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The 5 best restaurant marketing ideas

Americans love to eat out. Restaurants hold an impressive 51% of the food dollar in the U.S. meaning more than half of what we spend on food, we spend on delectable goodies from our favorite pizzeria or that irresistible little Thai place on the corner. For owners and managers eager for their share of the pie, it’s crucial to utilize fun and effective restaurant marketing ideas to reach more customers. 

5 Restaurant marketing ideas to accelerate your business

To help you, we’ve collected our top five favorite restaurant marketing ideas you can use to grow awareness for your restaurant, bring in new customers, and positively impact your sales.

1. Build a website that’s representative of your brand

There are two main reasons your restaurant needs a website: your competition already has one and your target demographic is looking for yours.

A comprehensive survey of restaurant-goers found that:

  • 77% of consumers surveyed say they’re likely to peruse a restaurant’s website before they ultimately dine in or order delivery
  • 68% have decided against visiting a restaurant because of something they saw or experienced on that restaurant’s website
  • 62% said a restaurant website deterred them from ordering takeout or delivery

It’s especially telling that the vast majority of survey participants said they were visiting restaurant websites as the final part of the decision-making process. The intent is already there — think of these website visitors as warm leads. People are hungry. They’re looking for a reason to finalize their decision for lunch or dinner, and it’s up to you to close the deal. Ideally, your website is ready to act as your marketing campaign, sales rep, and customer service team all rolled into one tempting package.

If you don’t have a website, now is the perfect time to build one. If you already have a site, look at it with a critical eye, imagining you’re in potential diners’ shoes. Either way, make sure you’ve ticked all the following boxes:

  • Share your hours of operation, contact information, and menu (and if those are already up, double-check they’re up to date)
  • Include links to your social media profiles to help build your following
  • If you’re a Grubhub customer, including your Direct Ordering Link is a great way to increase your order volume and catch customers who are looking to order directly from your restaurant business

Your website is an opportunity to convey your restaurant’s brand and story. Something as simple as an About Us page can help your audience appreciate your story and your vision. It’s nice to establish that rapport, but being on the same page matters for more practical reasons, too; 57% of customers will spend more money on a brand they feel connected to, and 76% will choose that brand over a competitor.

2. Use social media marketing to engage with your target audience

To make the most of your restaurant marketing, take your message to the people. According to Pew Research, the people are on social media, with 7 out of 10 Americans using some type of social platform. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat — that’s where people go to share pictures of artfully plated tapas and fishbowl-sized fruit punches. But it’s always where they go to see where their friends are eating and what their favorite restaurants are cooking up in the kitchen that week.

Sprout Social considers social media to be a growth engine, and the results of their latest survey support that assertion. Of those consumers surveyed, 89% said they will buy from a brand they follow on social media and 84% say they’d choose that brand over one of the brand’s competitors. And it’s no coincidence the numbers here mirror the statistics above related to brand loyalty and connection.

If your restaurant isn’t on social media, you’re missing out on one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to build and leverage a marketing presence. Social platforms are where you attract potential customers and engage with existing ones. From witty banter about what happened during last Friday’s happy hour to behind-the-scenes videos that turn your Instagram Stories into a preview of what guests will be ordering for dinner that night, your social feed is a spokesperson that’s accessible 24/7.

To make the most of social, avoid trying to master all possible channels at the same time. Think about your restaurant’s target audience in terms of demographics (age, gender, location, etc.), and decide which platform makes sense for your restaurant. To get you started, here’s a look at each platform according to its largest age group:

  • Snapchat: 13 to 24-year-olds
  • TikTok: 18 to 24-year-olds
  • Facebook: 25 to 34-year-olds
  • Instagram: 25 to 34-year-olds
  • Twitter: 30 to 49-year-olds
  • Pinterest: 30 to 49-year-olds

Concentrate your efforts on the platforms with the most potential and branch out from there once you have established feeds and the resources to scale.

3. Optimize your listing on Google my Business

As a restaurant owner, you already know how important it is for diners near your restaurant to be able to find you as easily as possible. With 46% of searches being locally focused thanks to the inclusion of terms like “near me,” algorithms automatically highlight Google My Business, which is why it’s important you optimize your restaurant’s listing on Google. 

Google my Business is a free listing that connects businesses with customers across Google Search and Maps. By creating a Google My Business account, you can “claim” your restaurant’s page and then edit your information, post photos, and share special offers like an appetizer deal or two-for-one desserts. This is another great spot to include contact details such as your Grubhub Direct Order Listing so customers can connect with a quick click of the button or tap of their finger.

4. Partner with local press, food bloggers, and food critics to boost your restaurant’s profile

So far, most of these restaurant marketing ideas have focused on what you can do in house, but sometimes you need a little outside assistance. Partnering with local press, food bloggers, and food critics is an effective way to build trust throughout your community and increase awareness about your restaurant, upcoming events, and exciting news like a new chef or seasonal menu change.

There are no rules governing who can call themselves a blogger, so rely on due diligence before partnering up with anyone promising online coverage and local exposure. True influencers offer specific details as to how your restaurant will be featured, where content will be published, and how many social mentions you’ll get. Engagement is key here — it doesn’t matter how many followers a blogger has if no one reads their posts. Look for accounts with plenty of comments and shares as an indication that readers are paying attention and interacting.

As for journalists, you can reach out to your local newspaper to see who offers community coverage. Some neighborhoods also have free papers; these publications are particularly interested in stories with local flavor, and your story will reach the people most likely to drop in on a weeknight or order delivery. If you’re not sure who to reach out to or just want to cast a wider net, check out HARO, an online database of journalists.

5. List your restaurant on an online ordering marketplace

Working with an online ordering provider like Grubhub provides instant access to thousands of customers in your area as well as adding third-party credibility to your growing brand.

When Erika Emeruwa and her partner opened The Council Cafe in New York they knew they needed to find ways to drive brand awareness for their new cafe, and that is why they turned to Grubhub. “As a new business, we knew we needed an awareness drive to tell people we were here,” Emeruwa said. “ Grubhub allowed us to get in front of customers that didn’t know us.” 

Erika Emeruwa built a successful restaurant business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being on Grubhub gave us credibility with potential customers.

Erika Emeruwa The Council Cafe

Since joining the Grubhub Marketplace, the Council cafe has seen month-to-month growth in sales. 

When you join the Grubhub Marketplace, you can scale your business quickly thanks to an influx of pickup and delivery orders from new customers. Plus, you get access to free marketing tools like:

  • Ratings and reviews: Attract new customers with your ratings and engage with your existing customer base by responding directly to customer reviews on your menu page
  • Insights: Take advantage of valuable recommendations based on data that compares your business to top restaurants in your area
  • Virtual restaurants: Create a separate delivery-only virtual restaurant within your brick-and-mortar restaurant that exclusively accepts orders online to boost revenue without increasing your overhead costs
  • Promotions and loyalty: Our promotion and loyalty tools are free to use — you only pay for the rewards your customers redeem

The restaurant industry is a tricky place where you often get out what you put in. By incorporating these restaurant marketing ideas into your overall strategy, you can maximize your existing resources, harness the power of existing new tools, and make sure your kitchen is a hive of activity every day of the week.

Ready to grow your restaurant business? Join Grubhub today!

Sign up with Grubhub for Restaurants

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