Top 5 Marketing Tips for Restaurants
The number of restaurants in the United States is growing at about twice the rate of the population. Marketing, and standing out from your competition. in the restaurant industry is more important now than ever. Shifting consumer desires certainly aren't helping either.
So, what do you do?
As director of marketing for a global marketing agency, and certified Google partner, I have had direct experience with building marketing strategies for clients - worldwide. A large portion of these clients have been restaurants or restaurant chains. I have been doing this for years, and did most of the trial and error work for you already. As a result, I have developed 5 ultra-important marketing initiatives your restaurant should be taking to get an edge on the competition. If your restaurant implements, and consistently uses, all five of these marketing initiatives you will see an increase in all three categories: traffic, online presence, and sales - I guarantee it.
1) Do NOT underestimate Google+ or Yelp.
You may scoff at this recommendation, but I have worked with so many restaurants and chains that underutilized and underestimated Yelp and Google.
First step to harnessing both is creating an account, with as much detail as possible, on Yelp and Google+. Having an account on both will increase your online presence and ranking. Once that is done, you can begin initiatives to increase your positive reviews. Having positive reviews on Yelp and Google is akin to having a flock of Golden Geese. Many potential customers, when debating on choosing which restaurant to go to, will also fall back on reviews.
So, how are we going to get reviews?
Great Customer Service: Great customer service and overall being awesome is more of a prerequisite really. No one is going to give you a positive review, if they didn't actually have a positive experience. Once that is checked off our list we can move on to the other initiatives.
Get a "Find us on Yelp" and "Rate us on Google" sign: These signs will increase your chances of capturing your customers at the peak of their excitement while in your restaurant - thus, increasing your chances of a positive review. Host a Yelp Event: Hosting a Yelp event will encourage customers to visit your business while establishing yourself as an active community member. Head to www.yelp.com/events and hit the "Add Event" button. Post a Yelp Deal: Just like Yelp Events, Yelp Deals are guaranteed to get active Yelp users through your doors. Review Station: A review station can be something as small as a laptop station right after checkout, or near the exit, with a big sign that reads "Yelp Review Station" or "Google+ Review Station".
Respond to reviews: Positive or Negative, does not matter - you should always respond to a review. If they review is positive, thank the customer and tell them how awesome they are. If the review is negative, solve the problem and offer some sort of compensation to the customer on their next visit. This shows that you are listening and engaged.
Important Notes: I, personally, find positive Google+ reviews to be far more beneficial than Yelp. First, there are more people using Google (1.17 Billion) than Yelp. Getting a positive review on Google will cause you to rank higher on the most popular search engine in the world, and rank higher on their "snack pack" (the map, review, and business box that pops up whenever you search for local businesses). You can also set up a Google Alerts for your restaurant. Once this is set up, Google will email you any time your name has been used online. This can help with keeping track of reviews, articles, and online public relations.
Every single online advertising platform service offers Geo-targeting options. Please use this. If you own a restaurant local to San Francisco, there is absolutely no sense in marketing to all of the United States.
Once you have applied your locations, proceed with your standard (expanded) digital marketing settings you would normally use.
For an expanded lesson on Geo Targeting - click here to read a previous article I wrote on this topic.
3) Easily Accessible Online Menu
Think about the last time you heard about a new restaurant in town and wanted to check it out. Chances are, after you looked up the location and hours, you took a look at their menu. This is common behavior for modern humans. Our time and effort is precious. We do not want to go to a restaurant only to find out they have nothing we want to (or can) eat. Your menu is one of the strongest sales pitches (aside from pictures) that you have online. Do not make users scramble to find your menu. Convert potential customers into actual customers with the thoughts of savory and delicious food combinations on your menu; and do it fast. Because if you don't, they will simply look elsewhere.
4) Giveaways / Promotions for Check Ins.
Social Media "Check Ins" are extremely important. They are one of the most effective, yet free, advertising avenues. They are effective because, unlike traditional advertising, they are reaching users via someone within their social circle. This makes the message more trusting and resonate far more effectively. It's word of mouth, gone digital.
Getting your current customers to check in can be as easy as holding a weekly giveaway (gift card, VIP seating, etc.) or offering a promotion for every "check in". You can actually give a user an automatic coupon whenever they check in to your restaurant on Facebook. For instructions on how to do that - click here
Another creative way to boost check-ins is to highlight "high profile" customers (celebrities, musicians, artists, writers, etc.) that have dined in at the same location. There is just something about eating at the same table as a celebrity that makes people want to tell everyone about it.
5) Highlight Your Employees.
In an age of robotic customer service, the human element is severely lacking. Showing off your happy staff, doing what they do best, will highlight your excellent customer service. It will also allow your customers to build a bond with your employees, before they even step foot inside your restaurant. Lastly, it's always good to mix up the content you post online. Those juicy burger pictures, and happy hour posts, are great - but users need a variety of content in order to stay engaged.
A creative way to do this is to create weekly content featuring your employees. This is straight out of a marketing strategy I built for one of my clients: Create a weekly / monthly "mini-show" featuring the staff. The "episodes" can be short, fun, and lighthearted. It can be something as simple as your staff giving their preferences on a variety of "Would You Rather" appropriately themed questions, or your chefs going head to head in a battle of wits. Do not add any sort of a "sales pitch" in the show. It is simply there to get users to engage, connect with your staff, and share your content.
Thank you for reading. As I've stated earlier, make sure that you are using all five consistently. Marketing (Advertising) is a numbers game. You want to hit as many of your potential customers as you can, from all avenues.