It can be tough to get new customers to try your restaurant, especially in areas with a lot of local competition. The truth is that if you haven’t already committed to a comprehensive marketing strategy, you may already be behind your competitors. Here are a few digital and traditional marketing tips for restaurants that can help you find new customers and grow your business.
Digital Marketing for Restaurants
If you aren’t marketing your restaurant online, you are probably losing out on new customers. Because of how much competition there is in the restaurant industry, your business should be capitalizing on all opportunities to build brand awareness and be found online through digital marketing and local SEO. Here are a few tips on how to get started!
Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is the best tool you have to grow your local customer base through online search. Your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing is what customers see when they find your restaurant on Google Search or in Google Maps.
Claim Your Restaurant on Google
Claiming your restaurant on Google and setting up your Google Business Profile listing are the first steps to finding more customers. Once you claim and optimize your GBP listing for local search, your listing can receive customer reviews and display important details like your hours of operation or contact information.
Pick the Right Business Category
By choosing the best business category on your Google Business Profile, your restaurant is more likely to appear in less competitive searches with specific intents instead of highly competitive, general searches like “restaurants.” If you don’t select a primary business category, your restaurant will have higher competition online, and you also run the risk of losing customers who are looking for exactly what you offer.
If you are a gastropub, pick “gastropub” as your primary business category to potentially appear in a search like “gastropubs near me.” Or if you offer Italian cuisine in Omaha, select “Italian restaurant” as your primary business category to match the search “Italian restaurants in Omaha.”
Set Your Attributes
Your business attributes can help set your restaurant apart from your competitors by giving your customers a better idea of your identity.
There are two types of business attributes that restaurants can take advantage of—standard and hidden attributes.
These standard attributes apply to restaurants:
- Accessibility—Is your building accessible to those with disabilities?
- Dining Options—Options like dine-in, outdoor dining, takeout, or delivery
- Health and Safety—Features like “staff required to disinfect surfaces between use”
- Highlights—What makes your business unique or specific to a demographic? Attributes like identifying as a Black-owned business, women-owned business, or LGBTQ-friendly
Attributes will be displayed above and between your business’ name, address, and phone number on your Google listing.
Google reviews are one of the most important local search ranking factors. The sentiment of your reviews, how many you receive, and the language used in those reviews can all have an effect on your ranking performance.
Try to earn as many high-quality reviews as possible for your restaurant, and respond to both good and bad reviews to show Google and your customers that you value their feedback. Don’t worry, a few negative reviews won’t hurt you, so long as the number of positive reviews outweighs the negative.
Share Google Posts
Google posts are short content that can show potential customers what your restaurant offers without directing them to your website. Use high-quality photos of your food, building, and menu to paint a picture of what a customer can expect when they visit your restaurant.
Design an Online Menu
When designing an online menu, consider what a user might need when looking for food options. Your menu should be easy to read and navigate to maximize the user experience (UX).
Your in-house menu might work as your online menu if it’s easy to read. Take pictures of each page and convert the images into a PDF so users can click through them. Otherwise, you’ll be better off creating a new menu that is designed to be viewed online.
Build a Simple, High-Quality Website
You don’t need to have tons of webpages on your restaurant’s website to perform well online. Instead, a strong restaurant website just needs to make it easy for customers to find your location and your menu.
Speed Up Your Website
Searchers are looking for information quickly, so make sure your website can keep up! Aim for a responsive web design, intuitive navigation menu, and fast loading speeds. Plus, your menu, location, and “about us” section should each have their own webpages that can easily be found from your homepage.
Use Keyword Optimization
Use local keywords like “burgers in the Bronx” or “seafood in San Francisco” on your location page for a better shot at appearing in local searches. Use industry keywords while explaining who you are and what you do on the “about us” page of your website. And be sure online users can easily read and navigate your menu.
Make Sure It Looks Good
A simple website doesn’t have to mean boring. After you determine your website structure, design your website to match the vibe of your restaurant.
Include Customer-Generated Content
Finish your restaurant website off with a few testimonials, a contact page, and high-quality photos of your restaurant’s interior, exterior, and menu items to give yourself the best chance of impressing and converting customers that come to your website!
Build App & Directory Citations
The whole point of marketing your restaurant is to be found by more customers. If you don’t take advantage of all of the common ways people in your area find restaurants, you are missing out on potential business.
Local directories like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and OpenTable give users more information about a business and allow customers to leave reviews of your restaurant.
Directories like DoorDash and Uber Eats help customers order food from a mobile app to be delivered by a third-party driver. These directories are a great way to connect with customers that would be too busy to visit your restaurant.
All of these directories feature star ratings and review systems, so practice proper review management and try to earn high star ratings to increase the chance of these directories recommending your restaurant to future customers.
Build Interest on Social Media
While restaurants aren’t likely to drive direct sales from social media, online platforms can still be great places to connect with local customers and establish your restaurant in your community.
Create posts about local interests, activities in your area, or events you plan to run. For example, if there is a local sports team playing a big game, you might host a pre-game event at your restaurant.
Post this event on social channels at least a week ahead of time, and continually engage customers who show interest in order to give your event some extra exposure on social media.
Social Media Tip: Capture social-worthy events at your restaurant like big events, fun specials, or live music to show potential customers why your restaurant is the place to be.
Build an Email List
One of the best ways to stay in contact with customers who have already enjoyed your business is email marketing. An email list is a great opportunity to introduce new menu items, generate interest for upcoming events, or just keep your loyal customers informed on changes coming to your business.
Traditional Marketing for Restaurants
While digital marketing for restaurants is more important than ever, traditional marketing tactics can still be beneficial. Here is what you can do to market your restaurant offline.
Offer a Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs are common among fast food and fast casual restaurants. They come in various formats like the classic “buy 9, get the 10th free” punch card or an electronic rewards program that requires an email address and customer profile.
While it can be harder to get individuals to give their information for electronic rewards programs, it is ultimately more beneficial for both sides as the rewards are tracked automatically and a customer cannot lose their account as easily as they would misplace something like a punch card.
Make Sure Your Restaurant Looks Appealing
If you expect to find new customers in your community, your restaurant needs to look clean, organized, and have a cohesive vibe. Use your building—both the interior and exterior—along with your signage and branding to showcase your restaurant’s identity.
For example, if you operate a Mexican restaurant, authentic Mexican decor and branding might help you attract customers in the mood for Mexican food. If you’re running a seafood place, you can use a classic coastal theme and fonts in your design and branding. While you want to be unique, you don’t want to confuse potential guests and leave them wondering what your restaurant offers.
Invest in Food Photography
Food that looks appetizing sells. If you’re going to post photos of your business anywhere online, it’s important you have the best photos possible. Fortunately, there are photographers who specialize in creating high-quality photos that are meant to catch the eye of potential customers.
After getting professional photographers to snap images of your menu items, add the best photos to your Google Business Profile to entice a potential customer who finds your restaurant in local search results.
Create Social-Worthy Dishes
If you’re looking for ways to create more engaging social media content, start with dishes that don’t just taste good but look good too. High-quality photos of food and drinks with good presentation can catch social media users’ attention.
But you shouldn’t be the only one posting your meals on social media. Your customers are more likely to share pictures of their dishes on their social media profiles or in their reviews if your menu items look appetizing and organized.
Trying to appeal to your local community? Cater for fundraisers in the area or offer to host a charity for a local cause. Advocating for social issues and getting involved with your neighbors can help your restaurant build customer trust and brand authenticity.
Not only will you be putting your name out there, but you also have a chance to give potential customers a taste of your food. While catering, be sure the food meets your restaurant’s standards every time, and let your food do some of the marketing for you!
Looking to create a website and market your restaurant online? Local Search Fuel by Hurrdat offers small business websites and SEO optimization services to help you connect with new customers in local search. Get started today!
After playing tennis and majoring in political science at Doane University, Grayson McCartney decided to put his education to use and became a USPTA Elite Tennis Professional in Mckinney, Texas, before changing directions and landing a Content Strategist role at Hurrdat. He has since progressed to his current role of Digital Strategist with a strong passion for tackling niche projects and helping small and local businesses connect with their audiences authentically. In his free time, Grayson enjoys trying and failing to learn the piano, playing golf, participating in weekly softball and volleyball leagues, “nerding out” about 60s & 70s music, and occasionally dusting off the old tennis rackets.