14 Restaurant Marketing Tips for Success Online and Off

It may be time to dust off your restaurant marketing plan and take a closer look at current trends and case studies of other successful businesses. A neon OPEN sign glowing red in the window of a restaurant.This is where you will learn a bulk of the restaurant marketing strategies out there and, more importantly, what works and what doesn’t.

I’m here to let you know some tried and true marketing strategies that have worked for restaurants in the past and present. Before I get to the restaurant marketing tips outlined in this blog post, I think you’d like to take note of a few interesting statistics relative to the food industry.

Trends that Affect How Restaurants Market Themselves

Restaurant marketing isn’t the same as it has always been. It is critical that restaurants embrace Internet marketing and cultivate a presence online. While “online” is the theme for many of the restaurant marketing tips I’ve listed in the next section, there is still much you can (and should) do offline to promote your business.

Restaurants don’t use the yellow pages as much as they used to, and for good reason: people have moved to the Internet to find what they’re looking for. They use search engines and consumer review sites to find local restaurants and decide which they should give their money to. They want to see the restaurant’s menu before visiting and they favor those that have a strong online presence over those that haven’t embraced the Internet.

As a restaurant owner or manager, you shouldn’t be all of your faith into traditional advertising and word of mouth marketing. By all means, do NOT skip those methods, but DO take advantage of all the opportunities that the Internet presents.

Do a Google search for your type of restaurant and location to see what results you get. Where do you rank? Do you even make it to the first page? Considering your competition, will potential diners choose your restaurant from that search? Rather than giving your competitors all the business, think of ways you can market your restaurant online.

14 Restaurant Marketing Tips You Ought to Try

  1. Stay current. Keep yourself up to date on current statistics, trends, facts and figures that can help you analyze your restaurant marketing plan. Should you make any tweaks to how you market your restaurant? Should you position your restaurant differently?
  2. Have a functional website. Can local customers find your restaurant online? Make sure they can with a well-optimized website that does what you want it to do. The key is to get them to your website before they find your competitors. You can create a food blog, list daily specials and direct visitors to your social media profiles and online review sites.
  3. Engage in local SEO practices. Websites aren’t just for big companies; now more than ever, small local businesses are realizing the importance of having a website and implementing an Internet marketing strategy. Since 72% of all searches are related to a search for local content, you should be 100% sure that your website will show up for those searches relevant to your restaurant.
  4. Enlist local food bloggers. Ask local food bloggers to review your restaurant in return for a free meal. The outside link will help with rankings, and the positive review will help your reputation.
  5. Monitor review sites. You live or die on your reputation, so pay close attention to what people are saying about your restaurant online. This is where your offline visitors can tell the online world about their (hopefully positive) experience at your restaurant. Thank visitors for positive reviews and respond to and respectfully resolve negative reviews.
  6. Use an online restaurant reservation tool. Invite your customers to make a reservation on sites like OpenTable. You need an online restaurant reservation tool to make it easier for your customers and easier on yourself. And sometimes people just don’t want to pick up the phone – they’d rather make their reservation in just a few clicks.
  7. Grow your email database. If you compare to direct marketing, email marketing is more efficient, environmentally friendly and a faster way to keep your customers in the know. Promote your e-newsletters through social media, on your website, and inside your restaurant. You will need to decide what will work best for you.
  8. Get a social media presence. Strengthen your word of mouth marketing with an interesting, interactive social media presence. This gives you the ability to engage your customers 365 days as year, represent your brand and enlist customers to share their stories. That’s priceless.
  9. Don’t disregard anything too quickly. The online world is always changing, so it’s important to keep your eye out for new marketing ventures that have the potential to stick around. Foursquare, for example, isn’t as well-known as Facebook, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t ample marketing opportunity for restaurants. This social platform enables restaurants to offer a variety of deals (for free) that users must check-in to take advantage of. This – along with the fact that users can earn “badges” for checking-in so many times – makes Foursquare a viable marketing option for restaurants.
  10. Provide enough incentive for people to pay attention. Give your patrons incentive to follow you on social media channels or to come into your restaurant, and make it simple for them to do so. If you constantly put up your restaurant specials on Facebook, your fans will lose interest. Mix it up, don’t be afraid to have fun, and be a part of the local community.
  11. Run contests. This is a great way to reward social media fans, grow your fan base, bring in more customers, and promote loyalty. Give customers a chance to win a great prize and you’ll give them another reason to come back again.
  12. Create and implement a customer loyalty program. Send out e-newsletters to those who sign up to be in the program, highlighting exclusive deals. Promote your loyalty program offline and online.
  13. Give your menu a fresh look. If you already have a great design that works well, this may not be necessary. If you have a boring or outdated menu, however, customers may think your food is not enticing as well.
  14. Just ask! Ask your regulars and loyal fans offline to ‘Like’ you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter and Pinterest, and help spread the word. Send an email, call those you have a good relationship with, and walk right up to their table while they’re enjoying what they love about your restaurant.
  15. Manage your online reputation. Review sites have become an integral part of a business’s reputation, and negative reviews have the potential to harm your business. Too many negative Yelp reviews, whether true or not, will turn business away. Asking happy customers to write you a review, as well as responding personally to any negative feedback, is the best way to maintain a positive online reputation.

One Big “Don’t” if You’re Working with a Marketing Company

So you know a few things you can do to market your restaurant, but what shouldn’t you do? I thought of one very important restaurant marketing mistake to avoid while I was writing this blog post…

Don’t expect your (Internet) marketing company/team to do all the work. For instance, we pride ourselves in taking 99% of the work load off of our restaurant clients’ hands, but that 1% is more important than you might think. Whether you have an internal marketing team or you outsource your marketing activities, you must take some responsibility for the successes and roadblocks that happen along the way.

As an Internet marketing team that you might hire, we can’t be inside your restaurant every day and night to capture all the happy faces, deal with the not-so-happy faces or tell everyone the benefits of being a fan on Facebook. We can’t talk up your customer loyalty program or now about all the menu changes… unless you tell us.

So, it seems that I’ll let you in on one little secret to marketing your restaurant successfully: be an interactive client. You are a crucial piece of a bigger puzzle, and without your help and feedback, your restaurant marketing efforts will not be as fruitful as they could be.

More Restaurant Marketing Tips Wanted!

Please tell me… how do you market your restaurant? Do you have any more restaurant marketing tips to add to my collection? What successes and roadblocks have you encountered along the way? I’d love to know!

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Written by

Laura started the company in 1999 with a Vision (haw haw) to do something different than the gray corporate world she was used to. Dreaming big, with goals of creating a business that helped people grow their businesses and fulfill their dreams, she’s created a company that creates reliable results, consistently. She’s passionate about the company, the clients and her team. A Becker College alum, Laura helps businesses of all types with their business, entrepreneurship, and marketing dreams. She’s been featured on Fox News and Chronicle multiple times, has won several awards for her leadership, volunteerism, marketing and business acumen and is a frequent public speaker.