Online Restaurant Marketing
People Are Hungry for You. Make Sure New Customers Can Find Your Restaurant Online.
Successful restaurants are built on customer loyalty. Your regulars are what keep you going.
But to get new people in the door (who later become more regulars) you have to market your restaurant.
Nowadays, the majority of searches for restaurants come on mobile phones. People have a desire to try a type of food, but don’t know a restaurant in the area that serves it. Or they may have heard your name but want to check out your menu and location. So they break out their phone and do a quick search. They’ll look through a couple of websites, check some reviews, and decide where to go.
This is your chance to:
- Be found at the top of page 1
- Have a clean, professional website that highlights your menu, specials, and makes it easy for people to call or find you
- Place some good reviews where they are highly visible to sway people your way
Restaurant Marketing 360® is an all-in-one online marketing solution that makes sure new diners in you – on both desktop computers and mobile devices – and are taken to an appetizing restaurant website template that gets them making reservations and walking through your doors.
You’ll work with a professional marketing executive who understands the restaurant industry and how to generate online business. We’ll help with advertisements, promotionals, social media, and more.
Most of all, we’ll make sure that when someone is hungry for what you serve, they’ll find you when they search restaurants online.
As you start your restaurant and develop a formal business plan, it’s important to plan your internet presence, website design, and online marketing strategy. Here are some of the essentials to include.
Every start-up, including a new restaurant, benefits from having a formal, written business plan. A critical part of this plan will be marketing and sales, where you plan how to market your restaurant and encourage regular patronage.
Within the marketing section of your business plan you should detail specifics on digital, internet-based marketing. The internet is an important channel to draw in new diners. Your website and social media presence can also be used to offer specials and update regulars, enticing them to come back in.
For the most part, budget allotments for digital restaurant marketing don’t need to be huge. But you do want to make sure you have a high level of visibility as you start out, and that you have a website that represents your restaurant in an appetizing, enticing manner.
There are some aspects of digital marketing you’ll want to keep as internal, while others you can hire out to an experienced agency. The overall goal is exposure in your target area, with a conversion being more diners coming through the door.
Take the time to outline specifics on how you’ll use the following digital marketing platforms and strategies. While results vary, you can target 20-30% of new, first-time diner acquisition as a goal from internet marketing efforts.
Restaurant Website Design
Your website will be the backbone of your online marketing – it is the digital front of your restaurant itself. For diners who find you online, your website will be their first impression. A cheap site communicates a cheap experience. Plan to have a professional design created that gives an impression that’s modern, clean, and appetizing. Content should include areas that display specials, happy hour deals, and new menu items.
Website functionality allows you to take orders online if you wish. Your entire menu should be displayed as a live page in the navigation. Contact/location information should be in the header of the website so it’s always visible.
Ensure that your website is responsive so that it displays on mobile devices. A content management system will allow you to edit content on the website without having to know code like HTML, meaning you won’t have to pay a programmer every time you want to change something on the website.
Plan to update your website design periodically based on changes to your menu or service, and to maintain a modern, updated look.
Benchmarks include number of visitors, time on website, bounce rate, and contact directly attributed to the website (phone calls with online tracking number, form fills, anecdotal data on diners who found you online).
There are three types of search marketing to consider, each of which overlaps to a certain degree. Online search is what will make your site visible on queries for certain types of restaurants or food items (for examples Italian restaurants Dallas, best Pho Boulder). Also, many new diners who heard of you by word-of-mouth will feel you out/check your menu on your website.
The first type of search is pay-per-click advertising, or PPC. These are ads you run though platforms such as Google Adwords. The advantage here is that you can get your ads to display on page 1 of search right away, depending on how competitive your bidding. Marketing 360® offers a free analysis of what you’ll need to spend to show up ahead of your local competition. Be prepared to modify budget amounts to be competitive with PPC.
The second type of search is search engine optimization, or SEO. Known as organic search, these are results that build over time based on the authority of content on your website. While you don’t pay for clicks with SEO the way you do with PPC, it does take longer to get results. You’ll need to invest time into a content creation strategy to rank for certain terms, which usually involves blogging.
The third type of search results in a cross-over from SEO that deals with directory and social media listings. There are several hundred directories you’ll want to get listed on, and social media like Google Plus for Business and Facebook impact your SEO. You’ll want to create accounts on social media and make sure your listed locally.
Your business plan should set goals for short term (1-6 months) results from PPC, and longer (6 months – 2 years) for SEO and related local listings. Benchmarks include website traffic, click-through rates, and page 1 ranking for selected keyword phrases.
Social media can be a useful way to engage existing regulars and get them to share things about your restaurant with their friends. Social media is more of an awareness tool, and does not tend to work as well with direct advertising. Create Facebook and Twitter accounts for your restaurant (both of which are free). Unlike PPC or SEO, daily social media postings are best left to someone who works internally in your restaurant and can give real-time updates on events and menu items.
The main investment to make here is time of a staff member. Use someone experienced in using Facebook. Benchmarks include number of likes/followers on each platform, evidence of attendance at events announced on social media.
Online Reviews & Reputation Management
Online reviews are so influential with restaurants that it’s worth planning how to manage them. In time, even the best restaurants get some bad reviews.
You can include and manage testimonials on your website itself. Top Rated Local® ties into your website with a plug-in and allows you to manage comments.
Google Plus has reviews, and more reviews on this platform help your SEO. Encourage diners to review you on one of these two platforms if possible.
Yelp! is know for online restaurant reviews, and is the most likely place to get hit with an unfair rant. Watch this platform regularly. Respond to negative, unfiltered reviews and explain a remedy to any service issue.
Benchmarks: trends in business overtime with an influx of positive or negative reviews.
Planning Your Budget
Because a restaurant targets a local or regional audience, digital marketing budgets are generally moderate. Initial website design can be 3-5 K, but many professional design templates are less. In fact, Restaurant Marketing 360® offers UXI® templates at no cost when included with a marketing plan.
In months 1-6, ensure that you allow enough budget to be competitive with PPC. You’ll get more traffic off of mobile searches, and it will probably be the only listings that show on page 1. How much you need to spend depends on the area you’re marketing in and on your competition. $200-300 per month is not unusual.
At the 6 month benchmark, SEO and local listing efforts should garner higher rankings (at least top 30), and should grow from there.
Social media will be ongoing and largely an awareness tool, so the key here is to keep accounts updated with new posts.
Digital marketing is one marketing channel that, when done correctly and consistently, will draw in a percentage of your new diners. It is not make or break for most restaurants, but is a valuable part of the overall marketing concept that should be included in your initial business plan.
Restaurant marketing data can be hard to collect because the most desired conversion – new patrons walk through your doors – isn’t easily tracked. But you can discover how diners found you to get a sense of how your marketing is working.
There are businesses where internet marketing results are easy to track. On many professional services websites, a conversion is either a phone call or a form fill on the website – both are automatically tracked. This type of business can get a good sense of how many leads and new clients they’re getting from their online marketing.
However, some businesses, such as restaurants, target walk-ins. A great new patron may have found your website on search, checked your menu, decided you looked great and come on down.
All fine unless you’re trying track specific marketing campaigns – an important step in improving results.
With a restaurant’s marketing, the only thing you can do is try to gather data from patrons directly. This is particularly useful when you’re a newer restaurant and you know you have a lot of first-time diners coming in. Some options:
- Have waitstaff ask people how they found out about you. When they take the check, simply ask how people found out about you. If they did an online search, inquire about what they searched on. Keep a spreadsheet with some of the different channels so you can track the data (again, very important in your first 6 months to a year).
- Include a short questionnaire with the check. Have a small card in with the check where people can check off options about how they heard about you. Also include a place to sign-up for you email newsletter, and list your website and Facebook urls. Have a prize drawing for a gift card (monthly) to encourage people to fill out the card. Make sure your waitstaff mentions it when they bring the check, and have some available at your bar.
- Create an online only coupon. Offer specific deals that come only through your website, social media, or email lists. Track the number of redemptions to correlate where the diners looked before they came in.
Over time, you can gather information on what’s driving traffic into your restaurant.
For example, if you found that few people mentioned finding your website prior to coming in, you may have a problem with your keyword rankings, or it may mean your website is not creating a positive impression that’s drawing people in.
If over time you’re not getting Facebook likes or Twitter followers, you’re not getting enough activity through social media.
The data will be more anecdotal than conversions you track directly off a website, but you should be able to garner valuable insights.