Marketing is one of the most important aspects of running your restaurant business. But your strategy shouldn’t stop with your local marketing efforts. Your online brand is equally as important, for many reasons.
1. Your Website is Your Front Door
Today’s diners are keen to learn as much as they can about your restaurant before they make a reservation, so they’ll visit your website to get information. There, they expect to find your menu, hours of operation and location, social media links, and maybe even a blog.
The thing about your website is: it’s not a one-and-done thing. You need to continually update it to reflect new menu items or prices, special events, and announcements to keep customers coming back to your site.
What you can do: If you don’t yet have a website and are holding off due to the cost, realize that it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you can create your own website for a fraction of what you would pay a professional designer, and it will look great, even if you have zero creative skills. Make sure it’s also mobile-friendly so that your site renders well on phones.
2. Online Reviews Matter
If you’re burying your head in the sand when it comes to online reviews, now is the time to change your attitude. Because 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has four stars or more on a review site, it’s important that you both monitor what customers are saying about your restaurant as well as make improvements in customer service.
What you can do: Make sure you have a business account with the main review sites, which include Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Monitor all mentions of your brand and respond promptly to both positive and negative comments. For negative ones, first, apologize for the issue, then try to make it better. You may wish to invite the customer in for a meal on the house and make sure you’ve talked to staff that might have provided subpar service.
3. Social Media Can Make You the Belle of the Ball
Search the hashtag #restaurant on Instagram, and you’ll find more than 27 million posts, many of which are posted by diners, not restaurant owners. You’ll find photos of friends celebrating special occasions at dinner, funny artwork in the restroom, or beautiful food.
Restaurant design that is Instagram-worthy is hot right now, and restaurants with hip designs (and beautifully-plated dishes) are trending on social media. If you encourage diners to share their images on social media, you can spread your brand’s reach online.
What you can do: Be active on social media yourself. Having an Instagram account that diners can tag you with is the first step to explosive social media growth. When people see photos taken at your restaurant, they’ll be lead to click over to your profile can click your profile and follow you. Share any posts that your customers publish taken at your restaurant as a way to say thank you.
Marketing—both online and off—requires constant effort. But if you do a good job online, you’ll drive traffic to your restaurant, and if the food and service are stellar, you can create lifelong customers. Keep using online marketing tools to nurture the relationship you have with customers …and to attract even more!
4. Links to Your Site Improve Your Search Results
The higher up your restaurant’s site appears in Google results, the better results you will see. One way Google ‘decides’ which results should appear higher or lower, is by looking at how many other reputable sites link back to the website. This aspect of online marketing is often overlooked by restaurants but it can greatly contribute to the success of your site’s traffic.
So, how do you get links to your site? Basically, you need a little public relations boost to get influencers and reporters talking about your brand. You can DIY or hire a PR professional to get the job done.
What you can do: Make friends with local restaurant industry reporters and food bloggers and invite them to try out new menu items in exchange for a review. Keep customers and fans updated with press releases and links to news articles on your social media profiles. Monitor what’s being said about your brand and link back to those reviews and media mentions on your site to build the relationship.
5. People Are Searching For You on Their Phones
The fact that 81% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on their phones means that you need to not only make sure you’re found online but that you’re also optimized for mobile search. Because choosing a restaurant often happens on the go, you have a great opportunity to attract new customers…but only if you appear high in mobile search results.
What you can do: That search engine optimization strategy should be a little different from the approach you take to be found on desktops: you need to include lots of local-focused keywords on your site (like “Toronto sushi restaurant”) and keep navigation simpler than on your full website.