06 Sep Restaurant Marketing
The great thing about marketing a restaurant is that you can appeal to all of the human senses in a way that other businesses cannot. All it can take are a few visual cues or a slight whiff of delicious food to whet the appetite. Once that hunger fires up it is hard to stop.
So how do we get people fired up about your restaurant?
Well if we can get them into your restaurant we can let the food do the talking. However, getting them through the door is often the hard part. Always finding new customers is difficult, so focusing on retaining the ones you already and getting them to spread the word may be more effective.
Whatever stage your restaurant is at we have you covered. This guide is broken down based on where you need the most help with your marketing.
- Restaurant Experience
- Finding more customers
- Managing Your Restaurants Reputation
- Getting More Repeat Customer
Photography – Visual
Showing a hungry person photos of tasty food is like throwing petrol on a fire. It is the easiest way to get someone excited about your food short of placing the dish right in front of their noses.
Hopefully people will love the taste and look of your food enough to want to share pictures of it on social media (more on that later!) but photos taken by amateurs will never be as good as ones that you can take yourself or get taken professionally.
Tips on getting your food photography just right:
- Put your photos on all the most popular restaurant directory website such as zomato and be sure to use captions with the names of the dishes
- Don’t over-sell it in the photos – they need to be accurate representations of what people will be able to eat. There is nothing worse than leaving people disappointed because it wasn’t what they were expecting – leave that to the real estate agents.
- Work on the presentation of your food
- Post the pictures on social media. A good way to do this is to drip feed the images with a new dish featured every few days.
- Hire a professional photographer. In an hour or so you can have them take photos of the interior and all the dishes which you can use again and again for your website and marketing materials
- If you are unsure of what to post on social media you can just post a photo every few days of each of your dishes
Atmosphere – Auditory
The atmosphere can greatly impact a customer’s experience in a restaurant. A few tips to positively influence the atmosphere of the restaurant:
- Put thought into your choice of background music, particularly the volume level.
- Try to space people apart so that they are not uncomfortable or overwhelmed by noise coming from other tables.
- Also make sure your interior and fit out is strong enough that people find it visually appealing by itself.
People want to show themselves living their best life on social media. By creating an atmosphere that people enjoy and is visually attractive you will make it easier for people to take photos and share on social media.
Food – Taste
For a restaurant to be successful you need returning customers. The food is what is going to bring people back. When people make a decision about where to eat the food is almost always the decisive factor.
In terms of what you offer:
- Establish winning dishes across your menu. These are the signature dishes that people come back from time and time again. Try to find 5-6 menu items that are rock solid and always in demand.
- Have rotating specials to be able to try new things and get feedback. Introduce them to the menu if they are popular.
- Try not to change the menu too much. People get frustrated with change, particularly if their favourite dish is no longer on offer. Having that balance between established dishes and rotating specials
- Cater to different types of audiences. While you don’t necessarily need to sacrifice the theme of your menu to keep everyone happy (you certainly shouldn’t) it is important to be aware of dietary requirements and create vegetarian or gluten free options to keep the peace.
- Have a strong identity to your menu that people remember.
Food – Smell
The delicious taste of your food is only a marketing weapon when people have actually tried your food. However the delicious smell can drive local foot traffic through your door if utilised. Having fantastic ventilation in your kitchen will not only keep the kitchen staff happy but may also help to connect your kitchen with passers by. If your food has a great smell try to find ways to use it.
This may sound like a cop out to someone who is trying to get more customers but having a busy restaurant full of people draws more people. I’m sure you have had that experience where one restaurant has a line out the door and the two restaurants either side are almost empty. It is the best form of social proof – if other people are willing to wait in line for something it must be good.
Some ways you can make your restaurant seem busier than it actually is:
- Close areas of the restaurant including back or upstairs rooms
- Fill the tables closest to the windows first
- Place seats or a sign outside that asks people to wait here. Even if there are no people waiting it indicates that the restaurant does get busy enough to warrant a queue.
Point of Sale
This is your biggest opportunity to leave a great impression and potentially a repeat visit. During the brief opportunity your staff have to chat with customers while they are paying think about what kind of impression you want to leave them with. If you want to try and encourage a repeat visit then consider:
- Loyalty cards
- Giving a coupon for their next visit
- Suggesting a different dish – If you liked that then next time you should try ….
Get More Customers
Create enticing offers
There are different types of offers you can design depending upon what your goals are. Are you a new restaurant that just wants to get people through the door? Or do you want to get people to return?
Here are some of the most common restaurant marketing offers based on different goals:
Find New Customers
- Percentage off offer (e.g. 20% off your
- Buy one get one free (e.g. free entree with every main). Great for encouraging people to bring their friends
- Free delivery
- Loyalty card – Free meal after a certain number of visits
- Buy one get one free (e.g. free main with another main purchase)
Increase order value
- Discounted when meals are purchased as a set (e.g. an entree, a main and dessert)
- Percentage off over a certain amount (e.g. 10% off orders over $100)
Increase customers during quiet hours
- Whatever offers you decide upon you should try and match these to quietest times in your week.
- There is no point attracting more people when you are already at full capacity.
Here are some examples of time based offers that work well:
- Happy hour (reduced price drinks during non-peak hours)
- Discounted Lunch meals (lunch menu is cheaper than dinner menu)
- Higher prices for sit in compared to takeaway during peak hours (While not exactly This encourages people to takeaway while freeing up more tables in store during peak times)
Other tips for using offers:
- Try to match offers to different audiences. e.g. If you serve lunches you may have more of an elderly audience or mothers groups. If the time between lunch and dinner is quiet perhaps you can have a special offer or even a separate menu to cater to these audiences.
- Ask for something in return for the offer. Rather than just cutting your profit margins you can make the deal conditional based upon the customer doing something valuable for your business. e.g.
- Reviews (This is particularly good for new businesses)
- Social media follows or shares
Networking with other businesses near your restaurant can be uncover some great mutually beneficial relationships. What else do people do before or after visiting a restaurant? They might go to the cinema, head to a bar or a stage show. If you share customers in common with other local, non-competing businesses you can design an offer to benefit both parties. An example would be a discounted movie ticket with every meal purchase at your restaurant. Get creative and see what you can come up with.
Throughout the year there are many events and special occassions which you can use to pack out your restaurant. You may be busy on evenings such as Valentines day regardless of what you do but making a special effort to be the place to go for certain events can pay off in the long run.
Firstly you need to create an event calendar and be aware of the different events that are upcoming.
- For example:
- Mothers day
- Fathers Day
- Valentines Day
- Spring Racing Carnival
- Grand final
For some events such as Grand Final Day or the races you could promote pre-event lunches and book out with big groups.
For other events you may create a special promotion to make the event a little bit more special and memorable. For example on Valentines day you may hire musicians to add to the mood or maybe on Mother’s day ever mother gets a free glass of champagne.
While these events may pack out anyway you can generate extra buzz around the restaurant and hopefully extra social media shares which give your restaurant more exposure for the following weeks.
Influencers are people with large numbers of followers typically on social media who post about a particular topic. Influencers that talk about food and their favourite restaurants are everywhere. If you can get on their radar and have them come eat at your restaurant their experience will be shared with their thousands of followers.
Influencer marketing is becoming more common as businesses can see the huge benefits of tapping into these established audiences. So as you can imagine these influencers are getting hundreds of requests a day and some can even demand thousands of dollars for a single mention of a brand. So if you have a budget for influencer marketing you may be able to partner with well known influencers to promote your restaurant.
However with a bit research you may be able to find less established influencers with smaller followings that may be happy to come visit for a free meal. Either way, finding influencers with the audience that best matches your target audience is the most likely to result in return on your investment.
Aside from social media influencers there are also many magazines, websites and individual journalists and bloggers that write about new and trending restaurants. Getting in touch with these writers and publications can be difficult and you need to be prepared for ‘no’ or no answer at all. However, if your restaurant is as good as you say it is and has unique angle or story that people can connect with you may also be surprised with the results. It probably doesn’t hurt either if you offer them a free meal.
Also search for lists where people have listed the best restaurants in an area of best restaurants of a particular style. For example if you Google ‘Japanese Restaurants Melbourne CBD’ you will find many of the top 10 results are lists of the best Japanese restaurants from Trip Advisor, Broadsheet, Urban List and other well know online publications.
If you own a Japanese restaurant it may be worth your while to contact the writers of these lists to notify them of the one glaring omission from the list – your restaurant!
Google Ads allows you to post ads at the top of Google search results and banner advertisements on specific websites.
The reason why Google Ads has become the market leader in paid advertising is the level of targeting and flexibility it offers business owners. With Google Ads you can specify your target locations or radius around your business. You can also switch ads on when you are quiet and switch them off during busy times. Just make sure you have a way to quantify the number of visitors as a result of paid ads – such as tracking booking forms of using a special code.
Aside from Google Ads there are many other websites or apps which allow you to place ads. You can pay for:
Priority sponsored listings on apps like Zomato & Menulog
Banner ads on websites like Broadsheet
Nothing gets you more worked up about a meal than high quality videos of delicious food. Video sharing on platforms like Facebook and Instagram is growing faster than images and we already know how popular images of food are on social media.
Taking videos of your food being prepared, served, eaten and enjoyed can be used and reused over and over again for great effect. They can easily be shared on social media, youtube and your website.
Pro-tip – Turn your videos into Youtube ads.
All you need is a Google Ads account and Youtube channel and you can start showing your ads on Youtube. Surprisingly ad views are very cheap compared to say Google Ads and if someone skips your ad, you don’t pay for it at all – Free advertising! Combined with Google Ads powerful targeting options you can laser focus on your ideal customer in terms of their location, behaviour, types of content they are watching and much more.
For the majority of people a Google search is the place they start when searching for businesses online and restaurants are no different. If you are running an Pizza restaurant in Carlton your business could gain an additional 880 eyeballs a month if it appeared on the first page of Google for ‘pizza st kilda’.
Now that mobile internet usage has exceeded desktop usage most of the time when people search they are seeing search results that are customised for them – in particular their location.
Previously you would need to search the type of restaurant you were looking for plus the location to get accurate results. Using the example above that would be ‘Pizza st kilda’
Nowadays you can just search ‘Pizza’ or ‘Pizza near me’ and Google will show a list of restaurants that offer Pizza in your vicinity.
So how do you get your business to show up on the map or featured just below it?
- Setup a Google my business account
- Encourage customers to leave you positive reviews
- Have a local SEO strategy
The demand for tables at restaurants on any given night is limited and will fluctuate greatly depending upon the time and day. The demand for takeaway or home delivery is much more consistent throughout the week. Home delivery is a completely different market that you can tap into and some restaurant businesses can thrive by focusing on this market.
By tapping into the home delivery market you can not only greatly expand the size of your target market but also generate more consistent revenue during days that are typically quiet in the restaurant.
The quickest way to reach this audience is to sign up for the popular home delivery programs such as:
- Uber eats
They are often the first place potential customers will look when considering takeaway. So by not being listed in many cases your business will not be considered for takeaway.
The downside is that they will take a percentage of your order value or a flat fee for handling the meal delivery. You will also lose control over the presentation of the food upon delivery. Some restaurant owners may prefer to have customers order takeaway from them directly but to do so you will need to factor in the logistics of hiring staff to do deliveries and controlling the quality of food when it arrives at the customers door. If it does make sense then perhaps consider having an offer for delivery that is only available if takeaway is ordered directly through the restaurant.
As with offering delivery services offering catering services can greatly expand the potential customer base of your business. It is a different market with its own unique opportunities. If you are having trouble competing with other local restaurants you may be able to grow your revenue by focusing on providing catering services.
There is less demand for catering services but it can be highly profitable if you are able to win the jobs that are available. Also as the catering service is delivered off site you don’t need to sacrifice table space during peak hours so you can offer catering without it affecting your core business.
As with anything if you want to succeed you can’t just tack this on and expect it to work. You will need to consider the market and put thought into your catering offer and how to market it.
Offering function rooms or facilities is just another way to expand your possible market reach and target audience. It is a great way to generate recurring revenue for the business as there are many small or medium groups that meet on a regular basis such as mothers groups or networking groups.
Managing Your Restaurants Reputation
Generate Positive Reviews
People are far more likely to trust a business that has a positive reputation and the most easily quantifiable measure of a business reputation is online reviews. Many people won’t set foot in a restaurant unless it has a rating of 3.5 out of 5 or above – I am certainly guilty of this.
One attitude towards online reviews is that your food will do the talking and people will want to rate your restaurant because of the quality of food and experience you offer. Unfortunately it is usually unsatisfied customers that lead the charge when it comes to online reviews so you may be in for a shock if you take this approach.
So you can leave it up to chance or you can take action:
- Set up Google My Business
- Get on third party review sites such as Zomato
- Invite all of your family and friends around to try all of your dishes. At the end ask them all for a review and family you should get off to a great start
- Set a goal for a number of reviews you want to generate.
When a business is new and just trying to get it’s foot in the market is the best time to ask for reviews. Australians are known for rooting for the underdog, the battler. If you tell them your story.
Manage negative feedback
Negative feedback or reviews can be hard to take as a business owner but even the best businesses receive them. Often it is more about them than it is about you so be measured in your response and don’t take it personally. For the legitimate feedback where people have had a bad experience, don’t ignore it, use it to improve.
You can also win a lot of brownie points with potential customers by how you respond to criticism so try to respond to all negative feedback but don’t continue to engage if someone is clearly trolling. You will just be throwing more fuel on the fire.
The best way to manage negative reviews?
Generate a tonne of positive reviews to drown them out!
If you can generate 30-40 5 star reviews in the first 6 months of being open you will also be minimising the impact of any negative reviews that may come in the future.
Monitor your mentions
Earlier we spoke about reaching out to influencers, journalists and publications. It is possible that people are already visiting and writing about your restaurant without you knowing about it. Hopefully what they are writing is positive but it is a good idea to keep track of what is being said and shared about your business.
The easiest way to do this is to use Google Alerts (https://www.google.com.au/alerts) to notify you when someone mentions your business name online. All you need to do is enter your business name, create the alert and you will receive an email when your business is mentioned.
If it is positive exposure such as a positive review from a food critic you may wish to share it the article on social media. If negative you may be able to reach out to the writer and see if they will consider dropping by and giving their feedback on your new menu.
Getting More Repeat Customers
Never Stop Learning About Your Customers
Learn as much as you can about your customers. Adapting what you are offering over time so that you can continue to appeal to your loyal customers. A loyal customer is worth their weight in gold so make them your best friends and spend the time getting to know them.
You also have to be wary of your true customers as opposed to transient crowds who will often come once because they have a voucher or just want to check it out but may not return. Don’t make changes based on one-off feedback but on recurring themes.
Be aware of the things that may cause visitors to have a negative experience – wait times, staff, incorrect orders, noise etc. For every potential issue have a contingency or standard operating procedure in place.
Social media Marketing
Some people may be surprised to see that social media fall under generating repeat business rather than finding new customers. It can be used for both but where Social Media excels is creating a community around your business.
Sharing images of your food or related content works best when you are sharing it with people who are already fans of your restaurant and they are far more likely to share with people they know and so on.
Repeat exposure is a essential for any business. There is a reason why McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and other fast food restaurants are constantly running TV and radio ads. Even though they are expensive they reminding you of the company and next time you get hungry their business is more likely to be at the top of your list of places to eat.
Remarketing works by showing targeted ads to people who have been to your website or social media pages before. So rather than showing ads to everyone you can focus on those who are most likely to visit your restaurant because they are:
- Already aware of your restaurant
- Shown interest in your restaurant
The other reason these ads work so well is that you can maximise their exposure to your ads over a short period of time.
Remarketing can be set up through Google Ads or through social media channels such as Facebook.
The takeaway menu is like the trojan horse. If you can successfully get it into someones residence it can pay off big time. However most will not make it past the front door.
Try combining the takeaway menu with a deal or offer such as % off or buy one get one free to convince the homeowner that the menu is worth keeping. If your takeaway menu can reach the fridge you will have hit the jackpot!
Pro-Tip – Offices & Commercial Estates
While residential flier and menu drops are commonplace what many restaurants forget is to target office and commercial buildings. If you serve lunch these buildings should be your priority. Many office buildings have hundreds of staff who may not have a chance to leave the building during lunch or have a lot of time to think about where they want to eat. However if you can build a relationship with other local businesses by allowing them to place an order directly from their office. As with above, if you can get a takeaway menu into the staff break room or kitchen you can profit big.
Get your lunch staff to talk to customers, ask where they work and give them a “special” offer for staff of that company only along with free delivery to their office if they quote the special code written on the takeaway menu.
Surprisingly many restaurants do not have a proper website. They try and get by with a facebook page or half measure going with a sitebuilder such as the ones available through Go Daddy, Crazy Domains, Menulog etc.
While these can help you to get up and running quickly, they should only ever be an interim solution until you develop a proper web presence. A full website can offer many things that these cannot, such as:
- Full control over your web presence and branding
- Integrations with booking services
- Ability to collect email addresses
- Ability to rank well in Google
- Showcase galleries of your food
- Keep an up to date menu
- Highlight other services that you offer such as:
- Function rooms
- Takeaway / Delivery
- Show customer reviews
- Show current offers or promotions
Think of your website as an online salesperson that works 24/7. It can tell potential customers everything they need to know about your restaurant, answer any questions and even manage bookings for you.
Booking services are a fantastic way to plan or lunch or dinner by knowing in advance what groups are coming and any requirements they have.
If you know what kind of groups are coming you can tailor the experience to them. If it is a mothers group coming for lunch you can ensure they are in a space with plenty of room for pushas and with kids seating close at hand.
You can set this up as a form on your website or alternatively you can use third party apps such as Dimmi or Zomato to manage bookings for you.
You can also use the form to collect data about your audience which you can then feed back into your marketing. Think of this as a form of customer research. Things that you can learn with a few simple questions in a form:
- Dietary requirements
- Booking times
- Group types
Over time you will be able to gain a greater understanding of your audience and adapt based on them.
Pro-tip – You can integrate your booking form with email marketing system that can send automated follow ups after their visit to request reviews or offering something for a second visit.
It always surprises me how few restaurant owners are building a list of all their best customers. Email is the easiest way to keep your customers informed about what is happening in the restaurant. If you have a new menu, invite them in try try it out. If you are hosting an event, let them know where to buy tickets. If you have an offer tell them how they can redeem it.
Email marketing is powerful because it provides a near instant impact when executed right.
So how do you build your email list?
- Run a competition
- Setup a booking form on your website
- Have a physical list of emails at point of sale
- Have an email opt-in on your website
Manage Your Web Presence
If you have followed all the recommendations above you are likely to have your business listed on multiple websites. Different people will find you through different platforms whether it be your website, an app or an article so it is important to ensure that the information about your business is up to date and correct.
There is nothing more disappointing as a customer to take a look at menu online, decide what you want only to show up and find out that item is no longer available. By keeping up to date photos, menus and other business information you will be
Here is a checklist of things that you
- Places to check:
- Booking apps
- Google My Business
- Social Media Profiles
Here is what you need to check:
- Opening hours
So how does this promote repeat visits? Well returning customers are the ones who will already have an idea of what they want when they visit and are most likely to be disappointed if what they want is no longer on offer. So keep your customers happy by keeping everything up to date.