While all business owners have been hit hard by COVID, no other industry at large has adjusted and adapted more than restaurants and bars. As the country shifts back to more “normal” operation, a few questions remain: What happens next? Could this happen again? What can I do about it?
We’re just designers, so we can’t help predict your future, but we CAN help answer that last question. Read on for 5 restaurant marketing tips to help your business remain flexible, increase online orders, and build true brand loyalty.
Rep Your Brand Wherever You Can
We know your food is best when it’s enjoyed fresh from the kitchen. But with many months ahead of limited-capacity dining, some uncertainty on the horizon, and customer apprehension around dining in, developing a take-out model (one that you can phase in and out as needed) can help you reach your customers in new ways.
Your customers want to know you put them and your staff members first, so creating an atmosphere of changes that feels permanent is a great way to earn their trust and keep the orders flowing.
Promoting your safety standards and alternative dining options with branded marketing materials, eco-friendly to-go packaging, and personal touches in line with your brand identity will show those choosing take-out that you’re just as serious about their happiness and safety, now and for the long-run.
Re-marketing Your Restaurant
Utilizing your biggest fans for user-generated content campaigns can also help drum up support and bring new, qualified followers and guests into your business.
Offer a deal and giveaway for customers when they share images of their takeout. Local followers will see their friend’s post as a seal of approval, your existing customers get rewarded for their support, and you just created a nearly-organic opportunity for content and social media posts. Win-win-win!
Use every opportunity for a personal touch. Drop cards with a discount code for return in-house dining, branded stickers, thank you notes from your staff, or other share-worthy items into takeout bags. Not only is this another opportunity for customers to share (especially if you have great design 😉 ) but also to create a connection to the folks behind the food.
Online Ordering Gets Social
Social media leads the way when it comes to restaurant marketing. From viral Instagram accounts to Twitter “beefs,” restaurants have a huge market on social. But if you aren’t interested in selling giant candy-coated milkshakes for the likes, there are other more intentional ways to keep customers interested and updated.
Ensuring your profiles are updated and managed is a great place to start. From Instagram to Yelp, you can gain trust and bring in new customers just by showing followers that you’re active online.
Even if you never set up an account, your business is listed on Yelp and can be reviewed. Leaving those comments and user-uploaded images of your food to the wolves can seriously affect your reputation. Create a business account to add accurate, well-lit photos, and manage store hours, location, and menus.
Same goes for Google My Business. When someone performs a Google search of your business, anything you post to your Google local business listing will show up, as well as modify your official Google map results. From updated hours to specials and discounts, you can control some of what customers see when they search for your business.
Profiles also have the potential to help your SEO ranking, as well as providing additional links to online ordering or reservations.
This is also the time to give some of your business’s special sauce away for free. Part of the magic of restaurants is the actual act of going out. Share your most popular drink recipes or offer build-your-own takeout packs to give your customers the opportunity to create memories “with” your restaurant, even if you can’t host them.
Get More Social: 12 Steps For Creating Instagram Stories
Integrate, Integrate, Integrate
From automatically populating content to branded online ordering websites, there are dozens of ways to bring your customers’ favorite platforms onto your website for an easy-to-use, recognizable experience. More than ever, customers are looking for all their favorite restaurants in one place. Rather than heading from website to website looking at menus and delivery options, much like social media is the first place many turn to for hours and updates, your customers are looking for YOU on their favorite delivery sites.
DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and more. These delivery platforms handle the customer info, payment, and delivery for a fee or commission (usually around 20-30%).
But the in-app restaurant marketing opportunities can make this a win for your changing restaurant business.
There isn’t a “right” option for your business, as everyone has their own favorites, but check out which are available in your area first (i.e. Postmates is mostly limited to big cities), then narrow down to one or two options.
Some delivery platforms also offer a “first-time free” program, which allows customers to try out your restaurant with free delivery. You can opt-in and promote this perk on your website and social media channels, and the delivery app will often show your business as one of the “free delivery” options for customers looking for food in your area.
Much like online shopping is dictated by shipping speeds and cost, free delivery can make or break a sale.
Don’t Forget Your Website
Website SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is all about making sure your website is telling Google what it wants to hear. The better it can understand what you do and what kind of searches your site should appear for, the higher up on the results page you’ll land.
Read on: Choosing The Right Blog Keyword
For restaurants, this is especially important. Focusing on local SEO (which is even more nuanced) means that your customers can find your website not only when searching for your company, but also searching for what you serve in the area (like “free delivery Saratoga” or “best burgers in Albany”).
There are a number of free tools like Google Keywords Planner or Keywordtool.io to help you discover keywords your audience is searching for. It’s not an entry-level task and requires ongoing maintenance, but can seriously help you find and grow your customer base.