The competition restaurants face all across the globe is quite stiff. Only a decade ago, good food and a cozy environment were all it took for a restaurant to thrive, but the industry has transformed dramatically over the past years. Whether we like it or not, modern-day marketing is heavily dominated by online platforms and technology.
The latest advancements call for fresh restaurant marketing ideas and an updated action plan. If anything, the recent global pandemic has proven this to be more relevant than ever. After thousands of businesses were forced to close down, moving online is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
To help you keep up with recent trends and developments in the industry and successfully promote your business, we’ve compiled 25 restaurant marketing tips and ideas for you to try out.
Ready to learn the ins and out of restaurant marketing? Let’s get into it!
Create an Eye-Catching Website
Creating a website and keeping it well-polished is arguably at the heart of online restaurant marketing. Your website is the online representative of your brand. Thus, making it appealing to as many people as possible should be your aim.
Your website needs to showcase the food that you offer as well as include certain online tools. A few things you could include on your website are:
- Online menu
- Online reservation tools
- News and offers
- A variety of mouthwatering food pictures
If you don’t have a website yet, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on hiring specialists to create one for you. You can use an online website maker to make the job of creating a website easy, affordable, and quick. Most online website makers offer templates specifically targeted at the food and drink industry.
Last but not least, make sure your website is fully functional and visually attractive on mobile. Most people access web content on their mobile devices, especially if they’re looking for a restaurant on the move. A good-looking mobile version of your website is vital, so be sure to have it.
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Have a Sleek Online Menu
Your menu is your restaurant’s selling point. But that brilliantly designed physical menu is not enough. Those who visit your website will definitely want to scroll through your offerings. That’s how they’ll make a decision whether dropping by your restaurant is worth it. Naturally, you’ve got to make a great online menu that is relevant, attractive, and easy to read.
Your online menu has to show off your delicious dishes, so hiring a professional photographer and renting some solid photography gear will get the job done if you’re willing to allocate the time and money required. Alternatively, you can opt to use an online mockup tool to create the menu yourself and be in full charge of the outcome.
Make an Online Reservation Tool
So, your potential customers loved your online menu and want to give your restaurant a shot. What is going to be their next step? Right, reserving a table! One of the most effective restaurant marketing tips is to have a reservation tool embedded on your website.
Having the possibility of online reservations along with reservations over the phone will make your customers happy and give you a competitive advantage. Nowadays, most restaurants provide their visitors with that possibility, and if you don’t do it, let’s just say you become a little less desirable than your competitors.
Take Advantage of Local SEO
Local SEO makes restaurant marketing much easier to tame. Google reports that 46% of searches on Google have local intent. In a nutshell, local SEO is about ensuring that your business is listed first when people search for your product or service locally.
For instance, if you are a Japanese restaurant located in downtown Chicago, you want to make sure that you’re the top result on Google when people search for “sushi downtown Chicago” or similar keywords.
According to Google, you can do a number of things to improve your local rankings, such as entering complete data, verifying your location, having accurate opening hours, managing reviews, and adding photos. Google ranks businesses for local search based on relevance, distance, and prominence.
Appear on Online Business Listings
The best way to get noticed by your potential customers is to have your restaurant listed on popular business directories such as Google My Business. A lot of people decide where to go and eat only after searching for good places on Google prior to making a decision.
In fact, Google My Business is a very important part of local SEO and should be one of your restaurant marketing strategies. It will help your business rank high in Google searches.
Besides Google My Business, there are many other directories that you can make good use of. Websites like Yelp, Facebook, Bing Maps are all great options to get your restaurant listed. For a fuller list of the best business directories, check out this article.
Being listed as a local business will increase your restaurant’s visibility and help you attract more new customers. But once you get listed, you need to start optimizing your company info in order to start climbing higher up the endless list of competing restaurants. This brings us to our next point.
Verify Your Restaurant’s Online Details
Google and other search engines don’t grant high rankings to the businesses that provide incomplete or incorrect information regarding their working hours or contact information. Why would they? Use this to your advantage and make sure your company info is accurate on listings.
Optimize your company information to rank higher and increase your restaurant’s chances of appearing on Google Local Finder and Google Maps. Add your brand name, location, choose your business category, write down your contact details and website URL so that users can easily find your restaurant. Needless to say, be sure that all the links are functional and the information — recent.
Be Active on Social Media
Once your website is up and running, you should channel all your efforts into social media. It’s universally acknowledged that nowadays, social media marketing is the most important of all the various marketing strategies. And it’s especially important for restaurants.
A powerful presence on relevant social media platforms needs to be at the core of your overall restaurant marketing strategy. Presence on social networks doesn’t just mean setting up profiles on each and every social platform. Instead, it means being very intentional and posting a lot of great content.
Most restaurant owners will choose Instagram as their main social media channel, but it’s important not to disregard other platforms. Facebook, for instance, might have a sizeable part of your online audience. A few things you can do to shine on Facebook are:
- Upload eye-catching photos of your dishes;
- Master Facebook video marketing to engage your audience with high-quality videos;
- Run paid Facebook ads.
Source: Wendy’s on Facebook
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram aside (we’ll come back to Instagram shortly), Pinterest has also been used extensively as part of restaurant marketing. Think about it: Pinterest is all about photos, so why not use it to your advantage. Pinterest lets you pin photos of the meals you offer at your restaurant, and those pins can be re-pinned by others to create a never-ending cycle.
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Instagram Should Be Your Priority
Your restaurant’s marketing plan won’t be complete unless you have a very strong presence on Instagram. Instagram surpassed 1 billion users in 2020, and we all know that this platform is all about attractive photos and, recently, also videos. So show off your restaurant’s amazing dishes by posting beautiful photos and killer Instagram videos on your page.
You can find creative Instagram posts in our article to get inspired and level up your own content on Instagram.
Use Hashtags Extensively
Hashtags are a great tool that can help you reach new people on social media, boost engagement, and bring in more customers. All social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram encourage the use of hashtags by both users and businesses.
Here are a few advanced tips on how to use hashtags to promote your restaurant:
- Combine global hashtags with local ones. If you only use popular hashtags, you’ll get lost in thousands if not millions of posts. The solution is to use local hashtags alongside popular ones. There are not too many businesses using hashtags specific to your location, so your restaurant won’t go unnoticed. After all, you are trying to attract locals!
- Use hashtags to search for new ideas on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Look at what’s popular in your area. For instance, if the #Japanesefood hashtag is super popular where you live, you can organize a Japanese cuisine day at your restaurant to follow the trend.
- Using too many hashtags is not good. Aren’t you annoyed when a Facebook friend of yours uses a few dozens of hashtags in every single post they share? Too many hashtags can be annoying, so only pick a few that are closely related to your posts.
User-Generated Content is the New Trend
User-generated content has been getting increasingly popular among brands and is one of the effective restaurant marketing strategies. In a nutshell, restaurants and other businesses collect content (e.g., photos, videos, etc.) from their customers and post it on social media platforms to promote their products and services.
You could ask your restaurant customers to take a picture of their favorite dish and post it online with a specific hashtag. Then you could hand-pick some of the best ones and make them part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy.
Chipotle’s iconic #GuacDance challenge is a perfect example of UGC. It broke all records, quickly surpassing 1 billion views on TikTok.
UGC is all about getting people involved in creating your content. Build a strong connection with your audience and turn your existing customers into brand ambassadors. People trust each other more than they trust brands, which is why, in some cases, your customers can be the best promoters of your restaurant.
Create Fun Contests
All of us love winning, especially a free meal or two. One of the easiest and most engaging restaurant marketing ideas is running a social media contest. You could ask your followers to tag a friend they would love to have dinner with and then share your post. When your customers start tagging their friends, and those friends tag their friends, your engagement skyrockets!
In the end, there’s going to be one winner, but you’ll have created a lot of excitement among your audience. Don’t forget to announce the winner publicly and make it entertaining.
Partner up With Influencers
Gaining a huge following is great, but when you’re starting out and don’t have enough followers, you can partner with people who do. Influencer marketing is a very popular trend right now. It’s when you partner up with a person who already has a significant following and asks them to post about your business on their social pages.
As a restaurant owner, you could invite local food bloggers to your restaurant to try your dishes and make a video about their experience. Then they’ll post the video on their pages, and that will attract new customers.
Make Special Offers to Customers
Nothing sounds more attractive to customers than special offers, coupons, and discounts. After all, who can resist a good deal or free food? Many restaurants have taken advantage of this and turned it into a successful lead generation strategy.
Offer discounts to first-time customers, email subscribers, loyal fans, and watch it transform your restaurant marketing efforts. You can use popular coupon websites and e-commerce platforms to spread the word about your offers.
Monitor Your Social Media Presence
In order to make the most out of your marketing efforts, you need to constantly keep an eye on your pages, engagement, and growth. Customers expect businesses to be very active on social platforms, especially when it comes to restaurants.
There are many advanced tools to help you monitor and manage your social presence, keep up with online reviews, competitors, etc. Also, don’t underestimate the power of AI in social media marketing: It can be a reliable assistant in maintaining and growing your online presence.
Source: Sprout Social
Start a Food Blog
Starting a blog about food is one of the best marketing ideas for restaurant and food businesses out there. Your blog could be part of your website. The reason you want to do this is that an effective blog post can drive a lot of quality traffic to your website — something we call content marketing.
The way content marketing works is very simple. Imagine someone is looking for information about food or restaurants on Google, and your blog post pops up first. By clicking on it, they will not only get answers to their questions but also discover your restaurant. And if your menu or atmosphere attracts them, who knows, they might decide to give your restaurant a try.
Know Your Audience
Whether you’re creating content for your blog or Instagram page, you need to know who is the receiver of that content and what they want to see from you. In other words, you need to define and thoroughly study your target audience to be able to make a solid connection with it.
Knowing your audience is all about collecting customer data, analyzing it, and using it to optimize your promotional strategy. As a restaurant, your audience can consist of your current client base and/or the people who could potentially become customers. Think about your clients’ needs, preferences, pain points and adjust your approach to them using that data.
Provide High-Quality Content
Content is king. You may have heard this phrase a million times, but there’s a catch to it. The secret is that content can’t be king without quality. So let us rephrase Bill Gate’s famous quote a tiny bit: “Quality content is king” sounds way better!
The issue is that many people see the difference, but not all of them understand how crucial it is to present their businesses with high-quality content. To get the success you desire, you need to pay attention to the content you display online.
Let us bring an example of photo qualities to better illustrate this point. Let’s say you are scrolling your Instagram feed, and you come across the same photo in two different qualities. One of them is awful; the photo resolution is so bad that just looking at it hurts your eyes. And, by contrast, the other one is so bright and vibrant that you could look at it for hours.
Now the question is, which one will you be gravitated towards? The answer is obvious: The high-quality photo wins the game. Of course, this example is a bit exaggerated, but it demonstrates our point vividly.
People are sensitive to the quality of the content they receive. Quality applies not only to photos but also to videos, text, and any other form of content that you might choose to provide to your audience.
Work With Food Bloggers
Starting a blog about food is great, but it can be a struggle in the beginning. To help you get your foot in the door, reaching out to popular food bloggers can be a great idea.
You could ask them to visit your restaurant and write a blog post about it — this is one of the many options. An objective piece mentioning all the pros and cons of your restaurant can be helpful both to you and to your customers.
You could also ask them to write a post about some special offer you have. If the blogger has a large following, they might ask you to pay. If that’s the case, evaluate your budget and whether or not the expense will be worth it.
Source: Much Ado About Fooding
Yelp is Still Powerful
Yelp has been a big part of restaurant marketing for a while, and even though many users now use Google to look for restaurants, Yelp is still one of the top platforms in the food industry. It allows users to find local businesses based on customer ratings and reviews, so it’s a great way to connect to local consumers.
Aside from building a complete profile on Yelp with current information and pictures, be responsive to any customer reviews you might get. The platform also offers paid advertising opportunities to help your business get more exposure.
Run Targeted Google Ads
For a lot of business owners, Google Ads is the primary method of enlarging their customer base. But to make the most out of Google advertising, try geo-targeting (also known as local PPC). This way, your ads will be delivered to users from your geographic area, making sure your restaurant is not advertised to consumers living on the other side of the country.
More precision, more local customers, less money wasted — these are a few of the benefits of location-targeted ads. Luckily, Google Ads allows you to target based on geographic locations, so take full advantage of this.
Use Mobile Apps to Boost Conversions
Most searches for restaurants take place on mobile devices — hence the huge demand for food apps. Not utilizing the power of mobile apps means you’re missing out on consumers looking for an eating place on the go.
Having a mobile app for your restaurant will make it so much easier for users to look at your menu, book a reservation, and order food if your restaurant offers an online food delivery service. While it may be costly to make an app, the increased conversions and sales can cover the cost pretty quickly.
However, if you don’t have the means to create your own restaurant app, there are hundreds of restaurant and dining apps where you can get listed. It’s also a great option for newly opened restaurants that don’t have an established client base yet.
Don’t Forget Email Marketing
Social media is great, but when it comes to nurturing relationships with customers and making sure they keep returning to your restaurant, email marketing does it best. If you don’t have an email list, there are a number of ways you can collect it: opt-ins and pop-ups on your website, contests where the participant submits their email to register, free offers, discounts, and so on.
Once you build your email list, use it to share news, special offers, interesting facts, discounts, and any other relevant content with your email subscribers. Keep your emails concise, effective, and visually attractive.
Build a Community
Restaurants are one of the business types deeply rooted in and dependent on their local communities. It makes perfect sense: You rely on customers living nearby to visit your restaurant or even order delivery. Hence, the way you relate to your neighboring community will have a huge impact on your success.
Actively engaging with the people in your area will help to build a strong community around your restaurant, bring new customers, and increase customer loyalty all at once. You can accomplish this by sourcing local ingredients, working with local vendors, organizing events and contests at your restaurant, etc.
Take Your Brand Identity Seriously
Your brand identity is what sets you apart from the competition and gives a distinguishable personality to your company. People are naturally attracted to brands that are unique and authentic. Elements such as a brand story, strong messaging, signature visual style, and brand voice help to shape an identity for your company, thus making it recognizable.
If you haven’t yet defined what you want your restaurant to sound, feel, and look like, check out our guide on brand identity. Already have a determined brand identity? Check in to see how well it’s resonating with your audience and which aspects you can improve to strengthen your company image.
Have Loyalty Programs
People love talking about food to their friends, colleagues, or even strangers, which makes word of mouth a great way of promoting your restaurant. Happy customers are usually willing to talk about their positive experience with your restaurant — even more so when there’s an incentive for them to do so.
The best incentive to encourage customers to recommend your restaurant to friends is to offer them a reward in return — that’s what loyalty programs are all about. Develop a referral system, give special deals to repeat customers, offer a discount for sharing your posts, and so on. As the famous quote goes, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.”
The cozy environment and the rich menu of your restaurant are key factors in attracting and retaining customers. But first, you need efficient restaurant marketing ideas to increase your visibility and help more people find you. Build a functional website, stay active on social networks, run targeted online ads, and most importantly, stay open to new restaurant marketing ideas to constantly keep growing, as does the market.