Serving Up Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

food on table

Serving Up Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

The restaurant industry is remarkably resilient. Despite the challenges they’ve faced in the past year due to COVID dangers and restrictions, most restaurants have managed to pivot and adapt. But restaurant business did plummet at the start of the pandemic leading to a significant amount of closures (10,000 restaurants or more than 17% of all U.S. restaurants) and revenue dropped an average of 36%.   However, despite this drop, demand is still high—58% of baby boomers said they would like to order takeout or delivery more frequently, and 83% of adults say they are not eating in-person at restaurants as often as they would like. These numbers are higher than they’ve been in two decades and are continuing to grow!   This data indicates that there’s likely to be a recovery surge in the restaurant industry as long as demand can somehow be met during times of decreased in-person dining options for financially struggling customers and businesses.   Now more than ever, digital marketing is crucial for restaurants to stay afloat. If you’ve mostly depended on your restaurant’s reputation and storefront to bring in business, or you’re looking to expand and perfect your digital marketing strategy, here are some strategies to help you out:  

Invest in an Optimized, Accessible Website

  Think of your website as your digital storefront. This may be the first time they come across your restaurant and decide whether or not they want to purchase your food.   You’ll want a clean website that’s designed intuitively meaning that it’s easy to navigate and not too busy. Keep it simple! Have your contact information easy to find and be sure that the menu is very central on that home page.  According to OpenTable, 93% of people view menus online before dining out, so you want to make this as accessible as possible.   Be sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices and that you can take orders this way. Google has a free Mobile-Friendly Test that makes it easy to see whether you need to make some improvements. screenshot of mobile test   You’ll also want to make sure that your website is ADA Accessible to give access to individuals with disabilities.   An ADA web compliant website will have the following:  
  • An ADA compliance accessibility statement
  • Alt text for images/graphic elements
  • Conversion of PDFs to programmed webpages
  • Closed captioning/transcriptions of videos
  Why are we mentioning this in terms of your digital marketing strategy? Well, for several reasons. Not only will this protect you from potential legal action, but it will also increase your reachable audience—it’s likely to give you an SEO boost, too. Restaurants in particular often use images and videos which may not have alt tags or transcriptions and menus that are included simply as a downloadable PDF. Making your website ADA accessible ensures that it is as simple as possible for a customer to navigate the contact information, peruse the menu, and place an order.   Data has shown that consumers are relying more on takeout than ever before, and they prefer to order directly from the restaurant rather than using a third-party app. You’ll want to ensure that your website (and mobile app if you have it) make online ordering easy and seamless. It’s looking like increased takeout orders may be here to stay.  

Local SEO Is Your Friend

  Local SEO is for any business with a physical location that serves a set local geographical area. Restaurants are entirely based around serving local customers—so they wouldn’t have much need to market to customers beyond that area. Even restaurants that operate as a chain or have multiple locations will still individually want to focus their digital marketing efforts on the specific geographical area that they’re located in.   So, what does this mean for you?   Google actually favors local businesses in search with local ranking factors. When someone searches something like “Italian food near me”, Google’s 3-pack shows the first 3 results that are top-rated using these ranking factors.   “Restaurants near me” is actually the most popular “near me” search query on Google—hitting around 6.2 million searches per month.   You can cash in on this primarily by ensuring that you create (or claim) a Google My Business (GMB) listing. Before you create one, be sure to search first to see if you already have a listing, since creating a duplicate listing can negatively impact your score. If someone else has claimed your listing, Google has steps you can follow to contest ownership.   The process should take about 5 days or so since you will need to verify your business address through the mail. The most important part of setting up your GMP profile is ensuring that the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your business are correct and consistent with your other media. Our friends at SeoTuners just posted a helpful guide for optimizing your GMB listing that’s worth checking out. ( )   Connecting with real people in your area digitally will also increase your local SEO score. Having social media profiles on apps like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, and even Twitter that are creative, interactive, engaging, and consistent can build a relationship with your customers that will encourage them to choose your restaurant over others.   If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a Facebook page. Even if you don’t plan to update or check on it regularly, having a Facebook page with the following will provide another potential post that could show up on a Google search:  
  • NAP (Name, Address, Phone number)
  • Website URL
  • Opening and closing hours, closed days/holidays
  • Menu and information about the food (pictures)
  • Busy hours
  • Customer reviews
  • COVID-19 safety precautions
  • If you provide WIFI

Channel Your Creativity

  Creativity has been an asset to the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic in finding ways to create socially distanced outdoor seating, safe and efficient deliveries and pickups, and thorough cleaning standards that keep employees and customers safe around the clock.   Let your customers know the ways that you are reworking your restaurant with safety in mind —for example, having fully masked staff, tables spaced 6 feet apart, sneeze guards at the counters, plentiful outdoor seating, and discounted takeout. Some restaurants have embraced social distancing by placing things like mannequins and stuffed animals at tables that are not to be used, and it is indeed quite engaging.   This not only lightens the mood in a much-needed way and keeps your customers safe, but it encourages discussions about your restaurant on social media and potentially tagged photos. screenshot of tweet Photo Credit:   Speaking of images and videos…use them! Taking pictures of your restaurant and the foods you serve, especially if they are posted to social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook will help get your restaurant more attention. Consider hiring a professional photographer or videographer.   Research shows that short videos, between 15 and 30 seconds depending on the platform are the most effective. You can show things like your restaurant’s kitchen in action behind the scenes, the new socially distanced seating, or meals being made.   But don’t feel limited by these platforms…be creative! The restaurant industry offers a lot of freedom for humor, connection, and groundbreaking media campaigns. For example, in 2018 Wendy’s dropped a mixtape called “We Beefin” dissing some of their competitors and topped it off with some sassy tweets. The playlist is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play, and even includes album artwork of a square burger patty. screenshot of wendys tweet Image Source: Wendy’s Twitter   Your business utilized creativity in designing the layout of your restaurant, creating the right atmosphere and ambiance, and crafting a welcoming environment for customers, and your digital marketing strategy should aim to do all the same things. As the restaurant business is more heavily based on delivery and pickup rather than dine-in service during this time, aim to carry over this same creative energy to your website, social media profiles, and apps.  

Make Deals

  Offering customers coupons, promotions, and deals can certainly draw in new traffic and also increase business from existing customers.   Your restaurant can also seek to connect with other local businesses in ways that would be mutually beneficial. For example, offering free or discounted food to a local blood donation drive, school, charity, or hotel can create a lasting relationship and also recruit new customers.   These relationships can be mutually beneficial. For example, you might offer discounted food to individuals who are staying at a certain hotel, and in return, the hotel might offer discounted stays or discounts for ordering from you.   It’s important to frequently offer discounts or coupons even to your existing customer base—this puts your food at the front of their mind and provides an economic incentive. Reach out to your customers through apps, email campaigns, or text notifications and offer promotions timed around holidays or events that would likely necessitate takeout. For example, offering “buy two, get one free” pizza during the Super Bowl.   Having some sort of rewards program is definitely useful. Some customers find that having punch cards or apps is too much to keep track of, so consider something simple and accessible, such as a rewards account that just requires a phone number or an email.   You can offer rewards in exchange for reviews as well. Having reviews (positive and negative) on your GMB page will give you an SEO boost. Be sure to respond to ALL reviews – both positive and negative – and showcase your great customer service.   You’ll want to avoid raffles or “chances to win”, as most customers won’t bother writing a review or entering into something when there’s only a chance they’ll be rewarded. Offering consistent things such as a percent off a menu item or a free appetizer with the purchase of two meals.  

Don’t Hesitate to Get Help

  Digital marketing might seem like a lot to manage. Consider outsourcing your digital marketing strategy to free up your team to focus on what you do best—making delicious food. Just like you might outsource cleaning, fresh food materials, and accounting, your restaurant can get digital marketing help to ensure success.   Get in touch with Social Spice Media to learn more about creating a marketing plan for your business and how you can effectively spend your marketing dollars. Our team pays attention to your goals and creates a custom strategy that delivers results. Do you know someone who could benefit from our services? Refer them to us today! Our team is eager to connect with businesses in any industry. We serve the local needs of Ventura County and Santa Barbara as well as anywhere in the United States.