Successfully Market Your Restaurant Using the Internet and Social Media
When it comes to marketing a restaurant or catering business the bottom line is: You can never rest on your laurels. You must always assume that the new kid on the block will usurp your place at the top of the heap, or that your loyal customer base is not a devoted as you think, and that they will desert you in a heartbeat to try out the next best thing. In other words, even if you are at the summit of the industry, you cannot assume that it will all continue – unless you give your business a continuous boost.
Current trends in marketing, specifically focused on the food business, are aimed at more than just keeping you alive; their goal is to keep your business at the forefront of the public’s awareness without letting up. The Internet never sleeps – and neither must you (or your PR person). Online marketing is the focus now, and that includes social media. Print ads still have their place but without coverage on the Net, you’re going to be left behind. Creating an online presence is the key to success, so start now. Word of mouth is still important, and radio ads are surprisingly effective, but taking advantage of everything the Internet has to offer should be your main goal and your top priority.
A Great Website Will Draw Attention to Your Equally Great Restaurant
First of all, every self-respecting restaurant should have a well-designed and interactive website. This may seem almost old-fashioned in the age of Facebook and Instagram but you’d be surprised how many people still look for a website (or how many people – gasp – aren’t on Facebook at all). Load your site with pictures, menus, blogs, and other information that will draw “traffic.” Use search engine optimization (SEO) practices to keep your business at the top of the search list; if you can’t do this on your own, hire someone who knows the ins and outs of this type of marketing. You’ll know you’re moving in the right direction if you do a Google search for your type of restaurant in your area and see yourself highly ranked and prominent.
Positive Restaurant Reviews Are a Terrific Marketing Strategy
Get reviews of your business on restaurant review sites – TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato, Open Table, etc. Don’t be shy about asking customers to write a positive review after a good experience. Your reputation – once spread solely from mouth to ear – is now out there for all to see and read, and you want your name to be as ubiquitous as possible. Move into the current era by utilizing an online reservation tool – either through your website or on an external site. Simply by boosting the convenience level surrounding your establishment, you’ll be selling yourself successfully.
Facebook and Instagram Marketing Will Bring in the Customers
Now that you’re a force to reckon with on the Internet, it’s time to establish a prominent social media presence. Facebook offers an awesome opportunity for restaurants and caterers to connect with customers. Ensure that your Facebook cover image is of the highest quality, with loads of supplementary photos of your great food and your customers enjoying themselves. Your menu should be featured with descriptions and blurbs from satisfied customers, but when there’s a choice between verbiage and images, go with the latter because people love to look at pictures, in general, and photos of food in particular.
Use your Facebook page to post special offers and group deals. Offer an incentive to followers who “like” your page, and distribute coupons to those who share your deals with friends. Introduce contests and promotions on your page to keep people engaged and coming back. Your followers will grow exponentially this way – you will be amazed by the power of social media if it is used wisely.
Instagram is a hugely popular photo-sharing platform (related to Facebook) – and we’ve already discussed the importance of photos when it comes to marketing your business. With Instagram, you should use hashtags for trends that are relevant to your restaurant, i.e., #nationalpizzaday or #ItalianFoodWeek. This will increase awareness of your Instagram profile, which will in turn boost your followers, which is what social media marketing is all about.
Twitter: an Indispensable Tool for Marketing Your Restaurant
Even more than Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is the right marketing tool for the smartphone generation. Twitter is another way to spread the word about your business – as long as you do it with “tweets” of 140 characters or less. When your followers start to tweet about your restaurant, their words are read, spread, and shared at an amazing pace.
- Your tweets should include links – to your menu, to reviews, to your website. This will keep your followers engaged with your business through a series of actions, which is designed to reveal information about your business and everything it has to offer.
- Use keywords in your tweets (this is similar to the SEO requirement above). Compile a list of the most relevant keywords for your business and then use them among your tweets.
- Connect with the people who can help grow your business and tweet with them. Find users who consider themselves “foodies” or who present themselves as avid restaurant goers and follow them; the chances are good that they will follow you in return, helping to build a relevant base of followers who are truly interested in your business. Use tools like Follower Wonk and Wefollow to find people who live in your area and who are interested in your type of business. Tweeting is a two-way street so maintain an ongoing conversation with people who can be helpful to your marketing goals and who can expand your target audience.
Create a Strong Presence to Market Your Restaurant
Whatever path you take to market your restaurant – and the most productive road will include all of the above suggestions – the idea is to find a voice and let it be heard. Be hands-on with your followers – respond to reviews (good and… less good); share/re-tweet positive comments on social media; and engage potential customers (and veteran clients) with coupons and contests. And remember the old adage – one picture is worth a thousand words – and load all your accounts with attractive and exciting photos of your restaurant, your food, and your happy customers. Be attentive to your marketing strategy and your business will grow along with your list of followers.