Did you know that 92% of restaurants now use Facebook as a key channel for branding and marketing?
This neatly illustrates a considerably different market to what it once was. For instance, with half of consumers now saying that a restaurant’s sustainability influences their booking decision, restaurateurs have a tough marketing task.
How do you meet the expectations of increasingly conscious diners? Which communications should you choose from the myriad of digital platforms available? And what about the stuff you’re not even aware of? For example, did to you know your WiFi service could provide crucial insight into customer behaviour?
We’ve singled out three marketing strategies for 2020 which every restaurant should be working on - now.
1. Your website
With one restaurant booking platform claiming that online reservations have increased by 130% in the last five years, it’s clear times are changing.
Hotels have long enjoyed a healthy flow of online bookings, but the restaurant industry has been slow to catch up.
Unfortunately, that's resulted in far too many restaurant websites lacking any form of availability checking or booking option.
As time draws on, most people are going to find your restaurant online, and they’re going to expect to be able to book.
If you play your cards right, they may even return to leave a positive review, rather than a stinking one on TripAdvisor. It might even become the hub of your loyalty scheme (recommended reading: The Psychology of Loyalty Programs and Why They Work).
We can’t underestimate the role your website plays in the overall marketing strategy - it’s pivotal to everything.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO). Yes, this is tough in an industry dominated by the bigger players such as OpenTable, but you can still make your voice heard as an independent restaurant on Google. An SEO agency is a good investment, but you can aid the effort by regularly writing blogs that include keywords relating to your restaurant and its locality.
- Google My Business. It’s free, easy-to-use and backed by the biggest search engine on the planet. If you haven’t updated your Google My Business listing - 2020 is the time to do so. It’ll help immeasurably with your local SEO performance and enable you to put the right information in front of potential diners at the right time.
- Email marketing. If you’re collecting the email addresses of your diners but not doing anything with them, you’re leaving money on the table. Spend this year sending out at least one newsletter per month to those people. Show them what they’re missing out on by not returning; updates to your menu, new decor, offers and events are perfect for email marketing.
2. Social media
If you set up your restaurant’s social media accounts with good intentions only to leave them resembling digital content graveyards, it’s time to get serious.
Social media is a necessary part of running any kind of restaurant, but it has the added bonus of being fun and capable of extending the reach of your brand further than any other channel.
The more you make social media marketing a habit, the more people will engage with you and the less of a burden it will become. You may even start to enjoy it.
- Facebook. This is now largely a ‘pay-to-play’ platform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gain some useful engagement with organic posting. Try creating a group on Facebook and ask diners to get involved. Also, try running the odd competition; a free branded mug giveaway might be enough to get a few hundred likes on your page.
- Instagram. Arguably one of the most effective platforms for restaurants, Instagram is the perfect place on which to publish photos of your food, decor and team at work. Snap away every day, and ask trusted colleagues to do the same. Use hashtags judiciously, and you should start to see plenty of engagement while building the perfect visual CV for your restaurant.
- Twitter (to a lesser extent). Twitter is important in restaurant marketing, but not quite as powerful as Facebook and Instagram. It therefore pays to keep posting as regularly as you can, but with the mindset of keeping the account active and available if diners want to engage with you. There’s also no harm in re-sharing content from Facebook and Instagram.
3. Online reputation
Online reviews aren’t the enemy - they’re to be tamed and taken advantage of, even if they’re not very pretty.
This year, websites like TripAdvisor could become a key source of referrals and new, direct bookings for you.
You just need to treat it like a marketing channel.
- Grabbing reviews before they hit TripAdvisor. If you can encourage guests to offer feedback directly to you either via the restaurant website or some other form of feedback system, you’ll be able to use those reviews to your advantage and tackle the bad reviews before they become a global issue on TripAdvisor.
- Turning bad experiences into great experiences. It’s possible to handle bad TripAdvisor reviews effectively. In doing so, you could turn a bad experience into something which guarantees a repeat booking and lots of new bookings from admiring onlookers.
- Finding your own influencers. Influencer marketing doesn’t have to cost millions; every independent restaurant can gather together its biggest fans and encourage them to share their experiences. Encourage ‘Instagrammable’ dishes from your kitchen and contact your most consistent repeat visitors to see if they’ll say a few good words about you on your social media channels.
We won’t use this space to tell you how competitive the restaurant industry is, because you know that. However, if you don’t pay attention to the restaurant marketing strategies above, you’ll stand far less of a chance of growing and thriving.
Just remember to keep developing the restaurant’s voice as you branch out into more digital channels - it’ll become the first impression of your business for most of your future diners.