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Ian Blair

The Best Restaurant Marketing Ideas From 18 Experts

With 60% of new restaurants failing within the first year of opening, sustaining a restaurant can be a continuous battle. A battle of bringing in consistent revenue and keeping up on the latest social networks to know what everyone and anyone is saying about you at all times. It’s a really tough industry to be in. So we’ve talked to industry experts and some of the top marketing minds to bring you some of the best restaurant marketing strategies that can help you get a competitive advantage and move towards revenue consistency this year.

 

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Jay Baer – Convince & Convert

@jaybaer

Look To Customer Service As An Extension Of Your Marketing Program

Too many restaurants care too little about retention, placing much emphasis on outbound marketing and the attraction of new customers, with comparatively little attention paid to keeping the customers they’ve already paid to get.

The Restaurant industry is more competitive than it’s ever been, at every turn and in every way, and differentiation is tough, as competitors can and will eventually mimic your products and ape your pricing. But customer experience and customer service remain fertile opportunities for standing above the mass of competitors.

Customer service is a spectator sport, now. It’s not just about the aggrieved consumer; it’s about the legions of spectators looking on from the sidelines.

 

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Evin Charles Anderson – Waverly Knobs

@waverlyknobs

Connect Through Cooking Up A Story On Culture

Culture videos offer the audience insight into the atmosphere and unique personality of a restaurant through the interaction between customer and staff. Through this concept, you are humanizing the business and making the restaurant a member of the local community. Many of these communities are also seeing the impact from the largest generational group thus far, the millennials. Culture videos, especially when placed online via social media platforms, will have the largest impact on this powerful market.

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Edward Strum

@edward_strum

Dessert For Hashtags

As somebody who’s done marketing for both restaurants and a POS startup, I can say from experience that Instagram should be every restaurant owner’s best friend. It’s almost like the platform was made for restaurants! It’s perfect for showing off how appetizing the food looks and the décor – two of any restaurant’s biggest selling points. Literally the only thing missing is smell and taste.

Have a sign in the front of the restaurant that reads, “Put a picture of your dish on Instagram with the #myrestaurant and we’ll give you a free desert from our Instagram menu!” You’ll be able to drum up significant buzz this way.

 

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Robert Edell – Servy

@robedell

Tap Into The Audience Of Other Businesses

In addition to traditional marketing such as PR, promotions, etc., I think a great way to build awareness is through tech startups. There are a number of startups that are building relationships with both restaurants and consumers, and all of these startups are hungry to create value for their early restaurant clients. More specifically, it can be very beneficial to work with a startup that is far enough along where they have thousands of diners to promote the restaurant to, but they aren’t so big that the restaurant gets lost amongst hundreds of other businesses.

 

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Shana Haynie – SplashOPM

@ArtworksByShana

With the proper strategies in place, restaurants have the ability to do really well in the online marketing realm. But it does feel like the restaurant industry is behind when it comes to digital marketing. This is a problem, here’s how to fix it:

Have A Great Social Media Strategy

Most businesses recognize the importance of social media, especially in the restaurant industry. But as a digital marketer and previous hospitality manager, I’ve seen a lot of restaurants making detrimental social media mistakes, that I know any person with real social media strategy experience would not be making. (For instance, broadcasting to an audience instead of truly trying to solve the customer’s problems by proving value).

Restaurant owners and managers tend to dole off social media responsibilities to employees who have no idea what they are doing because they either can’t afford to hire an agency or an in-house marketing director, or don’t think that it is worth the money. Because hey, social media is so easy my kid can do it!

You get what you pay for. My advice? In order to really get ROI out of your social media efforts, you need to have some form of strategy and goals in place. Shell out the extra cash and have an agency or a social media consultant write out a customized social media strategy playbook for your restaurant. That way, at least if you don’t want to hire someone to do social media full time, you have a solid set of rules and objectives, and hopefully a way to implement and track your success.

Don’t Hire A Novice To Handle Your Online Advertising

The same goes for online advertising, only more so. Many businesses spend big bucks on advertising with no clear objectives in mind. This is how you throw away money! Ironically, I saw an ad on Facebook from the restaurant that I used to work for. It was full of spelling and grammar errors, the copy was terrible (clearly no one with a marketing background was behind this ad), and the only engagement that it was incurring were vicious comments from people talking badly about the restaurant. This is a very, very bad strategy for winning customers and building brand awareness. Don’t do this to your restaurant.

When you are ready to put real dollars behind online advertising, make sure you can actually afford doing it the right way. As an agency co-founder, I’ve had potential restaurant clients ask me for the moon, but they are only willing to pay for the equivalent of a nice dinner for 2 once a month. That’s just not enough to get you what you want.. Online advertising is not magic. The more money you put in, the more success you are eventually going to see, it just takes time and diligent optimization. I won’t take clients who don’t understand that I am not a magician.

There is more to online advertising than putting some money into a campaign, creating a pretty picture and writing a headline. There is a whole marketing funnel to consider and a lot of customer research, defining of goals, and analysis of desired outcomes involved. If you are not ready to really dig in and create an online marketing plan, either hire someone with legitimate experience to do it for you, or don’t do it at all until you can afford it. If you don’t set out to do it right, you will just be throwing money away and wondering why online ads aren’t working. They do work. You just need to know how to make them work for you.

 

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Tim Laubacher – Brokaw

@BrokawInc

Craft A Loyalty Strategy, But Always Ask “Is It Valuable?”

Examine forms of valuable engagement beyond discounts; think experiences. Plan to engage guests in-restaurant and those who opted-in to a loyalty program with surprise and delights such as early access to LTOs. Value that drives loyalty starts with creating a reason for one additional visit. Begin your marketing from within.

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Jayme Gilson – Brokaw

@BrokawInc

Engrain Meaning That Is Unique To Your Business Into Everything

Craft meaning into your offerings and valuable engagements;meaning that is unique to your business and engrained in who you are as an establishment. Make the marketing match the brand, so tightly that no other competitor could, well, compete.

 

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Joe McLaughlin – Brokaw

@BrokawInc

Serve Up Unique, Valuable Experiences Consistently

Create a valuable experience unique to your brand, consistently. Everything changes—technology, recipes, trends—but consistently exceeding expectations in a valuable and unique way is the best way to market your restaurant and will have guests coming back for seconds and thirds.

 

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Kelley Gentile – Brokaw

@BrokawInc

Embrace Your Haters Online

The days of 1-800 customer service calls have passed and complaints are the “walk of shame” of social media. Everyone sees them, and they can be really embarrassing. But, haters are gunna hate and brands are gunna, or should, answer. A complaint posted to your business’s social site is an opportunity to turn a customer around, improve a situation, and retain customer business. Acknowledging a complaint also provides an opportunity to learn about your business, the perception of your business and your customers.

 

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Tracey Willis – N2Q Consulting

@notothequo

How To Get your Best Customers To Share Their Experience

Aside from having amazing food, beverages and customer service, there is so much that can be done to get your most passionate customers to share their experience at your establishment. Think outside of the box! For example, create custom plates with a hashtag of your restaurant’s name so that people can easily recognize your brand name when the inevitable Instagram picture gets posted. This will also remind people to tag your restaurant and share their experience.  Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things, if something doesn’t work move on and try your next idea.

 

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Sam Williamson – Aims Media

@aimsmediauk

Use Instagram Feed Plugin To Feature Your Diners On Your Website!

People taking photos of their food is no new phenomenon, but the craze has evolved to the point where almost every person who is enjoying a meal is taking a photo and sharing it online. By installing the Instagram Feed plugin on your WordPress website, any Instagram user that uses one of your hashtags will automatically appear on your restaurant website whenever they share a picture of your food. We did this with the Tony Macaroni website and it has been very successful, as diners know that if they share a photo and use the hashtags they will get their 5 minutes of fame on the website!

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Henry Butler – CanIRank

@henry_butler1

Online Reputation Management

Restaurants should handle manage their online reputation effectively. This means they need to be monitoring and responding to customer feedback on websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. If there is a negative review, it is a good idea to send the customer a private message apologizing for their experience.

SEO Efforts

It is important to optimize the home page of your restaurant’s website for a specific keyword. For example, if you have a seafood restaurant in Phoenix, you would want to include relevant long tail keywords. By doing so, when someone searches “Best Seafood Restaurants in Phoenix“, your website has a greater chance of appearing at the top of the results in Google.

 

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Jess Herbine – Philly PR Girl

@Philly_PR_Girl

Attend Foodie Events

More likely than not, your restaurant is based in a city or neighborhood that hosts events for foodies throughout the year. These types of functions are ideal for exposure, as attendees are sure to include media and local tastemakers. Whether it’s a charity event, food-centric festival, or city-wide restaurant week, each offers plenty of opportunity to get your name online/in print/in social media. Participation gives your restaurant the ability to introduce the public to your staff, and offers them a taste of your best dishes!

 

Nathan Barber – daWorks

@daWorksSydney

Leverage Instagram to Promote Your Menu Items

Images are worth a thousand words. In the restaurant industry, presentation and visuals of the menu items are massively important. People want to see the food before they order, and what better way to give them a glimpse of what you have to offer than through an image sharing website like Instagram? Promote your posts and slowly gain a following, and people will be buzzing around what menu items they are missing out on.

Set Up Free Food Tasting Booths

If you wish to increase awareness of your food offering, then get personable with your potential customers.

Promote your restaurant by allowing free samples of various menu items at large events such as at local carnivals, festivals, events, anything that will bring in a local enough crowd. This is particularly a good strategy if your restaurant is fairly new and not established in people’s minds. Essentially, what you are doing is making potential customers feel comfortable coming your restaurant in the future by allowing them to try your food with having to pay for a whole meal, and risk being disappointed with it.

 

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Jitesh Keswani – e-Intelligence

@J_Intelligence

Long gone are the days when you only had to be an amazing cook or a smooth talker to run your restaurant. Today, if you own or manage a restaurant, you most likely wear multiple hats. And one of these hats is of a marketer. Marketing your restaurant in this age of hyper-connected digital media age won’t require you to break the bank. Here are some digital marketing strategies for your restaurant:

Pamper The Loyal Customers

Did you know that acquiring a new restaurant customer is as good as 7 times costlier affair than selling to an existing one? Offer rewards and value add-ons to your loyal customers via social media.

An Elegant Yet Simple Restaurant Website

About half of your current and potential customers would visit your restaurant details on their mobiles. Offer them a rich experience on mobile through a fully-responsive website.

Respond To Reviews

Yes, to each and every one of them. Doesn’t matter whether it is negative or positive. Make sure that you respond to your customer’s reviews on all the platforms across the web. Offer incentives for sharing their feedback on your restaurant.

Gamify Your Customers’ Experience

Accept it, they love smartphones. You love ‘em too! So catch them and engage them on the go. For example, offer online reservations. Start taking online orders, if not already.

Optimize Your Restaurant Website

Okay, so you have a really beautiful and attractive restaurant website with all necessary information. But, what’s the point if your local customers can’t find it? SEO comes to your rescue to make your site visible to those who are actively searching for food places near them, at the right time.

Social Media Events

Frequently run social media led food festivals and other events at your restaurant. And don’t forget to be awesome and striking with your campaign on social media to cut through the noise.

A secret tip!?? Spend about 30 minutes to an hour every day on marketing your restaurant on the web. That’s all it takes to be actively engaging with your audience on the web.

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Yulia Khansvyarova – SEMrush

@SEMrush

Google reported that more than half of its recent searches were on mobile devices and more than half of mobile searches have local intent. That is why small businesses have a distinct opportunity to use location to their advantage. Here are some basic things they can do in order to improve SEO ranking:

Content Tips
Pay attention to your content as it is one of the best traffic driver to your website. Use relevant local keywords, including city/state in copy and meta tags. Instead of using the keyword «Buy women dress» phrase it like that  – «Buy women dress in Colorado».

NAP Consistency
Pay close attention to NAP consistency (name, address and phone number). Your contact information should be accurate and consistent throughout all local listings, social media and your website, and be presented in text format, not in images.
Use Schema.org markup on your NAP to give the search engines all they need to display your company information correctly.
It is really important to check not only NAP, but NAP-LOP (name, address, phone – logo, social profiles, opening hours).

Backlinks
For building useful local backlinks, clients testimonials are the number one tool for small business. Encourage clients to share stories and engage yourself into discussion. Also, don’t forget about contacting local bloggers and offering your product in exchange for a review.
Offer post to local bloggers or city media with links to your website. Those pages are already geo-specific and targeted the right audience, which will bring additional traffic to your website.

Local Listings
Local citation are a good traffic source for your website. Find local directories and get listed there, check reviews and leave positive replies if needed.

Landing Page:
If you have business located in several places, create a geo-optimized landing page for each of them on your website. As an example, Starbuck creates locally optimized landing page for each of its location. Every landing pages should include city, street and state in copy/meta tags what helps them to be well presented in local search.

Pay Attention To Google My Business:
Google My Business is a dashboard, that connects your business directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+. Claiming and maintaining profile in Google My Business dashboard is an essential thing to be presented in Google local search. On Google My Business, local companies can optimize their local listings to include business descriptions, contact info,  even photos and videos. Pay attention to targeted keywords throughout the copy.

Mobile – Friendliness
More and more people are accessing the Internet through their mobile devices to perform a local search to find specific business.  That is why it is essential now for local businesses to create a mobile friendly version of their website for customers to seamlessly access the information on-the-go.

Consider loading speed, clear and visible call-to-actions, keep your location and phone numbers visible on the home page. Use semantic markup like review, organization, product, etc. to generate rich snippets and land a high click-through rate (CTR).

PPC Tips For Mobile

You can make it easier for people to call you by adding a call extension to your ads or simply running call-only ads, which will drive even more calls to your business. Take into account, however, that if your business isn’t open 24/7, you should mention that the ad can only be redeemed during normal business hours.

Utilize Foursquare/Swarm
Effectively utilize advertising on Foursquare/Swarm. These are perfect mobile platforms for offering your service/product to people who are located near you or who have similar interests.

You can advertise special discounts and offers to customers who have already visited your location before. Also, fill in your Foursquare for Business profile, which is similar to Google My Business.

 

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Dan Grech – OfferCraft

@offercraft

Make It A Game

Too often restaurant incentives are not created with the customer in mind. They are presented in a way that’s boring or forgettable. Our advice to any restaurant marketer: optimizing how you present your offer is just as important as figuring what the offer itself will be. Scientific research has found, and our experience has proven out, that offers that are presented in the form of a game will have much higher participation and redemption rates than traditional offers. So create a trivia contest, offer a scratch off game, or something similar to allow you patrons to win a prize or discount to your restaurant. If you make it a game, everyone wins.

 

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Max Soni – Qumana

@maxindersoni

Use Mobile Push Notifications

Many restaurants, are brick and mortar businesses. They rely on walk-in traffic, for sales on a daily basis. Mobile app’s allow businesses to “push text messages,” to those who have their app. If a business owner has determined certain hours of the day are slow, we encourage them to send out push notifications with a discount, or some other incentive – which drives immediate foot traffic.

Most recently, a local pizzeria we service saw an increase of 15% foot traffic, during lunch hours – all thanks to the push-messaging feature from their mobile app. The “app text message,” which is pushed at 12:30, reminds people of the pizzeria – and gives them a special incentive (10% off) if they come to the pizzeria in the next 1 hour. In addition, the pizzeria has a customer loyalty system in place, from the app – which rewards more points for those who come as a result of the text message.

Feel like our experts missed something? Let us know or post your ideas, strategies and tips in the comments below!

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.