With more than 1 million restaurants in the US, the challenge is making yours stand out. Making that happen requires effective digital marketing.
To make your restaurant special, you depend on your menu, your staff, and your hospitality. But it is your online presence that sets your restaurant apart and causes it to get noticed. Without getting noticed, all of the other special touches will not keep you in business very long.
Marketing is the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to finding and retaining customers. Just how important is digital marketing in today's business environment? Have a look:
When you do a Google search of our restaurant’s name, will it appear when you use the term “best restaurant in” the city where you're located? If you are not getting the results you desire, follow this six-step plan to improve your website and get it to the top of those search engine rankings. The elements to address:
1. OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE: If your website looks outdated, improving these five features will make any diner want to eat at your restaurant:
o Make it mobile-friendly: Last year, 52 percent of global online traffic was generated through mobile phones. That figure was up by 2 % from the previous year, meaning that potential customers will be searching for your restaurant on their mobile device in increasing numbers for years to come. To succeed, you will need to make sure your website is easy to navigate on a cell phone.
o Post a legible, updated menu: Most potential customers visit your website to see your menu and your prices. Make sure your menu is easy to read on desktop and mobile devices, without the need to no zoom in for a closer look.
o Include calls-to-action: When customers access your site, make it easy for them to contact your restaurant or make a reservation online. Both buttons should be prominent on your website, with no scrolling is necessary to get them to call or make a dinner reservation.
o Clearly show your hours of service: If you only serve brunch on Sunday mornings, make sure your customers know that. Having your daily hours or service at the bottom of your homepage and on a dedicated page will ensure that no one shows up for dinner on a night when you are closed.
o Make online ordering available: According to the National Restaurant Association, 60 % of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout at least once a week. If you don’t already offer online ordering to your customers, be sure to tap into one of the fastest-growing facets of our industry.
2. INVEST IN SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO): Every successful business needs to have a strong online presence, making quality SEO an essential element of your website to drive more diners to your door. Some ways to boost your SEO include:
o Optimize your Google Business, Yelp Business, and Facebook Business profiles by verifying ownership and making sure your business’ name, address, and phone number are consistent.
o Encourage customers to leave reviews on your website. This validates that you are running a legitimate business. If you need some assistance driving reviews, post about it on social media or offer an incentive for customers who leave a positive review.
o Having your website linked on other authoritative websites will give your business a search engine boost. If your business has been featured in a city tourism guide or on a news outlet, reach out and ask if they can link back to your website if they haven’t already.
TIP: Use Google Search Console to learn what people are searching to find your website. This will help you tailor your website’s content to make sure that people are finding you online.
3. SOLICIT & MONITOR POSITIVE REVIEWS FROM DINERS: Positive reviews are critical to the success of any business, and especially to a restaurant. Some important numbers to consider as they pertain to restaurants:
o 92% of consumers read reviews
o 77% prefer peer reviews over critics' reviews.
o 33% would never eat at a restaurant with less than four stars.
The numbers don’t lie. To get the reviews you need, there are two ways to drive and maintain reviews: ask and respond.
Be sure to take time at the end of your customer’s meal to ask them to leave a review on your platform of choice, or follow up on their visit with an email that thanks them for visiting and asks them to leave a review. Once the review is posted, be sure to respond to the customer. If it’s a good review, thank the person for visiting and encourage them to return. If it’s a bad review, make sure you leave a proper apology: express remorse, admit responsibility, tell them what you’re doing to fix it, and offer a way to follow up with a phone call or via email.
TIP: Use an aggregator to keep reviews together in one place.
4. BOOST YOUR BUSINESS WITH EMAIL MARKETING: Email remains an essential element of your marketing efforts. To boost your impact, try sending emails at different times; test different subject lines, or even include an emoji in the subject line. If your email engagement and click-through rates are low: Be personal, use photos, and use website analytics to determine which content on your site is most popular with your audience.
DID YOU KNOW? Studies show that repeat customers account for 33% of revenue but only 15% of total customers in your restaurant. Email marketing is a great way to get customers to return and become regulars.
5. UNDERSTAND & ENHANCE YOUR CUSTOMER VALUE: Focusing on the lifetime value of a customer is key to the success of your business. Understanding your audience is key to boosting the lifetime value of a customer. Three ways to do it include:
o Stay atop the search traffic in your area. Rival restaurants aren’t your only competition. Delivery services like Uber Eats and GrubHub are cutting into the search traffic, as well as reservation websites like OpenTable.
o Collect customer information. Be sure to build your own database of customer contact information so you don’t have to rely on third parties.
o Offer special programs. Make your customers feel like family with programs and special offers that will make your restaurant their favorite.
SUCCESS STORY: West End, a Chicago restaurant, identified a drop in business from repeat customers. They implemented marketing programs to focus on regulars and increased revenue by $72,000 in just three months.
6. MEASURE RESULTS: Every marketing strategy should be measurable, which is why you should always track how much you’re spending on promotions. Once the promotion is complete, you will be able to measure the return on investment (ROI).
The best way to make goals is to make sure they’re SMART:
o Specific: Lack of clarity around a goal can hurt your success. Making a concrete goal is imperative. Instead of saying you'd like to add more Facebook posts, say, "I want to increase my Facebook engagement by 50% by the end of the year.”
o Measurable: It’s important to have measurable goals to track your progress, stay motivated and reach your goal.
o Achievable: Being realistic is crucial to the success of a goal. If your goal is to increase your rating on Google from three stars to five stars but don’t request enough reviews to make it happen, you cannot achieve it.
o Relevant: Your goals should be right for you, your employees, and your business. If you’re setting a goal for the wrong reasons, you’ll never reach it.
o Time-bound: Like being “achievable,” the timeline of your goal should be realistic, too. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to do it.