It is common knowledge that the restaurant industry is extremely competitive. Although food is in constant demand, many cities are over-saturated with restaurants and – as a result – there are more tables than customers. Consequently, many restaurants suffer losses and many go out of business within a few months. To succeed, restaurant owners have to serve the best food with the best service and also constantly spread the word about how great they are. Marketing is crucial to their success. In this digital era, business owners are doing their marketing online since it is fast, interactive, and cost-effective. If you’re a restaurateur and you want to be a step ahead of your competition, you need a checklist of internet marketing tips to attract more customers and keep your business flourishing.
1. Build a website for your restaurant business.
A beautiful, mobile responsive, and user-friendly website will help you showcase your irresistible menu, amazing place, and great service online. It will also serve as your restaurant’s main presence online where your customers can find you, contact you, make reservations, and get interesting content related to food and dining that they can share with their friends on the Internet or social media.
Having a website will also let you register your own domain name, and create customized emails to establish, protect, and promote your brand online.
Spread the great news about your restaurant—its food, place, price, people, and customers—through blogging. If you’re using WordPress to power your website, you can also make a blog within it. Blogging can give your restaurant business a boost because it helps you:
- Share the wonderful stories, images, info graphics, videos and other content about your restaurant.
- Increase your brand’s visibility on search engines by creating and publishing more blog posts or content that search engines love to index.
- Enhance your brand’s virility on social networks by creating shareable blog posts or content that people can share on their social media channels.
- Establish yourself and your staff as experts in the restaurant industry by writing and blogging expert tips, guides, advice, and articles related to food and dining.
- Inspire your blog’s readers and be a thought leader who can influence the world.
3. Get your content ready.
Content is king when it comes to internet marketing. Start creating and collecting awesome content to share with your target customers.
- Interesting articles and stories about your restaurant, food, staff, and featured customers.
- Useful guides, tips, and advice related to food, dining, wines, coffee, and other things that will help your existing and future customers.
- Captivating photos of your restaurant, food, and the amazing people behind it.
- Interesting videos to highlight the great experience your restaurant offers to customers.
4. Build a Facebook business page.
Creating a Facebook business page is free. To ensure that your customers will find your place, create a local business page so that your map location will be easily searched by potential customers. A Facebook Page is your gateway to Facebook marketing and promoting your restaurant in the largest social network on the planet.
If your restaurant doesn’t have a Facebook Page yet, create now with the following simple steps:
- Create a personal Facebook account
- Go to Facebook.com/pages/create
- Click to choose a Page category
- Select a more specific category from the dropdown menu and fill out the required information
- Click Get Started and follow the on-screen instructions
After creating a Facebook Page, you can already:
- Upload a logo and an appetizing cover photo to attract food lovers.
- Complete your about page, description, location, and contact address.
- Post interesting photos, videos, links, and other content to increase engagement (likes, shares, and comments).
- Create call-to actions.
- Promote your brand through Facebook ads.
Read this post from Post Planner to check 50 Facebook Pages of restaurants to learn from.
People love to take selfies everywhere and instantly share them with their friends and even with the world. Instagram makes it possible for everyone to take pictures and instantly upload to social media using smartphones and Internet. If your restaurant, coffee shop, or bar doesn’t have an Instagram Page, you’re missing a lot of opportunities to promote your brand to potential customers.
From getting started with Instagram to using videos and hashtags, here’s an Instagram Marketing Guide from Social Media Examiner to promote your restaurant.
6. Use Pinterest to promote your brand.
Mouth-watering food photos are best utilized in marketing using Pinterest. Pinterest is a social media network based mostly on images. It also gives people the ability to pin richer media like infographics and videos. The image-based social network can also pin or publish photos and videos from your website and blog to generate more traffic and attract more customers.
If you’re implementing social media marketing to promote your restaurant, Pinterest is one social platform you should not miss. Here are 12 reasons why your business needs Pinterest Marketing by Jeff Bullas.
7. Create a Google Account.
Google has a lot of products that are very useful for marketers. YouTube, Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdWords, Google Drive, you name it. By creating a single Google account, you will have the power to create a Google Plus Page, YouTube Channel, Google Analytics account, Google Webmaster’s Tool account, and Google AdWords account among others. It also lets you verify the address and location of your restaurant on Google Maps/Places and claim your brand’s unique URL or username.
Furthermore, YouTube can’t be ignored by business owners and marketers. It has already transformed ordinary people into stars. Hence, if you want your business to be the next YouTube sensation, create a YouTube Channel for your restaurant and share amazing videos about your place, food, people, and their great experiences. You can also upload videos showing testimonials from your delighted customers.
8. Boost your brand using Twitter.
Twitter is the social platform for people who want to know what’s happening in the world or in a specific location right now. The microblogging platform has already evolved from letting its users tweet 140-character text messages to sharing images, videos, and other rich media using Twitter Cards. Twitter is also a mobile platform, thus, giving everyone with a smartphone the power to instantly share their stories with the world, which may include their experiences, photos, and videos with their favorite food and restaurants.
With Twitter, you can share delightful photos of your products to attract customers. You can also use hashtags to encourage a trend and tweet links to drive more traffic to your website or blog. Twitter also lets you promote your tweets through Twitter Ads to geographically targeted audience to reach your target customers and increase sales.
9. List your restaurant on local business directories.
To increase your brand’s visibility on the Internet, claim your business listing on popular online directories, such as Google Places, Bing Places, Yahoo Local Listing, Yelp, Foursquare, YellowPages.com, Local.com, TripAdvisor.com or the top directories in your own country. Claiming your business listing gives you the ability to update your listing with the right information, so that your potential customers will find it easily and smoothly. It also increases your restaurant’s search engine visibility and ranking since Google usually shows search results from high-authority local directories.
Check out this list of places where businesses need to be listed.
10. Improve your conversion by maximizing calls-to action.
Visitors may come to your website, blog, and social media pages. If you’re not guiding them what to do next, you might be losing income opportunities. Increase your sales by improving your call-to actions. For instance, on your Facebook Page, utilize Facebook’s menu features for Local Businesses and Restaurant/Café. To add a menu to your Page, simply do the following simple steps:
- Click “About” below your Page’s cover photo
- Click “Page Info” in the left column
- Click to edit the Menu section
- Upload a PDF file of your menu
- Click Save Changes
You may read Facebook help about creating a “menu” on Facebook Page for more information.
11. Invite food bloggers – Get people to help spread the word.
Bloggers are online influencers and could help spread great news about your restaurant. Their blog posts rule the search engines, social media, and even the mobile world. If you own a restaurant, bar, or café, connect and make friends with influential bloggers in the travel, food, and lifestyle niches. Invite them to come to your place, experience your food and service, and blog about them. Travel bloggers usually own a DSLR camera for taking beautiful photos about their experiences. Hence, prepare to charm their audience with your delightful dishes.
12. Invest in targeted paid ads.
If you can spend money on traditional advertising such as TV commercials, radio advertising, and print ads, invest in paid digital marketing. Paid online advertising services include Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Instagram Ads and sponsored posts on food and travel blogs. Running online ads like Facebook Ads is a must for restaurant and café owners to increase brand awareness and reach more target customers.
Facebook Ads lets you choose various objectives for your campaign, such as sending people to your website, promoting your Page to get more fans, and boosting your posts to get more engagements.
To learn more about social media advertising, read this guide from Hootsuite Blog.
13. Run contests to reward your customers.
Gamification rewards your existing and future customers, and encourage them to be loyal to your business. You can run contests on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms as they are easier to manage. For example, you can start a “selfie with your favorite dish” contest to convince your customers to publish their photos and moments with your restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Here’s a guide from Social Media Examiner about running an Instagram contest in four easy steps.
14. Timing your online marketing campaign.
Timing is key in every successful marketing campaign. When it comes to enticing people with foods or beverages, it’s common sense to do it when they’re hungry or thirsty. So what’s the best time to display your restaurant’s mouth-watering pictures, videos, posts, and ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other media? It depends on what you serve (breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner), who your target customers are, and where they are. The best time to post on social media could be different for each type of industry, thus, I advise that you create experiments to determine the perfect time for your business.
15. Send email newsletter and greetings.
Make your customers feel special by sending them email greetings on their birthday. This is a simple way to remind your customers that you remember their big day. To get the emails of your customers, you can do it online by asking them to sign-up for a free membership at your website while requesting them to fill up their information like their name, email, and birthday. You can also ask them right at your restaurant or café. Of course, give some valuable rewards so they can be encouraged to sign-up with your website or fill up a customer information form at your place. Furthermore, don’t forget to respect their privacy.
16. Manage your online reputation.
Give your restaurant or café a likable brand or identity online and off. Prevent bad mentions about your business by establishing and implementing quality control policies. Detect search and social mentions about your brand using tools, like Google Alerts and Social Mention. Respond to your brand’s criticisms in a humble, polite, and proactive way. Maintain your good online reputation by rewarding your loyal customers and continuing to train your staff. For more ORM tips, read our 22 tips to managing your brand’s online reputation.
17. Know your competition.
Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, said the following:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
In other words, you have to understand both your competitors and your own business.
Identifying your competitors online can be done by simply using Google search engine and Facebook search graph.
Google will show the restaurants in your area that are getting first page ranking in its search results.
The top results in Google when I search for restaurants in my city:
You may also use Yelp to identify competitors.
The top results displayed by Yelp when I search for the restaurants in my city:
After identifying your competitors, you can observe and audit their websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram pages, and other social pages, as well as how they interact with people and customers. For more comprehensive and advanced discussion on how to use competitive auditing and outsmart your competitors, read this article by Neil Patel.
In this digital era, owners, managers and marketers of restaurants, bars and cafés should harness the power of digital marketing to build up their brands, earn loyal customers, win their competition, and make their business more profitable and sustainable. But before unleashing your digital marketing strategies and tactics, remember that your online marketing success will greatly depend on your actual products and services – and how you really make your customers happy when they visit your place.
No matter how good your online marketing campaigns are, if your customers are not satisfied with your food, place, people and services, your business will hardly meet success. Therefore, to have a holistic and long-lasting online marketing success, do your best to give your customers the greatest experience.