The first step in successful marketing is to know your audience: who are you communicating with? This is particularly true in social media. Think like your guests and potential guests, and about why they would want to visit you. Create a tone for your social media based on this. It must truly represent what your restaurant is about and what makes you different from your competitors. These days, everyone uses the ‘locally sources, sustainable, ethical’ clichés on their website – but whilst those are key issues, these have become ‘de rigueur’ for any ethical restaurant operator. So the best angle is to find out what makes you truly different – in essence, be innovative and different, rather than imitative.
- Have a functional website. The information should be current and the navigation clear and structured. SEO is key to finding the website quickly through searches. Avoid pop-ups and other annoying bells and whistles that detracts from your key messages.
- Create a food blog, list daily specials and ask questions, opinions and feedback – the key is to engage with your customers / visitors.
- Join forces with local food bloggers to review your restaurant in return for a free meal.
- Monitor review sites - restaurants live or die on their reputation, pay attention to what people are saying about your restaurant online. Thank customers for positive reviews and most importantly, respond to and respectfully resolve bad reviews.
- Look after your social media presence. Make sure your posts are informative, interesting, imaginative and interactive /dynamic – it is all about engagement once the conversation has started. Do not be afraid to have fun, and most importantly, be a part of the local community. Make sure that you have easily identifiable social media links in the header of your page – always visible from wherever you are on your website / blog. Promote your social media presence everywhere (menus, business cards).
- When posting, increase engagement through the use of links, images and videos. Text is boring! Try to have a call for action i.e. click here for a chance to… or ask people thought provoking questions that they want to engage with i.e. Do you think that Valentine’s Day has become too commercial? or How do you think we can make our restaurant more vegetarian friendly? You would be surprise how many people actually do want to provide their help and opinions… Time your posts on twitter close to Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner - use hashtags for the meal times, like #lunch or #dinner. It makes it even easier to find you on a Twitter search. Remember: think like your customer! Retweet / reply to people talking about your restaurant via Twitter. Just as you should never ignore reviews, you should not ignore negative feedback via social media. Engage customers with complaints by responding with suggestions or solutions.
- Focus on local SEO optimisation. 72% of all searches are related to a search for local content.
- Grow your guests’ database. Promote your e-newsletters through social media, on your website, on your blog and inside your restaurant. Make sure you ask guests to opt-in rather than forcing them to opt-out. Do not bombard your guests with too many newsletters or SMS campaigns. Segment your guests for a targeted message i.e. guests who have not been to your restaurant in last 90 days, guests who come more than 4 times a month or new guests who have visited in the last 30 days.
- If you want your restaurant to be known as the neighbourhood hangout, create a tone (or even character) that you will consistently use across all of your social media platforms. You could, for example, have a great, long term waiter or bartender be the face of your social media. Putting a face on a business does work (think Virgin and Richard Branson clowning about at every occasion – this is what gets people talking about your brand).
- If you want to be known for your great food, create your social media postings around your chef…
Notwithstanding the above great use of web and technology, some of the old methods are still very effective – because at the end of the day, the restaurant business is still very much about people interacting with people… and so, old school marketing activities such as handing out business cards or free samples at a local hotspot still prove to be very effective or invite your key regulars to a tasting session before you change your menu – these guests will feel so appreciative and special that you are asking for their opinion that they will become your best ambassadors and tell everyone about your new menu.