The restaurant industry is a competitive business battleground. Although food is a constant demand, restaurants are crowding everywhere, and many of restaurateurs don’t get the number of customers that they expect. Consequently, many restaurants suffer losses, and worst, bankruptcy.
In order to succeed, restaurant owners have to do their best, not only to serve the best food and services, but also to spread the words about those great things they serve. In other words, 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 one step ahead of your competitors, here’s a checklist of online marketing tips and ideas 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. Check out these “tips and tricks to creating a gorgeous restaurant website” by Hongkiat.com.
2. Blog about your amazing restaurant.
Spread the great words 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, infographics, mini-infographics, 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 virality 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 online marketing. Hence, start creating and collecting awesome contents to share with your target customers. These contents could be the following:
- 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.
- Engaging infographics that provide rich information and helpful visual about your products and services.
If you’re operating a coffee shop, you could make interesting and shareable inforgraphics about coffee, like this one from Daily Infographic.
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.
5. Promote your brand on Instagram.
People nowadays 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 on the mobile media.
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 Plus is perhaps an struggling social network. However, 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.
Here’s Domino’s pizza using Twitter to promote their brand.
Every second you wait is another second without pizza. pic.twitter.com/VjwVFwb1q3
— Domino’s Pizza (@dominos) February 17, 2015
9. List your restaurant on local business directories.
To increase your brand’s visibility and discoverability 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. SEO your restaurant.
Listing your restaurant on external websites like local directories and social networks is actually part of the SEO (search engine optimization) process. However, you must not forget to SEO your own website and its internal pages to rank higher in search engines for particular keywords. Optimizing your website and pages includes the following procedures:
- Conducting an SEO audit on your website and pages.
- Improving the titles, descriptions, and tags of your pages to match your content with your target audience or users.
- Making your website’s architectural structure user-friendly across all devices (desktops, tablets, and mobile phones).
- Improving the internal linking structure and citations to external links in your website.
- Creating a sitemap and submitting it to search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- Making your website fast, secure, and reliable.
- Fixing URLs and crawling errors in your site.
- Publishing fresh, unique, comprehensive, and relevant content on your site.
- Giving your website’s visitors and users great and enjoyable experience to improve your site’s bounce rate.
- Earning natural or organic backlinks from high-authority websites or blogs.
To learn more about how you can have a successful local SEO campaign for your restaurant, read this comprehensive post from Moz.com.
11. Join online tribes and communities.
Tribal marketing lets restaurateurs listen to their customers and understand what they truly need. You can join online communities of people who love food and drinks. They can be found on Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, forums and other communities online. To make sure that you will become a valuable community member and your brand will be promoted, always do the following:
- Follow the rules of the community.
- Share only valuable and related content.
- Have meaningful interactions with other members like replying to their questions and helping them with their problems.
- Build true friendships and relationships with the community members.
Aside from joining related communities, you can also start your own online community and invite people who will be interested and will find your group useful to them.
12. 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.
13. Invite food and travel bloggers.
Bloggers are online influencers and could help spread great words about your business. 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.
14. 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 Ad 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.
Aside from being affordable (with budget as low as $1 per day), digital advertising like Facebook Ad also lets you segment your target audience to ensure that you only reach the most relevant people or those that will highly become your customers. Below is an example of a custom audience that I targeted for my Facebook Ad campaign.
To learn more about social media advertising, read this guide from Hootsuite Blog.
15. Use online reservation system.
Operate with an online reservation system to bring more customers to your restaurant. People today are already more hooked with the Internet than traditional communication systems. They would likely make reservations with a few clicks online than pick up the phone and have a conversation with your staff. You can try online reservation services such as Open Table, Resdiary, or any other service that is available in your city or country.
16. 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.
17. 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 a 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Make your business people-oriented.
Make your customers the hero of your business by featuring them on your blog posts or in your posts at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Don’t give all the credits to yourself but also showcase your staff as the reasons for your restaurant’s success. For instance, recognize your chef, waiters and other personnel in blog and social media posts. This way, they will be known and trusted more by your customers.
21. Promote your city or country.
Tourism has a major impact on restaurants, cafés, bars, and other related businesses. When the tourism industry is booming in a particular city or town, restaurants benefit from it. Thus, don’t just promote your own business but also promote your native land. Promote the beautiful tourist spots, the rich culture and the amazing history of the town, city or country where your business was born. Aside from the mouth-watering food you post on social media, don’t forget to post the most beautiful and breathtaking places in your town.
22. Utilize big data to unlock more opportunities.
Big data is called as such because it is big to the point that only companies like Google and Facebook can generate it. Small businesses cannot produce big data on their own using only Excel spreadsheet or other traditional software. But that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize big data. It also doesn’t mean big data is expensive. In fact some of these data can be obtained for free.
You can use Google Analytics to generate data about your website’s visitors. For social analytics, you can utilize Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Social Mentions to track important metrics about your social media marketing campaigns.
With Google Analytics, you can analyze important data about your site’s visitor demographics, behaviors, interactions, and conversions. This is important, as you need to determine where your visitors are coming from, how did they find your website or blog, what keywords or terms did they search, what pages or content did they engage the most, and how did they interact with your landing pages to convert sales.
Facebook insights is another free tool for business owners to learn more about your fans and identify what types of content (post, image, videos, offers, ads) are engaging to them the most.
Sample data generated by Facebook Insights for Facebook business page owners
23. 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, in order to win your business competition, 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 Facebook to identify competitors. The social media giant will show the restaurants in your area based on your friends’ posts, photos, liked pages, visited places, and more.
The top results displayed by Facebook 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.
24. Create an online marketing strategy.
A strategy is a grand plan. It’s a method to achieve a particular goal or set of goals over a long period of time. It ensures that your business will benefit from your online marketing campaigns in the long run. Without a strategy, your online marketing efforts will not have a clear direction. Your online marketing strategy should integrate all your marketing strategies, tactics, techniques, and methodologies, whether they are done online or offline. To know more, check out some free guides and templates about creating a digital marketing plan and strategy for your business at Smart Insights.
25. Transform your ideas into actions.
No matter how interesting the lessons you’ve learned, how brilliant your ideas are, and how smart your plan is, if you don’t apply and make them happen, your business success could become elusive – the tips and information above would be put in vain. Therefore, if there’s one important word about online marketing that you shouldn’t forget, it’s gonna be ACTION. So if you want to achieve your goals, do the steps and accomplish the procedures that you have evaluated to be right.
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.