As people explore new and innovative food trends, there’s more potential than ever before to turn a restaurant into a thriving business. At the same time, the industry is more competitive than ever. No matter how great your food and service are, you need a creative and aggressive marketing strategy if you want to attract hungry customers. Here are some restaurant marketing tips that will help you get noticed and entice more people to try your culinary masterpieces.
- Make Your Website Appealing and User-Friendly
Today it’s not just essential to have a website. You need a website that’s professional, attractive, and user-friendly. While every business benefits from having a great website, it’s especially important for businesses that are in industries related to the arts, entertainment, and lifestyle. People who are discerning about food are probably also impressed by great website design.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for your website:
Make it easy for customers to see essential information such as your address (along with a link to Google Maps), phone number, hours, and menus.
Take reservations online as well as by phone. Consider a sophisticated reservation system such as Resy, an app for iPhone and Android that makes it easy for customers to make a reservation.
Use appropriate keywords for local SEO. This includes references to your neighborhood as well as town or city, such as “downtown Denver Italian restaurant” or “Cleveland Heights steakhouse.” You don’t have to overdo it with keywords and use them naturally.
Use high-quality images of your restaurant and dishes. Videos are also powerful for engagement.
Make your website as user-friendly as possible. This means fast-loading pages, an easy to use navigation menu, and responsive design so people can access your site from mobile devices.
- Connect With Your Customers on Social Media
Restaurants are one of the businesses that can benefit most from social media. One common and legitimate concern about social media marketing is that people go on Facebook and other social sites to socialize, not shop. However, restaurants are a big part of socializing. This gives you an edge over other businesses with Facebook pages. If people have a great experience at your establishment, they’ll be glad to like your page and share your posts.
It’s important to post regularly and engage with people on social media. Even short posts about your latest dishes, holiday events, specials, or anything else is worthy of a post. Remember that images get significantly more engagement on social sites than posts only containing text. Monitor your pages and always answer comments and questions.
- Reach Out to the Media, Reviewers, and Influencers
People today are obsessed with regional cooking, wine, gourmet desserts, farm-to-table foods and many other aspects of cooking and dining. There are now countless articles, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and other media dedicated to food and restaurants. Think of ways to connect with local (and even national or global) media and influential people who write or talk about food. Restaurant reviewers are an obvious target but you can look further.
Look for people who specialize in your type of cooking and let them know about your signature dishes and influences. Were you inspired by your grandmother who passed down regional recipes from Greece, India, Appalachia, or anywhere else? A food blogger or other influencer may very well be fascinated by this type of story. Finding ways to tie your restaurant into current trends can help you get valuable exposure.
- Monitor and Manage Your Reputation
Reviews and reputation management are a major issue for restaurants. Yours is a type of business that thrives on recommendations. On the other hand, bad reviews can do serious harm to your bottom line. First of all, make sure you’re listed on review sites such as Google and Yelp. Monitor these pages so you’re aware when people post reviews.
Always reply to reviews, both positive and negative. While some people are just cranky and can’t be pleased, in some cases you can learn something from negative reviews. This is especially true if multiple reviewers have the same complaint. That way, you can correct something and mention in your comments that you’ve made the change. This is a chance to turn a negative into a positive, showing people that you listen and care what they think. Encourage people to leave reviews by posting signs near the register such as “Please leave us a review on Yelp.” You can also link to review sites on your own website.
- Create an Email Newsletter
Building an email list is a time-tested way to build a loyal following in any business. This works as well for restaurants as anyone else but many restaurant owners fail to take advantage of this tactic. You can ask people to sign up for your list in person by writing their name and email. You can go high-tech and have them enter it into your iPad or another tablet. It’s also simple to create an opt-in form for your email list on your website.
Of course, once you start collecting email addresses you have to figure out what to send people. An online newsletter doesn’t have to be long or complicated. You can get templates and all the technical resources you need from services such as MailChimp. You can email people the same type of content you’d include in a blog post or Facebook post. Share recipes, tips for holiday meals, nutritional advice, interesting tidbits about the history of your style of cooking, and anything else that might interest your customers. A good tactic is to issue coupons that can be redeemed at your restaurant. You can also offer these coupons on your social media pages and link to them these coupons on your social media pages and link to them via your newsletter.
- Reward Your Customers
You can encourage your customers to return to your restaurant more frequently by creating a loyalty program. You can provide customers with a card that is punched or swiped every time they order a meal. You can also make the process easier by automating it with a rewards app. This way, every time someone uses a credit card at your establishment, they’ll accumulate reward points.
Other ways to reward customers include coupons and contests on your social media pages. Surveys are a useful tool that on your social media pages that can be incorporated into either contests or your loyalty program. Asking customers what they thought about their meal, server, how comfortable and clean the facilities were, and other factors give you valuable feedback. In return for filling out a survey, you can provide customers with reward points or entries into your contest.
- Outsource Marketing Tasks
You may be reading this list and feeling a bit overwhelmed. You’re already busy running your restaurant and may not feel like you have the time to build a website, maintain a Facebook page, monitor your online reputation and publish a newsletter. All of these tasks are actually quite manageable if you just devote a few minutes each day to them. However; if you prefer, you can find reputable people or agencies to do the work for you.
Tasks such as website design, local SEO, social media management, reputation management and others are offered many agencies. You can also hire freelancers on sites such as Fiverr for specific tasks. Or you can find an agency that handles all of your needs and negotiate a monthly fee. This is an additional expense but it can be a worthwhile investment in your business and free your time to focus on serving your customers and managing your restaurant.
Marketing your restaurant takes a certain amount of planning and effort. You need to keep up with the latest platforms and strategies for reaching people on a variety of platforms, both online and offline. These tips can get you started on getting more creative about getting the word out about your restaurant. Carry on!