Nowadays it’s word of mouth and online web searches which helps customers to discover restaurants and businesses in their local area, and whether they’re looking for somewhere to eat, somewhere that’s Instagram-able or even to write an online review for, ultimately it’s all business that you want to be on the receiving end of.
However, before you delve into the unknown of digital marketing, it helps to know a few things before you get started, which is why we're here. Restaurant marketing can be tricky, with many of your efforts working better or worse than others if it isn't wholly understood whom you're marketing your restaurant at and the best ways to ensure you achieve the results you want for your business.
In this article, we'll take you through the exact ways you can get creative with your digital marketing strategy to attract your target audience to your establishment and increase your customer footfall for the better. So without further ado, here are the best ways for you to use digital marketing for your restaurant.
Understand who your target market is and what they want
First things first, as you'll already know, being a restaurateur, the restaurant business is a highly competitive but also booming industry, with even the smallest of towns and villages restaurants having at least a couple of competitors. However, that is needless to say that not all of your competition will be your direct competitors.
Instead, a lot of your competition may be marketing their cafes, brasseries and restaurants at a completely different target audience to you. For instance, if you have an authentic Italian restaurant which is slightly on the more high-end side of the scale, then arguably you won't be competing with a restaurant which mainly sells cheap fast food which would be aimed at children, teenagers and young adults in staunch comparison to your business model which is aimed at a slightly older age range.
Once you've managed to establish precisely who your restaurant's target market is, you can start building your restaurant marketing strategy around exactly how you intend to reach your target audience.
Make the dining experience at your restaurant enjoyable
Secondly, although this isn't a digital marketing idea, it is vital for ensuring that your marketing strategy is successful and that is to ensure that your restaurant is up to scratch and customers would be happy with both the food and the service they receive when they visit.
If your restaurant can't compete with your competitor by providing your customers with excellent service and great food as standard, then your marketing efforts are unlikely to help your business model by increasing your footfall. Instead, if customers don't receive the type of experience, they are expecting then word of mouth will get out, and you'll receive such a negative reputation that even the most effective of restaurant marketing strategies wouldn't be able to reverse.
So, before you do anything, ensure that your food and restaurant is up to scratch before you go ahead.
Use Instagram and Pinterest
As you’ll know, many people eat with their eyes first; therefore you'll want to use social media platforms which help entice customers to visit your establishment by allowing them to look at your dishes, restaurant setting, staff and customers. Both Instagram and Pinterest are the perfect social media platforms which will enable you to do this, so make good use of them!
Best Tips for Using Instagram
If you want to use Instagram to market your restaurant but don’t know the best ways to advertise your business, then you’ll want to follow these steps:
- Understand your audience and the hashtags that they use – Consider whether or not your target audience is likely to use Instagram or not and whether Instagram would be a great way to reach out to them. If your target market is expected to be on Instagram, consider the types of hashtags, they're likely to look at or post themselves and see if you can gain traffic from using those hashtags.
- Use a variety of different hashtags – You'd think that only using viral hashtags would get you noticed, right? Well, you'd be wrong. While you should use popular hashtags, you should also include some slightly more niche ones too, as your post is likely to get lost in the sea of highly popular posts from that hashtag otherwise.
- Share your users’ images that they’ve taken in your establishment – We'll talk more about the benefits of using User Generated Content (UGC) later, but generally, you should use content created by your users to make your restaurant more trustworthy. As, while sales language and perfectly lit images do appeal to some, user-generated content is more realistic and can help to establish trust to show that your customers also think that you're just as great as you say you are.
- Use the story function – If you're familiar with Instagram, you'll be aware of the story feature in which Instagram users can post video and image updates which appear at the top of the Instagram app and disappear within 24 hours of being published. Instagram's algorithm can be frustrating for a lot of influencers and brands which sometimes have to sponsor posts to reach their followers, however Instagram stories are the perfect way of alerting customers to new dishes, featuring your customers stories or even just alerting them to a new post on your profile, so utilise this great feature.
- Use social monitoring software to see exactly what people think of your business – Whether you've got many followers or just a select few, it doesn't matter, you should be monitoring what people are saying about your business. Now, this can be a difficult pill to swallow for some, as taking criticism isn't always easy. However, if you don't accept your faults, then how can you expect to grow? Take the positives and negatives on board by using a social media monitoring program such as Hootsuite.
- Use high-quality, appealing images – If you're going to spend time and effort on your restaurant marketing strategy, then you'll want to ensure that all the photos of your food, venue and customers are all of a high quality, as it does your business justice by showing off all the delights you have to offer better. It doesn't have to cost you a small fortune either, as most smartphones are fitted with excellent cameras that can take high-quality images in just a snap.
- Go with an overall theme, but still switch it up – Whether it's a colour scheme of pastel colours or just vibrant hues and high saturation, your page should have a theme. As Instagram is an image-based social media platform, the profiles and influencers who have the most followers with all have an eye-catching theme which pleases followers. While you should stick to an idea, ensure that you vary the types of posts you post to keep things interesting, because as beautiful as your dishes may be, it can be a bit boring for your followers.
- Interact with your customers – It's all good and well to post much content for your followers. However, you'll get more interaction from your posts if you engage with your followers; whether that's looking for posts on social media that mention your business and commenting on their post to say that you're glad that they had a lovely time and you hope to see them soon. Alternatively, seeking to resolve any issues or problems that a customer had at your eatery, it's all seen and appreciated by your followers.
Best Tips for Using Pinterest
Pinterest can be quite a difficult platform to get your head around if you aren’t already familiar with how to use it. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth using. Just ensure that you follow these few pointers when using the social media platform to market your business successfully:
- Create a business account instead of a personal account – When you sign up to join Pinterest, you’ll have the option to either sign up to have a personal account or a business account, so ensure that you sign up for Pinterest with a business account as this will make marketing your restaurant on Pinterest easier for you.
- Create different boards for the different types of media you intend to post – Make a list of what kind of content you'll be posting on your profile. Whether it's images of your delectable dishes or simply recipes to help your customers create your beloved dishes at home, create different boards for your different types of content.
- Consider whether your target audience is using Pinterest – Before you go ahead and start creating content for your different boards, you may want to consider whether or not your target audience is using Pinterest or not. If they aren't, then you may want to consider sticking to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It helps to know that the most extensive age range of users using the social media platform is 25 – 34-year olds.
- Pin stuff on other people’s boards and interact with them – As with any social media platform, you’ll increase your engagement rate by engaging with other followers. So, ensure that you pin and like other’s pins as well as expecting others to do the same for you.
- Create great pin descriptions for each of your pins – Pins which have longer descriptions tend to perform better than pins which have shorter descriptions, so keep that in mind. Your descriptions should be around 300 characters in length, and should always include: keywords, a call to action and a link back to your site.
- Lay off the hashtags – Unlike other social platforms, Pinterest doesn't pay much attention to hashtags you use, so it can be a waste of your time to include them in your descriptions. It's better for you to use keywords which are related to your business instead.
- Use high-quality images and content – Just like Instagram, users on Pinterest love images that appeal and a high-quality image is an excellent way for you to achieve that. It may also be worth choosing a theme, or a colour scheme for your posts and boards to have is also another great way to get users to follow your board.
Although some social platforms such as Pinterest don't pay much attention to hashtags, they're still beneficial to use on other platforms and can help you to gain more online traffic and customer footfall for your website. For you to utilise hashtags in the best way, you should follow these essential hashtagging tips.
- Don’t overuse hashtags in your posts – Spamming hashtags doesn't look good and isn't more likely to get you noticed it's more likely to harm your business's credibility than to help boost it. However, it is crucial that you use hashtags in every single caption that you post, but try to stick to around 2 – 3 hashtags per post.
- Mix popular hashtags with less popular ones – Popular hashtags are great; however, the only problem is, is that it's quite challenging to get noticed in the sea of posts which are being created every second. While that's not to say that you won't get seen by using popular hashtags, for best practice you should attempt to use both popular and less popular hashtags in your captions. As undoubtedly, it's easier to get spotted on a hashtag that may not get as much traffic as uber-competitive tags.
- See what hashtags are trending and use them to your advantage – Seen a hashtag or topic that’s recently blown up in popularity and is related to your business or potentially could be? Then jump on the bandwagon before the trend starts to die down. You can check to see what topics are trending by taking a look at Google Trends or by taking a look at Instagram Insights if you have an Instagram business account.
- Familiarise yourself with any hashtag before you consider using it – Hashtags may sound like they're one thing, but can, in fact, mean something completely different, so it's always a good idea to take a look at a hashtag before you start using it. As it can help to avoid any negative press or mishaps in the future, so familiarise yourself.
- Create your own hashtag for others to recognise and use – If you want your business to become its own brand then you'll want to consider creating your own hashtag to use when you post which will encourage your users to post with that hashtag too! Which will make viewing user-generated content and social monitoring a lot easier also!
Use local SEO
Most businesses, including restaurants, will rely mainly on local custom to make up the majority of their profits. Which is why you're going to pick only one thing from this list to employ, local SEO should definitely be a strong contender on the shortlist.
With your restaurant business you want to ensure that when potential customers type in something like ‘Italian restaurants in London’ or ‘best pizzerias in Shoreditch’, your result appears in the top three or four local results in the search engine results. It's proven that half of the users who click on your local result in the search engine results pages will visit your restaurant within the next day.
Although local SEO may sound confusing, it doesn't differ all that much from regular SEO practices; you just have to know the best ways to optimise your website for local results. If you like the sound of employing a local SEO strategy for your business, here are the best ways in which for you to do so.
Create a Google My Business (GMB) account
Creating a GMB account will enable users to not only be aware of your business, but will also allow them to find more information about your business as well; including your address, opening days and times, your telephone number to make enquiries or a reservation and even to see images of the location and the of the venue itself.
The more information you submit with your Google My Business account application, the better your result will be optimised for local results, so it is vital to ensure that you can submit as much information as possible. As well as this, it's also crucial that you make sure all of the information that you have provided on your Google My Business account matches the information you have provided on your website or your Facebook Business account. As any discrepancies will not only confuse potential customers but will also confuse search engines, so make sure that you update any old phone numbers or addresses.
Optimise your title tags and meta description for local results
To ensure that both users and search engines know that your restaurant is in a specific area, you can optimise both your title tags and meta descriptions, simply by adding your location in both. However, for best practices, you should make sure that your meta description doesn't appear spam-like or forced.
Instead, try title tags such as the following:
‘London’s Favourite Italian Restaurant | [Insert Business Name Here]’
‘Traditional Mexican Food in Manchester | [Insert Business Name Here]’
Moreover, you can optimise your meta descriptions for local SEO by doing the following:
Situated in the heart of the city, our London restaurant specialises in authentic Pan-Asian cuisine. Set menu, bar and DJ located in Old Broad Street.
[Insert Business Name Here] London - classic British cuisine by [Chef name]. Our menu consists of magnificent small plates in spectacular surroundings.
Encourage your customers to leave Google, Trustpilot and Facebook reviews
Restaurants and eateries with more and better reviews will be the types of results that Google recommends to searchers, as search engines are unlikely to provide their users with a poor experience as ultimately whether their ethos is all about delivering the best result possible.
Getting reviews sounds easy in theory, however, it can be challenging to get customers to follow up and leave a review of your establishment, if you get creative with your methods of how you ask your customers for a review then it makes things a lot easier.
- Leave a message on your receipt for when customers finish their meals – It can seem kind of pushy once a customer has finished their meal and asked for their bill to then ask them to leave a review of your restaurant. While some are quite happy to be upfront about asking for reviews, if you don’t feel that way inclined you can always leave a polite notice on the end of your receipt, something along the lines of: ‘Enjoy your meal? Why not leave us a review and tell us how we did!’ as a gentle reminder.
- Create promotions and incentives for customers to leave a review – Incentive is the perfect way to get more customers to leave a review rather than just asking them kindly. Instead, with incentives for the chance to win something, get money off or even win something for free is an opportunity too excellent for some to pass. Whether it's 10% off your entrée's when you leave a review or the chance to win a £100 gift card, the choice is yours what you want to offer.
- Include a call to action on your website – Calls to action on your website can leave a gentle reminder for those who have already visited your website to leave a review. Whether they're there to take a look at your new menu options or get some information about your restaurant, it never hurts to remind customers to leave you a review.
- Ensure that you respond to each and every one of your reviews – As we've already mentioned, establishing relationships with your customers is essential, even those customers who haven't had the best experience in your establishment. Whether it's a good or bad review, respond and ensure that you are open to both praise and criticism and be respectful. Seek to resolve any disputes and let anyone who had an excellent experience know that you look forward to seeing them again.
Add your restaurant to a local directory
Remember the days of the yellow pages? Well, unfortunately, those days are gone, and now most things, including directories are all dealt with online. Even if you still put adverts in the yellow pages, ensure that you also submit your restaurant's details to online directories such as Yell, BrightLocal and TripAdvisor as well.
Location-based target keywords
Targeting specific location-based keywords related to your business is an excellent way for you to gain local traffic in your area. Whether you're targeting ‘Mexican restaurants in Shoreditch' or ‘Italian deli London' it can all help your local SEO. Just ensure that you include your keyword in your website content, for more information on keywords you can take a look at our guide to keyword research and ways to target specific keywords.
Provide a mobile-friendly experience of your website
On average there are 3.5 billion searches made on Google worldwide each and everyday and just under half of those are carried out on mobile devices; therefore you don't want to miss out on all of that potential traffic by having a website which isn't optimised for mobile and tablet devices.
Optimising your content for mobile isn’t as complicated as it sounds and you can check how compatible your site is for mobile by using a tool such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, which will run an analysis of your website and will tell you how easy your website is to be viewed on mobile.
For more information about optimising your website and its content for mobile and tablet devices, you can take a look at our in-depth mobile optimisation guide.
Set up a loyalty program
One of the things that will keep your restaurant afloat is not only new customers but more importantly will be loyal customers who come out to your restaurant every other week. Building relationships with your customers is a great way to get loyal customers; however, it can take a long time to build that rapport. Loyalty schemes, however, are a great way to ensure that customers keep coming back to your restaurant if they've got an incentive, such a free meal or a free dish after six visits.
Whether you want to be old school and go with the old-fashioned physical stamp card or you want to get with the times and sign up for a loyalty scheme on an app such as Loyalty Pro, these schemes ensure that customers will keep coming back to your restaurant for more.
Work with influencers in the industry
Food bloggers and influencers? There's an abundance of them in this day and age, and you can use this to your advantage.
If you’re aware of some foodies and bloggers in your local area whose audience you think would be similar to your target market, then why not reach out to them and offer them a free meal at your restaurant in return for a mention or review on their social or blog.
Although you can't persuade them into giving you an outstanding review as they'll have to be honest about the food and service they received, if you go all out to ensure that their experience was a positive one, it should help get more customers to your restaurant.
Make sure your restaurant and food are ‘Instagram worthy'
Nowadays a significant factor with millennials and where they choose to eat is whether or not it is deemed to be Instagram worthy and whether they'll be able to get a great picture of the venue or the food for their followers.
If you're food or décor is a little sloppy or outdated then you may want to consider spending a short time sprucing it up a little bit to make it a bit more appealing. Once you've made sure that your restaurant is worthy of Instagram photos from each and every angle, post some images and promote them on your social and you'll be surprised at not only the attention you get but how many of them convert into actual customers.
Use geographically and demographically targeted adverts
If you haven't already heard about geotargeting ads or Pay per Click (PPC), then you may want to take a minute to give this a second thought.
PPC adverts allow advertisers to specify the location or locations as well as the demographics of the audience you want to reach out to with your ads. All you have to do is determine which keywords and searches you wish to feature your advertisements on, select your target audience, and you're all set to go.
However, it is worth mentioning that the more relevant your content is to the keyword you wish to target, then less you’ll have to pay for your ad, so ensure that your keyword is relevant to your business. You can target your ideal audience with ads from websites such as Google Ads or Facebook.
Share positive press and reviews of your restaurant online
It’s okay to build up hype for your restaurant, but if others aren’t joining in with how great it is, then it may seem a bit dubious and one-sided.
One way of proving just how good you are is to share any positive press or reviews you have received of your restaurant on your website or social media. Press and reviews from alternatives sources are a lot more reliable and sharing them will help you to boost your credibility.
Use online reservation tools
Websites such as Bookatable and OpenTable help restaurants to receive more bookings and make it easier for those customers who are using the app to book tables without spending hours upon hours trying to get through on the phone.
Asides from this, these online reservation tools are great at helping more customers become aware of your business. This is because generally, these apps categorise different restaurants by location, cuisine or ratings, meaning that anyone who wasn’t aware of your restaurant already can easily become aware and consider paying you a visit.
So why not sign up to one of these services and see how much your footfall improves.
Hold and sponsor local events
Holding and sponsoring events in your local area is an excellent way of gaining some recognition, particularly if you're doing something which is giving back to your community and could potentially earn you some positive recognition or press. Whether you offer an event such as a salsa evening with tapas or whether you want to help a local primary school by providing them with sports or arts equipment, these are all great ways to gain recognition in your local area.
However, with local events, it is vital for you to meticulously plan these with a decent amount of time in advance for you to promote it efficiently by ensuring everyone is aware of what's going on. There's nothing worse than creating an event at last minutes notice and having no one turn up, so instead ensure that you give plenty of time to promote your event with flyers, posters, adverts and social media posts.
At Dojono, we understand that creating restaurant marketing strategies can be extremely time consuming and difficult. However, if you can apply just some of these techniques to your strategy effectively, then you will be able to reap the best benefits that are to be had from effective restaurant marketing.
However, if you do not have the time, effort and dedication to spend on executing your digital marketing strategy, then you can consider employing a digital marketing specialist to help you.