From food trucks to fine dining, consumers have a ton of options when it comes to finding somewhere to eat. Restaurant operators know that strong marketing is the only way to stand out among the competition.
If you want to reach customers, you have to be where they are: online. Classic ad formats like print and radio still work, but modern restaurant marketing should focus on digital.
Here are 20 digital marketing ideas to help restaurants win more business in 2017.
1. Set Up Google My Business & Claim Your Local Listing
When people search for businesses, Google’s Knowledge Graph lists the business’s details as a sidebar. Much of this information comes from Google+, so set up a profile for free, high-visibility placement. You’ll also want to claim your Google local listing, so you can control how your business appears across Google.
Ask your webmaster about implementing local business schema on your website, to help boost your visibility and manage your presence in organic search.
2. Good Customer Service is the Best Marketing Strategy
Building a loyal customer base ensures a restaurant’s success. So, always remember faces and engage with customers via social media. Show that you care by responding to all comments or complaints. Happy customers are loyal customers. Even in the digital sphere, this counts.
3. Stay on Top of Online Reviews
Many customers will look up online reviews before they ever visit your website or walk through your door. It’s best to create your own Yelp profile with photos, restaurant details, and menus. Here’s some advice from Yelp on claiming your business page. People will review your restaurant even if you don’t have a profile. Always politely reply to reviews—whether negative or positive.
4. Food Photos: Your Best Marketing Tool
Nothing is more appealing than mouth-watering photos that showcase what you do best: food. You can DIY photos with a smartphone, but food photography can be tricky, so consider hiring a professional. Along with food, take pictures of ingredients, cooking processes, and anything behind the scenes. If you’re looking for DIY tips, check out our Restaurant Owner’s Guide to Food Photography.
5. Market to the Right People with Geotargeting
It doesn’t make sense to advertise to people who are outside of your delivery range, or who are too far to make the trek to your brick-and-mortar store. Geo-targeted advertisements, through Google AdWords, Facebook, or Twitter, are only shown to your potential customers.
6. Offer an Inside Look on Instagram
Instagram helps show off your restaurant’s look—whether it’s delicious food, smiling staff, trendy customers, or special events. You can also create fun hashtags. On the back end, Instagram integrates with Facebook for a multi-faceted social marketing strategy.
7. Engage New Customers on Facebook
These days, almost all of your potential customers are on Facebook. Facebook is a good way to open a direct line of communication with them. Just be sure to create content regularly (pictures of your food, menu updates, etc.) to engage your audience and encourage them to interact with you.
8. Twitter Marketing Works for You
Twitter happens in real time. Time tweets carefully to reach customers at prime mealtimes with appropriate offers or other content. Use the free version of a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to set up a calendar of tweets. That’ll allow you to set and forget this part of your restaurant’s marketing strategy.
9. Build an Email Newsletter Program
Share successes, news, discounts, new dishes, specials, and more with your customers via an email newsletter. But consider your email calendar carefully. Send newsletters about once a month to avoid crowding your customers’ inboxes. Launch an in-store giveaway with a business card fishbowl drop to collect your initial list of email addresses.
10. Attend Local & Restaurant Industry Events
Check your local events calendars for anything food-related that your restaurant could participate in. Stay in touch with your partners to see if they’re hosting any local events that could help you reach new customers. ezCater hosts a series of events called ezFoodFest, which we’re taking on tour this year.
11. Track Your Restaurant’s Reputation with Google
Google Alerts is a free service that tracks when your business name or another designated keyword shows up in new web content. This helps you keep up with who’s talking about you, so that you can respond to it or share it.
12. Reach Out to Food Blogs & Communities
Many online food communities have large followings, like Eater or Chowhound. Stay in contact with your local branch and share any new happenings at your restaurant. They may be able to help you get the word out, and will appreciate getting a hot tip.
13. Put Your Menu Online
Customers often want to look at your menu before deciding to order from you, so put your menu online and keep it exciting, current, and easy to read. It’s important to stay on top of this, so you don’t set diners up for disappointment. When you look for a new online ordering partner, be sure they have a team in place to help keep your online menu up to date.
14. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Most web traffic these days comes from mobile. According to Google, more searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers. A mobile-friendly website accommodates on-the-go customers who are looking for a place to eat in real time. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
15. Offer Rewards to Loyal Customers
Customers love to earn points. If you can partner with a third-party app service, or build your own solution, you’ll make the process of tracking your loyalty programs even easier. ezCater’s ezRewards program, which allows customers to cash in points for Amazon.com Gift Cards or discounts on food, is wildly popular with corporate customers. Starting a program of your own or partnering with a company that already has one is a quick win.
16. Partner with Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces and delivery services streamline the ordering process, and can expose you to a whole new set of customers. ezCater specializes in sending you new corporate catering customers, but there are a number of similar services that focus on residential orders, like Foodler, GrubHub, and more.
17. Allow Online Reservations
If your restaurant requires or suggests reservations, use an online platform like OpenTable. Customers will appreciate the ability to make a reservation online, and you’ll free up staff to answer other calls.
18. Start a Blog
Customers are more interested than ever before in what goes on behind the scenes at your restaurant. Start a blog to share recipes, highlight your staff, or document the process of making your signature dish. The blog posts don’t have to be long, and your customers will love to see what goes into making their favorite dish.
19. Keep Everything Up-to-Date and Consistent
Whatever marketing strategy you choose, always keep any information provided to the public up-to-date. Keep the information on social media platforms as current as possible, make sure advertisements have accurate information, and update your website whenever changes occur. You also want to make sure that your business information (phone number, hours, etc.) is consistent across online platforms so customers don’t get confused.
20. Track Progress
A marketing strategy is only as good as its results. Be sure to track engagement on social media and with digital ads, so that you get a good grasp of what’s bringing in the most business. When you understand what’s working well, you can do more of it. Here’s to a successful 2017!