I originally wrote this blog on July 20, 2016. What stuck me after reading it today is how many business owners aren’t taking important initiatives in digital that I wrote about in 2016 seriously today. Many of my 10 tips are pain points for those in the restaurant industry today.
So, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, had you taken these tips seriously almost 4 years ago, how much further along would you be today in 2020?
Every restaurant with quality food and a great concept should [technically] be able to succeed online. Regardless of whether you hire an agency like Sync, or you take on training to go it alone, you should see varying degrees of success.
According to Marcus Samuelsson, "Approximately 2 out of 3 restaurants fail within the first year of opening." Read more about this in his post here. Let's start to sway at least some of the unpredictable factors (such as your digital marketing) in your favour, shall we?
Here are 10 simple tips to get your restaurant noticed online:
Facebook Ads: If you're going to be on Facebook, then you need to accept that Facebook ads are a necessary evil. As the largest social networking site continues to move closer to zero reach, a spend is necessary. However, you'll quickly learn that you can be far more effective on Facebook with much less of spend compared to traditional advertising. We've seen huge decreases in the advertising costs at restaurant chains since moving budgets to digital. Here's a great tidbit; every restaurant we've worked with has decreased their traditional marketing spend by at least 40%, and increased digital by about 20% … saving them 20% by working with Sync. That's saying something.
Free Directories & PR: There are countless free directories online that you can list your business on. Keeping track of these can be problematic (especially with menus and evolving or seasonal hours) but the manual labour will absolutely benefit your business. Some examples include Google, Yelp, 411, and Zomato.
In-House Social Promo: Encourage your customers to share their experience online, and create a unified place for those shares with a hashtag. In 2016, I wrote that I was waiting to see the first restaurant that offered social share discounts on their menu items. It’s 2020, and I’m still waiting. I remember in 2010 wondering why rearview mirrors weren’t screens utilizing the back-up camera. It’s safer and great use of technology. Last year, I was finally able to buy a truck with this feature. Don’t be the car industry … evolve quickly to maximize profits. I’ll be speaking more about this at the NCB Show at the end of March.
SMS Marketing: 90% of text messages are checked. This is a huge opportunity for restaurants. However, be cautious about how you approach SMS marketing. Internal polling of 500 restaurant customers shows that 38% of those who received texts from restaurants didn't give permission, and considered it such an invasion of privacy that they never planned on returning.
Digital Gift Cards: It pays to work with a proper platform and to get digital gift cards in play immediately. You're more likely to see impulse purchases (especially late at night). Square and many POS systems have the ability to integrate with your website. 2016 was the time to launch this.
Your Website: Make sure it's easy to get around, a person can quickly make a reservation, and that you show off what makes your restaurant unique. Don’t forget great food photography! Show what you sell.
Get Active with Great Content: Fantastic content will drive interest and will improve your standing in algorithms. Ensure all of your social posts have LPV (Link, Picture, or Video) media, and that they are free of spelling and grammatical errors. Answer questions quickly, and engage! How often you should post is entirely based on your audience; experiment.
Build an Email List: Make sure that you can reach your customers after they leave, and email is the best way to do that ... with permission of course. Email lists are a great way to bring in business during slower periods. Be professional though; use MailChimp or another similar service. We use our hosted email service in conjunction with our website for consistency.
"Restaurants Near Me": This will take some time (and likely give you some grey hairs), but getting accurate data on Google, Bing, and other search engines is critical in this mobile marketplace.
Connect Your Restaurant & Your Digital Identity: A lot of restauranteurs keep what happens in their restaurant and what happens online separate. The two are not mutually exclusive; they are one. Your staff, your customers, and your marketing team should all be engaged. That's when you'll start seeing some great success. I’m now seeing in 2020, social sections in employment contracts. This is a great idea and given what your staff are likely taking home in tips, getting involved in social isn’t much of an ask.
At Sync, we go deeper with all of these concepts. However, here you have a starting point to get more customers in the door. If you need help with your restaurant's digital marketing, let's talk.
Which of these techniques have you used? How seriously did you take them, and how much success did you see?
Written by: Jay Hall - Chief Strategist