Digital Marketing Strategies for Restaurants
They say the restaurant business is one of the most difficult industries to break into, let alone thrive in. That’s why you need to know how to push the odds in your favor.
The key to any successful business is knowing how to market to your audience. You need to answer important questions like “How will my community know I exist?” and “How can I attract people to my restaurant?”
Your answers lie in restaurant digital marketing. While some validity can be found in the traditional means of advertising such as handing out flyers, direct mailing services, and radio commercials, the world has largely gone digital. If you don’t have an online presence, you might as well close up shop.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn about digital marketing strategies for restaurants. Before we jump into the strategies, you may want to check the best marketing agencies providing digital marketing services for restaurants.
Benefits of Digital Marketing for Restaurants
Implementing a comprehensive digital marketing plan for a restaurant can help business owners in multiple ways. Let’s learn the top 3 benefits of digital marketing for restaurants’ journey to boost their sales:
Increased Visibility and Awareness
Digital marketing campaigns allow you to reach a hungry crowd by improving your chances of attracting new customers and increasing brand recognition. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, for example, offer highly effective advertising options that can be tailored to specific demographics. So, you can have a direct line to your customers’ taste buds with some digital marketing magic.
Improved Customer Engagement
Digital marketing helps you can engage in two-way communication with your customers. And by keeping in touch with your customers through digital channels, you can foster a loyal following of foodies who keep coming back for more. As a result, they’ll leave glowing reviews, suggest your place to their friends, and become your biggest advocates.
Enhanced Customer Experience
You can create a seamless and personalized experience for your customers. For example, you can use digital ordering and delivery platforms to streamline and simplify the ordering process for your customers. Also, you can use the data you got from these platforms to tailor your marketing campaigns according to your audience’s needs and preferences.
How to Do Digital Marketing for Restaurants
Running a restaurant is tough work, but with the rise of digital technology, it’s never been more important to have a strong online presence. From perfecting your website to developing influencer marketing and email campaigns, there are various ways to make your restaurant stand out in the digital world.
We’ll break down the essentials of digital marketing for restaurants and give you tips on how to get started. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, let’s dive into digital marketing ideas for restaurants and get ready to make your business shine!
1. Perfect Your Website
Even though you own a local restaurant that’s anything but digital, your storefront is no longer the face of your company. When 88% of consumers go online to research products or services, they judge a business’s credibility based on its website above all else.
Your website needs to be professional, functional, and user-friendly to develop a solid digital marketing strategy. Potential customers need to navigate your site intuitively to find things like menus, hours of operation, and your address. Keep in mind that most people use their smartphones to research things like this, regardless of if they’re at home, in the car, at work, and so on – your website must be optimized for mobile devices.
Invest some time and money in professional pictures of your restaurant space, the food you offer, and your staff. The food will look more appetizing and your staff will appear more professional. It gives potential customers a sense of intimacy with your restaurant, even before they visit.
2. Focus on Local SEO
One of the most important steps in restaurant digital marketing is perfecting your search engine optimization. SEO is everything in terms of getting organic traffic to your website, and ultimately, customers in your seats. When someone types in “Italian restaurants near me,” your SEO rating will determine how quickly they find you.
To ensure that you have a perfectly working digital marketing strategy for your restaurant, you need to make sure your website’s SEO makes you a local hotspot. You can boost your SEO by taking the following actions:
- Create a blog on your website full of engaging and relevant content
- Make sure every page of your website utilizes local keywords and other forms of SEO coding (metadata embedded in pictures, videos, headings, etc.)
- Use internal links (to other pages of your site) and external links (to affiliate websites, sources of data, etc.)
- Create a Google My Business Account
- Make sure your contact information and address are listed multiple times and are easy to find
If you’re new to SEO, it takes time to have a high ranking. You can look into further educating yourself about SEO or seek professional services if you need help.
3. Gain Followers on Social Media
Having a website teeming with SEO coding is great (and necessary). However, there are some more proactive ways you can drive traffic to your site as well. Did you know that 69% of American adults are on Facebook? That means 69% of your potential customers can be found on Facebook.
A solid social media presence is a must for a successful digital marketing strategy for restaurants. Not only can you amass a following of people who are attracted to your restaurant and are likely to be repeat customers, but social media also provides effective networking opportunities. The best part is, you have plenty of options for both free and paid advertising campaigns.
For example, you can market cost-free on social media by hosting raffles or competitions offering free meals, gift cards, or even cash prizes to the winners. The key is to use the competition to extend your reach by encouraging users to like, comment, and share your posts. In turn, their followers will see the activity, be exposed to the competition, and likely start following your profile to compete for prizes as well.
Alternatively, you can look to paid social media marketing which allows you to choose how much you spend per day toward your campaign as well as your target audience (based on age, gender, location, and more). This also comes with the perk of analytical data that breaks down the success and performance of your ads. You’ll be able to see how each ad performed in terms of engagement (link clicks, likes, follows, shares, comments) to help you fine-tune your advertisements.
4. Use Influencer Marketing
If you don’t yet have a strong following, or if you want to target a wider audience, consider influencer marketing. Social media influencers are those who have established credibility within certain industries or demographics, and as a result, often have thousands, if not millions of followers.
If there are any food-specific influencers in your relative location, it may not be a bad idea to reach out and invite them to eat at your restaurant for free. If they like your food, you can come up with an influencer marketing contract. In exchange for them to create a post about your restaurant, you can pay them a fee or give them a certain number of free meals.
5. Implement Email Marketing
Another effective restaurant digital marketing strategy is called email marketing. First, you need to build an email list of recipients who have subscribed to your email. Gaining subscribers can be done by offering discounts to previous customers who subscribe, through social media, your website, affiliate websites, and landing page ads.
Once a customer subscribes, you need to have an automated set of emails that go out once or twice a week. These emails should be friendly and express gratitude to your subscribers while subtly pushing them toward coming back to your restaurant. However, they also need to contain valuable content (discounts, promotions), or people will stop opening them.
Email marketing has proven to be a top contender because it falls back on marketing to people who’ve already shown interest in or eaten at your restaurant.
6. Take Advantage of Online Reviews
Next, remember that most people need a little reassurance when it comes to investing in products or services, including dining experiences. When people research restaurants online, one of the things they’re looking for is what other customers had to say. You need to take advantage of online reviews and the level of credence consumers put in them.
Start by encouraging every paying customer to post a review on Google, your website, or on your social media profile. Most people need to be motivated to make a review; you can offer a respectable discount, a free drink, etc. once they’ve completed the review.
7. Network with Other Local Businesses
Another beneficial restaurant digital marketing strategy utilizes other small business owners in your area. Start building affiliate relationships with complementary businesses. You can work with one another by guest-posting on each other’s blogs, recommending their services, and more.
For example, connect with a local hotel and see if they will recommend your restaurant to travelers and other guests. They can do this in person and through their website. On your end, offer discounts to any customers who come to you through the hotel.
Alternatively, you can team up with other small businesses and offer discounts for business-related meals, such as salespeople meeting with current or potential clients, team luncheons, after-work parties, etc. The key is to offer value to other businesses that choose to affiliate with you. In return, you gain more customers and stronger influence within your community.
8. Keep Online Engagement High
Lastly, it’s important to understand that consistency is everything in restaurant digital marketing. If you want your community to remember your name when it comes time to grab a meal, you must make an effort to make it so. Running an advertising campaign once a year isn’t enough.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to keep patrons coming back to your restaurant time and time again. It’s the little things like updating your website regularly, posting new content a few times a week on social media, and advertising new items on your menu. But remember, you have to keep the community involved by hyping up new specials online, running contests, and giving back.
While you’re here make sure to check out the following case studies by our member agencies about web design and digital marketing services for restaurants:
The Charles was tasked with creating the brand identity, marketing materials, and website for Gurney’s Star Island Premiere on-property seafood restaurant SHOWFISH. The brand’s logo drew inspiration from Montauk’s illustrious background as a “sleepy fisherman village.” To bring the SHOWFISH concept to life, they mixed organic textures and hand-drawn elements with modern typography and color accents. It was necessary to develop a brand and digital experience that compels visitors to learn about and participate in this “sea-to-table” experience. For a number of their venues, SHOWFISH created sub-brand identities for their menus, print materials, signs, and to-go bags.
The ONE Group wanted a web presence that communicated the same lifestyle as its premium businesses to a larger worldwide audience as they planned to build up more STK locations in the Middle East, Mexico, and Europe. At the time, STK’s prior website did not have their excellent luxury brand guidelines, their lifestyle blogging content, or their Instagram presence. Low average user engagement and below-average industry conversion rates for new reservations were caused by the absence of an integrated user journey. Blacksmith, therefore, believed that STK would increase their monthly traffic conversion into reservations and private event bookings through intuitive, best-in-class UX/UI and a seamless booking approach. They recommended a website back-end built on WordPress to address the organization’s expanding cross-functional marketing teams. This would enable marketers to add new locations and any pertinent information (events, menus, city-specific content) as soon as they opened up.
UK-based Propeller is another successful digital marketing agency that has multiple success stories working with food and drink brands. The agency defines itself as the expert in driving restaurant reservations, party bookings, and selling products online and its variety of successful case studies prove them right! Make sure to check out their website to learn more about it.
As long as your food and service were good, you could set up shop on the street corner and do business for years. But it takes a little intention in the way you market and engages with the community. To analyze a world-famous example from the food industry you can check out our blog post about McDonald’s digital marketing strategy.
The learning curve for restaurant digital marketing is steep, but we are here to help. You can take a look at our digital marketing directory to find companies in your area that can help you with your specific needs. If you have any questions about our digital agency network, contact us today!