Today’s restaurant goers have the whole internet at their disposal, so they’re less likely to enter an eatery without researching online first. They check reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Business and have read through the menu on your website before ever stepping foot in your establishment. That makes online marketing for restaurants just as important as the way you cook your food or the type of service you deliver.

Breaking into the world of restaurant marketing may seem intimidating at first, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. By following a few best practices, you can begin honing your web presence so that it reels in online customers. When done well, online marketing can be a way to expand your reach, attracting new customers who never would have found you otherwise. Here’s an overview of the major areas you’ll need to consider as you begin dipping your toe into marketing.

 

Optimize Your Listings

More than ever before, diners research their options before settling on a place to eat. One of the easiest ways for them to do that is to read your reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Business. Optimizing your business’s listing on these forums helps potential customers locate your business and communicates information about your brand and what type of dining experience you offer. To nail down your listings, you’ll want to do the following.

  • Choose the most specific, relevant service categories possible for your restaurant. “Fine Dining” is a massive category, but “Fine Dining Oyster Bar” is going to be less competitive.
  • Use relevant keywords throughout your listing. Most platforms allow you to create a brief write-up describing your restaurant and menu. Sprinkle these descriptions with relevant keywords where possible to increase your SEO rankings.
  • Be sure information is consistent across platforms. It sounds obvious, but checking that your phone number, address, and menu are the same on all sites will allow your brand message to come across as one unified front.
  • Upload only high-resolution, professional-quality photos. We live in a visual world, and your restaurant marketing should reflect that reality. Choose the best quality photos for your listing, or hire a photographer to take some professional shots for you.

 

Claim your Google My Business

You’ll want to pay particular attention to your Google My Business listing. Many customers will be using Google to locate restaurants near them, so a full listing here gets you on their radar.

  • Claim your Google My Business listing and make sure that all information there is correct. Make sure to choose the most specific relevant category for your restaurant.
  • Verify all your business locations so they’ll appear in Google Maps searches. This is imperative to attract nearby mobile users searching through on Google.
  • Acknowledge all customer reviews with positive, friendly responses. You may even want to ask critical reviewers to give you a second chance by providing them with coupons or free gift cards.
  • Encourage patrons to leave reviews. The more reviews associated with your account, the higher your “prominence,” meaning you’ll rank higher in search. Also, ratings and reviews are an important way for users to evaluate new restaurants.
  • Add photos and videos to your listing. Doing so not only provides potential visitors with images to whet their appetite, it also helps your page rank above other similar listings.

 

Put Your Menu Online

If customers are researching reviews for your restaurant online, their next logical step is to look for your menu. In fact,  80% of surveyed diners in studies said they like to peruse menus online before visiting a restaurant. Make it easy for them by including your menu directly on your website. After that, you can attach a link to your menu in your listings on Google Business, Yelp, and TripAdvisor to give customers easy access to your delectable servings.

 

Revamp Your Website

Along with adding your menu, optimizing your business website is another smart move to improve your restaurant marketing. Many marketing efforts, like email or social campaigns, will direct clients right to your website, so it needs to be polished and functional. In particular, pay attention to the following elements.

  • Mobile accessibility. Most customers will be visiting your website from their smartphones, so it needs to be mobile ready. Responsive design, easy-to-navigate menus, quick load times, and click-to-call phone numbers are all good moves when optimizing for mobile.
  • Your address, phone number, and hours. Display this information front and center, where it’s easy to find at a glance. Not only does this help potential customers, but can also boost your Google search rankings.
  • Eye-catching photos. Customers eat with their eyes first, so photos can benefit by taking up a lot of real estate on a restaurant’s homepage. A large, elegant hero banner lets your food do the talking.
  • Online reservations. Technology makes it possible to add a variety of tools to your website, including seating reservations. Tools like CAKE’s Guest Management system integrates directly with your site for a streamlined process from the web to the hostess stand.
  • Local SEO. Pepper your site’s content with relevant local SEO phrases to drive up your search rankings. For instance, add copy that proclaims that you’re “the best Tallahassee oyster bar” or “your local Amarillo steakhouse.”

 

Leverage Social Media

Food photography thrives on social media, where restaurant-goers can drool over lush pictures of their favorite salad or entree. For restaurants, that means there’s plenty of potential in social media marketing, especially since it offers a direct line to your customers. To get the most out of your social accounts, follow the best practices below.

  • Complete all your social media profiles. An incomplete profile might as well be nonexistent since it won’t help potential customers locate your address, menu, hours, and other important details. Be sure to link back to your website!
  • Add a “Book Now” button to your Facebook page to accept reservations through social media.
  • Respond to reviews, even bad ones. The squeaky wheel gets a follow-up message from your restaurant, complete with an offer to make it right.
  • Post to your social media accounts consistently. Your followers might be turned off if you seem too self-promotional, so make sure to include a healthy mix of fun, informative and promotional posts.
  • Get to know your customers. Ask your followers a fun, relevant question or get their help choosing a new menu item. It will only help you deliver the personal experience your customers crave.

 

Take Advantage of Email Marketing

Email is far from dead. In fact, technology makes it possible to create highly-customized drip campaigns for a more personalized approach to restaurant marketing. These efforts help build loyalty among your restaurant-goers and promote customer retention levels. The ins and outs of your campaign will depend on exactly what you’re trying to achieve, but in general, some ideas for your email marketing efforts are below.

  • Build your email list. Allow users to sign up for updates when they visit your website or book a table at your restaurant. You can also post information and benefits of being on your email list on tables or at the end of receipts.
  • Offer something in return. An email promotion like a coupon or other deal is a great way to entice guests to sign up to receive your newsletter or email campaigns.
  • Personalize email messages. Email marketing tools have plenty of options to personalize greetings with names, locations, and more. You can even send out a special greeting or promotion to celebrate a guest’s birthday, or leverage user data from your web analytics to send custom emails asking for a review after a customer books a reservation. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
  • Make emails mobile friendly. Many customers will be reading your emails from a smartphone or tablet, so make sure email templates are optimized for mobile devices.

Once you get a feel for the basics, you’ll be able to graduate to more complex marketing campaigns and promotions that drive sales and add buzz to your brand. We’ll toss our caps to that!