The restaurant business has always been competitive. However, many restaurant owners are facing tougher challenges than ever on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and other restrictions greatly impacted the restaurant industry and even as diners are allowed to return, many restaurants are struggling with low customer numbers.
In this context, good marketing is more important than ever: effective marketing strategies will allow you to win back old customers and attract new ones, helping your business to recover. Of course, every business is unique and certain tactics might work better for some restaurants depending on the type of business, the area and the customer base. On that note, here are some restaurant marketing tips and tactics to try!
- Step up your Social Media Marketing
Social media has long been an easy, cost-effective restaurant marketing tactic. It has become an even better way to reach your target audience with the increase in social media activity since the beginning of the pandemic. According to Statista, UK users are spending 9% longer on social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
You can take advantage of this increase in social media activity to promote special offers, new menu items and share positive reviews. Visual posts like photos and videos are particularly useful for restaurants: think bright, colourful and mouth-watering pictures!
Be careful to not only use proactive techniques such as sharing photos and promoting offers, but reactive ones as well. It is important to see social media as a two-way street and quickly respond to questions and comments on your posts. Messenger marketing is another great way to reach your audience. Along with regular posts, you can reach your followers using direct messages through social media platforms, such as Facebook Messenger.
- Use Adwords/PPC Advertising
If you’ve never tried Google Adwords or other forms of PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, now is a great time to give it a go. Adwords will promote your restaurant at the top of the search results whenever a potential customer searches for a certain keyword, such as “Indian restaurant Islington” or “Italian Food Newcastle”.
Mobile ads are particularly beneficial for restaurants, because most customers search for food and dining options on their mobile devices. One of the major benefits of PPC advertising is that you pay based on the number of clicks, so you pay only if the ad is successful in terms of click-throughs.
Adwords and PPC can be very effective when executed properly, but they do require a degree of expertise. Therefore, It’s a good idea to enlist the help of a professional restaurant marketing agency who can use their specialist knowledge to develop a paid advertising strategy that will deliver the maximum return on your investment.
- Run Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing campaigns are another simple and cost-effective marketing technique that works well for restaurants. As a first step, you’ll need to build up a healthy email list, by recording existing customers’ email addresses as well as asking website visitors to sign up to your mailing list. You can then use this list to send out automated email marketing campaigns about menu updates, events and special offers for subscribers and loyalty program members.
Regardless of whether you have a formal loyalty rewards program, emails are a great way to keep in touch with your customers. Remember that it is always more cost-effective, not to mention easier, to hold on to existing customers than it is to go out and find new customers.
Email marketing should be used in moderation: it is important to be proactive in contacting your customers, but be careful not to hound them. Sending too many emails is an easy way to annoy your customers and may cause you to lose their business.
- Make the Most of Review Sites
Review sites can be very helpful in marketing your restaurant. One survey found that 76% of UK consumers check online review sites such as Tripadvisor, Google and Yelp. This means that a positive presence on these sites can help your new customers find you, or make up the minds of undecided potential diners.
However, don’t wait for the reviews to come in on their own. Some satisfied customers will proactively write reviews for you, but many won’t. Therefore, it is important to encourage all of your customers to leave you a review.
Keep in mind that this can be a double-edged sword: reviews can also be negative and how you handle negative reviews is everything. In most cases, it is a good idea to publicly respond to any negative reviews. Be polite, thank the reviewer for their feedback, and apologise for the incident. If the reviewer has said something untruthful or libellous, you can request the site to take down the review. Otherwise, be polite and show other readers that you are addressing any (past) issues at your restaurant.
These are just some of the best ways to promote your restaurant and rebuild your customer base post-lockdown. Other potential methods include local SEO, regular events, mobile app and push notifications, as well as signing up for new government schemes like the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme.
In order to find the best tactics for your business, it might be a case of trying a few options and see what works best for you. In most cases, it is best not to rely exclusively on one marketing channel but instead, look at a broad mix that you can measure and analyze to see what’s working. With this information, and after a degree of trial and error, you’ll know where best to spend your precious budget for maximum effect!