Restaurant marketing strategies to help you make your big comeback
Now more than ever, restaurants need to be able to find their customers, talk to them, and convince them to start trickling back into their venues post COVID-19.
That means inserting themselves into the channels their customers do their research, spend their time, and ultimately make their decisions.
For that reason, we’ve put together a quick digital marketing guide to help you build back from COVID-19.
A quick warning though, you’ll need to bring your restaurant marketing a-game.
Why? Because developing a robust and deliberate digital marketing strategy for your restaurant is imperative to ensuring long-term, consistent success.
Whether you’re in a small town with limited cuisine options or a culinary hot spot on the rise, your restaurant marketing strategy should include these five key components.
1. Build a responsive restaurant website
Your restaurant marketing strategy should start with your website. According to a recent industry study, 90% of guests will research a restaurant before visiting.
And first impressions are everything. More than 70% of diners won’t ever visit a restaurant if they don't like the website.
Restaurant owners who want to attract hungry customers need to build a responsive restaurant website that functions as a digital storefront. It should be fast, user-friendly, informative, and – most importantly – mobile friendly. Over 50% of all website traffic is mobile, and over 70% of food and beverage searches are done on mobile devices.
Your restaurant website design should give visitors a taste of what they’ll get when they come to your restaurant. Keep your brand messaging and style consistent. If you’re a fast-casual eatery, don’t use a fancy, upscale website design. And if you’re serving up gourmet cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere, your restaurant website design should reflect that.
Engage your website visitors with unique content, like artful videos and photos of the food and interior of the space. Keep it updated regularly with fresh, relevant (think seasonal) content.
You want visitors to stick around and explore. And it should go without saying that you need your menu on your website. Don’t bury it either – give it a dedicated page of its own. This is a perfect opportunity to showcase your cuisine, through beautiful, professional photos and enticing descriptions.
Keep in mind, your restaurant website design should be very intentional, not an afterthought. Your restaurant website is meant to drive visitors to either dine in or order online.
Looking for more restaurant website inspiration? Kokomo is using their websites in really cool ways. Or check out these other awesome restaurant websites to get inspired for your own restaurant website design.
Your website is meant to serve as your restaurant’s digital storefront. But there are many other benefits of having a responsive restaurant website, such as automation.
Save your hostesses time on the phone by integrating your reservation booking and call-ahead system onto your website. If your restaurant offers delivery or carryout, set up a streamlined, online ordering process. Using a Shopify restaurant website makes setting up online ordering seamless, and it brings some very affordable options.
But how much does a restaurant website cost? For a custom website design from scratch, you’ll need a generous budget. The average price for a restaurant website is anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 (USD). Though you can get one built for far cheaper using a templated design.
2. Utilize Local SEO/Google My Business for your restaurant
Local SEO is one of the most important tactics in a restaurant's digital marketing strategy.
When someone in your area is on the hunt for new local flavors, they’re going to hit Google. And you want them to find your restaurant! This is where local SEO (search engine optimization) comes in.
Restaurant owners don’t need to compete with nationwide or global positions on search results. Local searches (for example, “Italian food in Sydney” or “tacos near me”) are far more effective at driving organic traffic.
Restaurants that appear in local search results on Google have a 30% immediate conversion rate, 60% conversion rate within the hour, and 80% eventual conversion rate. So when your restaurant shows up in a local search, you’re almost guaranteed to get a customer from it.
These results are not coming from traditional SEO efforts (meaning keyword seeding throughout your website and SEO-focused website code). Google pulls this information directly from your Google My Business page and uses it to match you with potential customers.
Your Google My Business data creates an information-rich snippet that appears when people search for your brand. But it also contributes to organic ranking for other search queries that are not brand-specific. The location of your restaurant on Google maps is a key piece of this snippet.
You can also use your Google Business snippet to capture online reservations and post your menu.
So how do you put your website on Google? It's incredibly easy. Google provides easy instructions on how to add your restaurant to Google maps and list other important information about your restaurant.
Another key component in your local SEO rankings is your restaurant listing on other review sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. You want to claim your business across all of these sites to ensure the information is accurate. This also lets you take control over reviews on these ancillary sites. Services like Yext provide an easy one-stop shop to handle all of your directory listings.
Reviews are also displayed in your Google My Business snippet, so your review score is critical. Respond to reviews, especially negative ones, and do what you can to reverse negative opinions by reaching out to try and fix the problem. Additionally, you should implement a strategy to capture positive reviews from satisfied guests.
3. Develop a killer Instagram and Facebook marketing strategy for your restaurant
Nearly half of all consumers use social media to discover new places to eat. Knowing how to manage social media for a restaurant is critical to success. Any social media and Facebook marketing strategy for restaurants should use both organic posts and paid advertising.
Be sure to fill out all your social media profiles with accurate, consistent information. Include links to your menu or online booking/ordering platforms, and keep it updated when anything changes.
Your social media and Facebook marketing strategy is all about content. But you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
You can find plenty of Instagram post ideas online. Find a restaurant with a social media strategy that works, and mimic them. Rework clever restaurant quotes for Instagram and Facebook to make them your own.
Reposting customer content is another great way to fill your page and create social proof. Create a hashtag for your restaurant, post it in your Instagram bio, and encourage guests to use it in their posts.
Videos are especially powerful on social media. And they don’t need to be high production value. Use your phone to record behind-the-scenes in the kitchen, or record yourself announcing daily specials.
Post regularly across all platforms. A good rule of thumb is once per platform per day, but at least 3 times a week. And keep in mind the optimal times to post throughout the day, which your Facebook Insights should help you to determine.
Posting routinely is important, but it's quick to get overlooked in the day-to-day operations. Your restaurant digital marketing strategy should include a robust social media content calendar. You can create your own or use one of the many content calendar software services available.
It’s also critical that you engage directly with your social media fans. You’re in the hospitality business – that expectation of customer service extends onto your social platforms. Respond to messages and inquiries promptly, professionally, and honestly. Reputation management is a vital part of marketing strategies for small restaurants.
Organic engagement on social media is important. But advertising on Facebook and Instagram can be highly effective as it allows the use of precise targeting options. It’s a cost-effective means of advertising directly to people who are in your target market. Using a tracking pixel on your website, you can create lookalike audiences to expand your reach to people who have similar profiles to those who already expressed interest in your brand.
4. Surprise and delight with these restaurant email marketing ideas
Email is another highly effective tool for your restaurant marketing strategy. It can function in many ways, to target new customers, retarget previous customers, and retain loyal customers. It’s incredibly cheap, and it creates and utilizes key data that can help boost other marketing efforts along the way.
Email marketing lets you deliver highly targeted and personalized ads using segmentation. That's why email marketing is so much more effective than direct mail, tv, radio or other traditional marketing channels. It's the tool that allows you to precisely target and personalize your ads.
With email marketing, you can create customer segments based on behavior that you can then use to create personalized email sequences. For example, you can create an audience segment that specifically targets everyone who ordered from your restaurant in the last 30 days. Then you can create an email ad sequence specific to that behavior.
In any restaurant marketing strategy, retargeting efforts are a critical component. Without them, your marketing strategy is not complete. For starters, you can use email advertising to retarget people who visited your website.
Consider using a lead magnet on your website. This lets you capture emails from potential customers and send them targeted email ads to bring them back to your site and, hopefully, into your restaurant. This could be something like a free coupon or maybe a contest form, for example.
Email is another great way to optimize your customer loyalty program. For small restaurant owners, loyalty programs are an easy way to get repeat visits. Using email marketing alongside a loyalty program allows you to send out perks and special benefits to your most loyal customers.
Another awesome advantage of email marketing is the use of the lists to create custom audiences on Facebook. Then you can run highly targeted ads to your existing email list and push them back into your restaurant even sooner.
5. Build Google Ads into your restaurant marketing plan
Organic search optimization takes time; your restaurant search visibility won’t jump to the top of the Google results page overnight. Your restaurant marketing strategy should include some paid ads, so be sure to earmark room in your marketing budget for this. Google ads for restaurants will vary in price and depend on the level of competition in your area and category.
PPC, or pay-per-click, is a powerful tool for creating brand awareness and generating website traffic. With a PPC google ads campaign, you bid on select keywords and define your target audience. When they search for any of those terms, your ad appears as a paid search result.
There are many keyword tactics you can use in your PPC campaign to drive traffic to your website. Google’s keyword planner is an excellent tool to help you plan your strategy.
There are high-level terms – these are terms like “restaurants in (location).” This can be a great opportunity to connect with customers who are looking for new, undiscovered spots to grab a bite.
Another method is using niche-specific search terms. These would be queries that are focused on the category of cuisine or the style of dining people are looking for. Some examples of this are “best wings in (location)” or “fine dining in my area.”
Branded terms let you target people searching specifically for a certain restaurant, including your own. You can bid on searches for competitor brands to drive traffic to your website instead.
Google ads for restaurants can be a potent digital marketing strategy when used properly. There are many creative ways to use search ads to target new customers and retarget your existing customers, so you can get creative with it.
Digital marketing strategies for restaurants run the gamut, but incorporating these five channels into your marketing blueprint will help your restaurant thrive in a cutthroat industry. Don’t let it overwhelm you; even utilizing a few of these strategies will help you connect with new customers and keep them coming back.