Restaurant marketing can be the difference between packing them in and standing by the front door asking, “When will they come.”
With razor thin profit margins, an employee turnover rate that ranks near the top of any industry, and a competitive landscape that would make Tiger Woods proud, the restaurant business is beset with failures that make you wonder whether all the hard work is worth it. After all, more than 90% of all restaurants fail, right?
Well, although the number of failed restaurants in the United States sits at a staggering rate, the fact is the restaurant failure rate is closer to 60% during the first year of operation. The failure rates decline in years two and three, and if you make it into year four, there is a good chance you have established a profitable business.
Nonetheless, with more than one million restaurants operating in the United States, there has to be a focus on restaurant marketing. We do not mean the traditional kind of marketing when restaurant owners wanted customers to find them by letting “their fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages.
We are talking about restaurant marketing during the digital era.
Why Digital Restaurant Marketing Matters
Why does restaurant marketing matter? The answer comes in the form of multiple statistics. More than 90% of restaurant customers research a restaurant, which is the highest research rate among any industry. More than 55% of restaurant customers reviewed restaurant websites, before selecting a dining option. Customer reviews play an important role in determining where to eat out, as around one-third of all restaurant customers read online reviews to gain more information about dining choices. The one stat that all restaurant owners and operators should remember is the one that states more than half of all online traffic generated by restaurants comes from customers using mobile devices.
Let’s see how you can turn the restaurant statistics into a highly effective digital restaurant marketing program.
Your Website is Your Storefront
Back in the day, restaurants generated a lot of walk-in traffic. Potential customers walked by the front door and if they like what they saw on the menu and what was going on inside, they would open the door and come in for a relaxing meal.
Now, your storefront consists of a visually appealing website that presents useful information for customer prospects.
As we mentioned, your restaurant marketing plan should be mobile-friendly, as more than 50% of your customers will make dining decisions on the fly. After optimizing your website for mobile devices, there are several ways for your restaurant website to stand out among the competition.
Easy to Read and Downloadable Menu
Some of your restaurant marketing takes care of itself, especially when you present an easy to read menu that potential customers can conveniently download for reference. Your menu descriptions should be short, clear introductions to your dishes that prompt customers to ask questions and become intrigued by what you have to offer.
Hours of Operation
It sounds like it should be taken for granted, but you might be surprised at the number of restaurants that do not post their hours of operation on their websites. Hours of operation should post at the top of the home page, as well as at a prominent location on every other page. This is particularly important if you offer brunch only on weekends and run happy hour specials during the week.
According to the National Restaurant Association, three out of five restaurant customers in the United States order takeout or delivery at least once a week. Not making your website capable of handling online ordering is like running a drill into the ground for oil that does not have the mechanical capability to tap into the rich resource.
Call to Action (CTA)
Restaurant marketing is all about motivating customer prospects to take action. If you want the people that visit your website to make a reservation or simply call the restaurant to ask questions, you have to grease the proverbial wheel by including calls to action (CTA) on your restaurant website. The key is to use just a few CTAs that clearly ask visitors to your website to perform some type of action.
Rank High in the Search Engines
A restaurant website does not follow the classic mantra of “If you build it, they will come.” No, you have to put your website in the restaurant marketing spotlight by implementing proven search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.
Here are a few best SEO practices for restaurants:
- Links to authority websites
- Customer reviews and testimonials
- Content that builds trust
- Clear, informative Meta titles and descriptions
- Videos that help customers create some of the dishes your restaurant offers
Let’s talk about the power of content. You probably have heard the saying “Content is king.” Uploading engaging and informative content that covers a wide variety of topics should build the level of trust required for undecided customers to give your restaurant a try. After you get customers in the door, it is up to your team of hospitality professionals to provide the level of service and the quality of menu items to make your customers want to come back for more.
Go Local with SEO
The Yellow Pages used to be the go to resource for consumers to make local buying decisions. Now, the Internet is where consumers go to make local purchases. Your restaurant not only needs an effective SEO strategy, it also has to make some of your SEO efforts resonate locally.
Google My Business for restaurants is a good place to start for local SEO. After you claim and verify a Google My Business listing, you can then upload information that at the very least, will prompt potential customers to learn more about what you have to offer. Your Google My Business page should include accurate contact information, hours of operation, a streamlined version of your menu, and customer reviews that sing your eatery’s praises.
Local SEO should also include website content that refers to local landmarks and notable community events. You should also list your restaurant in the most popular online business directories, such as Yelp, Tripadvisor and the electronic version of the Yellow Pages. Make sure your restaurant’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) remain consistent and accurate across all online restaurant marketing channels.
Customer Reviews Make a Huge Difference
When it comes to word of mouth advertising, perhaps no other type of business benefits more from favorable suggestions than restaurants. Take word of mouth advertising to the next level by making positive customer reviews an integral part of your restaurant marketing campaign.
Here is why customer reviews for restaurants matter:
- More than 90% of restaurant customers read reviews
- Three quarters of all restaurant customers place more emphasis on customer reviews than they place on critic reviews
- Nearly 35% of restaurant customers refuse to dine at a restaurant that has fewer than four review stars
Customer reviews on sites like Yelp and Google will help drive sales for your restaurant. However, restaurant marketing using customer reviews in not just a one-sided strategy. As a restaurant owner or operator, you have to take the time needed to respond to both positive and negative customer reviews. Google offers a convenient feature that allows business owners to respond to customer reviews.
Restaurants are Made for Social Media
You do not need a report telling you that more than two-thirds of adults access Facebook at least one time a week. The prevalence of social media networks is especially relevant for restaurant owners and operators. In fact, a strong social media presence online should help boost the power of your restaurant website.
Place social media icons on every page of your website to improve the searchability of your tweets and Facebook posts. Make sure to share photos of your most popular dishes on sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest represents the ideal social media network to share your favorite recipes. Above all, ensure your social media restaurant marketing strategy is highly interactive. Ask customers for menu item ideas, as well as learn more about what makes your customers tick when it comes to dining out.
Stay in Touch with Customers Via Email
Old school email marketing remains a powerful tool for any business, but it has considerable impact for restaurant owners and operators. Make sure you send out emails only to subscribers to avoid spam. You can promote upcoming events, include a feature about renowned dining destinations in the world, and describe in detail the most popular dishes on your menu. Make your restaurant marketing emails short, but loaded with enough useful information to make your customers want to read every edition.
The Bottom Line
The Internet is where diners search for restaurants. You need to make sure your restaurant has a strong presence online by using several digital restaurant marketing tactics. From uploading photos of your visually appealing storefront to presenting helpful content on your website, you should be able to turn many potential customers into loyal, lifelong patrons of your restaurant.