Nearly 50% of small restaurants fail within the first five years, so if you don't want to fall in that unfortunate statistic, you will have to make your brand stand out. With new restaurants popping up every day, supply has far exceeded demand. How are you going to make customers remember yours instead of hundreds of others? How are they even going to find out you exist?
The answer you’re looking for is digital marketing. As people spend an increasing amount of time glued to their devices, not having an online presence is a kiss of death for any business. Dropping brochures on their doorsteps is no longer enough, you need to make a space for yourself in their online world.
Why Your Restaurant Needs Digital Marketing
To be found by new diners
With 90% of guests researching restaurants online before they dine, they’re much more likely to notice your restaurant on the internet than they are to notice it when they physically pass by it. If you can't be found on the internet, you're missing out on a huge chunk of the market.
To expand your brand reach
With approximately 4.66 billion people around the world using the internet, online platforms allow your brand to reach a much wider audience beyond your geographical capacity and stay on top of people’s minds even when they’re not looking to dine out, and increase brand retention when they actually do.
To engage with your customers
Unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing creates a two-way dialogue between your brand and customers, enabling you to engage with them and leading to stronger customer relationships and increased customer loyalty.
To sell online
As people have become increasingly dependent on technology and convenience, having an online channel for generating sales through orders and reservations has become a crucial part of a restaurant’s success.
4 Channels to Include in Your Digital Marketing Strategy
With multiple channels to choose from, creating an online strategy can seem like a daunting task. Feeling unsure about where to start and what’s right for your business? Here are 4 sure-shot channels that every restaurant must include in their digital marketing portfolio.
Your website acts as your digital storefront and is often the customer’s first touchpoint with your business. If it’s outdated and aesthetically unpleasing, users are likely going to question your restaurant’s credibility, which is why having a well-maintained and updated website is becoming as important as having a clean restaurant space. Here are a few tips for managing a good website:
- Keep it simple: don’t overdo it, all you need is a user-friendly, functional website that helps people find out everything they need to know about your restaurant - timings, menu, images, offers, and other relevant details.
- Stay on brand: make sure your website design is in line with your brand - use consistent logos, colors, and fonts across the entire experience.
- Optimize for mobile: roughly 66% of the world population uses mobile devices, so make sure that your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate on both tablets and smartphones and is formatted to fit mobile screens with smaller font sizes, images, CTAs, forms, and more.
- Pay attention to local SEO: a lot of users tend to do generic searches like “restaurants near me” when looking for places to eat. Try to include targeted location keywords like your city and neighborhood and location tags to improve your restaurant’s chances of showing up in the search results.
- Always stay updated: keep your website up to date with timings, new menus, offers, and images to stay relevant and maintain credibility. Give it a timely dust-off just as you would give your physical space.
- Add a booking link: websites are a great source for generating sales. Encourage customers to book a table directly through your site by including a booking widget with relevant CTAs, and make sure to make the booking process smooth and simple.
Related read: 6 Things a Restaurant Reservation Widget Should be Able to Do
2. Social Media
Let’s face it, if your restaurant is not on social media, you might as well pack up. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have become some of the most popular marketing tools in recent years. They enable engaging conversations with people and help build a real relationship with your customers, even virtually. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to reach a large audience, social media is where you need to be.
While there are plenty of options to choose from, we would recommend focusing on a couple of platforms instead of enrolling on every channel and splitting your resources thinly amongst all of them. Here are a few you can consider:
- Facebook: a simple yet powerful marketing tool, Facebook lets you share information with a large audience using both paid and organic promotions. You can also endorse events and add “book now” buttons to your page to improve conversion rates.
- Instagram: this fully visual platform is a business’s best friend. All you need is high-quality, engaging content to attract customers. As Instagram is all about visuals, it’s a great platform for restaurants to share enticing food photos and encourage people to visit. Instagram now also features various business-friendly features like online shopping, business guides, and a lot more.
- TikTok: this new social media platform is quickly catching fire and becoming a pivotal part of restaurant marketing strategies. Restaurants are using TikTok to share more “behind the scenes” details to create more real relationships with their users. If your target audience includes a younger demographic, consider adding TikTok to your marketing suite.
3. Google My Business
A great free marketing tool for restaurants, Google My Business (GMB) helps restaurants be more visible and display basic details like timing, contact details, address, and website along with more information like customer reviews and photos in a simple, horizontal navigation menu that shows up when people search for your restaurant.
Optimizing your GMB can be highly beneficial, as it gives people a one-stop destination for all your restaurant details. The kicker though is the “Reserve with Google” feature that allows customers to book a table at your restaurant directly through the listing. For restaurants working with third-party reservation platforms that are official Google partners, like Eat App, the “Reserve a Table” button is a great source of generating more sales as the booking process is smooth, simple, and direct. People are much more likely to complete their reservation as there is no friction in the user experience.
A few tips for optimizing your GMB for success:
- Use high-quality images: as per Google, profiles with images receive 42% more direction requests, so make sure that you add aesthetically pleasing and appealing images on your listing.
- Stay updated: make sure to keep details like hours, menu, contact details, and images consistently updated. The last thing you want is to mislead people with outdated information.
- Activate Reserve with Google: the best way to generate sales through your GMB is by enabling diners to take action and book a table at your restaurant using the Reserve with Google button. Consider partnering with an official third-party reservation platform to capitalize on this opportunity.
- Manage reviews: reviews have a massive impact on consumer decisions. Make sure you paint a rosy picture by replying to them in a timely and personalized manner. Even negative reviews can work in your favor if you respond with kindness and empathy.
Read more: How to Get More Restaurant Reservations with Google
4. Review Channels
A whopping 87% of consumers read reviews before dining at a restaurant, so it’s safe to say that they are one of the most important aspects to focus on. Although a lot of restaurant owners are skeptical of reviews in fear of the negative feedback they might receive, providing diners with a platform to share their feedback has become critical to success.
People no longer believe in forgive and forget, they demand and expect restaurants to be present and address their concerns individually. Even if you are not able to bring back a customer with a negative experience by responding to them, you’ve shown your potential diners who are scrolling through the restaurant reviews that you care.
You can aggregate reviews for your business through various platforms:
- Discovery websites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Zomato have become customers’ go-to platforms for leaving and reading reviews. Make sure your business is listed and well-maintained on these platforms to get maximum reach.
- Google My Business: as mentioned above, diners can easily leave reviews on your GMB, which are also displayed on your listing. Timely and personalized responses on your GMB make all the difference.
- Table management systems like Eat App come with built-in review features that enable automated post-dining surveys to be sent out to customers within 24 hours of their reservation, encouraging them to leave feedback and helping you reach out to them if needed.
Other Online Marketing Strategies You Should Be Using
If you want to take yours to the next level, consider adding these not-so-commonly used channels to your marketing suite.
1. Email Marketing
Think email marketing is not for restaurants? Think again. One of the best sources to take advantage of your existing user base, email marketing allows you to reach out and remind diners about your restaurant and share exclusive offers and events with them, helping reinforce your brand in their minds and providing them with incentives to visit your restaurant again.
Email marketing is especially effective when it’s personalized and tailored for the audience. You can take a look at your guest list to identify behavior patterns and send targeted messages that are more likely to grab the customer’s attention. (Like segmenting all the customers that showed up for your brunch event and offering them a discount for the next brunch.)
2. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing includes hiring new-age content creators that amass large followings on social media platforms to market your brand to their followers. It’s a unique form of marketing as it employees user-generated content to promote products and services.
Influencer marketing has caught fire in the social media world as people view these thought leaders as peers and find their opinions to be more reliable, relatable, and credible than an ad run directly from the brand.
Using influencer marketing can help your restaurant reach a large audience (depending on the user base of the influencer) at a relatively low cost with high effectiveness. Make sure you do your research and find the right influencers that target your niche audience.
3. Data-focused marketing
If you truly want to create a super-charged online marketing strategy, let data take the driving seat. Many restaurants follow a rinse-and-repeat style where they keep taking the same marketing actions without setting goals and measuring success. Although that may seem enough to get online marketing “out of the way”, chances are that it’s not doing your business any good.
You will be able to make the most out of online marketing only when you compile data insights and use them to create highly targeted, segmented, and personalized marketing campaigns that can be measured and compared. At the end of the day, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Analyzing results from your promotions and looking back to see what works and does not work for your restaurant is what’s going to help you create an online strategy that sets you on the path to success.
Tips For Creating A Successful Online Marketing Strategy
There’s a good chance that you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure about how to get started with your online marketing, we have all been there. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you kickstart the process:
- Know your target market: online marketing is all about the people. Before you begin, identify who your target audience is and what are their interests, needs, wants, and preferences. You need to be present where they are present. If your customers are avid Instagram users but you’re only spending time on Facebook, you’ve clearly missed the mark. Knowing how they prefer to consume content can help you target your marketing resources and efforts in the right direction for maximum effectiveness.
- Focus on the basics: before you jump the gun and move into bigger things, make sure you pay attention to your basics. This includes creating a clear and credible online presence using high-quality images, consistently branded content, and user-friendly platforms across the board.
- Be consistent: instead of trying to be in all places at once, focus your online strategy on a few platforms and make an effort to be consistent on each one. This includes keeping your website updated with current content, regularly sharing on social media platforms, managing reviews, and engaging with your customers
- Stay relevant: the online world is all about trends, and adopting them (without deterring from your brand image) helps your restaurant stay relevant and relatable to the people.