Restaurant owners are constantly searching for unique, modern, and unfailing promotional ideas that will help them attract and retain customers, achieve and maintain greater profits. A restaurateur must never find any justification for not kick-starting any marketing efforts or for spending insufficient amounts on marketing initiatives.
PURPOSE OF RESTAURANT PROMOTION
Restaurant promotion always serves to set apart one particular business from the others in the fray. If competition never exists, one can do away with promotion. But, that is seldom the case. In the competitive restaurant domain, it takes rigorous promotional initiatives not just to stay ahead of the competition, but even to be simply noticed.
By implementing promotional strategies that are designed to highlight the taste, creativity, and perhaps the cost-effectiveness of the food, a restaurant can successfully arouse interest in the minds of prospective customers. Effective restaurant promotional strategies can assist in transforming new customers into regular, loyal ones.
Restaurant promotions are usually treated as one-time campaigns or strategies. But, they actually help retain customers and drive up customer lifetime value. Discounts, never-before deals, offers, loyalty reward programs, incentives, new menu introductions, local or charitable events, using restaurant ambassadors – the list of promotional ideas can get as long as human creativity and the capability of an idea to trigger a call to action.
RESTAURANT MARKETING STARTS WITH ITS WEBSITE
In a world where digital is the buzzword in business, it is absolutely necessary for every restaurant to have its own website that will function as the virtual epicenter for the brand. Customers need a website to enable them to view the menu, order food online, be informed about upcoming events, discounts, offers, and much more. The restaurant website should also reflect the brand identity in its look, feel, and persona.
It is important to rely on professionals to build your own restaurant website. Restaurantify, The professional website builder allows restaurant owners to create their own websites by making use of aesthetic and pre-curated templates that are suitable for all kinds of food businesses. With the launch of the website, an online ordering system and a secure, direct payment gateway are also activated.
Other beneficial online marketing and promotional practices for a restaurant are as follows:
The process of improving the rankings awarded by search engines while displaying search results is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By focusing on improving the ranks obtained on search results, a restaurant can increase brand visibility, maximize website traffic, attract new customers and provide greater convenience for people looking to order food online.
One of the rudimentary necessities for SEO is packing the website with original, informative, entertaining, and compelling content that people would instantly fall in love with. When people effortlessly read carefully crafted sentences with seamlessly woven words, they engage deeper with the brand resulting in greater brand loyalty. This loyalty leads to positive word of mouth, thus, setting into action a vicious cycle that will bring in more customers and greater profits.
Usage of keyword phrases like “Deli Restaurant Near Me”, “Jamaican Restaurant in New Jersey”, etc. will help in reaching out demographically to targeted audiences. Including them in a natural and unforced manner into the content will make things work in favor of the restaurant.
2. Google My Business
In order to manage a restaurant’s online presence effectively, using Google My Business is very effective. It is not just free, but also an easy-to-use tool for businesses to manage the way information is displayed when people are looking for the brand name specifically, undertaking a geographically based search, trying to locate the restaurant on the google map, get redirected to the official website or making an attempt to know the contact number. When information is verified using a Google My Business account, it gains more authenticity and is considered by customers as a reputable business.
Simply create a Google account, log in if you already have one, and claim the restaurant business. You will be able to enter all the business credentials immediately. A restaurant can post its menu, make use of Google’s free online ordering (for pick up or delivery), and even schedule reservations. Google My Business is an integral part of any business's marketing strategy, more so for a restaurant.
3. Newsletters & E-Mail Marketing
A restaurant must build a customer database with valid email addresses. The official restaurant website must have a form where visitors can leave their email addresses if they are interested in engaging further with the restaurant through a newsletter subscription. With periodical newsletters containing relevant information sent to them, readers will be enticed to make a visit to the restaurant. It is important to remain consistent with the frequency of the newsletters and also include coupons or specials whenever required.
Visitors signing up for newsletters can be provided with incentives like a free appetizer or a free dessert as an incentive. Displaying the sign-up form prominently on every page of the website also triggers a call-to-action.
Below are some ideas for email campaigns:
Sharing Information About:
- Menu changes made to food and beverages
- Promotions pertaining to Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day
- New promotions – change in happy hour deals or timing, half-off combos, etc.
- The restaurant’s time-tested cooking tips and secret recipes
- Local events, staff, or other interesting snippets about the restaurant or industry trends.
4. Social Media Posts & Reviews
By exhibiting the positive reviews of happy customers shared on their personal social media accounts, you are on the way to winning a greater number of hearts. People rely on human reviews before making decisions. Highlighting such positive reviews on your website and your social media platforms will lend greater authenticity to your dedication and service in the field of hospitality.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOR RESTAURANT MARKETING
Social media, when used intelligently, can help a business expand and prosper. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and several other social media platforms can help reach interested customers in effective ways. With engaging content, their loyalty increases – an engaged clientele is more likely to spread the word and improve the foot traffic to the restaurant. A well-developed social media marketing plan is essential for restaurants to attain visibility, win the competition and gain a large percentage (market share) of the restaurant business.
WAYS TO ENGAGE AUDIENCE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTIONS
A Facebook group is a must-have for every restaurant. And having one alone does not suffice. There must be active contribution and participation to win audience engagement.
Hosting a contest will encourage people to like the page and also join the group.
Graphics, videos, blogs, and several other types of content must be provided in a shareable format on Facebook so that people do the publicity on your behalf.
Short videos that are no longer than 1 minute create a great impact and significant results. Create videos about the restaurant’s food, drinks, working shots from the kitchen, celebrations at your place, or just anything related to your brand and food.
Remember – People watch 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day.
People would love to let you know what they feel provided it is made easy. Conduct fun polls on FB. The poll could be about choosing between your two popular desserts. Make people like the post choose one dessert while they must share the content to support (vote for) the other.
- Make use of photos and videos to catch the attention of users on Instagram.
- By using shareable photos and videos on the Wi-Fi landing page, people will be encouraged to sign in.
- The splash page must be made social-friendly with the like, share, pin, and tweet icons or buttons.
- When customers sign into your restaurant’s Wi-Fi, ask them to check-in with social sites.
- Retain their interest by giving them shareable deals. If the deals are customized individually to suit the needs of each social media, it is even more effective as the customers’ friends will also be able to share the content.
- Ask people for their reviews before they sign-out.
- A chef or a staff member can be assigned to take pictures or videos of freshly prepared dishes and post them on Instagram during dinner services. This will tempt users, arouse their hunger pangs, and also convince them visually of what will be available to them if they visit the restaurant. Those who are already at the table will be glad to see their personal order receiving positive responses on social media.
Twitter is a great platform for restaurant marketing and promotional activities as it allows the posting of images and text.
Twitter is the best platform to create and foster strong bonds with the guests through simple messages that take not more than a minute to read and comprehend.
If you do not have much time to invest in elaborate social media plans or strategies, start off with Twitter and later start exploring the other social media platforms.
Influencers / Food Bloggers
Influencers or food bloggers who match the restaurant’s style and brand identity can be frequently invited to eat at the restaurant and later, publish their experience on their personal social media. With influencers always speaking in favor of the restaurant, customers who follow their recommendations ardently are sure to visit your restaurant. Their followers will, ultimately, be converted into your customers.
TIME TESTED RESTAURANT OFFERS & WAYS FOR THEIR ONLINE PROMOTION:
Running other kinds of offers and letting the world know about such activities through online modes is a hand-in-hand process. One cannot run without the other and one must be supported by the other. Here are a few offline promotional ideas that a restaurant must run and promote via online processes:
1. LIMITED TIME PROMOTIONS
Such promotions create a sense of urgency as people rush to avail the offer before it ends. A restaurant can offer a free dessert, give 1 free when 2 are purchased, and so on. Such offers can also be scattered throughout the year or during important months to boost sales.
How to Gain an Online Advantage: Information about such promotions should be carried out extensively on online platforms to spread the word about offers and the brand. Attractive brochures or pamphlets carrying information about limited-time promotions can be shared on the restaurant’s website, social media pages, and also as pop-up ads. Emails can be sent to people on the restaurant’s mailing list along with compelling push notifications to people who have the restaurant’s mobile app.
2. STRATEGIC ALLIANCES WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES
A restaurant can create business relationships with local event organizers so that menus and other edible items will always be in constant demand for their parties or meetings. This will give the restaurant a regular source of income and also attract people if they find the food interesting during the events.
How to Gain an Online Advantage: Images and videos of people enjoying the restaurant’s food during public events can be shared on the restaurant’s website and social media pages. This will highlight the restaurant’s capability to undertake catering orders and invite other event organizers to engage the restaurant in supplying food for huge gatherings, parties, or meetings. Testimonials of the event organizers and participants must be promoted through digital means to create a positive image of the brand and its food.
Since all restaurants are engaging in giveaways for their customers, one can be unique by holding two giveaways every month. It could be a free meal for one or a dinner for two.
How to Gain an Online Advantage: People who visit the website, use the mobile app, or physically walk into the restaurant must be asked to leave their contact details and email addresses that might help in running future email campaigns. These credentials are crucial for reaching out to audiences in the online mode and also for demographic-specific online marketing activities.
4. FREE FOOD ON SPECIAL DAYS
Restaurants can offer coffee free during dinner or provide free, small samples of new recipes to check the response for it. Customers can be allowed to feast on trays of buffet-style served appetizers while enjoying a paid cocktail.
How to gain an online advantage: Images and videos of such free food being offered on special days can be shared on all digital platforms of the restaurant. Special days occur every year and content shot the previous year can be used for advance promotions this year too. When people watch such throwback moments, chances of them joining the occasion this year are high.
5. INVITATION FOR PERSONALIZED CELEBRATIONS
When customers are invited to celebrate their birthday at the restaurant, they get impressed by the personalized treatment and begin to value the brand much better. An email invite can be sent to the person along with an attractive offer of a toast at the restaurant or one free meal if 4 others are brought along.
How to gain an online advantage: Birthday celebrations of patrons must be filmed and photographed. Such heart-melting stories must be shared through online means. This will make interested customers sign up for your newsletters voluntarily. They would love to be a part of the restaurant’s mailing list and would yearn to be invited to the restaurant to celebrate their birthday or special days with offers and discounts. People celebrating birthdays can be asked to share happy moments with a hashtag mentioning the name of the restaurant.
6. PERSONAL RAPPORT WITH THE CHEF
A chef showing up at a table and asking about the recipe that the guest had just tasted is a gesture that can go a long way in building loyal relationships. The guest will appreciate this polite gesture with positive remarks about the food in person, through word of mouth, and also on social media platforms.
How to gain an online advantage: This ‘Meet Our Chef’ program can be recorded and uploaded on the restaurant’s website or other online platforms to give it more mileage. When customers personally identify the chef preparing their favorite dishes, they get involved at a deeper level, to a greater extent than usual. They would visit the digital platform to take a look at themselves (interacting with the Chef) and also share it with their friends and acquaintances.
USING A MOBILE-FRIENDLY MARKETING STRATEGY
Unless the marketing strategy outlining the promotional activities is mobile-friendly, attracting the younger audiences will remain unsuccessful. Since the millennials use their mobile devices to browse websites, place orders, and make decisions, they must be reached through their hand-held devices. With a comprehensive and mobile gadget compatible marketing strategy plan, a restaurant’s promotional ideas can reach more young customers in a way that is absolutely impossible to ignore.
As a restaurateur, you are now ready to kickstart your online and offline promotional activities in a streamlined manner.
EXAMPLES OF RESTAURANTS THAT FOLLOW SUCCESSFUL ONLINE PROMOTIONAL STRATEGIES
Wave Asian Bistro & Sushi located in Mount Dora (Florida)
Apart from sharing captivating photographs of their mouth-watering dishes, Wave Asian Bistro & Sushi consistently share images and videos that highlight behind-the-scenes stories. People are amazed and their followers are constantly increasing. This is because giving glimpses into scenarios that are usually hidden from the eyes of guests excites them and motivates them to know further about what goes into the preparation of their culinary favorites. The video of the restaurant preparing its signature dish always gets a rousing welcome from the ardent fans of this Asian Bistro & Sushi.
Sweetgreen, a national chain
Sweetgreen is an American fast-casual restaurant chain serving salads in nearly 121 ocations. Using online promotional strategies, Sweetgreen has created an iconic brand for itself pivoted around farm-fresh and sustainable food. The chain’s mobile app, social media pages, and even the stores reflect consistency in their clean and modern imagery. Marketing materials across all online platforms have the same vibrant photography. The brand becomes easily recognizable even if the logo is not prominently displayed on the screen. Such consistent communication of the brand’s purpose and imagery is mandatory to popularize the brand beyond the physical locations.
The chain also employs several SEO tools to secure the top search result ranking on Google pages. Such tools are available free of cost for any restaurant to optimize. Even if they are paid tools, they are worth the money.
Chop Shop, Colorado
With 3 locations in Colorado, Chop Shop is a casual urban eatery that is extremely active on Yelp. The executives of Chop Shop reply to every review written on Yelp – irrespective of the nature of the review. They never forget to leave a personal note for all those who have taken the time to write feedback.
Since they are willing to learn from their shortcomings and also take steps to overcome them, they win the hearts of even disgruntled customers. Creating a bond with customers turns them into champions and ambassadors for the brand. Chop Shop has effectively used online reviews for greater reach and promotion.
HOW ONLINE RESTAURANT PROMOTION CAN WORK IN A RESTAURANT’S FAVOR?
To summarize what was explained all this while:
- Be present when people are looking
- Provide them with what they are looking for without making them search for it
- Make your answers consistent and helpful – so that queries are effectively clarified
- Engage (even subconsciously) to always enjoy superior brand recall.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW YOUR ONLINE PROMOTIONAL EFFORTS ARE WORKING?
Several kinds of measuring tools are available today to check the effectiveness of a restaurant’s online promotional activities. The primary indicators are the number of followers, their likes, shares, open rates, clicks, and engagement period. While such indicators or metrics give an overall view of how things are progressing, they do not determine success.
A restaurant must also pay attention to other deeply significant elements like:
- Are people visiting the website?
- Are they willingly signing up for newsletters and joining the mailing list?
- Are they following up their online visit with an online food order or a visit to the brick-and-mortar restaurant?
- Are they navigating from one page to another on the website and engaging longer with the brand?
- Are they making online table reservations?
- Are they making online direct payments?
Answers to such questions will help understand the customer psychology better, the way they approach the business’ digital platforms, and take call-to-actions.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR ONLINE RESTAURANT MARKETING TO WORK?
If you are trying the organic, non-paid approach towards popularizing the brand, it is definitely going to consume months. But, when foundational months are spent on building strong relationships with customers, the time frame definitely shortens and begins to yield results within one year. Later on, a restaurant can start experimenting with paid advertising methods to further propel the ongoing activities.
Promotional activities can be carried out either for a duration of 4-6 weeks or for 8-10 weeks. If promotions are meant to create a sense of urgency, then 4 weeks is ideal. If they are gamified, then they can be extended up to 8-10 weeks as they involve a customer’s competitive nature to drive engagement and not scarcity.
By doing all this effectively, you spread the word about the business, drive more people to the website, invite more foot traffic to the restaurant, win the loyalty of customers, gain the competitive edge and stay successful for a really long period of time.