The Complete Guide to Building a Restaurant Marketing Plan

30 Steps to Market Your Restaurant Like the Pros

If you’ve recently opened a restaurant or cafe, you may find yourself wondering, “How do I market my business better?”

The good news is, you’ve already set yourself apart just by asking this question. To many, marketing is a vague term that involves a lot of TV commercials and billboards. These can help, but there are plenty of other ways to form a solid restaurant marketing plan without the major investment a television spot or highway sign requires. Have we perked your appetite for better marketing? Let’s keep the food puns going and take a look at our menu of marketing activities.

Contents

Your Website

Traditional Promotions

Business Listings

Digital and Content Advertising

Social Media Advertising

Collecting Performance Data and Optimizing Content

Let’s Review

Your Website
1. Build a Website

The backbone of your restaurant marketing plan should be a solid, professional website. This step is critical to every other section in this guide, whether as a CTA in social posts, a link in Yelp profile details, so on. Others, like geo-targeted ads, will require a landing page to drive traffic to.

 

Website

 

Think of your website as the one place where you can answer all of your customers’ questions. What style of food do you offer? Where are you located? Do you have specials? How can I contact you? These unknowns might steer customers away if unanswered. Instead, you can answer their questions and include more information to sway them the other way. You may even choose to set up an online ordering option. Now you can drive more sales before your customers have even set foot in the building.

Need help redesigning or creating your website? Digital Marketing Folks has you covered. Need help with SEO or search engine marketing (SEM)? We do that, too! Give us a call and learn about our capabilities to help you build a great foundation for your marketing activities.

2. Put Your Menu Online

We hope you’ve already done this step when you took care of the website in Step 1. But it bears emphasis: having an online menu can answer a thousand questions that you might otherwise be answering over phone and email – or worse, your potential customers never even ask them because they’ve found another restaurant

 

 A sample online menu

Sample Online Menu

 

What questions, you say? Everything from what your food is (broad) to what special dietary needs you meet (niche). Offering all that information in one sleek, easy-to-use interface allows website users to do their own research. If your food descriptions are well-written and you’ve included good-looking images, then your menu is doing covert marketing without a campaign.

3. Offer Online Reservations

If there is one larger theme to this blog post besides restaurant marketing, it’s that customers don’t want to come in the door and then be disappointed. Your website, ads and other promotions should all groom them so they know what to expect and are then delighted to see how you deliver above average. Otherwise, they’re unhappy, not likely to make a purchase and more than likely to share their negative sentiments with friends. It’s not a good situation for you or them.

Online reservations are one way to ensure that they walk in the door and are delighted by taking the guess work out of one of the hardest factors to predict: seating. If you’re busy, that’s a great sign, but making customers wait is an unfortunate by-product. Offering reservations, if it makes sense to your business, allows you to provide your customers a level of assurance and ease any anxiety.

Offering online reservations makes the process even easier. Now customers can book a table at any time, even if no one’s in to answer the phone, and know that they can get the food they want at the time they want. No more guesswork, no more drama – an improved experience. Plus, you set yourself apart from competitors who don’t offer online reservations if you include this tool as part of your restaurant marketing plan.

 

Sample online reservation tool

Sample Online Reservation Tool

 

 

Platforms like Open Table make the process easy by offering a ready-made, intuitive tool to book reservations that you can subscribe to without the need to build a complete web application inside your website. Of course, like many other marketing tools, it comes with a price tag, but online reservations are definitely something to explore once your other promotions are generating revenue and your restaurant marketing plan has started to mature.

4. Blog – A Lot

If you are taking the time to write social content (and you should be), consider taking some of your post ideas and combining them into a blog. Restaurants are social places where people meet to talk and share good food – think of your blog in similar terms. Write posts about milestones you’ve reached, recipes you use and anything else your fans want to hear about.

Blogs also offer the opportunity to build followings and a space where restaurant-goers can interact and create a community. You don’t have to publish constantly, but maintain a consistent schedule so fans know when to check for new content. This simple trick does wonders for building followers and increasing engagement.

5. Boost Your Reputation with a Food Blogger

If you already have a blog up and running (or even if you don’t, yet), consider reaching out to a food blogger. Much like a professional food critic, food bloggers gain a following by publishing online materials around – you guessed it – food. So what better pairing than to bring one of them into your restaurant?

Food bloggers usually aren’t slouches about advertising themselves online, since the low barrier to entry means that almost anyone can start a blog. Amid all the noise, they painstakingly build an audience and attempt to break away from the pack. In the same way that they have reached out and drawn the eyes of their readers, you need to now engage them and draw their interest.

Start by identifying bloggers in your area – remember the geographic barrier we discussed with geotargeting? Follow these food bloggers on social media and share their posts when applicable. Like and comment on their blog site. Make sure they know about you before you ever formally reach out to them.

You’ve done your legwork. Now it’s time to pitch your restaurant to the food blogger. Compose an email directly to him or her and tell the blogger why you chose them to feature your food. Make him or her feel special. Invite the blogger to dine at your restaurant – offer a free entrée or appetizer to sweeten the deal.

You can’t ethically coerce the blogger into giving you a good review, but making the sit-down experience as pleasant as possible goes a long way toward giving them a good impression of you, your restaurant and your food. All of these sentiments will make their way into the final product. Dazzle them with service and flair from the first moment to the last.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. You engaged the blogger, got them in the door – all leading to this review. Set a Google Alert so you know as soon as it publishes; many bloggers will also tell you when they’re planning on publishing. Give it a thorough read? Is it a good review? Great! Like and comment with a thank you on the reviewer’s blog, share the post on social media and consider hosting the review on your website.

Is the review less than sparkling? Remember, you’re a professional. Thank the reviewer on their post for taking the time to see your restaurant and promise to work on anything that failed to impress them. You may even want to invite them back after some time has passed to see how you’ve improved. This way, you not only show that you’re receptive to feedback, but that you’ll work to improve.

Want more ideas? Restaurant Engine has a step-by-step guide from discovery to recruitment – in addition to tips on a whole lot more for starting restaurateurs.

6. Good Press – Sing Your Praises

Has your restaurant attracted the attention of a food critic? Maybe a newspaper featured your menu. It’s a common saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but good publicity deserves some extra attention in your restaurant marketing plan.

One of the easiest next steps is to share a link to the article on your social channels. This will show existing fans that you’re winning accolades and convince new customers to come in and see what all the hype is about. You can also start a section on your website dedicated to this type of news to give the content some extra life (social posts disappear from feeds quickly).

7. Write Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

We’ll cover SEO in greater detail in the next section. But here is one step that you should absolutely do as soon as your webpages are built, whether you have any interest in optimization or not. I’m speaking of meta titles and meta descriptions.

These terms may sound like technical mumbo jumbo, but the concept couldn’t be simpler. You search that term, and next to the Knowledge Graph, you see the results.

 

Banana Bread Meta Titles + Descriptions

 

The blue hyperlink beside the red arrow is a meta title, and the text beneath the meta title and page URL is the meta description. These may seem unimportant, but they are wasted advertising space if you do not take the time to write a unique title and description. Otherwise, the search engine will scrape what’s on the page, and you end up with content that trails off.

Meta Description Truncated

Not only does this not look as good, which can discourage search traffic, but your search engine ranking suffers. Worst of all, you’ve wasted an opportunity to convince a user that your page can answer their question with a unique and persuasive description. Write a meta title up to 60 characters and a meta description up to 300 characters describing what’s on your page and what a user can do on it, and you’re already halfway there.

True web wizards also optimize their meta tags to target specific keywords users are searching, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

8. Start Investing Time in SEO

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, nothing happens overnight. Your optimization strategy may take months before you observe significant results, which is why it’s better for you to start now while you are still redesigning your website (or perhaps building it for the first time). Since you’re already building the site, why not make it do more work for you?

Exploring all aspects of SEO would double the length of this blog post, but to help set you on the right path, we’ve included some basic, minimum effort tips followed by larger resources for when you’re ready to take the next step.

The first step is to emphasize how SEO works – and as part of that, that SEO is only effective when you have content to optimize. Basically, Google and other search engines earn their users by providing relevant search results (i.e. content) based on the user’s search terms. By optimizing your content, you’re showing Google that your article is relevant to particular search terms, which encourages the search engine to display your results higher on the page.

So how do you start optimizing that content? If you’ve built out meta titles and meta descriptions as described above, then you’re already off to a good start. Next, identify keywords relevant to your business. Each webpage or blog post should target one “main” keyword, and if your website is just starting out, it makes the most sense to target low competition keywords. That way, your website can rank easier for this term. A great strategy for restaurants is to take a keyword you’re trying to rank for, such as “Italian food” and include a geographic descriptor like “Italian food New York.” This not only narrows your search competition from the much larger “Italian food” term but also helps target local users searching for your food.

For instance, the search term “Italian restaurants” shows much higher search interest throughout the year, but it also fluctuates, while the more targeted “Italian restaurants NYC” holds steady over time. This lower interest means lower competition, which is good for ranking faster, and that’s not all.

 

Google Trends Comparison

 

The true difference comes when you break down the search traffic to the region you are targeting.

 

Google Trends Interest by Region

 

The term “Italian restaurant” (blue chart) shows interest all over the state of New York, but how many people in Buffalo are willing to drive to your restaurant in NYC to eat? “Italian restaurant NYC” (red chart) shows massive interest in the area it’s relevant to, which means your optimized content will be viewed by potential customers searching in the same area you do business. This targeting provides you the ability to convert these users into customers, which is the true purpose of your website and a better return on investment than simply gaining more web traffic.

Keywords are the most critical piece to optimizing web content. The following tips do not require that you have optimized each webpage, but they will only be more effective if you have:

  • Create visual content – users like pages and posts with images (which leads to more traffic), and Google also takes note of content with <img> and other tags
  • Encourage comments on your blog post – offer giveaways, fan features or other incentives to drive engagement and build community
  • Focus on making your website mobile-friendly – this is not only critical to reach more searchers, but Google docks your website ranking if you don’t
  • Link out to other authority websites in your content – Google judges the expertise of these webpages to determine whether you are a subject matter expert in your field
  • Plus, the other websites may link back to you in return, which is also great for SEO
  • Use free SEO tools for further insights – SEO can seem like a beast, but you don’t have to face it alone

When it comes to learning all there is to know or just starting out, Backlinko’s blog is where our agency professionals turn to for expert insight on the latest trends. If you still want help developing an SEO strategy, Digital Marketing Folks offers year of experience optimizing client’s websites. Find out what we can do for yours today.

Traditional Promotions
9. Send Out Email Newsletters

In a world of flashy advertising and social platforms, a newsletter might seem outdated in your restaurant marketing plan. Au contraire. Think of a newsletter as a way to increase your brand’s visibility in more spaces. Your fans see your posts on Instagram , they see ads when they search in your area, and now you can maintain a presence in their inbox. As long as your marketing doesn’t become invasive, you can gently encourage more business just by being the first restaurant that comes to mind.

But what to talk about? Your newsletter is a chance to share the latest developments. Talk about a recent milestone you’ve reached, new menu items you’ve added, even share special discounts with your subscribers. Anything your mega-fans would want to know. Bonus: the lure of special discounts can also draw more subscribers. Everyone wins!

 

Smartphone Inbox

 

If you don’t want to start from scratch, the internet is full of ideas (and templates).

10. Organize Giveaways

Another promotional strategy that seems stuck in the past, yet our digital age has created new opportunities for giveaways. Social media accounts are the perfect platforms for these promotions. There is no greater driver for consumers than self-interest, which is why we’ve repeatedly recommended discounts and free items. Offer a gift card or free lunch to one lucky customer who likes or shares your post on Instagram, for example.

Yes, you’ll be paying for the cost of this item. But the increased exposure you will receive should far outweigh the temporary cost. Who knows, the winner may even bring friends to your restaurant. If nothing else, you’ve created a dedicated fan who’s sure to engage with your posts in the future.

11. Take Food Pics

The human eye is an incredibly complex system that allows us to function on a daily basis, but it has a simple hack: our eyes love color and imagery. Where does this relate to marketing your restaurant? Easy, we love seeing pictures online, and we love pictures of food even more.

Write paragraphs about your dishes, but nothing communicates quality and the type of food you serve as quickly as a good photo. Some go for professional photographers, but if you feel confident, try it yourself. Load up one of your signature dishes, plunk it down in good lighting and play around with angles. Bird’s eye view appears to be a universal best practice, according to the folks at iPhone Photography School. Check out their 13 best tips to learn even more about showing your food in the (wait for it) best light.

 

Food Photography

 

Having high quality food photos will also be a huge boost to your other restaurant marketing strategies, including content for your website.

12. Introduce Loyalty Programs – Keep Them Coming Back

What’s better than a new customer? Bringing an old customer back in the door! While you’ll always want to attract new business, building a base of loyal foodies offers a level of stability and helps you build an audience for your marketing promotions.

Loyalty programs can help you accomplish both goals in one swing. Popular apps often allow you to offer discounts or free items to first-time visitors – and who doesn’t love free? You can then focus on enticing repeat visitors with further deals.

Some restaurants, like Noodles & Co. (a personal favorite), have built out their own loyalty program apps. But if you don’t have the tech resources of a massive franchise, don’t sweat it! Several popular food apps offer integrated loyalty programs, no coding required:

  • Belly
  • LevelUp
  • Loyal Blocks
  • Perka

Of course, loyalty programs existed before smart phones. While they aren’t quite as sleek as a mobile app, punch cards are another way to show you value your customer’s business and want to see them again.

13. Buy Local, Market Local

Remember the gluten-free example we gave earlier for appealing to niche markets? Being able to show off that “locally sourced ingredients” badge is another way to attract the environmentally conscious and boutique eaters in your area. Not to mention, people like to know that they are supporting local farmers in their community, so it’s a great way to reach out to the larger community. Eating great food and making a difference? It’s a win-win for everyone.

Business Listings
14. Get Help – with Yelp

We’re probably not breaking any news here when we say that Yelp is one of the most powerful promotion platforms there is for restaurant and small business marketing. Beyond being a household name among consumers – which only means good things in terms of exposure and traffic to the site – Yelp focuses on reviews.

 

Yelp Landing Page

 

Yes, reviews. In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are exposed to a constant stream of marketing messages, and their skepticism is higher than ever as a result. Is your restaurant’s food as good as you say it is? A good review on Yelp will convince a hesitant consumer that your money is (wait for it) where your mouth is.

On the flip side, a bad review can lead to lower foot traffic. Thus, it’s critical that you include Yelp in your restaurant marketing plan. Whether or not you have an account, your restaurant will get reviews. Be proactive and build out a profile that can properly reflect your business, even if you have some negative reviews.

What’s the best way to make your account shine on Yelp? Include details. Lots of them:

  • Photos – food (remember those pics from earlier?), seating, exterior of the building, menu
  • Store hours
  • Location
  • Menu
  • Price range
  • Amenities – Wi-Fi, outdoor seating, parking, etc

 

Details are the little things that can place you above your competition. Sure, there may be four other Thai restaurants in your area, but are their prices as good as yours? Do they have complimentary Wi-Fi? How about late-night hours? Plus, these details make your business more searchable when people come to the site looking for specific offerings – like gluten-free options. You should also incorporate these distinguishing factors into your larger marketing strategy.

On every review, make sure you are responding in a polite, professional manner. Hopefully you’re getting lots of good reviews, but if you encounter negative ones, how you respond can significantly reduce the damage. Either way, thank the reviewer for their feedback. If they were less than impressed, apologize for the incident and promise to work to correct the issue in the future. This approach shows that you are receptive to your customers’ needs and committed to progress, which they and other readers will appreciate.

15. Build Out Your Google My Business Listing

When searchers look up a business, they expect to find the correct contact, location and product information – and fast. Nothing is more frustrating as using that information, only to discover a piece of it is wrong. Avoid losing potential customers by verifying your business’s details on Google My Business.

There are many reasons to use Google My Business, but the most critical, as we have already discussed, is ensuring that customers have the right details to find your restaurant, view your offerings and decide whether they will visit the store. Researchers found that, in 2014, 81 percent of shoppers researched a product using the internet before making a purchase decision. Finding a restaurant is a very similar process – ensure that yours appears reputable by creating a current Google My Business listing.

We’ve assembled some tips to guide you:

  • Claim and verify your listing – this is Step 1
  • Add your hours of operation – you never want a customer to come when you’re closed!
  • Add your website – Google uses information from your website to improve search results
  • Add interior and exterior pictures of your business – help customers find you and lure them in
  • Add your logo and a profile photo – creates an immediate sense of legitimacy
  • Integrate with Google+ – creates an active social channel for you to share updates on your business
  • Create a detailed description of your business
  • Encourage customer reviews and respond to any new posts
  • Include your local phone number – this allows you to create AdWords Location Phone Extensions
  • Complete all fields with as much detail as possible.

 

Google My Business Listings

 

Google My Business also allows you to integrate your online reservations tool. Now people viewing your business listing can book a table without having to go into your website. Even more convenience!

16. Give Yourself a Plus with Google+

In most social media discussions, Google+ is considered the third horse in the race behind the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn mainstays. But, thanks to the all-encompassing power of Google, Google+ has a very useful role in your restaurant marketing plan.

Whenever you search for a business or topic, Google creates a Knowledge Graph with basic facts about whatever it is that you’ve searched to give quick references without having to refine the search or click deeper. Back to our banana bread example from before. When I search “banana bread,” I get a Knowledge Graph on the righthand side:

 

Google Knowledge Graph for Banana Bread

 

Where this becomes vital to your online marketing is when someone searches your restaurant’s name. Google pulls much of the data it displays in a Knowledge Graph from Google+, meaning that having an up-to-date account on the platform for your restaurant ensures that your information appears at the top of the search bar. Knowledge Graph also allows users to see more about your business before clicking on your website, providing more persuasion where search results with their limited meta titles and meta descriptions will not. Which brings us to another point:

17. Ensure Your Listings Are Up-to-Date

There’s nothing more frustrating than looking up a restaurant, finding exactly what you are looking for and then discovering once you get there that the dish is no longer available. Even worse, maybe the address is wrong. In any case, if there is any false or outdated information out there around your restaurant, you may be losing customers before they even set foot in the door. There is no way to truly know how many potential eaters are deterred, but the risk is too great to sit idly by.

The best way to ensure all business listings around your restaurant are accurate is for you to submit them yourself and check them often to ensure that any changes you make to your menu, location or contact details are reflected online. At the very least, ensure that your address is updated as soon as you move.

If you do not have the time to manually submit and check all of your business listings, Yext offers an online tool that allows you to automatically submit and view details across 100+ apps and websites. For a small investment, this service can produce a much larger result. At the very least, make sure your listings on Google+ and Google My Business are accurate to reach the large amount of search traffic coming through Google.

Digital and Content Advertising
18. Master Digital Advertising with Google Ads

Have we drilled the idea that Google is the platform you should invest your restaurant marketing time into first into your head yet? We included this point to once more emphasize that if you are constrained by time, focus your efforts on the company that now commands more than 42 percent of the digital ad market and over 90 percent of organic search traffic worldwide.

 

Google Ads Landing Page

 

Obviously, the best marketing strategy would take all relevant channels into account, but good restaurant marketing plans are also realistic. If you have limited staff and time to research digital advertising, Google Ads is the place to start. Read this free guide to get started.

Need a helping hand? Digital Marketing Folks has extensive Google Ads experience and proven results for clients in various industries. Let us put our analytical skills to work for your business.

19. Expand Your Reach on Taboola and Outbrain

Remember those food blog posts we recommended back in Step 4? Well, if you’re trying to get some extra mileage out of them, you could consider building some Google Ads and social media advertising campaigns. If you’re looking to dramatically increase your traffic, however, Taboola and Outbrain may just be the platforms for you.

Chances are, you’ve already seen hundreds of ads from these platforms just in your everyday internet usage. They’re the ones responsible for the “Recommended For You” sections of articles at the bottom of webpages on prominent websites like Weather.com and Forbes. Now, the prominence of these ads means that both platforms command lots of traffic, which is great, but also means that you can burn through ad spend budgets rather quickly. Be prepared to invest a little more into these platforms than other advertising options, but they are almost guaranteed to deliver results.

Taboola and Outbrain at work

Taboola + Outbrain Marketing

 

So what’s the main difference between the two? Both are online marketing tools for driving traffic back to articles – including your blog posts. Both offer geographic targeting tools. Taboola commands more traffic, and they don’t space out when your ads display, meaning your daily budget can disappear rather quickly. Outbrain spaces out your ads over each day and has less traffic. This may sound negative if your goal is only volume of clicks, but it also means that you receive more quality traffic (as in, people who will stick around, engage with your content and click over to the rest of your website) at a cheaper average price per click.

If you’re just starting out with content marketing, try Outbrain to get a feel for the environment and test your ads for less investment. Once you’ve figured out a strategy that works, consider moving into Taboola as well. Both can be powerful tools for promoting traffic to your blog and website if used correctly.

20. Reach Mobile Users with Mobile Ads

People now spend more than five hours a day on their phones, and 52.2 percent of all online traffic in the U.S. will come from phones and tablets in 2018. Clearly, ignoring mobile advertising would be a critical blind spot in your restaurant marketing plan.

 

Mobile Users

 

Fortunately, Google Ads already offers plenty of ways to extend your advertising campaigns into the mobile medium. Often, you can repurpose your existing ads and adjust them to meet the standards for mobile displays. Then it’s as simple as starting any other campaign. Learn more about getting off the ground on the Google Ads platform.

Why go mobile ads, other than the huge proportions of traffic channeled through smartphones and tablets? Consider, once again, the geography element. One of the most common keyword strings on Google Ads always ends with “…near me.” For example, “Chinese food near me.” When people are on the go, perhaps in locations they’re not familiar with, they’re not stopping to look up dining options on their laptop. Their mobile phones are the ultimate research tool, and you can push them toward your restaurant with a few well-placed ads.

Many of the other advertising options that we will discuss here also feature options for targeting mobile devices, such as Twitter advertising, which is why we included this section as a standalone. Paying attention to mobile users shouldn’t end at advertising either. Building a mobile-responsive website is critical to reaching customers who are searching for dining options on the go or who simply favor their smartphone for research.

Social Media Advertising
21. Find Your Jam with Instagram

You learned the value of taking photos of your food in Step 11 – if only there was a platform that could showcase them. Get ready, because Instagram is going to blow your mind.

If Yelp seems like a big deal, Instagram should join that list. As you now know, we humans are drawn to the visual. Show off the best you’ve got on Instagram, and not just food. Show off the storefront and seating areas, capture busy times in the restaurant to show your appeal, and build your brand identity.

Help customers find your exact location

Store Front

 

Instagram also lets you bring hashtags into the picture. Like details on Yelp, these make your posts and your page more searchable. While someone might not be searching for soul food, they could see a ThrowbackThursday hashtag and click on that. If you have a post with the same hashtag in the feed that catches their eye, you’ve just gained another customer. You get the idea.

22. Branch Out with Facebook Advertising

With Google controlling 42 percent of the digital ad market, Facebook commands an equally impressive 20.9 percent of the pie, giving these two platforms a duopoly over more than half of all global digital advertising. Thus, if you’re looking to expand your digital ad reach outside of Google, Facebook with its 1.39 billion active monthly users is the next battleground.

Facebook Business offers targeting options to build out several different audiences. Core Audiences are created by targeting Facebook users based on location, demographics, interests and behaviors. Custom Audiences are built based on the user’s affiliation with you. For example, you can identify loyal customers to reach out to, people who’ve already visited your website and users of your mobile app. Lookalike Audiences are users similar to previous groups from the other two audience types who have engaged with your campaigns.

Unlike Google Ads, Facebook Ads offers the ability to pinpoint customers based on behavior and patterns, whereas Google Ads only offers targeting based on demographics. This feature allows advertisers to further refine their display strategy and only show ads to those who are most likely to convert. Another great perk of Facebook is that people are often sharing pictures and reviews of food, allowing your ads to feel more natural in users’ feeds.

23. Control the Airwaves with Twitter Advertising

If you’ve branched out from Google into Facebook, chances are sooner or later you’ll want to consider Twitter advertising as well for your restaurant marketing plan. Twitter has over 500 million users worldwide and is a completely public platform, meaning your ads and content can be viewed by more than just Twitter users.

Like Facebook, Twitter features advanced targeting methods, even as granular as which type of mobile device they use. Twitter also offers the ability to feature tweets at the top of your followers’ feed. Both these features provide a massive advantage over your restaurant’s rivals.

24. Complete the Loop with LinkedIn Advertising

When it comes to digital marketing on social media, LinkedIn may seem like the last horse in the race but given its distinct user base as the professional social network, it may have hidden benefits for your restaurant marketing plan. LinkedIn offers five different types of digital promotions:

  • Sponsored Content – allows you to promote posts into member’s feeds
  • Text Ads – allows you to place ad copy linking to a website on the top banner of pages
  • Sponsored InMail – allows you to deliver messages straight to user’s inboxes
  • Dynamic Ads – allows you to use a member’s profile image, name and job function on desktop only
  • Display Ads – allows you to place graphics in the right sidebar of LinkedIn pages on desktop only

Dynamic Ads and Display Ads are formats unique to LinkedIn, and LinkedIn itself is a unique social platform. Most users aren’t coming to the site expecting to see ads for local dining options, and it would be wise to avoid that cognitive dissonance. Instead, use LinkedIn as the platform to build branding around your restaurant as a business. Promote your business’s journey. Appeal to other professionals with entrepreneurial visions of their own. Even promote your restaurant as a great place to work as you expand your business and need new staff.

Our friends at Hubspot have created a comprehensive guide to help you get your LinkedIn ad campaigns off the ground.

25. Leverage Visual Appeal with YouTube Video Marketing

At the start of this post, we talked about how a television commercial might not be the way to go for your restaurant marketing strategy. However, that doesn’t mean that you should give up on video. In the same way that the human eye loves color and imagery in a food pic, the motion and audio of video engages the senses even more.

As a starting restauranteur, you may not have the time or resources to shoot a professional commercial, and that’s okay! Most ads on YouTube are only 6-15 seconds long, which is not a long period to fill. Many free video editing tools allow you to build collages and layer audio over top. Some basic voice narration describing your options as pictures of the location, food and seating display followed by a slide displaying your restaurant name, address, website and phone number will do fine for getting your video marketing campaign off to a running start.

26. Geo-targeting – Hit Them Where They Live

In an age where you can buy almost anything online, restaurants are still heavily limited by location. On the one hand, this fact reduces your audience. On the other hand, your audience is “captive” as well.

Though delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash are starting to reduce the geographic barrier, for the most part, customers are looking to eat at places close by. Think about it. If you really love a restaurant, you might drive an hour out of your way to go there, but you certainly wouldn’t invest this kind of time on a daily basis. Plus, what are the odds you would know about this restaurant, unless you already visited before?

People are looking for delicious food in their area. Make sure they know exactly where you’re located and what you’re serving with geo-targeted ads. Many advertising platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Business and Twitter Ads offer options targeting specific locations. You can set a certain radius where you believe your potential customers live (remember that hour drive example?). Not only does this strategy increase the chances of bringing more people in the door, but it prevents your ads from showing in other locations that won’t generate business while still costing you money.

 A city center full of people – and restaurants. How will you stand out from the pack?

City Block

 

On top of everything else, targeting saves you money, so invest in ads that offer geolocation options as a major part of your marketing strategy.

Collecting Performance Data and Optimizing Content
27. Choose Posting Times with Care

While we’re on the subject of blogs and social media, we need to emphasize a crucial aspect of both: posting times. In an ideal world, the best blogs and social content would be those most viewed and shared. But this is (sadly) not an ideal world and knowing when your audience is online is key to ensuring good impressions and engagement.

You’re spending time and, in some cases, money to produce this content. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s being seen? Otherwise, your effort isn’t turning into more customers in the door, and you’ve taken away time you could be focusing on marketing activities that are creating more business.

 

Posting Times

 

There’s plenty of research out in the marketing industry around which times are better on different platforms for views and engagements. These recommendations are good rules of thumb, but they do not take your individual audience into account. While 12:00 PM may be a good time to post on Facebook on Wednesday across all 1.4 billion+ users, that may not be the best time for you to reach your 500 followers who engage most with your posts around your early morning breakfast specials.

So how do you find the best posting times, you ask? Several social media management platforms, including Hootsuite and Sprout, offer built-in post time optimization tools depending on the subscription level you have.

If you don’t have that option, you can still build a good picture of your audience with a little elbow grease. Most platforms, like Facebook and Twitter Analytics, offer you insights into your posts’ performance. Start by identifying which ones performed best overall. What was the subject matter? When was it posted? How did followers engage?

Then, create a similar post and publish it at the same time of day and week. Did it also perform well? If not, identify another high-performer and repeat the test. If you can replicate your original posts’ success, then you have now developed a baseline. Track analytics for test posts and regular posts in a spreadsheet and see how your stats improve over time.

You can then start to test other aspects. Do posts with different subject matters still perform well in that time slot? Can you post about your most popular topics in different times of day or different days of the week and still see high engagement? Be careful to only change one attribute at a time or you won’t be sure which change prompted the result. There’s no guarantees for online behavior – your followers are human beings, after all – but if you have recorded your analytics and testing, you’ll have identified which time windows produce higher engagement. You’ll also have a much better idea about your followers’ media consumption habits in general (when they’re online versus when they’re not), which will only help you optimize your other digital marketing promotions.

28. Tune Your Ear with Social Listening Tools

Building social media accounts and ads on Instagram or elsewhere is only half the battle when it comes to properly utilizing social media. Sharing your content is the first step. Monitoring what others are saying about you is the next. There are plenty of free social listening tools that let you do just that:

  • Hootsuite
  • TweetReach
  • Buzzsumo
  • Boardreader

These tools monitor social platforms for different terms in posts and conversations based on the search terms you specify – your restaurant name is a good place to start. From here, you can start to identify influencers in your industry and interact with social accounts that are giving you good press. This strategy can also keep you abreast of any negative posts so you can react quickly before they escalate any further. If social media is a part of your restaurant marketing plan (and it should be), then social listening should be an equal part of that strategy.

29. Stay Alert – with Google Alerts

Like social monitoring, the Google Alerts platform allows you to stay in the know for any mentions of your restaurant anywhere on the web. You can also use this simple tool to monitor for developments in the restaurant industry at large and even new dietary trends that you may be able to appeal to. After all, gluten free was once a tiny movement; be one of the first restaurants to accommodate the next trend and see new customers walking through the door.

30. Step Back and Analyze

No matter if you use any of our tips above or other ideas you’ve found, there’s one step that you should take for all of them. That’s right: Measure your results. We’re not talking about Day 2 of your campaign, but once you’ve had an appropriate amount of time, say 4-6 months, you should look back at all you’ve done. What trends do you observe? What’s working? What could be going better?

For example, if you’re running a monthly giveaway campaign on Instagram, are people engaging with your posts? If yes, have you also observed an uptick in business? You want to make sure you can tie your marketing efforts back to your main business goals. Otherwise, you can’t prove return on your investment – both in time and money.

Giving away a $50 gift card once a month may not sap much of your revenue, but other marketing strategies, like Google Ads, may require larger investment. You want to make sure that money will make its way back in the form of more faces in your restaurant. Some platforms, like Google Ads, will show you exactly how many people have seen and interacted with your campaign messages. Others, like Yelp, will require you to get a little more creative. Build data analysis into your marketing plan for each component.

 

Analytics

 

Looking at all the data for your activities, inspect which ones have produced the most results so far. Are there any low-performers that you can take investments away from to boost the bread winners? Then check back and see if these larger investments are producing more results. If not, consider new activities you can try.

Want to know more specifics? Get a running start with 51 marketing data analysis tips.

Let’s Review

Want a quick reference without having to reread this whole post when you’re creating your restaurant marketing plan in the future? We have you covered:

  1. Build a Website – your website should be the central hub for all information around your restaurant and a central hub for all your other marketing activities, so make it shine
  2. Put Your Menu Online – your website is now a central hub for information, so make the most relevant information (what food you make) the easiest to find and view
  3. Offer Online Reservations – now web visitors can not only learn about all the great stuff you make, but take the next step and set up a time to try it themselves
  4. Start a Blog – share news, discuss trends in the industry and watch as you start to pull in traffic who may also become customers beyond hungry searchers on Google
  5. Recruit a Food Blogger – take your online blog presence to the next level by courting a review from a local food blogger for increased visibility
  6. Share Good Press – someone said something good about you, now get more mileage out of that review by placing it on your website where your fans and potential customers will see it
  7. Write Meta Titles & Descriptions – if attracting online searchers to your website is the goal, then meta titles and meta descriptions are the first line of defense for attracting click-throughs
  8. Start a Basic SEO Strategy – the sooner you start thinking about optimizing your webpages, the sooner you will see results
  9. Write an Email Newsletter – as quaint as this may seem, newsletters are still a powerful way to share news and increase your brand presence
  10. Host Giveaways – few things draw attention like the promise of something free, so use that instinct to boost your engagement rates on social media or wherever you choose to host your contests
  11. Take Food Pictures – the more sensory details you can capture, the more likely you are to attract an internet scroller’s attention
  12. Establish Loyalty Programs – building a base of loyal foodies can only help your business, so encourage them to become regulars by rewarding their good taste
  13. Buy Local, Market Local – people love to know that they’re supporting the local farmers and growers when they eat, and this outreach allows you to start building a rapport with the larger community
  14. Get on Yelp – take a pulse of what diners are saying about you and make sure your profile is sparkling for any newcomers looking to find the next great restaurant
  15. Claim & Build Your Google My Business Listing – having the correct, up-to-date business information displaying the moment a searcher keys your name instead of having to go into your website does wonders for bringing people in the door
  16. Experience the Plus of Google+ – Google populates Knowledge Graphs about your business based on details contained in your Google+ company profile, so don’t ignore it
  17. Ensure Your Listings Are Correct – nothing rankles people like finding that they’ve acted based on incorrect information, so make sure your essential details (phone, address, menu) are correct every place they appear
  18. Reach More People with Google Ads – the sheer search volume coming through Google and the multitude of ad options available makes this platform a powerful marketing tool
  19. Expand Your Reach on Taboola and Outbrain – use these platforms to expand the traffic coming to your blog from across the web
  20. Include Mobile Users in Your Marketing – the increasing numbers of mobile users mean that running mobile ads and offering a mobile-friendly website is a must
  21. Start an Instagram – repurpose all these food photos you’ve been taking and engage with foodies on the social platform for images
  22. Branch Out with Facebook Ads – take the ad content you’ve created for Google Ads and give it a second life on Facebook to reach the largest collection of active social users worldwide
  23. Continue Expanding with Twitter Ads – take advantage of Twitter’s unique device targeting tools to better engage with 500 million users on the completely public platform
  24. Complete Your Social Media Ads with LinkedIn – this platform’s undisputed position as the professional social network allows you to share your entrepreneurial story and attract new talent
  25. Increase Your Visual Appeal with YouTube Ads – simple videos can expand your restaurant’s reach and appeal to the visual senses of a new audience
  26. Use Geo-targeting Ads – the food business is still location-based, meaning you want to make sure any paid advertisements are reaching people within your area, not two towns over
  27. Optimize Your Posting Times – whether on your blog or on your social channels, choosing the right time to share content can make all the difference
  28. Listen In with Social Listening Tools – put your finger on the pulse and know exactly what people are saying around your restaurant and head off crises before they occur
  29. Stay Alert with Google Alerts – monitor all of the web based on keywords relevant to you and your business to know about the latest trends as they happen
  30. Analyze All Your Activity – marketing activities require time and money; ensure that you know they are returning that investment or find others that will
The Core of Your Restaurant Marketing Plan – Market, and Market Often

As we said at the start of this post, just thinking about marketing for your restaurant puts you out ahead of the curve. You and your staff make great food every day, shouldn’t you take the extra step to make sure everyone knows about it? Marketing is not the mission of a restaurant, but a restaurant only stands to benefit from a good marketing strategy.

 

Restaurant Aerial View

 

Every business is unique. Only you know your brand and the path you want to take. But as you start your marketing journey, we hope these tips have helped you narrow down your focus. Good luck!

Need a hand creating or executing your restaurant marketing plan? Digital Marketing Folks has years of experience in digital marketing strategies, including website design, social media management and Google Ads. Take 10 minutes to get in touch today and learn how we can make your restaurant shine online.

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