New restaurants operate on razor-thin margins, which means you need all the new and return business you can drum up. And while there are plenty of robust marketing tools that will put your menus in front of new customers, that outreach won't mean anything unless your food service and internal processes are impeccable .
According to Entrepreneur , "More than four out of five consumers are likely to choose a table-service restaurant they haven't patronized before on the basis of a recommendation from a family member or a friend."
Of course, an attentive staff and a to-die-for menu will almost always help you secure that recommendation for future business. But you can bet your bottom dollar that those new customers searched your business online, checked out your website, perused your menu, and scrolled through your most recent Yelp reviews, too.
A 2016 BrightLocal survey found that not only do most consumers form opinions about an establishment after reading fewer than 10 reviews, but that online reviews drive web traffic and reservations. While word-of-mouth may still be king, your online presence counts for a heck of a lot – which means you'll have to learn how to bridge the gap between word-of-mouth business and online marketing.
Everything from your website to your customer loyalty programs should help you put your best foot forward, making it easier for customers to recommend you to friends and family in the future, or leave a recommendation for your business online. Here are the very best marketing tools you can use to manage the interest of new customers, and turn them into your biggest future advocates.
Search engines drive the majority of web traffic for restaurants, making pay-per-click (PPC) ads a good investment for establishments with a sizeable marketing budget. Since PPC advertising can be pricey, it's important to conduct research about this powerful tool before you commit advertising dollars.
According to Restaurant Marketing Labs , marketing managers should aim to spend about 10% of their annual marketing budget on PPC outreach. By leveraging traffic data from your website, you'll be in an even better position to tailor your budget to your demographic – essentially saving money by avoiding clicks from unlikely customers. Geo-targeting – or using specific visitor location data – can help you further cut down on expenses by only advertising to customers who live within a certain distance of your restaurant, while allocating dollars for mobile ads can increase your web traffic and reservations.
Design a budget, campaign, and SEO-friendly ad for your restaurant that capitalizes on keyword searches for your business. If you spend more than 10 dollars per day, Google will match you up with an AdWords specialist who can help you develop and manage your campaign. By carefully geo-targeting your campaign, you'll get the best returns on new business in your area. Plus, when you work with Google, you know you'll have access to powerful data about your campaign to help you drive future targeted outreach.
Use analytics for your website traffic to determine if you should put ad dollars toward another search engine, like Bing ! or Yahoo . Which service drives more of your traffic? Since you're not competing for as many eyes as you are on Google, advertising with Bing or Yahoo can be cheaper than advertising with Google – potentially even offering better ROI. Still, it only makes sense to put ad dollars toward this service if your customers are using these search engines to find you. Bing Ads offers simple tools for reaching customers on mobile devices and for using the specs of your Google AdWords campaign on their platform.
Yahoo has developed a robust and competitive mobile ad platform, which restaurant marketers would do well to consider. According to Search Engine Land , 64% of mobile searches for restaurants convert within one hour. Check out Yahoo's guidelines to learn about all of Yahoo's options, including native advertising, video ads, and more.
Facebook ad campaigns aren't traditional pay-per-click packages – rather, you'll pay to boost your posts for a specific time period. But when 72% of users turn to Facebook to help them make a decision about where to eat, it makes sense to promote your page, a specific event, or a seasonal marketing campaign where your networks will see and share your content. Facebook also has the ability to target specific demographics , which can help you pull in new business.
While it might be easy to make fun of the selfie and foodie photo culture, lifestyle photos on platforms like Instagram can drive business to your restaurant – so you might as well meet customers where they're at. Promote existing posts from your restaurant account or design a new campaign around an upcoming event or promotion. You can even experiment with video ads, carousel ads (ads with multiple photos), and Instagram stories (a reel of your most recent content that disappears after 24 hours). Learn more about how to use this new feature in your marketing plan at Buffer.
While there are plenty of valid criticisms leveled at third-party online reservation systems for charging large subscription or commission fees, these services still drive sales. According to Toast, online users spend more per check than customers who order in your establishment.
Since demand for online ordering is also increasing, restaurant managers should consider how third-party ordering systems – or robust POS with online ordering and reservation capabilities – might give them an edge over their competition. If you opt for a third-party system, make sure it integrates with your point-of-sale, so you can accurately manage customer data and ordering.
OpenTable offers solutions for everything from online ordering and reservations to managing front-of-house turnover. Listing your restaurant with OpenTable makes it easier for big parties to make reservations , as well as for mobile customers to locate your business and reserve a spot. Fill up any empty seats by listing available reservation times with OpenTable and its marketing partners, who can give your location a signal boost when you need it most.
Upgrade to their monthly subscription package, and you can manage your tables more efficiently, helping with front-of-house workflow. Encourage waitstaff to add helpful notes about customers in the OpenTable platform, since sharing important customer data with your marketing team can improve your email marketing and targeted offers.
Seamless and GrubHub merged in 2013, though the sites kept their individual branding to prevent customer confusion. Their services, which include third-party ordering and delivery, are all managed through GrubHub's online portal.
With GrubHub's easy-to-use interface, you'll streamline your take-out orders and increase your ROI by making it easier for mobile and tablet users to search for your restaurant, place orders, and track their order progress. If you haven't yet embraced online ordering at your restaurant, using GrubHub's platform is an easy way to catch the attention of mobile users. In 2015, nearly 1.5 billion customers searched for and ordered food using their phone or tablets.
Although GrubHub charges a 13.5% commission fee, they offer marketing services – like coupons and targeted email campaigns – that can help drive new business in your area and take the pressure off your marketing director.
Not ready to hire a full delivery staff? GrubHub can manage your deliveries, too, including payroll and insurance for drivers.
Easily integrate Yelp's Eat24 platform into your existing site, where customers can place orders for pick-up or delivery that are then fulfilled at your location. This is a great option if you've worked hard on your branding package and want to shape your customers' experience online and in your storefront. Though you're using Eat24's technology, the online ordering experience will still look and feel just like your restaurant's.
You can also enable customers to order directly through Yelp, eliminating an extra step for hungry dinner guests. Since customers are already using Yelp to learn more about your business, it makes a lot of sense to use the Eat24 integration there, too. According to Yelp, they receive more than 485 million searches and page views per month – capture some of that interest and drive new business right to your doorstep.
Foodler is a good option for restaurants that are still building their online presence. If you haven't yet had a chance to develop your own website, Foodler makes it easy to set up a branded online storefront where you can offer delivery and online ordering. You can also use the service to encourage customers to join loyalty programs.
Sure, you want to make transactions as quick and easy as possible – especially if you're a fast-casual restaurant or chain manager. But if you're not using your POS to collect customer data like email addresses, you're missing out on one of your most powerful marketing tools. That's why it's so important to offer incentives – including customer loyalty programs – for making customers part of your network.
Sign-up incentives can also decrease barriers between your online presence and your brick-and-mortar establishment. Start a monthly newsletter to interact directly with customers, provide updates on new menu items, distribute coupons, and talk up your staff – all strategies which help personalize and fuel future interactions and sales.
Have a new menu item you can't wait to show off? The visual appeal of email marketing is also a great opportunity to showcase your space and menu – a fact that Instagrammers and lifestyle bloggers have long capitalized on. You should, too.
It's easy to set up a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers, though if you want more advanced list management options, like segmentation and CRM integration, you'll have to opt for a paid subscription. MailChimp also provides easy-to-use, drag-and-drop templates, so you can avoid code or hiring a designer but still look professional. Search through 15 customizable template options designed just for restaurants, like the "Frosty Beer Template," as well as suggestions for automating birthday messages and integrations with customer loyalty programs like Fishbowl. Remember to track your campaigns and use analytics to determine the success of your offers.
Made with restaurant managers in mind, Fishbowl is used by big chains like Applebee's to market directly to individual customers. You can even integrate data from your POS to design customer profiles and create targeted marketing campaigns that convert readers into repeat business.
Like MailChimp, Constant Contact offers drag-and-drop email templates and fairly robust list management capabilities. While Constant Contact is cheaper, MailChimp tends to outstrip Constant Contact in terms of price, ease-of-use, and analytics. If you don't have complex design or analytics needs, Constant Contact can definitely get you started on the path to email marketing.
Let's face it- every restaurant marketing manager wears multiple hats and needs to cut down on office time. Online social interactions for restaurants have moved beyond tweets and Facebook posts to include online reviews – all of which can zap what little time you have to work through your to-do list .
The good news? User-generated content gives you the stamp of approval you need to drive new business. If you're a one-person marketing shop, you'll need a few tools to help you automate posts, track notifications, and respond to customer feedback across all your social channels. Pretty soon, you'll be gathering all the social proof you need to demonstrate how delicious your enchiladas are in real life.
Schedule social media updates across multiple channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The free version of Hootsuite is robust enough for most small businesses and will even give you access to basic data about your posts. You'll pay more to access detailed analytics that can help you manage more effective social media strategies. An upgraded account may even help you boost and track ROI by working in concert with paid ads to drive traffic, online reservations, and ordering.
Like HootSuite, Buffer helps you schedule social media updates across multiple channels. Have a great Instagram post of your best-selling burger with a ton of likes? Use Buffer to re-post and optimize that same image for Facebook's algorithm. Buffer has a host of other helpful tools, including analytics that help you time your posts to maximize visibility and easy-to-create image templates, so you can increase the shareability of your posts . Want to opt for a paid plan? At 10 dollars/month, it's totally affordable, too.
If you're running marketing for an enterprise business that requires thoughtful content planning – like multiple posts per channel for a major chain – then you can't go wrong with CoSchedule. With tools for planning, writing and scheduling content across multiple channels, you can get all your work done in one place – even during the busiest of months.
Want to launch a new menu, offer seasonal discounts, or roll out a loyalty program? CoSchedule makes it easy to see your entire campaign no matter where you're promoting, from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to your blog or newsletter. Take the bird's eye view to ensure all your channels are working together to get the traffic you need for success, then use their powerful analytics tools to track customer feedback and improve future campaigns.
Increase customer retention with a review and user-generated content service like Yotpo. Integrate Yotpo into your website for customers to leave feedback about their dining experience, or offer discounts to customers who leave a review. Have a killer Instagram that features items from your menu? Use Yotpo's " Shoppable Instagram" " feature to drive dinner orders and increase your ROI – all through the power of social media.
Use Get Five Stars' testimonial widget to collect customer reviews, respond to feedback, and display positive recommendations on your website that will drive new business. Because Get Five Stars is a total system for email marketing, mobile push notifications, and testimonials connected to a robust POS, the platform helps you use customer data – like ordering and spending – to trigger successful incentives for your loyalty program.
With powerful analytics and reporting, you can easily see which of your email and SMS messages are getting the best returns. Even better? Use their dashboard to track how your restaurant is viewed across the web and keep tabs on your Net Promoter Score to boot.
Whether you use a simple punch card or offer more complex rewards, customer loyalty programs are key to more effective marketing – and repeat business.
First and foremost, use the insights you have from customer data to drive incentives for your loyalty program. Have a lot of business clientele? Design a targeted email marketing campaign offering free entry for a VIP night at a new location where top customers can network with one another. Want to increase the number of touchpoints you have with high-paying customers, or use customer feedback to strengthen your service and menu? Consider supporting a customer referral program that earns top customers gift cards to your restaurant or other rewards.
Smaller, more casual businesses can also benefit from mobile "check-in" technology. Mobile check-ins increase customer engagement, meet younger demographics where they're at, and amp up your mentions in local social media feeds – all in exchange for a review or other reward.