The dining room is beautiful.
The food is world-class.
You have a flashy website and a witty social media presence.
And still, tables are empty. So what’s the problem?
People perform 700,000 Google searches every 60 seconds.
There are over 1 billion monthly users on Instagram.
Facebook has 1.2 billion DAILY users.
That’s a lot of noise. And no one can hear you.
Today’s marketing is all about breaking through the chatter. For people to visit you, they need to be able to find you.
I’m going to show you three marketing ideas that will put a map to your restaurant in the hands of your customers. X marks the spot!
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There are thousands of people searching for restaurants in your city each month. And those people don't need to be convinced to eat out. They're already looking to spend money.
They just need to be able to find you.
So What Is SEO?
Quite simply, SEO is a set of strategies you can use to get your website to rank higher on a search engine’s results page (SERP).
I know, I know. You’re restaurant people, not computer nerds.
But customers will not find you without SEO.
People do Google searches to ask questions. You need to tell the search engines that your restaurant is the solution.
If your restaurant’s website doesn’t show up by the second page of results, it won’t be found.
There are hundreds of metrics that go into SEO, and no one knows exactly how each one is weighted. But there are some strategies you can use to start improving your SEO right away.
When people are searching for places to eat, they’re most likely looking for somewhere nearby. That’s why it’s critical for restaurants to maximize their local SEO.
Local SEO is focused on getting your restaurant to appear in local search results. Your ranking in local searches depends on three main factors:
Proximity to the searcher
Relevance of the search query to your offerings
What consumers say about your products
Let’s talk about some ways to make these factors work for you.
NAP stands for name, address, phone.
Your customers will find your restaurant through a variety of different avenues. These include your website, Yelp, Foursquare, Google My Business (more on this later), TripAdvisor, and more.
Make sure that any changes in your NAP are reflected across ALL platforms. This will improve your user experience and chances of appearing in the Google Local Pack.
Consistent contact info across the web will ensure that search engines don’t get confused about your location. And since location is such an important part of local SEO, preventing confusion is vital.
Appearance in the Google Local Pack is mainly influenced by the searcher’s location. But you’ll have a better posting and click-through rate if you have a complete Google My Business listing.
Google My Business
Claiming and managing your Google My Business account is a must. The information that appears in the Google sidebar or Local Pack comes directly from your Google My Business profile.
If your restaurant has been open for a few years, chances are you already have a default Google My Business account. But you’ll need to claim it in order to start making edits.
If it’s a brand new restaurant, you’ll have to create your listing from scratch.
A basic Google My Business account should include your address, hours, and phone number. But the more detailed information you provide, the easier it will be for Google to match searchers with what you offer.
In the description, include keywords that customers would use to search for your cuisine.
Try to be specific: “interior Mexican,” “Neapolitan-style pizza,” “Louisiana Creole.” Specific search terms will help users find you instead of the Tex-Mex place up the street.
For restaurant accounts, you can add links to delivery options, reservation services, and menus. These options will then show up in your sidebar listing.
Next, make sure to add photos! Businesses that include photos get 35% more clicks through to their websites than those without photos.
Include pictures of the following:
Dining room and/or bar
Customers having a good time
Colorful food and drinks
Also, encourage customer reviews.
Google considers reviews a sign of your business’ legitimacy. And more reviews will help your local SEO.
Consider giving a little incentive to customers to encourage reviews.
Another important metric in SEO is site speed.
Large video and photo files can slow down your site dramatically. The search engines don’t like that.
Use a site speed checker such as GTMetrix to analyze your site’s load speed and get insight on how to fix it.
More people are searching on their phones than ever before. Mobile use accounts for over 60% of all Google searches!
Make sure your site is responsive. This means it will change formatting automatically for a mobile search.
A non-responsive page will be frustrating for the user and will reduce the amount of time they spend on your site.
If your website is not optimized for mobile, you’re missing out!
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check. It will analyze your site’s mobile experience and provide suggestions for how to improve it.
Again, there are hundreds of SEO metrics that you can use.
But starting with these few methods can be a major help in getting your site seen online.
2. Browser Push Notifications
Browser push notifications are clickable messages that appear on your computer or phone screen.
Someone doesn’t have to be on a restaurant’s website for the notifications to pop up on their screen. This means that you’ll still have a chance to convert site traffic into customers, even after they’ve moved on.
Push notifications are ideal for informing restaurant customers about time-sensitive messages.
You could use push notifications to alert your customers to a daily special, upcoming event, or changes to the menu. You can also remind them to leave you a review.
Opt-ins for push notifications are high. Push notifications don’t require an email address, which some people are hesitant to provide.
And it’s easy for people to opt out later if they change their minds.
Once you send your notification, it will arrive instantly. You don’t have to worry about spam folders, bad email addresses, or neglected inboxes.
The message will pop up on the user’s screen right away.
The best news for restaurants? Your customers want to hear from you!
Restaurants show a high level of push notification opt-ins.
Don’t Overdo It
It can be easy to turn your helpful notifications into an irritant. The more notifications you send, the more potential customers will opt out.
You can experiment with frequency. But start with only one push notification per week to see how your customers react.
Also, be considerate about when you send your notifications. Customers prefer to receive push notifications during their downtime rather than during the workday.
Test different times to see what gets you the most click-throughs and fewest opt-outs.
Location-based push notifications involve setting up a “geofence,” a virtual area laid over a real map. When people enter your geofenced area, they will get a push notification from you.
You could remind customers what time your happy hour starts. Or let them know that you have a particularly great lunch special today.
They’ll already be in the area, so a little reminder will help entice them through your doors.
How to Do It
These services will provide a customizable opt-in box for your website. They’ll also allow you to manage your notifications, segment your audience for more targeted messaging, and track CTR and opt-ins.
3. Influencer Marketing
Once upon a time, it was all about celebrity endorsements.
Now, celebrities have been thrown over by influencers.
In fact, only 3% of consumers say they’ll consider buying a product promoted by a celebrity. But 60% will consider buying a product promoted by an influencer.
Influencers are considered authorities in their niche. They’re liked and respected by their followers, who are actively looking for the influencer’s recommendations.
And they enjoy huge levels of trust from their followers.
A whopping 40% of millennials on social media say their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends and family. And over 80% of consumers say they buy items they’ve seen shared on social media.
To harness this power, you don’t have to work with the influencers with millions of followers and high fees. (Although you can!)
Instead, reach out to your local “micro-influencers.” These are bloggers and social media personalities with a local audience of 2,000 to 100,000.
That audience is just waiting for the influencer’s next recommendation. Get them to post about your restaurant, and their followers will take notice.
Bonus: influencer marketing is affordable.
Instagram is the clear leader in platforms used for influencer marketing.
But you’ll want to consider your audience before selecting a platform.
For example, older audiences are still loyal to Facebook. So you may want to consider a Facebook campaign if your restaurant has an older customer base.
When choosing influencers to work with, think beyond the number of their followers.
Find an influencer who speaks to your audience. If you own a sports bar, you probably don’t want to work with an influencer whose primary audience is young moms.
Marketing has changed dramatically in the past decade.
And the restaurant industry has been a bit slow to keep up.
But we understand. Restaurants rarely have a marketing department that can stay on top of the new trends and changes in the marketplace.
Consider working on these methods one at a time and see how they help your business. Or hire a restaurant marketing firm to help you implement them all right away.
If you build it, they will come—but only if they can find you!
What do you think?
Are there any prime marketing ideas that we missed?
Do you think you can implement these strategies in the coming year?
This article was contributed by Adam Guild: a restaurant marketing expert and the CEO of Placepull. You may have seen him in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, MRM Magazine, and other top publications.