Editors Note: This is an updated version of my original restaurant marketing post published in February 2013. As technology continues to evolve, modern marketing can seem a little overwhelming to restaurateurs: multiple review platforms, reservation apps, social media and responsive websites, to name just a few.
The best place to always start is with the foundations, so here are some tips to set you on the right path.
Note: I’ve added a bonus tip to leverage digital marketing in 2016.
Your restaurant may have the most captivating physical location imaginable and yet because you can’t be found online, prospective customers may never visit.
Scary prospect isn’t it?
And it all has to do with Search.
Let me explain.
Do you remember looking up details of a local restaurant in the big bulky phone book? Well, the internet is now how people search out information on restaurants. And no longer are they just after a phone number or address.
Customers want to know hours of operation, menu, wine-list, who’s the chef, read reviews and recommendations, book via an app and of course see images of the décor and dishes.
It may all sound a bit of an absurdity to you as a restaurateur, but this practice is now considered normal.
So, if you haven’t already done so, pull out your smartphone and type into your preferred search browser relevant search terms (keywords) for eating establishments in your local area. This may simply be the keywords of your town and cuisine you offer.
Perhaps your restaurant appears. Perhaps not.
More often than not, it doesn’t appear or doesn’t rank high in the search listings. Worse your competitors may be ranking higher than you.
If your prospective customer is desperately looking to find you in the physical world and you aren’t there in the digital world, then honestly in 2016 you have lost business.
So what can you as a savvy restaurateur do right now to be found online and keep those customers coming to your door?
1. Set up a Google Account
Besides being the undisputed master of Search, Google has a suite of products that assist restaurateurs run their business online:
- Google Maps
- Google Analytics
- Webmaster Tools
- And more!
The most important for any restaurant of Google’s products is Google Business.
Firstly, it saves time as it avoids the need to make duplicate entries while still providing information across Google products. Restaurateurs need only to enter their information one time and it will populate into all of Google’s services. As Google notes “Google My Business connects you directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+“.
Did I mention it’s a free service? Now you’ve got to like that!
What you do need to do though is keep the information updated as customers will be searching you out and using the driving directions to your restaurant in Maps, checking your hours of operations, writing reviews and making a booking on their mobile phone by clicking you phone number all via Google.
Yes, in 2016 you do need to ensure social media has a seat at the marketing table. Participation in social media is crucial as it not only affords you an opportunity to connect and engage your customers, but it can also greatly increases your search rankings.
Unlike setting up Google Business which may net quick results, think of social media as a long term digital marketing strategy – it is a marathon, not a sprint! You won’t necessarily see immediate results, so don’t give up.
With over 1 billion users worldwide Facebook is the Big Daddy of social media. In Australia over ½ our population is on Facebook and we are ranked one of the heaviest users globally spending more time on Facebook than any other social platform.
If you choose to use Facebook for internet marketing purposes, please remember a few fundamentals – set up a Page with the correct category, enhanced for check-ins and add your menu.
Instagram is owned by Facebook and was one of the fastest growing major social networks in 2015. Engagement on Instagram is higher than Facebook and now with Facebook’s integrated advertising capabilities and user generated #hashtag campaigns, Instagram really is emerging as a leader in hospitality marketing.
Don’t discount Twitter in 2016. This is a social network where the tendency of users is to obsess about food and drink – work it to your advantage.
Restaurants can net great results on Pinterest as it’s ideally suited for beautiful images and who doesn’t love beautiful food and decor images. Professional looking photography is required so if you’re just learning how to take photos on your smartphone, leave out Pinterest.
Google’s social network for people– we’ve sort of covered it with Google My Business. If you set up a My Business account, Google will create a Google + account. Make sure you are there, even if only as an outpost at present and you choose not to use it as a social network.
NB: There are many more social media networking sites, these are just a few of the fundamentals you may wish to consider for your restaurants internet marketing.
3. Review the Reviewers
Best to keep an eye on any review sites as customers can gather information as well as post opinions of your restaurant. Review sites and apps include:
- And the list goes on
It’s unsurpassed word of mouth marketing, but unfortunately if the information is incorrect or you’ve received a bad review, you could be looking at potential brand damage.
Ensure that you monitor these sites, claim listings where possible, take note of reviews and keep the information updated. If you do receive a bad review, deal with it in a professional manner and remember your reply will be seen by anyone researching your restaurant, so don’t get personal or caught in name calling.
4. Win with a Website
Unlike your social media channels, you actually own your website so it should be the epicenter of your online marketing and contain attractive pictures, exceptional content, social proof and be search optimized and mobile responsive.
Sadly, many resource poor restaurants still believe they cannot afford a website. Realistically, with so many website building platforms around nowdays this is not the case. If you have put a website on the backburner or just don’t know where to start the process, download our free website design brief guide which will step you through the process.
If you do have a website, keep it up to date – Google likes new content as do your customers! So update your menu, images and other relevant information as needed.
5. Get Campaigning
Food and Wine are part of the travel experience and the demand is growing globally. Tourism Australia created the ‘Restaurant Australia’ campaign in 2014 to highlight to the world Australia’s unique food offerings. Since the launch of the campaign in May 2014, spend on food and wine tourism in Australia has grown by $697 million (or 16.6 per cent) (source Tourism Australia). For more information on how to get involved in this campaign, visit the Tourism Australia website.
These are a few basic tips to help you be found by your customers online. In no way is this a definitive guide. Just think of it as your internet marketing basics – a checklist.
Until next time…..