Successful Digital Marketing For Restaurants

Published on Forbes.com Sep 15, 2017
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Running a restaurant in today’s digital world can be a daunting task, even for the most seasoned restaurant owner. The explosive growth of social media and smartphones allows your target audience to see and criticize your every move. Yelp certainly doesn’t help matters by allowing everyone – particularly millennials – the opportunity to shred your business without any validation because they didn’t have a “DopeAF” time. Operating a restaurant has become as much about playing defense as it is about providing great food and atmosphere. This is why a savvy digital marketing strategy is critical to increasing revenue.

Your Website Must Be Fully Baked

A restaurant website does not have to be robust but it has to be well thought out and 100% functional. So many of our restaurant clients come to us with websites that are not optimized for mobile. The phone numbers can’t be clicked, menus cannot be downloaded and there are blurry images. Having a poor restaurant website is like having a bland Bolognese in an Italian restaurant – it’s the cornerstone of everything. You want people to land on your website and make a reservation or walk in; it’s that simple.

Your restaurant website should have vertical sections so people can easily scroll to find pertinent information for your restaurant – contact info, menus, hours and a photo gallery. The restaurant industry is at the top of the list when it comes to the most mobile traffic, therefore it makes sense to design your website through the lens of a smart phone.

Own Your Google Maps Listing

This could be the biggest factor in getting your restaurant on the coveted page one of Google's search results. Google displays what is called a "Local 3-Pack" when you search, for example, for “seafood restaurant in [city].” The Local 3-Pack comes ahead of the search results with a map and three listings – prime real estate! There are many factors that Google weighs to determine which restaurants to display in the Local 3-Pack and it's always changing. Moz reports proximity being one of the largest factors at only 19%; Google reviews account for 13% weight, according to Moz.

One thing is for sure: owning your Google business listing helps gain visibility for your restaurant. Secure your listing and make sure all the information is accurate. You can go to Google My Business to start the process.

Social Media For Restaurants

A good social media strategy is integral to a successful restaurant marketing strategy. Everybody knows that. What they don’t know is how to execute it. Too many restaurants turn over their social media to whoever wants to do it. This often results in neglected pages, rushed posts, mediocre images and slow follower growth. As I mentioned earlier, social media is way too important to pawn off on someone who likes to do it. You need someone who knows how to do it and has time to do it properly or otherwise hire a restaurant marketing agency.

Social media is where you talk to your regular customers and where you market your restaurant to new customers. It needs to be taken seriously. Some of the common mistakes we see include:

  • Connecting Facebook and Instagram accounts
  • Placing your social media feed on your website
  • Using lots of hashtags on Facebook
  • Not establishing a system to generate new photos every month
  • Marketing to a national audience vs. a local targeted audience

Social media is not terribly complex, but it needs to be thought out and properly executed to be effective.

Email Marketing - Don't Call It A Comeback

Email marketing is the most resilient form of digital marketing. It was abandoned a decade ago when spam became a big problem. It was left for dead again when Facebook went through historic growth and became an easy way to connect with your customers. Then there was another shift when Facebook started to severely limit how many followers see your posts and started asking you to "boost" your posts to a wider audience for a fee. That is how email marketing was resuscitated once again.

As a restaurant owner, you are entitled and expected to send specials, event information and new menu items to all your customers for free. MailChimp allows you to use its email marketing platform for free for up to 2,000 contacts. And as we've previously written, click-through rates are significantly better on email than on social media.

Of course, email marketing is only as good as the email addresses you have collected, and perhaps that is why many restaurants neglect it. There is an easy way without bothering your guests; forget about the old tired strategy of collecting business cards in a fishbowl and having a weekly drawing for a free appetizer. Now you can install Wi-Fi that will ask your guests for their email address instead of a password to gain access.

In Closing

Digital marketing for restaurants is getting more and more complex.  If you focus on your customers and the strategies mentioned above, you can really make a difference on your bottom line. However, the best digital marketing strategy still cannot move the needle as much as great food, excellent customer service and a clean ladies room :) 

Thanks For Reading!