Marketing Best Practices

Dine In

Fine Dining
Traditional Diner


Pizza Shop
Ethnic Cuisine
Dark Kitchen

Grab and Go

Coffee Shop
Sandwich Shop
Fast Food

Marketing Overview

A delicious, positive image is critical for the restaurant business. Having an image-first mindset in marketing will convey your restaurant’s quality cuisine and having a positive online reputation will typically help improve your reputation in your local community.

To entice your target audience, your online presence and food images should replicate your restaurant experience. One of the best ways to showcase your customer experience online is through online reputation management, which helps you showcase your restaurant through the eyes of your customers on review sites, like Yelp and Google My Business, and reservation apps, such as I Know the Chef and OpenTable. To expand your reach and connect with your audience in the apps they use often, leverage third-party delivery partners, such as Postmates, Grubhub, and Uber Eats.

To convey your unique dining experience, a modern approach should be used to communicate with customers that include a mobile-first website, a mobile-responsive menu, blog content, email marketing, and a consistent social media program. These pieces and your advertising efforts should focus on serving your local community’s needs.

Continue reading to learn how modern marketing efforts can help you reach more of your target audience. A mobile-first website and menu, digital advertising, online reputation management, content marketing, and enticing calls to action will often encourage occasional customers to convert into regulars.

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Marketing Foundation

Marketing your restaurant is all about giving your prospects and customers a similar experience online as they experience at your restaurant. The main ingredient is a sleek, functional online menu. According to a survey by OpenTable, 93% of people view menus online before eating out, which is why having your menu online and accessible to your prospects is critical for business success.

To top it off, more and more Americans are seeking convenience first when it comes to much of their food decisions. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout once per week and 31 percent use third-party delivery services at least twice a week. This is why it’s vital to offer convenient solutions for your customers, including delivery, online ordering, and online reservations, if applicable. To offer these services, you can partner with third-party delivery service partners as well as third-party reservation and ordering partners. Then, incorporate these options into your marketing efforts.

Restaurants can also benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics in their sales and marketing efforts. Scarcity marketing efforts for your restaurant may mean limited-time or daily specials, seasonal or rare events that feature a special menu, limited-time menu items, or seasonal menu items. These efforts work best with an established customer base, so be sure to add to your offerings rather than detract from them. These efforts do not, however, usually work to improve slow seasons. For slow seasons, we recommend a special discount or offering a unique event by collaborating with another local business.

Foundation Sections

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Audience Targeting

When people choose to dine out, they often ask Google to help them decide. This includes organic efforts, such as directory listings and social media, as well as advertising. Advertising a restaurant combines brand awareness initiatives and brand promotion. Digital advertising leverages geo-specific targeting, which not only focuses on your target area but also helps you gather data on who your ideal customer is. Part of the strategy will be analyzing who is searching for your service and who might be interested in it as well. The majority of your advertising efforts will target people who are looking for a solution to meet an immediate need – where to eat or grab a drink.

Over time, you will fine-tune targeting on all paid advertising platforms and researching your local competition to understand why they’re successful or what they might be lacking that you could take advantage of. You will learn ways on how to lower ad spend and utilize the best keywords by looking at the search term query report to shape the correct traffic to the website, split testing ad copies to improve ad performance, and researching for long-tailed keywords to compete with competitors’ ad spend. All of this is an effort to reduce cost, capture your competitors’ customers, increase ROI by zooming in on high-converting customers, and to further expand your business.

Audience Targeting Sections

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Lead Nurturing

Restaurants need a strategy when they communicate with prospects, customers, and the community in order to have a positive reputation online and offline. This strategy should be centered around conveying reputability through various avenues, using brand messaging, positioning, and visuals. Conveying your reputability can help increase sales conversion rates, nurture leads, help streamline the sales process, and increase the lifetime value of the customer by encouraging repeat business and referrals.

Many restaurants are tempted to only showcase their menu items, or worse, only promote their promotions. While promoting your menu items and promotions is important for your communications efforts, you also need to tell stories. Your restaurant, team, dishes, and drinks all have stories – so tell them. People are wired for stories and they are emotionally-driven, so tell your prospects and customers the emotional stories about your restaurant. “Emotional” doesn’t mean sad or extraneous, but instead, it means to connect with your audience through true stories. For example, if your main dish was inspired by your grandmother who ran her own restaurant many years ago, share that story. If your restaurant provides jobs to individuals who grew up with food insecurity, tell that story.

Tip: Only tell honest stories as this builds trust with your audience.

Tip: If you can, share local stories. People enjoy learning about their community from the lens of someone else’s experience.

The lead nurturing strategy for every restaurant should evolve with the business, the customers’ needs, and the industry. To do this, it’s important to monitor how prospects and customers interact with your content. This is where analytics comes in on all platforms – your website, social media pages, email marketing account, and text marketing account. Since marketing communications is all about content, it’s important to constantly monitor what content is read, viewed, and liked by your audience. When content is read and liked, take note for future social media posts, blog articles, emails, and more. When it doesn’t, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this content clear?
  • Is this content focused on one topic and purpose?
  • Is this content attractive? Consider the vocabulary, images, videos, etc.
  • Is this quality content?
  • Does this content benefit my audience in some way? Education, entertainment, informative, etc.
  • Is this content served in a format that my audience prefers?

Lead Nurturing Sections

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