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Restaurant marketing ideas: content, social & more!

You’ll no doubt be aware that the restaurant game is constantly changing. There are probably more ways than ever to attract new customers, but also more competition as well.

That’s why we’ve put together a handy guide for our beloved clients who are facing off against restaurant chains and supermarket meal deals. We hope you find something that will help you compete and succeed!

6 content and marketing ideas for restaurants

Take a look at the following six ideas for how you can market your restaurant to gain new customers and see more of your existing ones. There’s a variety of ideas that cover content, social media and general marketing; so there should be something for you. And why six? Why not!

1. Consider your content

First off, don’t hide your food menu from search engines. Too many restaurant owners opt for the convenience of uploading a picture of their menu or attaching a PDF document.

Unfortunately, search engines don’t process visual information like we do. They will typically only index two significant text references for an image: the file name and any alt-text.

PDFs do get indexed in full, but as you are unlikely to have written web-optimised structure for the document. As it’s a distinct web entity from your (hopefully) well-structured page, references to your location and your foods won’t necessarily be recognised.

That’s why you should ideally put your staple menu favourites and their delicious descriptions on your site. Then if someone searches for “steak restaurant” in your location, and your kitchen serves steaks, search engines will hopefully have indexed the relevant words on your site, meaning an increased chance of displaying in the customer’s search results.

Top tip: think about the human touch as well – if you can post pictures of your happy staff on your website and social media, it helps with customer identification.

2. Get down with directories

Love them or hate them, you’ll no doubt be aware that restaurant directories are here to stay. And with Google’s July 2015 update, it is also apparent that the search engine giant is returning to a model that favours third-party directory reviews.

Dishing the dirt on directories (source)

26% of smartphone users access directory apps to find new local restaurants
21% use directories when away from home
30% use directories for convenience

So, if you want tourists or new customers to find your restaurant in local and map-based searches, you’d do well to make sure that you’re registered with all the right websites. Put your business on the map by registering with authoritative hospitality directories such as:

NB We don’t recommend engaging in any of the premium offerings of these sites. It should be enough to register for free and add a profile link to your website.

Top tip: if you want to really get on the map, Google a successful rival’s NAP (Name, Address & Phone) and see what directories they are registered on – it may provide invaluable insights on niche local food directories or even regional food bloggers who you can invite over for dinner!

3. Own your online presence

It’s a sad fact of life (and sometimes a harsh one) that people can review your restaurant whether you choose to register yourself online or not. And yes, there are people out there who are professional complainers.

You probably have your own strategy for dealing with such types in the real world. As a recommendation, you should consider keeping an eye on your social media and directory profiles to ensure that somebody isn’t grinding their axe online too.

Of course, it’s entirely up to each business how they respond to criticism, and this writer has known of hugely successful Edinburgh restauranteurs who have reacted to one-star reviews with glee. But oftentimes, a genuine offer of reconciliation or an unfailingly polite statement of your point of view is enough to make people think twice about complaints.

Stats on service and social ( source)

A good customer experience on social will be told to 42 people
A bad customer experience on social will be told to 53 people
Only 36% of people who raised customer service issues on social media report a quick and effective resolution

Top tip: set up a Google Alert based on your business name, and you will be notified whenever a reference to your restaurant is made online.

4. Imagery for foodies

The Great British Bake Off, Great British Menu, the ceaseless tsunami of Facebook and Instagram pics of people’s dinner: there’s no shortage of evidence that “food porn” is heavily embedded in the consciousness of our nation.

So, it makes a whole bundle of sense to tap in to people’s somewhat bizarre urge for digesting food in purely digital form by serving up what they crave. Uploading quality pictures of your top dishes is not as easy as it sounds – smartphone pictures are no substitute for professional photography – but with a few tweaks you should be able to stir the imagination.

There’s no shortage of imagery driven sites and social media outlets that are just waiting for your inedible images of food. If you have the time (or a social-media-obsessed member of staff who can be bribed into doing it on your behalf), then consider the following networks:

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

You should also be generous with your images on-site, alongside those text menus that we insisted you include as part of our first tip. Fabulous food pics will help add some substance to your price lists, while whetting the appetite of your website visitors.

Food porn facts

In 2012, 57% of Pinterest users interacted with food-related images. Food is still one of the most popular categories, particularly on a Sunday.
The Great British Bake Off series 6 kicked off being watched by 43% of the UK TV viewing public. What is wrong with you people? (Ed – opinion is writer’s own)
“Fruit and veggies are still getting the shaft” says Bolthouse Farms on their Food Porn Index. There have been 185.8 million food hashtags on Twitter and Instagram over the last 3 months, but only 34.1% are healthy. What is wrong with… oh, never mind!

Top tip: search for “smartphone camera tips and tricks” before you start snapping shots, and use an app like Trendzer’s Aviary photo editor or Picmonkey to deliver a polished picture.

5. Reward loyalty with a programme

As any restauranteur worth their coarse ground sea salt will know, discounting can often fill your seats but put pressure on profit margins and customer service. If you want to encourage customers to come to your restaurant more often, why not start with the ones who are already there?

A loyalty programme is a great way to say “thanks for stopping by” while encouraging a return visit later. Whether you’re going with an Old Skool card-and-stamp system, or one of the cutting edge loyalty apps like Loyalzoo or its competitors, people like being rewarded for repeat custom.

If your restaurant is more high-end, you may be reluctant to offer a loyalty card as your customers probably don’t care about price. But there may still be room to increase lunchtime business trade or a traditionally slow month with a selective card.

Loyalty lowdown

71% of UK customers are more likely to return if offered a loyalty scheme
65% would download an app to access special offers
80% would return to benefit from loyalty schemes

Top tip: consider offering a scaled loyalty programme so that loyalty is genuinely recognised as each card is completed, e.g. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum cards with increasingly impressive rewards.

6. Engage with email: monthly newsletters

Running a restaurant means you don’t have time to spend your entire life in front of a computer: we do understand that. But while social media promotion is de rigeur, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t overlook a classic – and less time-consuming – alternative.

Email marketing is made remarkably simple with handy campaign management tools such as MailChimp. You can craft a basic template branded with your logo and details in no more time than it takes to set up a social media account.

Once that’s done, sending out an email campaign even just once a month is a great way to highlight special offers, promote new seasonal menus, or wish your loyal customers a happy holiday season.

Top tip: an easy way to gain willing subscribers is to offer a monthly prize draw in exchange for business cards or email addresses – just make sure that you explicitly state that you will be contacting them via email in exchange for their details. It’s the law!

Until next time…

That’s all for now. Hopefully, you’ve found some useful ideas that you can put into practice. And if you need more ideas on online marketing, bookmark our blog page and follow us on social media.

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