How to Market Your Restaurant

New or old, all restaurants are looking for ways to get their name out there. Whether you’re launching your business from the ground-up or simply updating your strategy to excel in the digital age, any small business can benefit from developing pointed. Thought-out marketing techniques that build brand awareness, strengthen customer relationships and highlight the successes of your restaurant.

Here at eatOS, we’ve developed this list of strategies for successfully marketing your restaurant online—and keeping those new customers once you draw them in.

Loyalty Programs

One of the best ways to ensure customers continue giving you patronage is through reward and loyalty programs that show your appreciation for their continued support. Offering free purchases, discounts, etc. encourages customers to keep coming back to win that prize.

There are many online apps available to make it easy to implement loyalty programs. You can even use partnerships with third party delivery platforms to draw customers in, by offering discounts if they order directly from your website next time and then from there setting them up in the rewards program. Alternatively, you could go old-school and give out punch cards.

High-Quality Photos

It’s easy to draw in new customers by the look and smell of your restaurant as they pass by on the street, but harder to convey that same feeling over the internet. Including good, high-res pictures on the menu will encourage more people to try out the food. You can show off your bestselling dishes or promote items that don’t usually sell as well, drawing attention to that part of the page so customers give it a second look. Also, consider adding photos to your website immediately entice people when they navigate to your page. It doesn’t have to stop at food, either: Show off different aspects of the business to create a well-rounded idea of your establishment before setting foot in the door. Which leads us to…

Social Media

Having a strong social media presence is paramount toward building a strong brand. It’s 2020, and everything is online now—if not, then that’s where most advertising takes place. People, especially younger generations, spend so much time on the internet that you’re missing out on a considerable portion of your potential customer base by neglecting that crucial sphere.

Don’t limit yourself to depicting food. On Instagram, for example, you can post your most delectable dishes and include photos of the storefront, customers enjoying your cuisine, and even your staff’s hard work. It’s beneficial to include staff in social media posts because it strengthens your reputation as a trustworthy, worthwhile place to spend money. When people see happy employees, they trust you more.

You can even publish some of your recipes so that long-time customers can enjoy their favorite dishes at home. Overall, get creative with establishing pages that show off what makes your business unique. Social media is the perfect place to strengthen your brand identity and demonstrate what makes your business great.

Reviews

Whether you set up your page on review sites or not, people will comment on your business. That’s why it’s beneficial to stay ahead of the press by establishing yourself on websites like Yelp or Tripadvisor, where you can monitor the activity regularly.

It’s best to meet feedback head-on, since there’s no way to avoid it altogether. Even bad reviews aren’t necessarily bad for business as long as they’re handled correctly, so there’s no reason to fear them. Reviews have tremendous power in the marketplace because they’re a fast and easy way for customers to determine whether a restaurant’s food and atmosphere will suit their needs, especially when they’re visiting someplace new. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that all of your information is publicly available there and up to date: Store hours, address, menu, price range and any amenities you can boast will all round out your profile and increase your chances of coaxing in a satisfied customer.

Don’t underestimate the power of the internet. Get on popular websites, like Google+, to increase your chances of showing up in relevant searches. For example, Google+ will put you on the map in your area to appear more prominently in searches with applicable keywords, like “NY seafood restaurants” or “Chinese food Los Angeles.” This leads us to

Geo-Targeted Ads

When looking for someplace new to dine out, people tend to search within a specified location to narrow down the most suitable choices. Thus investing in geo-targeted ads will narrow down where you appear on searches, so you primarily show up near your targeted demographics within a specific city or radius. Ultimately this saves you money by limiting your clicks to people who have a higher chance of actually becoming a customer.

There are plenty of online ad platforms that geo-tag for free as part of their regular services like Facebook, Twitter and other ad services. Even if it costs a little money, it’s worthwhile to invest in online ad platforms that offer geo-tagging.

Newsletters

Direct marketing is the best way to keep up with your customers, but you need to strike a careful balance so you don’t overload them. Email marketing is the most effective method for building customer relationships in this manner, but be careful: Sending letters out more than once or maybe twice a month will result in many un-subscribers. People are inundated with email marketing campaigns day in and day out, so yours has to be really impactful, informative, and infrequent enough that it’s worthwhile for them to stay.

If you can strike the right balance, though, email newsletters will become invaluable. Direct marketing makes it easy to reach out about new dishes, discounts and promotions that cater to their specific interests. Find free email campaign templates, or tools to create your own, online.

Direct marketing develops your brand identity and forms deeper bonds with your customers, so they genuinely want to interact with you more. Alternatively, or supplementary to your newsletter, you can start a company blog to talk more in-depth about your restaurant, including behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of your operations, recipes you’d like to share, or anything else that will help develop a strong brand identity. A blog will help further cultivate your community and engagement statistics.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content, or UGC, is a phenomenal marketing tool for any restaurant looking to grow their following and connect with their customers more intimately. Essentially, UGC encapsulates any content that’s made by an unpaid third party. Any time a customer posts a picture of their dinner and tags you, that’s UGC. You can encourage this engagement by hosting contests on your social media, wherein people submit photos, tag you, and then select a winner via lottery or some other method. You can offer up a free appetizer, discount code or whatever you decide to use as an incentive.

Reposting or thanking those accounts who participate will show your appreciation for those customers, strengthening your bond while simultaneously garnering more customers from them. Typically people trust recommendations more when a friend or acquaintance has made them, so UGC is essentially advertising to their entire newsfeed for free. Supporting user-generated content is good for business.

Advertise Good Press

When someone says something good about your business, they’ve done most of the work already: All you have to do is distribute that recommendation to an even wider audience, thus doubling the initial viewership that they would get alone. This is why it’s crucial to have Google alerts for your business’s name, so you can quickly see content published in your favor. Consider setting up an “In the Press” or similar page on your website makes it easy for visitors to see that positive press easily.

These are just a few ways to market your restaurant, though you should use it as a jumping-off point and build on it all the time. There are more intensive, more expensive avenues you can take too: For example, third party delivery apps will take a marketing fee and automatically spread your name to their hefty, built-in customer base.

Using our techniques and ideas, though, you’ll have a good idea of how to begin marketing your restaurant online and building a community of dedicated customers who will value you just as much as you value them. Good marketing is the cornerstone of great success.

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