If you own or manage a restaurant, you already know how important to stand apart from the crowd and have the right strategy to find and retain customers. A functional restaurant does not equal a successful restaurant, so regardless of the type of restaurant you’re running - from fine dining to contemporary casual to fast and fabulous — keeping your brand top of mind with regular and potential customers is the key to success.
There are many ways to advertise your restaurant. And while there is some validity with old-school marketing techniques like direct mail advertising, billboards, event sponsorship, passing out flyers, and traditional print and broadcast advertising all have their place in a restaurant’s marketing kit, none of these provide a greater ROI than restaurant online marketing.
When it comes to internet marketing for restaurants, everyone has an opinion on what the best strategy is or what is most effective. This article cuts through the noise to give you the right ingredients to add to your restaurant’s digital marketing efforts and help capture people’s attention and reach more customers.
Why Every Restaurant Needs a Good Digital Marketing Strategy
When was the last time you went out to eat without getting on your phone first? Like you, your customers are using digital technology to look up restaurant reviews, check out the wait, make reservations, see the store’s open and close times, survey the menu, and get directions. Without solid digital marketing of restaurants, most establishments will end up invisible, blocked out by all the online marketing restaurants and digital marketing bars winning the race for views, clicks, and restaurant online advertising space.
A restaurant’s digital marketing efforts are critical in targeting the right customers and turning them into loyal, recurring patrons. The following digital marketing strategies are your ticket to standing out above the competition.
Digital Marketing and Online Advertising for Restaurants: 10 Foolproof Strategies
1. Optimize Your Website
An attractive website is the foundation of every restaurant’s internet marketing strategy program. At the minimum, every restaurant website should have a home page with the restaurant’s name, logo, address, and phone number prominently displayed and easily accessible. Your website should also have an about us page, a copy of the menu, a contact page, and a reviews page. If possible, it’s always a good idea to include a gallery containing high-definition photos of your food and ones that show off your restaurant’s ambiance. And don’t forget to include pictures or video footage of customers enjoying your restaurant’s fare.
A basic website is a start, but you shouldn’t end there. You want to ensure that people looking for a restaurant in your area or the type of cuisine you are offering can find you. The way to do that is by optimizing your website so search engines like Google will find it. The goal is to show up at the top of the page when people do a local search for restaurants like yours. The better your website design and content are, the higher up your site will show up on search engine results.
You’ll want to start by claiming and setting up your Google business profile, a free internet-based service designed to help promote local businesses online. There are several advantages to having a Google business profile.
- Once you’ve successfully set up a Google business profile, you will appear in Google Maps and its local pack listings. This is invaluable as these pack listings are the first thing Google searchers see on the results page. You definitely want your restaurant on that list.
- You can customize the profile to show photos of the outside and inside of your restaurant, prominently display your logo, and even show any additional information and attributes — such as being veteran-owned — that you might want to emphasize.
- Customers can leave reviews right on your Google business page, and you can react and respond to them.
- Potential customers can click through to your website directly from your Google business profile.
- You’ll be able to embed a Google map of your location onto your website.
Other directories — like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Better Business Bureau, and Yellow Pages — can also help boost traffic to your website.
2. Encourage and Manage Reviews
Restaurants live or die by their reviews. Nothing fuels a business more than positive reviews and recommendations from customers. Therefore, you must put managing your digital reviews at the top of your marketing to-do list.
Sign up with the major review platforms, and then do all you can to encourage customers to leave reviews on Google, Facebook, and other social media platforms where you have a presence. You can also request that they leave reviews on your website if enabled to receive reviews. Consider offering customers an incentive such as a discount for taking the time to post a review.
Respond to every review. Customers appreciate engagement. You even need to respond to any bad reviews you might receive. If you ignore bad reviews, you just leave the impression the unhappy patron left without rebuttal. Acknowledge the bad review, apologize, and offer ways to make it right.
3. Leverage Social Media
When done correctly, social media is the digital marketing gift that keeps on giving. Set up accounts for your restaurant on Facebook and Instagram, and if you’re after a younger crowd, TikTok. Then, encourage patrons to follow you. With social media, the name of the game is engagement, so be sure to post regularly and always respond to posts and comments from customers. You might want to manage all your social media accounts in one place using a social media managing tool that lets you schedule your posts in advance across all channels to keep engagement up and remain consistent.
You might also want to invest your marketing budget into paid social media marketing. You can target your ads to the exact audience you are seeking — by age, gender, location, etc. — and spend as much or as little as you want. A combination of organic social media engagement and paid social media marketing, especially when created around a particular promotion, can prove very effective.
4. Incorporate Video in Your Marketing
It’s no surprise that videos have become the most popular form of online interaction. People find videos more interesting, engaging, and informative; they deliver information a lot faster than a block of text. Whether on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, people are attracted to information when it is presented as a video.
While the millennial generation embraced the use of DSLR cameras, many influencers today rely on the use of their smartphones. Smartphones have progressively evolved year after year, making photography and videography much more accessible, affordable, and sophisticated. You can film patrons dancing to in-house entertainment or show your chef demonstrating how to prepare a particularly savory dish. Be aware of where you are posting your videos. They can be a bit on the longer side if you post on YouTube or Vimeo but should be kept shorter if you plan to post them on Instagram or TikTok.
You should be shooting for views and shares. So make sure to tag people, ask them to share, and tag others who might be interested. The more people view your video, the more it will appear in users’ feeds. And who knows? A really unique and compelling video might even go viral! Make sure your restaurant name and logo are prominently displayed in the video. You don’t want to end up with a massive amount of hits but no branding to show who you are.
5. Engage in Influencer Marketing
Because social media influencers have a strong follower base, partnering with the right influencer can catapult your restaurant to online celebrity status. You’ll want to pick an influencer whose following resembles the customers you want to target and who has established credibility as a foodie, or someone diners will trust when reviewing a restaurant.
One way to engage influencers is to extend invitations to food bloggers and food-oriented influencers that cover your geographic area. Ask them to check out your cuisine for free. If they agree that your restaurant fare is great, you can offer to compensate them for their promotional assistance and patronage. Some agencies can help you find paid influencers to promote your restaurant.
6. Produce a Blog or Digital Newsletter
Digital content marketing is a great way to raise your local search engine ranking and encourage more organic traffic to your website and, in the end, physical traffic to your restaurant. To leverage a blog to its greatest advantage, incorporate these best practices:
- Keep the content current and interesting. Write about new food items you are introducing, entertainment you’re promoting, or what’s trending in your community that interests readers.
- Incorporate search terms and keywords that your target audience will likely use in a search. There are plenty of keyword research tools available for free on the internet.
- Keep sentences short and incorporate a lot of white space into the copy. Reading digital copy is different from print. The eye needs pauses to take in the information. Use bullets and break up the copy often with short sentences.
- Create a schedule for your blog and keep to it. You don’t want to disappoint your loyal followers.
- End each blog with a call to action that provides your phone number and encourages readers to visit your restaurant. Make sure your blog links to pages on your website that you want people to visit, like your menu or your online reservations page.
- Publish the blog on your website, email it to your contacts who have opted in, and post a link to your blog on your social media pages.
7. Engage in Email Marketing
Email marketing is an underutilized, cost-effective way to communicate with your current customers. With the increasing use of smartphones and quicker access to email inboxes, email marketing is not only relevant but also a critical component of today’s restaurant digital marketing strategy.
To start building your email list, offer incentives like discounts, a free drink, or an appetizer to people who subscribe to your email list. You can promote this to people dining or picking up take-out at your restaurant through your social media outlets, website, and a paid digital marketing campaign.
Create a system for pushing out emails, usually once or twice a week. Make sure your messaging is relevant and engaging. You can promote specials and events through emails, announce new developments like hiring a new chef or booking a new musical act, and offer discount coupons to email subscribers. Emails are also a great way to distribute your blog. Encourage subscribers to forward your email to friends to help grow your list even more.
8. Create a Digital Business Network
Promote your restaurant by partnering with other small business owners in your community. Make sure you choose like-minded businesses that are not in direct competition. Set up a system to work together to promote each other by posting on each other’s social media accounts, mentioning each other in your email marketing, and guest posting on each other’s blogs. You can even plan and promote joint events and share guest list contact information.
9. Expand Your Digital Footprint Through Cause Marketing
Many restaurants are a keystone to their communities - they serve as a place to gather and celebrate. So it’s no surprise that another twist on digital networking is to partner with local charities to give back to the communities that support your business.
Offer to hold a fundraiser for the charity at your restaurant. It can be as elaborate as staging a high-priced prix fixe dinner or as simple as donating a portion of the proceeds of the sales of a specific dish or night’s receipts to the charity.
You can ask the charity to push out an announcement of the promotion to its email list, encouraging its donors to participate in the charitable event, and providing a link to your website and social media pages.
10. Leverage the Power of Digital Public Relations
Digital public relations can drastically transform a restaurant’s online presence by finding higher readership and viewership of online content. A well-executed digital PR campaign can also become a tremendous link-building exercise that encourages online media outlets to link to your website. This is a surefire way to build up your site’s search engine results rank and visibility.
Begin by creating a list of online media — such as online restaurant and food-related third-party blogs, newsletters, magazines, podcasts, and YouTube channels — that would be interested in covering the type of content you can provide. Spend time learning what kind of information each outlet focuses on and who their content attracts.
Focus on creating content that targets these specific online media outlets that would also interest the audiences they reach. The content should be appealing and newsworthy enough that they want to share it with their subscribers. Put together a well-written press release that provides all the information you want to convey. Then, deliver it to the appropriate contact at the publication or channel, usually via email or direct upload to their website. Be sure to include your contact information, the restaurant’s address, a link to your website, and high-resolution photos or video footage that enhances the copy you’re providing.
AtmosphereTV: Your Restaurant’s Bridge to Digital Marketing At Its Best
Of course, not all digital marketing strategies for restaurants focus on getting patrons in the door. It’s essential to keep their attention while they spend time at your establishment. A great way to ensure your restaurant promotion ideas are working and customers keep coming back is by providing them with just the right kind of programming that you get with a free subscription to Atmosphere.
Atmosphere is the world's first and leading streaming TV service for businesses. Our audio-optional programming is designed to keep your clientele off their phones and engaged with your business. We also offer a consistently fresh playlist of highly curated video content designed to inspire, excite, inform, motivate, amuse, calm, and invite customers to hang out, order another round of drinks, and enjoy more of the great food you’ve prepared for them. You can keep them engaged in between programs with your promotions, events, business info, and branded digital signage.
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