You finally have your restaurant put together: your rent is paid, you bought the furniture that you were dreaming of, you managed to hire good staff for the job and your suppliers are able to deliver you fresh food on a daily basis.
And, you hate to admit it to yourself but your tables are empty.
You know it’s not about the food and you know that you should be putting more effort into “doing marketing” to get more customers.
Your time is limited, though, as you are the restaurant manager and your job is not actually to sit behind a screen, doing promotional campaigns or customer service.
To market your restaurant you can start with these six tips that will give you a good smattering of what it needs to be done to stand a higher chance to stay on top of the competition and gain more clients.
“Advertising is totally unnecessary. Unless you hope to make money.”
Jef I. Richards
1. Set your social media profiles
Social media marketing strategies are, without any doubt, an undeniable force in today’s world. Flyers, leaflets and printed delivery menus slipped under doorways simply won’t cut it anymore.
The use of social media will guarantee you a higher chance to get your restaurant into people’s faces at a cheaper rate than printed media.
Often, the restaurants with a strong social media presence as part of their restaurant marketing plan are the ones that by far get more customers, and in the competitive food industry, ignoring social media is a death sentence.
To start setting up your social media accounts you’ll want to create a Facebook business page and a Twitter account toshare special discounts and promote new dishes.
Also, you’ll want to get your hands on Instagram to open an account asap.
If you haven’t lived in a remote cave for the past 5 years, you’ll know how the “food porn” mania on Instagram is well and alive.
Open an account, insert high-quality pictures (we’ll dig down in the importance of your pictures on the second tip) and be ready to receive floods of “hearts” to your fresh plates.
The marketing journey starts like this but setting up your accounts is only half the job – it’s also essential you keep up with activity happening on your social sites.
2. Make your food looking good
As we mentioned in the tip 1), Instagram is a strong social media for the restaurant because of its very big feature: visual, visual and visual.
We arguably say that a customer starts to eat from the plate with their eyes and in a sense this is true, as psychologically we are attracted by colours, shapes and composition of the elements.
The very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, drool-inducing photos. Visual content is in high demand online these days, and having delicious looking photos on your website and across various social media outlets is essential for drawing hungry eyes.
Consider hiring a pro to take some top-notch photographs, or try it DIY style with your smartphone. Be warned though – taking really great food photos can be tougher than it looks, as lighting is often a key factor. Learn more on snapping your own one by checking out this guide here.
3. Get a website
Having a website for your restaurant business is equivalent to having a food shop in every part of the world.
If you want your restaurant to grow big, then you’ve got to get a professional website. A website opens up opportunities for a much larger market of consumers.
It makes it very easy for potential and even existing customers to find you. I know you’re thinking that putting up a website is lots of work but believe me, the reward is nothing compared to the work. Be aware of the way-too-cheap website services that you get online.
It’s a DIY choice and more often than not, you will find yourself with a half-way done website and hundreds of hours wasted to build it.
Whilst having your website built, make sure to double check these points:
– Does your website match your restaurant personality?
– Does your website have a responsive feature?
– Does your website show your menu?
– Does your website aid the user to navigate smoothly?
If your answer was yes for all the questions above, then your good to go and approve the development job!
4. Dominate your online reviews
There is a massive incremental trend of online reviews and the food industry is one of the most engaged ones in this on-going phenomena.
It can be either a blessing or a curse as, on one hand, the good reviews will spread faster than the word of mouth, hitting the news feed of hundreds of people with one recommendation or share.
On the other hand, a bad review will increase the suspicious levels into the potential customers’ minds, tempting them to skip your restaurant “for tonight”.
The question is: are you fully in control of your reviews?
It’s powered by today’s reality that consumers can easily leave simple or epic reviews on websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato, Foursquare, and so many others. It’s thoroughly energized by the search engine power of those platforms. It’s within your control because of the tidal wave of providers who can help with this.
What matters most right now is that it’s within your control to get on top of these online reviews, even if you’ve got just one single restaurant location and feel you can’t dedicate the time to doing this.
If you are short on time, hire a person to do the job.
Remember that even a bad review can turn on to be a good thing: in your answer to the angry customer, along with the apology for any inconvenience, talk about your latest new entry in the menu and invite them to come back as there is an introductory price for the first month and they just can’t miss it.
How to see the bright side of life, uh?
5. Bring the contests on
Big or small, adults or kids we all love to play and we all love to get something for free.
You can offer an entire meal, a percentage off, a particular item on the menu or a simple free drinks night.
Whatever you want to promote (or simply giveaway because you have too much in stock) can be easily promoted whilst gaining loads of engagement and visibility.
Whenever you ran a contest, be sure to leverage it on all your social media to maximize the reach of people and the response.
With a simple creative plan, you will be able to put together a fantastic trigger for potential customers that never visited your restaurant!
6. Invest in your advertising
Truth to be told, the time of printed media is slowly coming to an end.
With a rate of €0.50 per leaflet and €0.01 per Facebook impression, the online advertising has increased drastically and as you can see, it’s for a good reason. Actually more than one.
Cheaper, more effective, faster.
With thousands of users that can be reached in less than an hour, any contest can be promoted ad-hoc and any special nights can be marketed to its fullest.
You are going to get rid of the costs of printing, delivering, hours wasted in researching the right people.
Google AdWords and Facebook Ads Manager are only two of the hundreds of advertising platforms and, since we practically live every day on these two platforms, it’s obvious that you’ll want to open an advert account with them.
Refrain from investing money without checking your data, though.
To have a functional and optimal online paid campaign, you need to do your homework:
– analyse your market, interests, demographics, age and gender
– insert an attractive and effective creative
– make sure to have a good copy as the main slogan of the campaign
– be sure to bid accordingly to what the market is (not too low, not too high)
As you can see, it’s a real job and we always suggest to consult with a marketing specialist first.
Promoting your restaurant it’s an art of controlling every channel available at today, staying on top of them and being constantly creative with new campaigns and ideas to engage with your clients.
As often happens, this field will be left to a third party partner in order to ensure great results in a short amount of time but with these tips, you can start today to give a little boost to your restaurant and feel more in control of your own business.