A restaurant is nothing without paying customers. No matter how delicious your dishes, or how attractive the menu that lists them, you won't stay open unless you give strangers a reason to walk inside and place an order. Marketing is the best way to do that, and in the fast-paced, tech-savvy restaurant industry, digital marketing is mandatory. However, it's important to make sure your online efforts actually translate into offline business.
The following tips and tricks are effective ways to harness the true potential of your restaurant's online presence. Discuss them with your staff, integrate them into your marketing strategies, and see how many tables you can fill with a little extra online effort.
Offer Appetizing Incentives in your menu
Printable coupons, birthday discounts, day-of-the-week menu specials, and other price-slashing incentives give you an edge over other restaurants. Instead of focusing on your competitors, put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers.
For example, if you serve a dish that capitalizes on current culinary trends, remember that your competitors may jack the prices to take advantage of this trend. Post or email a coupon that people can print or pull up on their smartphones. If they've heard about the newest food trend and they're scrolling through their news feed, your coupon might be the push they need to give it a try.
Host and Promote Special Events
Everyone loves a party! Invite your online visitors to special events at your restaurant, and use creative promotion tactics to make sure the events sound worthwhile. Your grand opening may get some column inches in the local paper, but readers may forget all about it before the big day. Give your social media followers a preview, such as photos of drink or menu specials or local performers who will be there.
This is a great way to engage your staff, too. Your servers will feel more valuable – and more invested in your restaurant's success – if you seek out their ideas for special events and promotions. For example, maybe a line cook volunteers for a local charity that needs help with an upcoming fundraising effort; you could donate a percentage of your proceeds on a given day. Or maybe a bartender has a great idea for a contest that will entice competitive millennials. Use their connections to plan events worth attending.
Make the Most of Your Emails
If you want your restaurant marketing emails to stand out in a sea of spam, make them as valuable and entertaining as possible. Instead of filling a weekly newsletter with generic facts, look for opportunities to send emails that actually matter. When you add a new item to your menu, make sure your email subscribers are the first to know about it. Announce your food with a funny headline, a mouth-watering photo, and a special discount to reward your loyal followers.
Your emails shouldn't be one-sided, either. Actively ask your email recipients for feedback, making sure they know that you'll read and respond to each message. When you get an email, don't let it fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Thank them for their feedback immediately, and keep your tone friendly and personal. If it's negative, do what you can to apologize and resolve the issue. If it's positive or they just have a simple question, show that you're grateful for their time and effort.
Be a Good Social Listener
Social media isn't just a valuable marketing tool. It's also an easy way to conduct your own form of research and development. Learn more about the types of people who are interested in your restaurant – for example, are most of your followers from a particular generation? What other restaurants and brands do your followers have in common?
Social listening strategies aren't always priorities for your competitors. Even big food brands are still learning how to use social media to keep up with customers' interests and desires. Stay ahead of the curve by paying attention to patterns. Which posts get the most "likes" or "retweets"? When someone asks a question on your Facebook page, is your answer timely and friendly? Don't be afraid to joke with your customers, join in on conversation threads, and add a personal touch that distinguishes your restaurant from others. When you build relationships, you're also building your brand.
Offer the Best Customer Service
It's impossible to overestimate the importance of good customer service, especially when you're trying to build an effective online presence. Decide what makes your restaurant special, and hire outgoing, hard-working people who pay attention to detail and make great first impressions. If your current customers have reasons to write good online reviews and recommend your restaurant to others, online visitors will be more likely to visit your restaurant and give your staff a chance to impress them too.
Transform Online Visitors into Real Life Customers
Online marketing for restaurants is vital in today’s connected world. Smart restaurants create websites to promote their business and social media channels to engage with customers. But in order to make the most of online restaurant marketing, you need to convince your online visitors to take action offline. By using effective strategies, you can turn online traffic into real foot traffic at your restaurant. So start using better online marketing strategies for your restaurant today!
Posted by Marvin Doerfler
Marvin Doerfler has been designing and producing menus for upscale restaurants and hotels for over 40 years. He learned his trade working with such iconic restaurants as The Four Seasons, Café des Artistes, Mamma Leones and Lüchows. In, 2001 Mr. Doerfler changed his focus by offering the same creative products on a non-exclusive basis through his web company, The Menu Shoppe.| Author's website