Article first published for RMagazine on 27th February 2017.
In a highly dynamic and saturated environment such as the restaurant industry, it is the hope of every restaurant marketer to be the go-to brand in their field. During peak seasons where customers are around, restaurant owners are abuzz with smashing success! But it’s the seasonal slumps that keep marketers scratching their heads to come up with the next catchy campaign.
Well, the good news is, technology has made it much easier for restaurants to reach out to diners. Knowing how technology is so accessible these days, innovative marketing tactics are no longer just for the big brands. Lean marketing efforts don’t mean you can’t make a big impact.
Whether it’s through digital mediums or traditional tactics, the marketing game for restaurants has indeed changed. With the right marketing mix, restaurants can nail the sweet spot of experience for their diners, where a combination of factors results in a maximum response, for a given amount of effort.
With a little imagination, some creative spark powered by innovative tools, a shoestring budget can get you far! When done right, the efforts will be lucrative. Here’s how restaurants can keep their marketing efforts lean and get great results which keep customers coming back.
1. Leverage on WiFi marketing
Today, nearly every restaurant or cafe in many parts of the world offer WiFi to diners. If you are already doing so, you might as well let your diners know it’s coming from you. It’s a neat trick that takes little effort. Yet, it’s more profitable than a rewards system and more attractive than a physical punch card. What’s more, with many providers available in the market, it’s highly affordable too!
WiFi marketing platforms can value-add to restaurants by directing diners to a custom and branded log-in page. Macdonalds’ and Starbucks are already doing this. The benefits are plenty! Sharing your branded WiFi portal increases your brand recall. When your customers are logged in, you can lead them to your social network such as Facebook, and increase the number of page followers for your restaurant.
If you’re getting your users to opt-in through email, WiFi marketing is a great way to build your email database. In exchange for those emails, you can offer your diners exclusive content or online coupons for their next visit. What’s more, providing WiFi at your restaurant location also means that your customers are more likely to stick around much longer!
2. Build your audience on social media
If you haven’t been paying close attention, 2016 was the year that saw social media trends dominating marketing strategies for many brands in the restaurant industry. With new platforms emerging, marketers are increasingly taking social media seriously as a marketing tool for brands by incorporating social media into their marketing mix. If your restaurant is not active on social media, it’s never too late to get started.
But of course, these days anyone can set up a social media account. The trick to building your audience on social media is to really know where your diners are at and make that platform your base. If you’re not too sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask them! Tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can help you gather that information quickly and efficiently.
Once you’re done setting up, start off by asking all your friends, family members and regular diners to follow your page. Create your unique brand hashtag and don’t forget to have some fun with it!
3. Remind your diners of your restaurant’s digital touchpoints
Beyond focusing on gaining more following for marketing purposes, ride on the creation of your social media accounts to create lasting impressions in customers. When used cleverly, these platforms can inject fun into your customers’ dining experiences! One of the simplest ways is to encourage diners to post photos when they are at your restaurant. Ask them to tag your restaurant while they’re at it! This way, your customers will be sharing your social media pages with their own followers, doing the marketing for you.
The trick to encouraging diners to post photos is to give them something in return. Think the likes of offering a free cup of coffee on their next visit after posting a photo, or granting them a special promotional code which they can share with their friends on their social media channels. Also, be sure to make this process of posting content online easy for diners. Setting up your own DIY photobooth for instance, is a great way to encourage posting! Explore ideas on Pinterest and customize it to suit the personality of your restaurant!
Ultimately, social media is all about being personal and having fun with your diners. So, be creative in reminding diners of your digital efforts!
4. Start capturing moments through video
We all know pictures have the ability to capture people’s attention, so imagine how much more moving pictures, in the form of videos, will be able to intrigue! Videos foster trust between your brand and customers. Videos give them greater insight into your restaurant beyond what they see served on their plates, and are also proven to greatly increase customer conversions.
Creating videos are often perceived as labour-intensive, and requiring a certain degree of expertise, but that’s not the case these days. Go ahead and explore tools such as Animoto and Magisto, and you will realize how a few clicks is all it takes to create your own professional restaurant video! These tools come in free and premium pricing options, but are definitely affordable compared to hiring a full-fledged video team.
While you’re still tinkering with this idea, using Snapchat and Instagram Stories are a great start, being a combination of video and social media marketing. The interface is simple and it allows you to share short snippets of your restaurant.
With an entertaining video, there is a high chance people who viewed it will share it with their friends. So, be sure to make your video as fun and vibrant as you can!
5. Set up your restaurant profile on Google+ Pages
80% of people tend to look up a restaurant on Google prior to their first visit, so be sure to entice them with sufficient information. Google is everyone’s best friend, and you’ve got nothing to lose by ensuring your restaurant has a place in this search engine too. A simple, fuss-free way is to create a Google+ Page or a Google+ Business Page for your brand – it’s totally free! With a Google+ Dashboard, you will also get to track your restaurant’s’ business, and identify where your online audience are and how to improve from there.
These pages could possibly improve your search rankings and the awareness of your brand in the online realm. Google automatically syncs your location and information with their Google Search Engines and Google Maps, likely improving your brand’s SEO. Adding attractive photos of the food you offer is a great bonus, and don’t forget to link your personal restaurant website to your Google+ Pages!
6. Get listed on the database of review sites or apps
Capitalising on word-of-mouth marketing techniques to get the attention of potential customers is also a great way to increase your brand awareness. An effective way of reaching out to your customers is to get listed on the database of review applications or websites, such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and Foursquare.
Reviews increases customers’ trust in your brand, and also creates a continual brand awareness, as good reviews remain on these sites and serve to entice customers visiting them for the first time. 75% of mobile users are finding information about restaurants when they are on-the-go, and having your restaurant listed on these applications, ensures people in the area will get to know about you.
88% of consumers stated that they trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation, and use online reviews as a yardstick to determine the quality of a restaurant. Getting your restaurant listed and strive to attain positive reviews will ensure you get to stick around for a long time!
7. Create stunning and high quality menus
Having a visually appealing menu that carries the personality of your restaurant serves to form lasting impressions among customers. A pleasant menu marks the beginning of an enjoyable dining experience, given that it is the first thing most customers focus on when they arrive. It also sets diners’ expectations for the rest of their time in your restaurant. Nobody enjoys squinting through a crumpled sheet of paper with unreadable texts to order their food. You’d need to make your menu work.
Make use of online tools present, such as Canva or iMenuPro to ensure high quality marketing collaterals, that you can always customize to suit your needs. Most of these tools are definitely affordable for an effective and simple way to resolve your menu needs. With a wide array of basic templates you can choose from, building your own menu from scratch is not difficult at all.
Here’s an additional menu tip – place signature items on the “Prime Sweet Spot” of your menu, essentially where diners will first land their eyes on. Don’t forget to include your prices as well as and include succinct descriptions of your food items. Be creative and use words that create a sensory experience for your customers.
8. Let them order straight out of your online menu
Take one step further to satisfy your customers’ cravings by letting them make an immediate purchase on your website. 2016 was the banner year where we saw restaurants gearing up to fulfill online ordering demands. Personal branding is ever more so important now i for all businesses, especially for restaurants, given how dynamic this industry is. The most effective way to differentiate your brand is to set up a website with your personal domain. In creating an online presence for your brand, having an online ordering system so customers can purchase their desired food items immediately also allows you to grow your brand beyond the four walls of your restaurant.
To build a personal website for your restaurant, you can engage the help of web developers, but that will cost you a ton of money. We don’t mean to blow our horns, but consider using a white-label solution such as Oddle. With Oddle, you can create a website tailored to your restaurant business operations. Like other white-label solutions such as Wix and Shopify, the platform also allows for customisation—menu, theme and font based on your brand. Improving your online presence may sound like a tedious job for starters, but your efforts will definitely pay off with the increased brand awareness your restaurant will enjoy.