The 2017 Restaurant Success Report shows that one in five restaurants find attracting and retaining clients to be their biggest challenge. One big reason for that is how much the rules of marketing restaurants have changed over the years. Twenty years ago, restaurateurs only had to push delivery menus through doors and list their restaurants in the town’s yellow pages to market their business. In this digital age, doing that is not enough.
People have moved to the internet to get whatever they’re looking for. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA):
- 88 percent of adults look up restaurant locations, directions, and operation hours online,
- 72 percent of them check restaurant menus online, and
- 58 percent read reviews posted for a restaurant on review sites.
It’s clear to see that by having an online presence, a restaurant can capture a wealth of potential customers. But there’s just one small catch: when it comes to building your restaurant’s online presence, you have to do it right to ensure it’s effective — otherwise, your efforts won’t be impactful. Let’s take a look at the best ways your restaurant can achieve a strong online presence.
- Make Google Work for You
Google is primarily known as a search engine. But that’s not all. The company has many platforms that can help you maximize your web presence. Trying to utilize all of them can be a daunting task, so consider focusing on these two at first:
- Google My Business (GMB): This platform allows you to provide your restaurant’s details such as website, opening times, phone number, and location to thousands of users on a daily basis. Be sure to fill out your GMB profile and verify your restaurant’s address straightaway. A complete GMB profile will help you grab the attention of people who live close to you by making your restaurant show up in local searches. Google frequently changes the features and options you control on your GMB account, so it’s important for you to revisit your profile every few months to add to your content and optimize it.
- Google Analytics: As a 21st-century restaurateur, it’s crucial for you to start digital marketing campaigns and measure its success. Adding the Google Analytics code to your website will help you track important metrics like the number of visitors to your site, where these people were referred from, how long they stayed on your site, and many other important website stats. In today’s competitive environment, the last thing a restaurant should do is leave its digital marketing efforts to chance. Since new-age marketing can be overwhelming, so consider hiring a digital marketing company. Above all, the agency will work with you to adopt the right strategies to reach today’s internet-driven customers as well as help you measure the performance of your marketing campaigns and make the necessary improvements conclusively building an online presence for your restaurant.
- Be Present on Social Media
You can’t rely on Google alone to build your online presence. You also need to be active on social media. With a solid social media strategy, you can maximize your exposure, engage your past, present and potential customers, and boost your bottom line.
Create social accounts for your restaurant and use them to regularly post relevant and engaging content, such as:
- high-quality photos and videos of your food and restaurant
- promotions you’re running
- up-and-coming events
- educational posts on culinary topics
- responses to posts you’ve been tagged in
Always focus more on the quality and interactivity of your posts than your posting frequency.
Social media also allows you to focus your advertising campaigns on a specific demographic. Facebook sponsored posts ensure your message or content is visible on the walls of your target audience. You can also geo-target on Twitter. Targeted advertising on social media can help you build your brand and generate sales cost-effectively.
- Have an Online Menu
Smartphones and tablets make up a significant part of people’s dining experiences. The NRA reports that 72 percent of adults use the devices to look for menus. Therefore, a menu is a useful tool you can utilize to make your restaurant visible online. Whether it’s on your website or a third-party provider, it offers a great means of enticing customers.
Make sure your online menu displays good pictures of the food you serve and detailed descriptions.
- Encourage Customer Feedback
Customer reviews add to your restaurant’s credibility and help highlight your strengths. They can potentially help your website rank higher in search engine results. Ask your customers to leave online reviews.
While third-party review sites like Yelp can be pain points for businesses, they can be a valuable resource for your restaurant provided you know how to go about them. Reviews on these sites, whether positive or negative, help you gain insight into your customers’ experiences. But that doesn’t imply you should stop at browsing the reviews. You need to engage the users on the sites to close the customer feedback loop and enhance their experience.
Respond to all your reviews politely. Thank the visitors who review you positively. For the negative reviews, try to get all the facts then assure the reviewers of fixing the issues they’ve raised. Connecting to these unhappy customers can help you win back their trust and loyalty.
- Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is still one of the most powerful ways of reaching your customers and keeping them in the know. According to OptinMonster, the ROI for email marketing is 28.5 percent better than that of direct mail.
Sending out a monthly email newsletter helps you engage your customers and build brand awareness. Consider sending welcome emails to new customers and move to sending them offers and updates. Besides greetings and discounts, there’s much more valuable content you can also include in your monthly newsletters. These include:
- new menu items
- the faces behind your restaurant, such as the chefs and owners
- content from your blog
- short videos showing how some recipes are created
- food preparation tips
- history of the restaurant
It’s advisable to use a branded email address. In a survey conducted by VeriSign, 65 percent of consumers said they believed company-branded emails to be more credible than free email accounts.
The Bottom Line
A significant number of diners rely on online interactions to connect with their favorite restaurants. If you don’t have an online presence, your digitally savvy competitors will get the upper hand and convert these people into their future customers.
For you to attract customers, keep them, and experience exponential growth, you’ll have to invest in continually improving your online presence. A strong online presence will help you catch the eye of all types of diners, including the millennial generation, and build long-term relationships with them. And, of course, don’t forget to offer them good food and hospitality.