In 2020, close to 1.6 Million restaurants pivoted to the online ordering and delivery model to stay afloat during unprecedented times. 45% of these restaurants are now choosing to continue online operations. Why? 67% of all restaurant orders are not coming via online ordering. But the competition is also getting fierce. Customers can now access hundreds of restaurants in the neighborhood with just a click of a few buttons. So if your restaurant isn't discoverable on the internet, or doesn’t pop up when someone searches for the relevant keyword, then you're probably losing a lot of business than you can imagine. In 2020, the US food delivery market recorded a whopping $26.5 billion worth of transactions. The number is expected to rise by 135% in 2021. Need we say more?
Apparently, the competition is getting fierce for restaurant owners and they must devise marketing strategies to stay on top of mind. But since the profits are still low, let's focus on the things you can do to promote your restaurant business without spending a dime.
You might not believe it, but 80% of customers who placed food orders online have agreed to have seen a mouth-watering image of food on Instagram and immediately placed the order to satiate their cravings.
Images serve as powerful marketing tools when it comes to restaurants. A single mouth-watering photo of one of your signature dishes can instantly make someone’s stomach growl and want to place an order! Posting a drool-worthy image on your Instagram or Twitter handle is a great way to promote your restaurant. They don't really have to be professionally taken pictures. You can use any decent phone camera, enhance the quality with some filters, and post. All you have to ensure that the food is presented well and looks appetizing on screen. Whatever you choose to present to your social media audience try to stick to a consistent color palette.
Another very important point to note when using Instagram or social media for food advertising is to get a thorough analysis of typical meal timings in your states. Try to post online just a little before meal times throughout the day, when your target audience is probably wondering about what they’re going to have for their next meal anyway.
As Instagram and Twitter take over the social media world, the importance of using hashtags grows every single day. While posting enticing pictures or quirky status updates, make sure to incorporate popular hashtags into your content as well. #TacoTuesday, #foodgasm, #foodie are all commonly looked up hashtags and can generate tons of traffic. But don’t limit your hashtag use to just food-related hashtags. There are ample hashtags related to local events and popular culture that are trending every now and then, such as #womensday. You could also promote food holidays such as National Taco Day or World Vegetarian Day. By using these in your marketing strategy and coming up with witty content, you can grow your social media following too. Specialized tools related to hashtag analytics such as Hashtagify and Talkwalker can make your job much easier!
One of the most personal ways to engage with customers is to introduce user-generated content. But why USG?
This can be done in various ways. Begin by interacting with your online followers by hosting photo contests. For instance, you could ask your audience to post a photo with their favorite dish from your menu using a particular hashtag of your choice. Or perhaps a photo from when they shared a meal with their friends at your restaurant.
You could also encourage entries for people to come up with a new menu item for your food joint, or maybe a catchy name for a new dish you plan to introduce. If you have a restaurant blog, you could always invite blog post entries from your fans related to positive experiences at your restaurant.
Another simple way to engage with your followers is to repost photos they’ve taken of their food orders or any posts they’ve tagged your restaurant in.
Did you know emails with personalized subject lines or perhaps, name of the subscriber are 26% more likely to be opened and tend to garner a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns? Restaurant marketers are well aware of the benefits of personalized emails, but only a few are able to implement the strategy in their marketing email campaigns. Why? Because they are not aware or don't have access to the right tools. Most of them are unsure how to segment their database, integrate personalization into their strategy, and ultimately, how to use it to drive more successful email marketing campaigns.
There are various free tools online that can simplify this experience for you such as HubSpot, Campaign Monitor and Sender, but a successful campaign starts with segmentation. Segment your mailer list on the following factors:
Offering a special menu for delivery on New Year’s Eve? Try creating a Facebook Event.
Events are a great option for promoting upcoming events at the restaurant. Create a compelling event to generate interest from your customers and then boost the event page to capture the interest of other Facebook users.
To start, you need to select an interesting event name and embrace the page with a compelling event description, engaging photo, and details emphasizing the USPs of the event. The cover photo should be created using Facebook’s latest size recommendations so it looks even on all devices and screen sizes.
Facebook will suggest your event to local FB users who may be interested in your event. So make sure to make use of Geo-Location to reach a relevant audience. Other ways to improve the performance of your event include:
Create custom hashtags to allow customers to join the conversation.
Tag food influencers or partners to increase visibility
Once the event has been created, you can promote it on your Facebook Business Page as well.
And why wouldn't they? We all trust recommendations from friends, family and social groups when it comes to food and shopping. The only way to make your restaurant brand contagious in today's world is to leverage word of mouth marketing, which is customer reviews in the digital world. The more customer reviews you can receive, the better it will be in terms of generating traffic to your website.
With the popularity of review sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, customers are highly aware of these review sites and seek recommendations before placing online orders. Taking the time to respond to reviews, whether negative or positive is an excellent marketing strategy. Moreover, ensuring that your profile on each of those sites is up-to-date, and tagged under relevant categories.
If you want your restaurant to be in the limelight, partnering with influencers might just be your best bet. Find out influencers in your area who are food or lifestyle bloggers. Once you find someone whose profile aligns with your brand image, you can send a couple of your signature dishes to them or invite them to your restaurant. They can then be requested to review the food and their dining experience on their social media, while also providing a special influencer promotion code offering a discount to their followers. This in turn will drive more and more customers to your restaurant website.
In a nutshell, digital marketing is a must-have in your marketing toolkit. While good food, excellent service, and a unique concept definitely help in making a restaurant successful, effective marketing helps this success last. As you gradually implement these tips in your day-to-day business, you can easily improve customer engagement and generate much higher traffic to your restaurant website.