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Restaurant Industry Marketing Tips

The restaurant business has changed. If you run a local eatery, it’s not good enough anymore to make great food, wait for people to stop by, and hope they tell their friends.

According to OpenTable, almost 90% of restaurant customers “always” or “frequently” find a restaurant online before they eat out. 86% check a menu first, and 60% look at photos. You can’t just be a good cook anymore — you have to market.

Make Sure You Have A Social Presence

Have you heard the term “food porn”? People love taking and looking at high-quality photos of the food they eat, and you can’t afford to miss out. Instagram is king — the #foodporn hashtag has almost 180 million uses on Instagram.

You need to be on Instagram. Whether it’s fresh ingredients arriving to the kitchen, a new dish, or a regular promotion, high-quality photos provide a visceral draw to potential customers.

This goes for your website, too. If you’re going to have photos on your site, they need to be high-quality. Entry-level DSLRs go for less than a thousand dollars, and there are plenty of tips online for how to take great food photos, so don’t just snap a few shots with your phone and call it good. It may even be worth bringing in a pro every so often to refresh your imagery.

You Need A Website

This is true for most businesses, but especially true for restaurants these days. The days of walking down Main Street and taking a chance on a restaurant are mostly over. Diners out and about have smartphones, and they’re checking prices and menus before they set foot in your building.

A website makes you easier to find for new guests who haven’t run across you in person, and it allows you to reach a larger group of people, especially if you’re off the main drag.

It’s also the perfect way to show off your menu, post photos of your food and venue, and talk about specials and happy hours. Quick note: put your menu on the site. Downloadable PDFs are annoying on desktops and near-impossible to work with on mobile.

A website also allows you to brag about the publicity you’ve gotten. Once you get some positive reviews, throw them together in a curated page where potential customers can find them.

Take Advantage of Email Marketing

Grow an email list by asking diners for their information after they eat. That way, you know the list only contains people who’ve tried your food and liked it. Email marketing is a balancing act — don’t send too many, but stay at the top of your customers’ minds.

Emails are the perfect way to show off new additions to the menu, as well as special offers like weekly and holiday specials. Talk about upcoming events, then send another email after the event to encourage people to come to the next one.

Many eateries even do birthday offers! If you make it clear at signup that the customer will get something free for their birthday, they’ll be more likely to give you their birth date, providing you with valuable demographic information.

Get Listed On Food Apps

If you take reservations, getting set up with OpenTable helps new diners find your establishment and removes the friction of calling into a busy restaurant to reserve a table. Your staff don’t have to spend time taking calls or keeping track of reservations, and your customers don’t have to call in to get their table — millennials don’t like making phone calls.

Other apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp are more review-focused. These are apps that focus heavily on previous user reviews, which are increasingly important in making a dining decision.

If your restaurant service a particular dietary niche — paleo, vegan, gluten-free, etc. — you should seek out apps for those particular dietary restrictions. People who have trouble finding places to eat use apps to sort through the sea of options, so they’re a great way to get noticed.

Look into the apps that will serve you best and make sure you get set up as well as you can. Post photos of your location and food, upload a current menu, check that your address and phone number are correct, and let the foot traffic roll in!

Be Proactive When It Comes To Review Sites

We mentioned earlier that 60% of diners check for reviews from other diners before they eat out, and most of those reviews are going to come from sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. You should establish a presence on those “big three” sites before you open, but people are going to review you whether you set up your restaurant there or not.

Put up photos of your restaurant and food, and lots of them. Focus on quality — you want your shots to stand out even if everyone else is taking low-quality cell phone pics. Make sure your hours, location, and contact info are up to date.

Upload a menu so shoppers can see what you offer. Unless you’re running a very high-end place, include prices on the menu. If your food isn’t in shoppers’ price range, they won’t just stick around and pay it, they’ll leave unsatisfied. Price is a big factor in the buyer’s journey for restaurants, and you don’t want to attract diners who don’t want to pay your prices anyway.

Mention any extra amenities your restaurant has. Do you offer wi-fi? Valet parking? Outdoor seating? A patio heater in the winter? Anything that might inform a customer’s decision is worth mentioning.

Watch Your Online Feedback

Once customers are in the door, you’re officially in the delight phase of your inbound marketing — making sure they have a great time. Obviously, this starts with the food, but atmosphere, staff, music, and a number of other factors will affect it too.

You’re going to get some bad feedback eventually. When you do, address it quickly and professionally. Don’t lose your temper, no matter how unreasonable the customer may be. If you made a genuine mistake like a lost reservation or overcooked dish, own up to it and maybe offer them a free meal to compensate.

What you can’t afford to do is let negative feedback spread across the web without addressing it. Yelp and Google allow owners to respond, and you should be doing so within 24 hours of receiving a bad review. Set up a Google Alert for the name of your restaurant so that you can see when mentions of you pop up.

And focus on the positive, too! Thank people for coming, and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed themselves. Like and share positive posts about you on social media. Offer coupons to customers if they leave a review — people are more likely to leave a review if it’s negative, so make sure the people that loved you are making their voices heard as well.


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