus with online ordering capabilities.
To get a professional website that draws potential customers, here’s some key tools to consider.
Yext is a location and directory management tool that allows you to continually sync your restaurant’s information across the internet effortlessly and under one login:
- Business name, address and phone number (in multiple languages)
- Business regular and holiday hours
- Photos and videos
- Menus and calendars
- In-store coupons and other mobile wallet content
- Location labels (so when customers query for a restaurant in your physical area, your restaurant is in the search results)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
How do potential customers find your restaurant, particularly if they are just looking for a restaurant and they are not already familiar with your business or even know it exists?
Which is why SEO is so important—to make sure your restaurant ranks high when potential customers use Google, Alexa or Siri or whatever they use to search for restaurants. There are two important elements to SEO:
Your website content needs to be “keyword rich.” That means both the text and the metatext (the underlying code that describes your webpage and its sections) contains frequent occurrences of the terms potential customers most likely use to find restaurants in an Internet search. If you’re a pizza restaurant, for example, “pizza,” Sicilian style,” “homemade red sauce,” “pesto topping,” are likely keywords.
This is not a simple matter of “loading up” your website copy with certain keywords and you are done. Search engines such as Google are constantly updating their algorithms to determine rankings. Your keywords of a week ago may not be the keywords your competitors rank above you. And if you’re not in at least the top three rankings, and preferably the first, you’re not ranking at all.
The lesson here is that a static website, meaning one that is not regularly updated, is a website no one finds.
How do you keep your website updated? This is where a tool like Yext comes in handy.
A tool like Yext automatically audits and updates your business directory listings—meaning the search sites where your business is listed, e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, to name just a few. The proper display of your contact information, what is technically called a citation or NAP (name, address, phone number) on these various directories is essential to high search ranking. So whenever some information changes, such as a new menu listing or new holiday hours, all your business directories are updated. If you are listed in 100 directories, which is not uncommon, trust us, you don’t want to do this manually. Even worse is not updating at all.
Menus, Calendars, Reservations and Online Ordering
Equally important as your Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP) is your menu. This, too, needs to be an accurate updated reflection of what you are offering, particularly if you have a revolving set of weekly specials. Nothing frustrates a customer more than trying to order something only to discover that it isn’t available or shouldn’t even be on the menu anymore.
You might want to offer the option to download your menu. While it might seem that everyone does everything online, if your customers tend to skew towards an older demographic, this could be a good tactic. If the customer who likes to have a physical menu at hand doesn’t have yours, they are less likely to be a regular customer.
An updated calendar not only depicts operating hours, but also whenever your restaurant is holding special events and holiday offerings. This is important not just as a visual for web visitors, but as a database of important search items.
Does your restaurant offer reservations? A good way to minimize the distraction of taking reservations over the phone is to provide on-line reservations. An added benefit with online reservations is you won’t overbook or incorrectly book, something that sometimes happens with taking reservations manually.
Online ordering is a convenient option, one that grew considerably during the pandemic. Even if you offer primarily an in-dining experience, convenient takeout ordering is still a potentially profitable side. You don’t necessarily need to develop your own online ordering plugin for your restaurant website. There are a variety of platforms available. Examples include GrubHub and UberEats.
Coupons and Loyalty Programs
Everyone likes a deal, especially on their meals. Your restaurant website can not only display special offers, but provide the means to load them onto customer smartphone wallets for scanning at your point-of-sale register. This is also where you can describe and enroll customers in loyalty programs, such as a free entree after every 10 meals.
Get Good Reviews
Nothing sells a restaurant better than good reviews. For the smartphone generation, looking up restaurant reviews on Yelp or Birdeye and similar services is often the primary way to decide where to eat.
How do you get good reviews?
If you’re thinking, maybe I can write some reviews and get them posted, don’t think like that. It’s a bad business practice and you could get blacklisted from sites that suspect this is the case. If you provide good service and good food, you’ll get good reviews. But one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. You have to encourage your customers to write good reviews about their good experiences.
You need to be proactive in getting positive reviews. People are 10 times more likely to leave a bad review than a good review. Out of 5 stars, if you get a one star review you need 4 others to average it out. So by that math for every 1 bad review you get, you are 40 times less likely to get a good review to average it out. That’s a 40:1 ratio. For that reason alone it is a necessity to proactively solicit good reviews from happy patrons. That way when you get one bad review, it’s a drop in the bucket.
It could be something as simple as a server suggesting, “If you had a good experience today, we’d appreciate it if you posted a review for us.” A review card with a QR code and promotional incentive in the check holder. A social campaign. An email or SMS follow up after an online order. You could also add links to various review sites on your website to make it easy and convenient for customers to write their comments.
There are two ways to use social media to promote your restaurant business. One is to pay for ads that drive search traffic to your restaurant website. PPC ads are “paid per click,” so you pay only for when someone actually clicks on the ad. Because someone clicks on the ad is no guarantee you’ll find a paying customer, though it certainly increases the odds.
Paid ads promote your business online and increase search traffic. Paid ads are also a way to offer coupons and advertise special events, such as holiday menus.
The other way to use social media, and one that is free (at least in the sense you don’t pay for an ad), is to post content about your restaurant. This could be anything from a short bio with interesting tidbits about you and your staff, recipes, daily menu specials, anything new and interesting about your restaurant business. The idea here is twofold: 1) promote your business and add followers (i.e., potential customers) to your social media feeds with interesting content and 2) optimize your search rankings (the more keyword-laden content you create, the greater your chances of high search rankings).
Develop an Email List
Email remains an effective way to engage customers. Just don’t overdo it. If you bombard people with emails, eventually they don’t bother to read them. But coordinated with special marketing programs and legitimate news about your restaurant business, email marketing can get people out from their laptops and smartphones and into your dining seats.
Of course, before you can email anyone you need an email list. How do you get one? You can buy lists that target your potential customers, but you can also just put an email sign-up list both on your website and an actual sheet of paper in your store. Modern point-of-sale systems now ask if a customer wants to provide their email when paying the check. A customer who enters their email address to get a copy of the check is an email you now have captured for your email campaigns.
Develop an App
For the younger generation, it’s all about apps. It is how they hail a ride, text friends and shop. It’s also how they order food online and make reservations. Developing your own distinctive restaurant app that both promotes your business while offering convenient ordering and reservation options is yet another way to differentiate yourself from your competition.
Why You Need Professional Restaurant Marketing Services
Likely this all sounds like a lot of work. It is. Developing a restaurant marketing strategy, restaurant website, posting social media content, running campaigns, all these things we discussed take up your time. Time that is better spent at your restaurant in the kitchen, with your staff and running your business.
It’s not a question of whether you need to hire an agency to manage your online marketing, it’s whether you can afford not to.
At Tag Marketing we are 100% client focused and results oriented. We’re a family-run business, just like many restaurants, familiar with your industry and count many successful restaurateurs on our client roster. Tag Marketing offers an affordable restaurant design, SEO and marketing services that fill tables, increase the average check per table, and maximize overall restaurant revenue.
Need help setting up your restaurant marketing program? Or would you like us to evaluate your current marketing strategy?