What is it that makes one restaurant flourish while another is one of the estimated 60% of all eateries that fail? Sure, factors such as location and food quality are vitally important, but they do not make up the entire picture. Without truly effective marketing strategies, even the most promising food destinations are almost sure to fade away.
Launch a website.
If you don’t have an internet presence yet, you should make this your number one priority. Perhaps you are wary because your computer skills don’t go beyond pecking out an email and using your restaurant payment processing system. This is one area where you should be prepared to put up some capital — even if it means hiring a professional.
After all, your website is nothing short of a portal to the entire world. It gives your visitors an instantaneous way to learn about your eatery, menu choices, hours of operation, how to walk or drive to your location, and more. Furthermore, a website allows potential diners to view customer testimonials about your featured items, while bookmarking your site in their favorites for later perusal. When speaking with your web designer about your site, you’ll want to emphasize the importance of clarity, easy navigability, and mobile friendliness.
Harness the power of social media.
Instagram, Facebook, and their lesser-known counterparts are a restaurant owner’s best friend. Whether you think it’s silly or not, embrace the current trend of so-called “food porn.” Even a one-minute glance at any social media site will reveal several pictures of what people are cooking and eating, so make your restaurant’s menu offerings front and center. Either take the time to start social media pages and update them regularly yourself … or hire someone to do it. There is nothing like fresh food and drink photos and videos to peak potential diners’ interest and get their bellies rumbling. With any social media site, dynamic content is key, so be sure to update frequently.
The great thing is that you don’t need to do it all yourself. You can enlist the help of satisfied customers, who are often happy to get in on the fun by posting a video or photo testimonial. In another twist that many restaurateurs are adopting, you can actually allow satisfied customers to upload pictures of your delicious appetizers, entrees, or desserts on their social media pages in lieu of paying for them.
Set up engaging contests.
Whether it’s guessing the number of candies in a jar near your restaurant payment processing equipment or entering a pooch in a photo competition, everyone loves a contest. Getting your current and even future customers involved can be a great way to ramp up your brand while promoting a fun, creative image. If possible, make your contest available for online sharing, enabling you to take advantage of all of your customers’ followers as well as your own.
Email to spread the word.
Digital messages are not just for memos and newsletters. You can and should also use email to keep your dining establishment on your customers’ radar. Of course, there is a fine line between an acceptable amount of contact and going over the top; the last thing you want to do is to be perceived as an annoying source of spam. If you’re not sure how much is too much, you might want to enlist the services of a marketing consultant as you embark on your email campaign.
Once you get it rolling, your communications can serve as a terrific way to give customers a special, insider’s view of what is going on at your restaurant. It also never hurts to throw a few discount coupons and food promotions into the mix as well as some fun contests and incentives to bring friends and family in for one of your delicious meals. With time and persistence, you can grow your customer list into a gold mine.
Piggyback off of influencers.
One of the most interesting phenomena to develop around social media is online influencers. These powerful, media-savvy men and women are actually making a living with their online videos, blogs, and other social media posts. When you connect your restaurant to the star-power of one or more of these influencers, it is much like tagging along to a glamorous party with your big brother or sister. Suddenly, a whole new world of contacts and (in your case) customers becomes open to you.
Find out who the food bloggers and influencers are in your local area. Contact them via their social media pages and present them with information about your restaurant. Ask if they would be willing to feature your eatery on one of their blogs or videos. Incentives such as free food and gift certificates might help to get you noticed. Alternatively, you can offer to pay them to share information about your brand. Although this may seem excessive and go against every frugal instinct you have, you might well find that the strategy pays for itself many times over in the form of new customers who would never have heard of your restaurant otherwise.
Adopt a comprehensive review strategy.
The internet abounds with food review sites. If you’re in business for long enough, your establishment will receive attention of all sorts from the customers who have tried your food. Of course, your goal is to entice your happy and articulate patrons to submit glowing paragraphs and pictures about the delicious meal they had at your beautiful café. When this happens, feel free to quote them on your website and consider giving them a small token of appreciation for taking the time to spread the good word.
On the other hand, you also need to pay attention to the not-so-flattering comments. To that end, monitor review websites, making a point to immediately respond to negative criticism. If possible, contact the customer personally; if not, address their concerns on the public forum. Even if you do not totally solve the problem, they — and all other visitors to the site — will see that you are conscientious and customer-driven. That type of attitude goes a long way in smoothing over difficult situations.
The road to success for any restaurant is a long and bumpy one. That’s why it has never been more important to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible. Adopting the aforementioned marketing strategies can help to put and keep your eatery on the map for all the right reasons.