Serving Up Digital Marketing Strategies for Your Restaurant
The restaurant business is booming again, and while that’s great news for customers eager to get out and experience new flavours, it also means there are more and more establishments competing for the same customers.
The restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to break into and an even more challenging environment in which to thrive. According to a recent report from Restaurants Canada, just 57% of food service operators report being profitable, while 28% are operating at a loss, and another 15% are simply breaking even. While many factors affect profitability, however, one of the most important is the ability to attract a steady stream of customers – and that’s where digital marketing becomes crucial.
In the Digital Age, You Have to be a Digital Marketing
The Internet has become one of the most important sources of customer engagement and lead generation. This is not only true of online retail businesses or media outlets but also businesses like restaurants which rely on in-person sales. Sure, conventional advertising mediums such as direct mailing or radio ads still have their place, but nothing can deliver more targeted visibility and brand awareness than digital marketing.
With that in mind, we will dive into several highly accessible digital marketing strategies tailored for those in the restaurant industry.
Perfect Your Website
Your website is like your restaurant’s digital storefront, and for many, it will be the point of contact. 57% of people report checking out a restaurant’s website before they decide whether or not to dine there. To make sure you’re not losing out on potential customers before they even walk through the door, here’s what you can do:
• Dazzle With Design: Invest in a professionally designed, eye-catching website that reflects your restaurant’s vibe and showcases your delicious food.
• Made-For-Mobile: Ensure your website looks and works just as great on mobile devices as it does on a computer. Most people searching for somewhere to eat or grab a drink do so from their phones so you don’t want to lose them because you’re running a clunky site.
• Picture-Perfect: Now is not the time to practice using filters on your smartphone. Investing in high-quality photos of your restaurant and dishes makes your food look even more mouth-watering and your establishment more inviting.
• Easy Info Access: Make sure that important info like menus, hours of operation, location, and contact details are super easy to find and easy to read. Fancy fonts are nice but nobody wants to start zooming in on menu items because you’re using size 10 Brush Script.
Digital marketers regularly leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to create a buzz around their business. The average Canadian spends 2.5 hours per day on social media, and we have over 34 million active users, which translates into roughly 90% of the country’s total population.
Right now, you might be thinking, “But I already have a social media account for my business, and it’s not working.” The problem is, with so much content out there competing for attention, it’s not enough to post a few times and be done with it. Effective social media marketing requires consistency, patience, and a little creativity. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can boost your social media following and get more out of your marketing:
• Pick the Right Platforms: Identify the social media platforms your target audience uses the most. For most restaurants, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) are solid choices. If your food is Instagram-worthy, focus on platforms that are heavy on visuals.
• Stay Consistent: Create a content calendar to plan and schedule regular posts. Consistency is the key to keeping your audience engaged. Without getting into too much detail on how social media platform algorithms decide what to feature in users’ feeds, your content is less likely to be featured if you are only sporadically posting every few weeks (or months).
• Engage with Engaging Content: Share high-quality photos of your dishes, behind-the-scenes glimpses of your kitchen, and customer testimonials. Use storytelling to connect with your audience and make them feel like they need to experience what you have to offer firsthand.
• Use User-Generated Content: Encourage your customers to share their experiences on social media using your restaurant’s special hashtag. It’s like free advertising from your most loyal fans.
• Consider Paid Ads: If you want to kick things up a notch, you can explore paid social media advertising. It lets you choose your daily budget and target specific demographics. Plus, you get detailed analytics to fine-tune your ads based on what works best.
Focus on Local SEO
Local SEO is your ticket to getting noticed by people in your area. It’s all about making sure your restaurant shows up in local search results so that when someone’s looking for a place to eat, your restaurant’s name pops up at the top of the search results. Here’s how to level up your local SEO:
• Get Crafty with Keywords: Step one, carefully research your most relevant, related, and competitive local keywords. Step two: sprinkle these local keywords throughout your website’s content, meta tags, and headings. For instance, if your restaurant is the go-to spot for Italian cuisine in Vancouver, make sure phrases like “best Italian restaurant in Vancouver” pop up here and there throughout your content.
• Blogging Brilliance: Start a blog on your website and share engaging content regularly. This strategy is a double hitter because not only does blogging not only provide value to your audience but it can also be used to enhance your website’s SEO.
• Links Galore: Use internal links to guide visitors to different pages on your website, like from your homepage to your menu page. Also, reach out for backlinks from other local websites and directories to beef up your site’s authority.
• Google My Business: Who doesn’t love free advertising? If you haven’t done so already, claim and optimize your Google My Business (GMB) account, making sure all your contact info, address, and operating hours are spot on. This is a simple yet highly effective way for potential customers to find, learn about, and engage with your business.
Leverage Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is like borrowing someone else’s megaphone to tell the world how awesome your restaurant is. Influencers can have thousands if not more followers who listen to and trust their recommendations. So, how do you get these influential individuals to give your business a shoutout? It’s pretty straightforward!
• Find Local Foodie Influencers: Look for influencers in your area who specialize in food or lifestyle (hint: you can spy on your competitors and see who’s been sharing).
• Invite Them Over Reach out and invite these influencers to dine at your restaurant for free. If they love the experience, they’ll likely create a post about your place.
• Negotiate a Deal: In exchange for their post, you can work out a contract. Depending on their tier (the number of followers a given influencer has), some may request payment in addition to the free eats. However, for others, the promise of a free meal is enough to win you an Insta-worthy photo shoutout.
Implement Email Marketing
Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy with a personal touch. What’s more, email marketing strategies can be uniquely tailored to target specific groups. For example, you can send special promotional offers to your top customers or check in with clients who haven’t visited in a while. Email marketing helps you keep your restaurant top-of-mind for your customers. Here’s how you can cook up a tasty email marketing campaign:
• Build Your Email List: Start by building an email list of people who’ve subscribed to hear from you or who have left their contact details when ordering online. A CRM (customer relationship management system) is another great way to add more contacts to your list.
• Send Regular Emails: Once someone subscribes, send them friendly emails once every few weeks. These emails should express gratitude to your subscribers and encourage them to return to your restaurant.
• Include Value: Your emails should contain valuable content such as discounts, promotions, and special offers. If your emails aren’t adding value, people might stop opening them.
Email marketing is a top digital marketing strategy because it’s like talking to people who’ve already shown interest in your restaurant. They’ve already tasted your food so they’re more likely to come back for seconds.
Take Advantage of Online Reviews
Online reviews can make or break a restaurant. People want to know what others think before they decide to dine at your place. A whopping 92% of diners report reading a restaurant’s reviews before visiting. Here’s how you can make sure you are taking full advantage of online reviews:
• Encourage Reviews: Encourage every paying customer to leave a review on Google, your website, or your social media profiles. Most people need a little nudge to write a review, so consider offering a discount or a free drink as a thank you.
• Respond to Reviews: Engage with customers who leave reviews. Thank them for their feedback whether it’s positive or constructive criticism. Responding shows that you value their opinion and are open to improving plus it’s a great way to engage with your audience and show off your brand.
Network with Other Local Businesses
Everyone needs friends! Networking with other local businesses can be a game-changer for your restaurant. Partnering up with complementary businesses can help you tap into their customer base and enhance your brand. Here’s how to do it:
• Build Partnerships: Connect with local businesses that can complement your restaurant. For instance, team up with a nearby hotel and see if they’ll recommend your restaurant to their guests (in exchange for a discount) or take advantage of the many local craft breweries in Vancouver by offering a featured product each month.
• Collaborative Discounts: Consider working with other businesses to offer discounts for business-related meals. This could include salespeople meeting with clients, team lunches, after-work parties, and more. By offering value to other businesses, you can gain more customers and strengthen your influence in your community.
Keep Online Engagement High
Consistency is key in digital marketing. If you want your community to remember your restaurant’s name, you have to stay active online. Here are some tips to keep engagement high:
• Regular Updates: Update your website regularly with fresh content. This could include new menu items, special offers, or upcoming events.
• Frequent Social Media Posts: Post new content on your social media platforms a few times a week. Keep your audience excited about your restaurant by hyping up new specials online, running contests, and giving back to your loyal customers.
Remember, a single advertising campaign a year won’t cut it. To make your restaurant the talk of the town, you have to keep the digital conversation going.
Running a restaurant is hard work, but in this digital age, having a strong online presence is more important than ever. With the right digital marketing strategies, your restaurant can not only survive but thrive. Remember, the learning curve for restaurant digital marketing can be steep, but there’s plenty of help available. Explore the services of digital marketing agencies in your area and take the first step toward a successful digital marketing journey for your restaurant.