The restaurant business is competitive. It is believed that around 6 out of 10 restaurants fail within the first year of operations. In order to be successful in this highly competitive industry, you need to be on top of your game in a number of areas: from excellent customer service and menu optimisation to digital marketing and overall restaurant management.
In the recent years, customers have chosen to search for restaurants and order food online more and more. It’s not hard to see the attraction – after all, what could beat having a delicious meal arrive on your doorstep at a click of a button?
In this context, digital marketing has never been more important for restaurant businesses. Not only will customers find your business online in order to come and dine at your location, but they may also find you and place an order online. Effective digital marketing holds huge potential in attracting new orders, as well as solidifying your relationship with your existing customer base.
Here are some practical tips and ideas to take your digital marketing strategy to the next level this year. If done right, this will definitely help you get more orders, more customers, and grow your restaurant business.
Monitor Ratings and Review Websites
A large number of consumers make choices for where to eat based on reviews they read online. Specifically, they look on these sites to find their next meal. They solidify buyer intent and add that layer of credibility to your business. This makes these kinds of review sites very influential and an important part of any restaurant’s digital marketing strategy.
Any restaurant should make sure they are registered on as many of these sites as possible to attract reviews. This helps to build their online presence and can advertise the restaurant to new customers who may not have heard about the restaurant otherwise. Once the listing is set up, it’s also important to check back regularly and respond to all reviews, both negative and positive. That will help you both build and protect your restaurant’s reputation.
- Trip Advisor
Be Active on Social Media
It doesn’t matter what type of business you are running; you cannot ignore social media. While Facebook and Twitter have been there for a while now, Instagram and lately, TikTok are really expanding their reach in terms of engagement and subscriber numbers.
As a business, you should strive to leverage these channels if you aren’t already. A mere account will not be sufficient, you’ll have to be active across channels. You can identify 2-3 channels that are specially a hit for you and be regular with your content on them . If you are a new restaurant, you should take your customer’s photographs and post them on your social media handles. This will improve your restaurant visibility.
If you are relatively new in the social space, to get started, you can use the following social media best practices:
- Engage the audience by posting polls online
- Post all types of media types including simple text posts, videos, and photos
- Share interesting content from your blog and other influential websites
- Share recipes and interesting food concepts
- Share and promote user content
- Host contests on your social media accounts
- Use popular hashtags and trending topics
You should share posts at regular intervals to get the maximum benefit. The best approach is to learn your customer’s timezone and post accordingly.
It is always a good step to hire a social media expert to manage your social presence. This way, you can maximize your reach using social media.
Make use of Interactive Video Content
Digital Marketing always puts content at the helm of things. Digital Marketers who invested their time and energies into creating content write-ups benefitted in the early 2000s. While good content is key, Google has further optimised their algorithm to give credit to other metrics that they believe are good proxies for good content. Like – engagement on site, time spent on page. Videos have seen to have as much as 10X engagement as compared to written content. They can help you direct traffic from social and third party channels and also have the potential of making your brand go viral faster. In fact, there is a ton of video content created on Facebook and Instagram. And more than 500 million hours of YouTube videos are watched everyday!
Here are some interesting statistics about video content.
● YouTube has more than a billion users, almost one-third of the total internet users across the world
● Roughly 45% of people watch atleast an hour of video content every week on either Facebook or YouTube
Restaurants have made great use of video content to create a buzz online. Here are 2 of our favourite campaigns made by the QSR giants – Burger King and Domino’s.
Burger King’s “Come as a clown, eat like a king” campaign took a dig at McDonald’s and was an instant hit in the market.
Domino’s #PointsForPizza campaign gave out reward points anytime a customer ate any pizza. They used AI tech to track and run this campaign.
Revamp Your Website
A great website is essential for any business in 2020. Your website is your digital business card and brochure because new customers will look up your site and use this to judge your business and decide whether to buy your product. It is also a way to generate new leads, as new customers can discover your business through online search engines if you have great SEO.
These days, just about anyone can build their own website thanks to the large range of website builders on the market. Although these tools can help you to create a professional-looking site, you need to apply certain strategies if your website is to be part of an effective digital marketing strategy.
Your website should be professional, modern, represent your brand and present your products in a way that converts visitors into customers. If your website is dated or doesn’t do all of these things in the best possible way, now is the time to revamp it with an update or an entirely new site. A custom website builder for restaurants will also include functions like online ordering that can help take your restaurant business to the next level.
Keep a close eye on hygiene metrics like page load time, page size, script size, quality of links and so forth to keep your website healthy and robust. You can use the tool pingdom to keep a track of your website metrics.
Create Quality Website Content
Content on your site is also critical and is an essential part of any digital marketing strategy. These days, content has become a key part of many organisation’s digital marketing strategies. This means that there is a lot of content out there – some good, some not so good. Quality content is essential: it is better to have no content at all than poor content that reflects badly on your business. On the other hand, great quality content can attract new customers, improve your relationships with those you already have, and build your brand. Great content is powerful, so make it your priority to elevate the quality of your content.
Content can be packaged and presented in multiple ways. You have blog posts, social media posts, videos, newsletters, ebooks, emails, and more.
In the restaurant industry, content is often that which drives people to a checkout or an order page. QSRs usually create visually attractive content packages in creatives, push them on social and drive traffic through that. Even the websites of these restaurants boast of exciting BOGO offers or the Deal of the Day and so forth.
Do Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
In addition to all of the above, it is important that your site is optimised for search engines. More specifically, your site should be optimised for Google, as the vast majority of searches are made on this search engine. A lot of SEO pointers come in handy here. Companies hire SEO specialists to help them increase their visibility online. It is imperative that your site ranks within the first few results for relevant customer searches, or at least the first page. Keyword research then becomes a critical aspect. The correct keyword selection is all about picking up the right set of keywords that bring in the relevant audience to your website. Not all keywords are the same though, some keywords are buy keywords (transactional) whereas some are information oriented keywords. Both lie in different stages of the buyer funnel and traffic coming through each should be treated differently (in terms of landing page content and CTAs, conversion pop-ups and retargeting campaigns). Restaurants usually see more merit in focussing on buy keywords whereas the B2B brands focus more on information centric keywords.
The ultimate goal of any SEO campaign is to bring in business. A metric that most SEO consultants target is traffic. To get traffic on a page it is very important that your keyword ranks on Google. Like when a user types in a keyword/search query, your company’s page should show up on the first page. These days, nothing exists beyond the first page of Google! There are a number of things you can do to improve your site’s SEO, but as a first step, you should run an SEO audit of your site using a tool such as Google Analytics or Ahref. SEO further can be divided into On Page SEO and Off Page SEO.
On page SEO is done to ensure that your website is doing well in terms of keyword placement in the code of your website (refer this guide for more: Technical SEO guide). Off Page SEO primarily revolves around content distribution, that is pushing your content across the web and ensuring people (other than you) are also taking about your brand. The proxy that Google uses to understand who is ‘talking’ about you is backlinks. Backlinks are signals to Google that other people find your content helpful and relevant. In addition to backlinks, social media promotions and forum activity also carries a significant weight in Google’s ranking algorithm.
When it comes to ranking for keywords, you should ensure that you rank for the right set of keywords. As a restaurant, you need to focus largely on transactional keywords. For example, if you are a burger restaurant, then ranking highly on top search-volume keywords like ‘buy burger’ or ‘burger joints near me’ is a guaranteed way of driving traffic on search engines. More on Restaurant SEO here – 9 restaurant SEO tips to boost your visibility.
Use the Latest Software and Tools
The best part about software is it helps you ease your manual work. There are now a large number of digital marketing tools around which are indispensable to a great digital marketing strategy. Using the right software and tools can really elevate your digital marketing to the next level. Trying to implement and effective digital marketing strategy without using the right tools would be like trying to hammer a nail into a piece of wood without using a hammer!
For instance, for website creation, WordPress tool helps you automate the code-writing process to a large extent. Also, wordpress plugins help speed up the website management and maintenance process.
Below we’ve presented a short summary of some of the best digital marketing tools around at the moment. Most of these tools are either free or have a very reasonable monthly subscription fee.
Wix or WordPress for website building
Buzzsumo for social media
Mailchimp for email marketing
Canva for design
Targetted Ads and Online Campaigns
Restaurants are location-centric businesses so it is important that your digital marketing strategies do not just address the internet in general, but local markets in particular. Locally targeted online advertising is a great way to build your customer base and drive more sales.
Social media is one vehicle for this: you can launch Facebook or Instagram ads that target users in a specific geographical area, as well as other demographics to fit your customer base. You can even time your ads to appear around the time your customers are planning their meals, for example just before lunch or dinner time. Another thing you can do is to upload your list of past customers and target them (list-based targeting) on Facebook and Insta. make sure to segment your audience as much as you can (basis order size, date of last order, age etc. You should be careful that your creatives on social are catchy and visual to maximise campaign output (sign-ups or orders). Do keep an eye on the daily budgets on Facebook’s Ad dashboard and costs per leads and evaluate campaign success.
Restaurants can make use of search ads (on Google and other search engines) as well to target search traffic. While it can take time for you to appear in organic rankings, you can virtually be on Rank 1 from Week 1 provided you bid the right amount and have a good landing page. You must pay here though, for clicks or conversions, so make sure that the conversion funnel is healthy (amount invested in a campaign and total conversion value should be in sync) to give you a good ROI on your overall campaign. Besides search ads on Google, you can also use display ads to target your customers across Google’s network of websites.
Keeping a track of Google Search trends is a good idea. Search volumes happen to be seasonal and vary from time to time so having a good grip over the shifts in ‘online demand’ is important. Here is a graph that shows Search Trends in the Restaurant Industry (Source: Venngage Blog)
Apart from the traditional FB and Google Ads platforms, many other platforms are also offering ad services. You should know what kind of ads work in each platform, when to run ads for maximum output and which platforms are ideally suited for your target audience. Give this guide a read for a detailed drill down into digital ads– Digital Advertising Explained
Make Use of Email Marketing Best Practices
As a restaurant, you also have the option to take advantage of email marketing. Email marketing did really well in the early goings of the internet boom and was (and is) an amazing way for you to reach your audience’s mail-box. But the extent of mass-mailing and spam has taken its toll on this channel’s effectiveness. Engagement rates have dropped and ROI is considerably lower now than what it used to be, say 20 years back.
To stand out from the crowd, you need to ensure that your content is unique and your offer is irresistible. Restaurants use social to drive their CRM, retain customers and increase their loyalty base. They engage customers via giveaways, discounts, exclusive updates, weekly surprises, and so on!
So, how does email marketing help precisely?
You can run loyalty programs through emails. Loyalty programs are known to improve revenue.
The best approach is to incentivize your loyal customers with special offers and deals. Maybe you can offer them a free dessert if they revisit your restaurant at weekends? The choice is yours!
The best way to approach is to create an email marketing campaign. The marketing campaign can focus on multiple things including the following
- Upcoming event: Let your loyal customers know what you are planning — a special menu or holiday event?
- Current specials: It is always a good idea to refresh your existing customer’s memories by mentioning your current specials. This will capture their attention and increase their urge to visit your restaurant.
- Rewards and discounts: Give them more reasons to come to your restaurant by providing them exclusive discounts and rewards. Tell them they are special and the discounts only apply to them!
- Blog posts: Everyone loves to read interesting content on food! Give them your best blog post snippets and invite them to your blog to read more!
- Important updates: Last but not least, you can also use the emails to tell them about important updates about your restaurant. It can be related to new additions to the menu or a special guest!
Customer loyalty goes a long way and you should always strive to increase it so that it can benefit your business.
In a highly competitive industry like the restaurant business, digital marketing is absolutely essential to be able to build a successful business. Important digital marketing strategies for restaurants include a strong website optimized for content and SEO, as well as presence on review sites, and locally-targeted online advertising. Doing these things, and executing them well, will let you stand out from your competition and will help your business to be successful in the long run.
Cover Image Credits: Diggity Marketing