Retarget Your Restaurant Marketing to Improve Your ROI

Restaurant Marketing

Use Retargeting to Get More Repeat Visitors

Almost 95 out of 100 first-time visitors to your restaurant website will leave without taking any action. That means no reservation, no call for more information and no attempt to sign up for your in-house newsletter.

On the surface, that's a lot of nothing. But there is an effective way to get in front of these interested potential diners a second time while increasing engagement and conversion rates by more than 70%.

The secret is retargeting your marketing efforts. Retargeting is one of the most powerful, cost-effective ways to continuously stay top-of-mind to those who have, effectively, raised their hand by saying, "I want to know more about your restaurant!" As a restaurateur, you've invested in creating a high-quality website and driving traffic to it. Retargeting is great at helping you continue to communicate with your audience in efforts to create customers.

What is Retargeting & Why Will it Help My Restaurant?

Retargeting is a form of digital advertising where you show targeted display ads, or social media ads, to people who have visited your site but took no action. As a consumer, you've probably seen multiple retargeting ads without realizing retargeting was at play.

The concept of retargeting is easy to understand:

Let's assume that you recently went to Olive Garden's website, then moved on. Because you left without calling, joining their newsletter or making a reservation, you wind up in the company's retargeting pool. Suddenly, you see ads for the restaurant when you visit other sites across the web. That's a standard retargeting campaign in action, and it works really well at driving people back to the advertiser's website.

Retargeting technically works using a snippet of JavaScript code that gets embedded onto a site's page. This is sometimes referred to as a tracking pixel. The JS tag drops an anonymous cookie on the user visiting that page and adds that user to a specific group or audience that you can begin retargeting. That audience then begins receiving the targeted ads when they visit other sites. The more visitors you have to your site, the larger your 'retargetable' audience is.

While there are many companies and platforms that can do retargeting, three that are widely considered to be the biggest and best. A breakdown:

Google is the granddaddy of Internet advertising, and this extends to retargeting. Because of their near-ubiquitous presence online, Google makes it easy to reach people who visited your site without "taking action." Google Adwords has the unique advantage of being able to plug into your Google Analytics for audience data.

Facebook is a powerful place to engage with prospective customers because shoppers typically are in a good mood while on the platform. That provides a great opportunity to insert your brand messaging into their platform as part of your retargeting efforts.

AdRoll is a great option for retargeting outside of Google and Facebook. They were one of the original retargeting specialty companies and quickly grew into one of the biggest. AdRoll is connected with all of the biggest global ad exchanges, so their scale is massive. They also have their own sophisticated and effective optimization algorithms that "learn" about your audience to yield real results that improve over time.

Step-By-Step Retargeting Tactics That Will Work

To make the most of your retargeting efforts, there is a process to follow and steps to take to make sure you have a smooth experience. As you engage in retargeting efforts, be sure you include these steps:


You'll want to make sure you are geo-targeting your ads, even though most people on your retargeting list will be in your area. There is no point showing ads to someone who is too far away to coDayparting


You may want to set your retargeting ads to appear only when your restaurant is open for business. You can do that. Additional, advanced, day-parting tactics also exist.

Frequency Capping

Frequency capping controls how many times a visitor will see your retargeted ad each day. You want people to see your retargeting ads often enough that your restaurant stays top-of-mind, but not so much that they become annoying. Ideally, send no more than 10 ad impressions per day.

What To Promote & Ad Copy And Messaging

You can promote anything you offer, but the most successful restaurant retargeting ads typically promote things like happy hour, brunch, and half-price wine bottles.

The first your prospective customer will see is a display ad, so make it look good! Involve a professional designer to ensure your images are crisp and clear, with your copy is formatted correctly.

Visual Appeal

Including images of diners having fun in your restaurant allows the recipient to imagine themselves being part of the fun, too. No matter how attractive and inviting your restaurant looks by itself, marketing images with people typically perform better than ones that don't include people.

Use a Clear, Concise Call-to-Action

Once you have the attention of your potential diner, make sure they know who are you and want do you want them to know or do. If you're adding live music on Friday nights, make that clear ... and urge them to come and listen! Be sure to stress a clear, concise, call-to-action.

Sell the Benefits, Not the Features

In short-form marketing efforts, it's important to convey the benefit over the feature. That's doubly true for display ads. While you could just say "We're now offering brunch," you'll make things more enticing -- and draw more customers -- by highlighting champagne brunch as a classy, socially acceptable way to drink in the morning.

Clever copy about a perceived benefit is more memorable to potential customers than a new feature. It's also more likely to trigger a reaction and a Sunday brunch reservation.

Size Matters

When designing creatives for retargeting ads, remember to design for multiple ad sizes, as well as multiple devices. Make sure your ad is adaptable to the large rectangle (300x250) of a desktop, as well as mobile web ads. Be sure to avoid trying to squeeze too much information into a tiny ad. The most popular ad sizes are 300x250, 728x90, 160x600, 300x600,


Embrace the acronym KISS, which stands for "Keep it simple, Stupid." The purpose of your retargeting ad is to impart one takeaway on to an engaged prospective diner and convince that individual to take action. If you're running a special -- like 2 for 1 drinks during a televised sporting event -- be clear in telling the ad recipient to come in and mention they saw the ad to receive the special.

Advanced Tactics

Capitalize on advanced tactics, like the use of email lists. If you have access to a large email address list of customers, you now have the ability to upload this list to Google and Facebook.

Those platforms will create an audience by matching those addresses to known users on their platform. This will allow you to perpetually serve ads to people who have opted in into your restaurant's newsletter. Your customer won't know they are being targeted via your email address. They will just think they are seeing ads for a restaurant they like. It's a win-win situation.

Use Dayparting to Customize Your Messaging

To customize and focus your messages, you can set up multiple retargeting campaigns based on the day of the week or your hours of operation. Example: From 10 am - 2 pm on Mon - Fri, you could run a lunch ad. From 3pm - 5pm, you could run a happy hour or dinner ad. On Friday, Saturday and Sundays, you could run brunch retargeting ads.

Share Pixels Across Multiple Websites

If you own more than one restaurant, with more than one website. you can share retargeting pixels and enable visitors to see ads for your other restaurants. It's that simple.

Add a Retargeting Pixel to Email Marketing Messages

Because promotional emails are just HTML webpages, you can add a retargeting pixel to your email messages that assure all of your recipients get added to your retargeting list. To make it work, you must use the non-Javascript version of your retargeting code.

Grow Your Restaurant's Brand through Retargeting

Retargeting is used by every Fortune 500 company and multiple mom-and-pop retail shops because it is so cost-effective. However, virtually no restaurants use it, and less than 1% of local businesses take advantage of it. When used correctly, retargeting can be a super-effective tool at helping to build your restaurant brand while generating new customers and increasing revenues.