Valentine’s Day Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Ahh Valentine’s Day – the holiday of love. Some people, well, love it and some hate it. Still, it’s a popular day for dining out for many people, whether on a date or celebrating anti-Valentine’s Day with friends. You should be thinking about your restaurant’s plan for marketing your holiday offerings to ensure you have a full house of diners.

Today, we’re giving you some Valentine’s Day marketing ideas to think about ahead of February 14th.

Let’s Discuss the History

We all know Valentine’s Day is about love, hearts, Cupid, and those cute little cards you used to get in elementary school. And you may know something about the history of the holiday, which is steeped in hearsay, traditions, and legend. The origins aren’t clearly set in stone, but historians believe it began in pre-Roman times. And no, it wasn’t about romance; in fact, there was a lot of blood and gore.

Lupercalia, a traditional Roman festival, took place in Rome in February with the purpose of evil spirit cleansing. There were animal sacrifices and other rituals that went along with it. Years later, St. Valentine, a Christian martyr, was executed by emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. I guess you could say he died in the name of love…

Today, the likes of Hallmark and American Greetings, along with other candy and gift stores everywhere, have capitalized on the holiday, turning it into a celebration of love. And people have been persuaded to use February 14th as a proclamation of their love; people in the US spend around 19 billion dollars on the holiday. Although some couples might choose to cook at home on Valentine’s Day, a lot of people will be heading to restaurants for a special night out.

Below are some ideas to help you spice up your Valentine’s Day offerings at your restaurant.

Incorporate Heart-Shaped Menu Items and Colorful Influences

It’s not everyday you see a heart shaped pizza or dessert, but you do on February 14th. If you’re creating a special menu for Valentine’s Day, think of how you can incorporate the heart shape into your presentation. It’s easy to do and can be achieved with virtually any menu item. A simple cookie cutter can turn a bed of rice into a heart. If you make homemade pasta, you can craft it into the shape. For dessert, create heart-shaped cookie ice cream sandwiches (or let your guests build their own).

Aside from heart-shaped items, create a menu that is unique and colorful. Red, pink, and white are all colors associated with the holiday. Think about how you can get creative with menu items or go extreme and ONLY have food made with those colors. I mean, who doesn’t love a good penne vodka sauce and red velvet cake for dessert?

pasta dish with tomato sauce and tomatoes

Whatever you’re planning, it’s essential to get your Valentine’s Day menu online early. Diners will be weighing their restaurant options and making reservations ahead of time. You don’t want to be overlooked because you’re not offering a special meal or deal for the holiday.

With SinglePlatform, you can create a specific holiday menu to post ahead of February 14th. This way, guests will know that you’re serving a different menu with unique items. This is especially important if your usual a la carte menu won’t be available. You should set expectations so diners know they can only choose from the Valentine’s Day menu for the night.

If you’re doing a set pre-fixe option, be clear about the pricing and all inclusions as well. Plus, as soon as the holiday is over, you can remove the menu to eliminate confusion. To learn more, contact us.

Give Them Something Extra

tray of champagne glasses being handed out

As we’ve said before, the dining experience isn’t just about the meal, it’s about the entire event. Make the visit to your restaurant memorable for every guest by doing something unique. Last year, I dined at Trademark Taste & Grind in New York City for Valentine’s Day. I already knew they had a pre fixe menu, which I was impressed with, but they also had a craft cocktail experience that caught my eye.

cocktail glass with craft cocktail

Of course, there are tons of restaurants in New York City to choose from, but this one added a little something extra, which is why I chose it. And the added touches definitely made the date memorable!

Upon arrival, guests were given a list of spirits and add-ins and asked to design their own cocktail. You could choose something fruity, floral, or spicy, and the bartender would make the drink specially for you.

Plus, they allowed all guests to head over to their sister restaurant, Refinery Rooftop, afterwards for a complimentary champagne toast. With the views of the Manhattan skyline and the impressive decor, it definitely gave the night a special touch.

You can incorporate craft cocktail making into your event, or choose something different that will make guests say wow. A complimentary dessert, a special parting gift upon exit, or a take-home version of the menu with recipes will add an extra element of surprise. Think of ways you can offer your guests something extra on February 14th that will inspire them to come back and dine with you for other occasions.

Ask for Music Requests

vinyl record music playing on record player

There are plenty of sappy love songs out there to make a very long Valentine’s Day playlist for your restaurant. You can, of course, choose the music yourself, but you may also want to get your guests involved. If you’re looking to make things interesting, ask for every guest’s song request when they arrive (or even add a field to your reservation form to compile a list ahead of time).

Load your playlist with all of your diners’ favorites and play the songs throughout the night, or opt to hire a local pianist or live band to cover the songs. You’re sure to get people excited when they hear the song they chose streaming through the dining room; you may even bring back a memory or two for couples enjoying the night at your restaurant.

To take it to the next level, hand out pamphlets with the complete playlist as diners exit. If they heard some new songs they liked throughout the night, guests can always download them later.

Give the Homebodies a Reason to Celebrate

Not everyone likes to go to crowded restaurants to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some people opt to stay home and cook or order in. Don’t you want to cater to this population as well? If you already have an online ordering system in place, it’s easy! Update your online offerings with any Valentine’s Day specials you have for take-out so customers can take advantage of holiday-specific items. Throw in a free appetizer or dessert to each delivery order to make the experience even better. You can even put the receipt in a restaurant-themed Valentine to keep with the sentiment of the holiday. Attention to detail helps make your restaurant more memorable.

Ahead of February 14th, make sure you’re well-equipped to handle delivery orders as well as a full house in your dining room. Nothing puts a damper on a Valentine’s Day celebration like the late delivery of cold food.

Send an email or text message ahead of time that promotes your Valentine’s Day delivery option. You can get creative with it and come up with a clever communication like “Don’t think dining out is romantic? We get it. Stay in & order your Valentine’s Day dinner from The City Bistro. Oh, and get 10% off your order on February 14th. Now that’s sweet.” The more prepared you are to handle requests, the more successful you’ll be.

Host An Anti-Valentine’s Day Party

friends laughing and drinking during restaurant gathering

If you’re looking to go rogue this holiday, go all out. Instead of the typical romantic dinner, offer up an Anti-Valentine’s Day Party. Plenty of single people will be looking for places to go to hang out with friends and your restaurant could be the hot spot. Make sure you’re marketing your event ahead of time by posting on social media, updating your website, and sending out emails.

If you’re looking to put a funny spin on things, decorate your restaurant in black (it is opposite day afterall). Create a menu with witty anti-love titles, like the Loner’s Lobster Bisque and Pizza Party for One. Craft cocktails with the same sentiments are sure to go over big (Love Potion Number NO, for example).

Ditch the romantic love songs for a more upbeat, fun playlist for your guests to enjoy. Riffing off of the popular conversation hearts, you can even put out humorous conversation cards to get people talking to each other (you never know, your anti-Valentine party may spark a new friendship or relationship). Creating an inviting and entertaining atmosphere can help people who otherwise loathe the holiday to think of it as a way to have some fun.

In Closing

couple cheers with red wine at dinner table

February 14th commemorates love, and is a popular day to dine out for couples, and singles, all around the country. If you want to do something different than your typical Thursday night in the dining room, there are plenty of ways to include special touches for your guests. From unique menu items to decorations and setting the tone, any little element of surprise can help make diners feel appreciated this Valentine’s Day. Doing anything special at your restaurant for the holiday? Tell us below!

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The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Online Marketing

When opening up a restaurant startup, you’re focused on the location of the building, the food you’re going to serve, and training your staff to ensure they’re up to par. Similarly, you should be narrowing in on your online presence and how to best market your new business. Even if your restaurant has been around for years, its online discoverability should be of utmost importance to you.

However, with the responsibilities and pressures that come with owning and operating a restaurant business, you may be too busy to put a laser-focus on your online marketing and visibility. But, don’t fret. We’ve created this in-depth guide on how to maximize your restaurant’s online marketing so you can start getting discovered by new diners.

The Facts

Let’s start off with some statistical data to put your restaurant’s online presence in perspective.

Did You Know:

93% of people view menus online before dining out

man on computer looking at restaurant menus

It’s true! Think about it – if you were the diner instead of the restaurant owner, wouldn’t you want to know what the menu options were before getting in your car, driving to the location, and sitting down? With the technology available at our fingertips today, there’s no reason why your menu shouldn’t be available to consumers online on search engines and other discovery sites.

There are 260 million searches with some variation of “restaurant near me” EVERY MONTH

People are hungry. Food is the fuel that gets us through each day. It’ll never go out of style. And people are looking for places to dine out, or order in, every minute of every day. And they’re looking for local restaurants for quickness and convenience. You should strive for your restaurant to be discoverable based on menu items, keywords, and location. The “near me” factor isn’t just a coincidence, it’s the result of the customers’ innate yearning for convenience, quickness, and satisfaction.

80% of consumers lose trust in a business if their online information is inaccurate

woman on a tablet

This statistic shouldn’t come as a surprise. Wouldn’t you be disappointed if you were looking forward to going to a new local restaurant and plugged the address you found on Google or TripAdvisor into your GPS, only to arrive at the wrong location? If you give potential customers wrong business hours, an old phone number, or outdated address, you’re sure to lose their trust.

Just these three statistics paint a clear picture of how important an accurate and visible online presence is for your restaurant. And there are plenty of other data points that we’ll get to later. For now, let’s define online presence.

Online Presence

woman in office behind table working on laptop

Sure, at first “online presence” might sound like an umbrella term, too broad to define, or maybe even care about. But, it’s a crucial piece of your restaurant’s marketing pie.

When you heard the phrase online presence mentioned above, you probably said to yourself “yeah, I have a website for my restaurant” or “we have some good reviews on Yelp.” But, just those scattered pieces here and there don’t form a cohesive presence for your brand.

Online presence encompasses all of these elements – your search visibility, your branded website, social media channels, online reviews, your menu, and key business information (name, address, phone number, and hours of operation). All of these online marketing efforts fit together to create a well oiled machine (or, in this case, a beautifully presented dinner plate) known as your online presence.

When pondering your restaurant’s online presence, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my menu up-to-date across platforms people are searching on?
  • If diners in my area were searching for “restaurants near me” would mine be visible?
  • Does my website encompass my brand’s persona and give customers the information they crave?
  • If someone searches for my restaurant, is the correct business information available?
  • Is my restaurant consistent on the social channels that matter?
  • Do I have a solid strategy for handling online reviews?

I know, I threw a lot at you at once. But, we’ll break all of these elements down throughout this post. Let’s start off with SinglePlatform’s bread and butter, online menus.

Online Menus

old restaurant menu

Some of you may remember the old days, when you’d have to wait until you were in the diner booth or upon the bar stool to be introduced to a restaurant’s paper menu. Just then you’d be able to peruse it for daily specials, entree options, and a list of cocktails. Sure, there was a bit of mystery and surprise to it, but that all fell by the wayside when you scanned the entire menu, front and back, and didn’t find a single item you’d consider eating.

Today, people are hungry for information well before making a reservation or stopping by a taco shop for a quick lunch. They want to be briefed on the cuisine type, menu items, and price before stepping foot inside a place. And they want this available from a search performed on a smartphone or laptop computer.

As a restaurant owner or operator, what can you do to satisfy the masses? It’s simple. Give them the information they want, when and where they want it. But, how?

Online Menu Management

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This is where the concept of online menu management (our bread and butter) comes in. Posting your menu as a PDF on your website just won’t cut it. Remember earlier when we mentioned that over 260 million searches are happening for some derivative of “restaurant near me” every month? Couple that with the fact that 93% of online experiences begin with search engines. And what do you get? The realization that brand new customers won’t just stumble upon your restaurant’s website by chance.

Instead, these new customers will find you through search queries on sites like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, OpenTable, and plenty of others. These discovery sites will then either inspire them to make a decision to dine with you, or at the very least encourage them to head to your website to do some more digging.

But, since these are the websites and apps where people are discovering you, you want to provide the pertinent information they’re seeking, like your restaurant menu and business details, right then and there. Don’t risk losing new customers by failing to provide the information they want and need.

The Execution

Getting your menu and essential business information on these sites and apps where people are researching new restaurants is crucial. You can try the DIY approach, but we don’t suggest it (we’ll explain why in a moment).

Yes, you can create and maintain a presence on these discovery sites separately, and we’ve even written up some how-to guides on claiming your business on different sites:

But, when it comes to the maintenance and upkeep of your menus and other business information, time and effort adds up, and boils over, quickly. Not to mention, most of these sites have established strict boundaries and will only work with third party providers when it comes to online menu management.

Let’s Do the Math

calculations do the math

To put the amount of work managing your online presence yourself would entail, we’ve done some calculations. Let’s say you change your menu seasonally 8 times per year and are listed on 20 different discovery sites. If it takes an hour to make all of these updates each time (and it will most likely take longer), you’ll spend over 400 hours a year just updating your menus online!

And that doesn’t even factor in the time spent checking the accuracy of your business information on all of these different sites and apps. Let’s face it – no busy restaurant owner has time for that.

Working with a menu management company takes the responsibility off of your plate by doing the work for you. It’s our job to get your menu and other information across a vast network of search, travel, review, social, and navigation sites and apps.

Plus, companies like SinglePlatform make the manual updates for you. You just send us your new menu by email, text, fax, or carrier pigeon and we do the rest. And we also push data to these sites on a daily basis to ensure your information isn’t overwritten by unverified sources.

Take a look at what our customers have to say:

Midtown Cafe

midtown cafe breakfast food

Randy Rayburn, owner of Midtown Cafe, is a SinglePlatform customer. He changes his menu seasonally and needed a better way to manage his menus online. Randy said,

“SinglePlatform has been a valuable tool in growing my business. It is critical for updating our seasonal menu changes to our existing clients and potential guests.”

Mandolin

mandolin raleigh charcuterie

Mandolin of Raleigh, North Carolina’s owner, Sean Fowler, echoed similar sentiments. Mandolin has their own farm on-site and is also a seasonally-driven restaurant concept.

“Our menu changes constantly, so it would be next to impossible to keep it up-to-date everywhere. SinglePlatform takes care of that.”

For more information on how we can help you, get in contact with us today! But for now, let’s move on to our next topic, the “near me” factor and searchable content.

Online Searchability

woman in a cafe on her phone

You’re well-aware that your menu needs to be in the places people are searching. But, this goes deeper than just having it available to prospects. Having your menu available as searchable content is key.

Menu management companies will get your menu into this digestible format so you can be discovered for specific menu items. I’ll quickly break down how this works.

Search engines, like Google for example, love searchable content. They have “crawlers” which are Internet bots that are constantly searching the Internet in order to index web pages. These bots are looking for relevant keywords and information that will point Internet searchers in the right direction when searching for something specific.

Let’s say your potential customer is craving spaghetti. They’ll search for “spaghetti near me.” If you have that item on your menu, and are in a reasonable proximity, you’ll be found for that menu item because your menu items are crawlable.

From there, researchers can easily navigate to your online menu or seek directions to get to you.

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singleplatform restaurant menu gigino italian food menu

If your menu was just living in a PDF format on your website, you wouldn’t appear in these menu item based results. PDFs are difficult for crawlers to read and index, which means you’re losing opportunity to be discovered.

Being discoverable through searchable content is a must, especially when millions of “near me” searches are happening month after month.

So you’ve worked with a menu management company to get your menu distributed online, way to go! What’s next? Let’s talk restaurant website.

Your Restaurant Website

cafe owner on laptop

Websites were a novelty in the late 1990s, but are nothing short of a requirement now. I know we’ve talked a lot about your online presence outside of your own website, but it matters too!

Think of your restaurant’s website as a customer’s virtual look into your storefront. I’m sure you keep your dining room tidy, have added decor to boost your curb appeal, and make sure your staff is both friendly and informative. Your website is your chance to do just that online; show off your brand, let people know what your restaurant is all about, and provide information people care about finding.

[Looking for easy ways to create a stellar website? Click here.]

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The importance of your website comes after someone has already discovered you via search. Or, if it’s a loyal customer, she may head straight to your site for the updates she’s seeking.

Regardless of who lands on your homepage, you should always make sure your website is up-to-date with the latest menus, has appealing photos of your restaurant and food, and clearly communicates what you offer. Customers and potential guests will appreciate your understanding for sophisticated web design that clearly lays out the essentials.

You should also focus on your restaurant website’s SEO, which will help boost your online visibility and rank in search results.

What is SEO?

seo

[SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s defined as the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid or organic results. Basically, SEO helps your website rank higher in search results.]

A few ways you can rank higher in search results using SEO is using relevant keywords (like chicken tacos and margaritas if you’re a Mexican restaurant offering those items), having content on a blog, and linking to outbound sites. To learn more, read the blog we provided a link to above.

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And don’t forget about your website being mobile-friendly in order to be easy-to-use for everyone, whether they’re searching on a desktop or smartphone. Consumers spend more than 5 hours a day on mobile phones and 63% of online traffic is from mobile. If your website does not load properly or is too slow to load on mobile phones, you’ll quickly lose the attention of potential guests, leading them to close out of your website and go elsewhere.

That probably seemed like a long to-do list for your restaurant’s website. And you’re right, it was, because like we’ve said plenty of times before in this post, online presence matters!

The Execution

Don’t worry, building a website doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of companies that offer easy-to-build websites using drag and drop features. SiteBuilder, Weebly, and Wix are just a few examples. If you have a larger marketing budget, you can hire a web designer to do the work for you. Do some research, check out designs, and calculate the costs to decide which option is right for your business.

Or, you can enlist a company like SinglePlatform to take the job on. We recently launched SiteSync, which allows us to help you build your perfectly branded business site, and ties in with the rest of our SinglePlatform features to create an impressive brand presence. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to ensure you’re representing your restaurant right!

I think it’s about that time to get social. Read on for the importance of social media for your restaurant and how you can execute an effective social marketing strategy.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

instagram restaurant marketingChances are you’re already using some social media channel to market your business. And if you’re not, you should start right now! Social media is a driving force, with billions of people accessing these platforms everyday. But, that’s not to say that you should create a handle for every single social channel out there. For a hospitality-driven business, some channels are better suited than others in order to drive brand visibility.

Regardless of what social channel you’re exploring, make sure to create a voice and personality for your restaurant brand. Social media is called “social” for a reason; you want to be conversational, fun, and human. Don’t be stiff or standoffish on platforms that are all about interaction and personality. We talk more about social media advice in our Are You Making These 5 Restaurant Marketing Mistakes blog. Check it out!

For now, let’s explore the social platforms your restaurant should be utilizing.

Facebook

Facebook is a no-brainer for your restaurant business. With 1.47 billion (yes, BILLION) daily active users, it’s the most popular platform out there for all age brackets. Plus, Facebook has robust capabilities for you to create a business page to keep customers in-the-know.

Besides allowing for your basic business information and photos, you can place a call to action button at the top of your page for customers to contact you with a click of a button. Facebook also lets customers post reviews and check-in with geotagging.

Easily post updates about specials, events, and new menus as well. Spoiler alert – you can do your Facebook social scheduling and posting through SinglePlatform’s revamped Social Media 2.0 tool.

Facebook Ads

Facebook has advertising capabilities to help you reach targeted audiences in your area. After identifying your target customer, you can create an audience within Facebook, set a budget, and come up with your creative for the advertisement. From there, track the performance to see if the ad is worth continuing to run. You may have to make some tweaks in order for it to resonate better with your audience.

Facebook also allows you to place a Facebook pixel on your website so you can track who has visited your website and do some retargeting to them.

To get some more insight on advertising with Facebook, check out their success stories.

Instagram

Instagram has 500 million daily active users and 1 billion monthly active users. The photo-centric platform is known for hosting aesthetically pleasing images and viral videos that are discovered with the use of hashtags and geotags.

Instagram is an ideal social channel for restaurants because of the popularity of food photos. The hashtag “food” has about 300 million posts associated with it! Use this to your advantage and make your photography an integral part of the storytelling of your brand.

instagramming a restaurant dish .jpeg

Plus, images on Instagram get 23% more engagement than those on Facebook. And brands (like your restaurant) get 10x more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook.

Instagram Tips

Instagram is a great discovery tool for your restaurant. Here are some tips to help you #win the Instagram game.

  • Post Often
  • Use Geotagging
  • Only Post High Quality Photos
  • Have a Branded Account
  • Use Relevant Hashtags
  • Interact with Followers
instagram photo restaurant.jpeg

Encourage guests to geotag any photos taken at your location so their followers, and other Instagram users, can discover you in other places than just your branded account. Make sure to post high-quality photos that will inspire people to engage. Blurry, unappetizing photos won’t get you much traction.

Post consistently to keep followers engaged, use appropriate hashtags for discovery, and utilize features like IGTV and Instagram stories. If you don’t post often, your content won’t be seen regularly by your followers.

Remember, you’re utilizing Instagram to tell your restaurant’s story. Don’t leave followers in the dark by ghosting your account. And don’t ignore followers, either! Engage by responding to comments and following users back. Get creative by testing out different concepts for photos and see what works best for you.

Instagram Ads

Gone are the days when Instagram was a photo sharing app in its infancy. Today, Instagram’s power is leveraged as some of the most powerful advertising a brand can do. If you have the budget for it, test out Instagram ads. Set target audience and location parameters to make sure your content is targeted to the right audience. This will help you reach a larger audience outside of your follower base, thus increasing your online visibility.

Twitter

Although Twitter is less popular than the aforementioned social sites, you should still consider it as part of your social strategy. With 335 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets occurring per day, there’s still some action to be seen. We suggest using Twitter primarily as a customer service resource for your customers. Monitor the platform to see if guests are tweeting at you about any issues or concerns they have. You can quickly respond and address any issues right there.

Twitter

Of course, you should also keep guests in-the-know about any menu updates or events with Twitter. You can use SinglePlatform’s social tools to schedule recurring tweets, which is perfect if you’re running weekly or monthly specials. 74% of Twitter users say they use the network to get their news; become a news source for your patrons by keeping them informed about what’s going on at your restaurant.

So that just about covers it for the social segment of this online visibility guide. As mentioned, if you have any questions about how SinglePlatform can help you achieve your social media goals, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

Next, we’ll talk about online customer reviews and how to handle them in order to manage your restaurant’s reputation.

Online Reviews and Your Restaurant’s Reputation

woman on laptop looking at online reviews

Online customer reviews of your restaurant are inevitable. Today, review sites are soapboxes for customers wishing to voice their opinions. And reviews are treated as the modern day word-of-mouth, with people reading an average of 7 reviews online before making a decision.

Clearly, online reputation management is a must. Although you may not be pleased with all the reviews your restaurant receives, the unsolicited feedback can’t exactly be stopped. Although you can’t prevent reviews from being made, you should have a plan for addressing them, positive or negative.

Positive Reviews

Let’s focus on the positives first. Do you need to respond to positive reviews? We actually wrote a blog about it that you can check out here. The short answer is, yes you should. When people post reviews, they do so because they want to be heard. And the worst thing you can do to your customers is ignore them!

And this makes sense! Positive reviews are essentially free advertisements for you. In fact, 73% of consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews, so these reviews can be the deciding factor of whether someone chooses to dine with you or not.

Spread the happiness around by responding to your happy customers. When responding to customer feedback, try to tailor it to the comment that was made; customers will catch on quickly if they see you posting the same scripted response. Of course, you should come up with generic responses that can be used, but try to alter them to make them diverse and personal (address the reviewer by name when possible). Your customers will appreciate that you took the time to acknowledge and respond to them.

Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are elephants in the dining room, you just simply can’t avoid them.

Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be 100% pleased with their experience at your restaurant every time. And that’s alright, as long as you know how to handle the situation. This takes us back to the age-old notion that the customer is always right; it remains true even after they’ve furiously pounded on their keyboard to leave you a scathing review.

Don’t just ignore negative feedback and pretend it never happened. Face it head on, address the situation, and do what you need to to make it better.

Some quick tips on handling negative reviews:

  • Be prompt, don’t keep an angry customer stewing for too long
  • Be kind and apologetic, not defensive
  • Add personalization, address them by name
  • If you’re going to offer a discount, do so offline (ask for an email or phone number)

For more tips on handling negative reviews, check out this blog.

SinglePlatform’s Review Monitoring & Review Intelligence

Online reviews about your restaurant exist in multiple places – from Google business reviews to TripAdvisor feedback, to Yelp reviews and content on OpenTable. It may seem overwhelming to have to keep tabs on each review on each site. But, we’ve got something to help you with your online reputation management. SinglePlatform’s Review Monitoring & Intelligence tools were created with business owners in mind.

Review Monitoring

review monitoring

Our Review Monitoring solution gets all of your online reviews in one easy-to-use management system so you can monitor customer feedback from all around the Internet. Plus, we alert you via email when a new review is posted so nothing slips through the cracks.

Filter reviews by publisher source (for example, if you only want to focus on TripAdvisor reviews) or star rating (to only focus on your one star reviews).

Review Intelligence

review intelligence

We also take online reputation management a step further with Review Intelligence. This technology allows you to filter reviews not only by star rating, but by category so you can gain additional insights on what you are stellar at and which areas of your restaurant are in need of improvement. Categories, like Food & Drink, Service, and Atmosphere, can provide you with laser focus on your strong points and weaknesses. An overall star rating by category also gives you a quick snapshot on how you’re doing in each category. Having this information lets you make business decisions faster.

Want to learn more? Head to our features page and get in touch to discuss how we can help you take control of your restaurant reviews.

Tying it All Together

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You did it, you made it to the end of The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Online Marketing. We hope you’re feeling more informed and inspired to get your restaurant in front of more customers to win more business!

After taking all of that information in, you may also be feeling overwhelmed. Truth be told, the breadth of your online presence is quite large;  it encompasses everything from having your menu searchable online to keeping up with various social channels (and everything else in between!) Although creating a solid online presence for your business is a large undertaking, it is essential to the growth and prosperity of your restaurant.

Luckily for you, there are companies and resources out there to help you along the way. And if you want to take baby steps to make incremental improvements, that’s okay too.

Getting Started

You can start off by doing your own QA of your online presence. Perform queries on search engines to see what information about your restaurant is available, take a look at your online reviews, do an in-depth analysis of your website, and check out the current state of your social media accounts. Knowing the current state of all these elements will help you better plan for the future.

abstract modern restaurant.jpegOf course, we believe that getting your menu and other business information in the places people are searching is the most crucial part of your restaurant’s online marketing. This is what truly influences your business’ online visibility to new customers.

If you’re ready to get seen by 4x more diners, we invite you to get in contact with us today! We’ll show you an in-depth look at our product and services and what they can do for you. Request a demo to begin!

If you’re still at the forefront of your journey to a better online presence, take a look at some of our other blogs. We’ve got tons of restaurant marketing tips, industry trends, and other advice for you to gain more insight.

Here at SinglePlatform, we wish you the best of luck in the future success of your restaurant business!

9 Tips to Write Engaging Restaurant Blog Posts that Increase Sales

Blogs can be a powerful marketing tool for a restaurant. We talk about them in our Content Marketing 101 blog as well. When people are looking for a new restaurant to try out, they turn to the internet. Blogs are great for showing off what your restaurant does best, whether that is featuring fun events, new items, great photos of your food, or stories from staff and customers.

Here are nine tips to write engaging restaurant blog posts that increase sales.

Plan It Out and Post Consistently

“You should have a plan before you begin posting. Don’t just write about what you feel like, do some research and see what keywords and phrases your customers are using online. Once you’ve got some ideas and are ready to begin posting, be sure to post at a pace you can maintain consistently,” recommends David Behling, food blogger at EliteAssignmentHelp.

Once a week is a sensible starting place for a restaurant blog. Don’t worry if you feel like you have more things to say, you can always write posts and then have them set live later on your schedule.

Talk About Recipes

People are always searching online for new recipes and having yours available can be a great way to get some buzz and some new patrons. Not only does this give you a chance to brag about your amazing cuisine, you’ll also get to help out a potential customer. Give them a taste of what you’ve got to offer and then just wait for them to come in and try out the real deal.

Consider Local Interests

“Blogging about local-specific interests can be a great way to make your restaurant stand out. Think about some local foods and traditions and integrate them into your menu,” writes Jane Smith, content marketer at BigAssignments. People love an establishment that takes pride in its community, and they also love unique takes on local niche foods.

Write About Special Events You’re Opening

People are always looking for a fun new event to attend, and it’s not always easy to find one. Plan out some fun events at your restaurant and then write about them in your blog. Not only will your regulars love it, but you’ll get some new fans once the event is over. One good way to approach this is to write a blog post with the top five things to do in your town, and then have your event as one of those ideas.

Feature Your Employees

It never hurts to ask your employees for ideas on what to blog about. Spend a few minutes picking their brain and you’ll probably get some new ideas and perspectives. If they’re open to it, ask them what they like best about the restaurant or even just what they like to do for fun. Most important of all, ask them what their favourite dish you offer is. Your customers will love getting to know the people that make and serve them their food, and your employees should have fun too.

Answer Common Customer Questions

Keep track of the most common questions you receive from customers, or better yet, ask for some feedback on your social media. Make a post or two in which you answer these questions. Ask your staff for their input as well, they are the ones who interact with your customers and have their finger on the pulse. For every person who asks a question in person, there are many who are wondering about it, or asking online, so these kinds of posts can be very helpful.

Feature New Menu Items

People get excited whenever there is something new, especially when one of their favorite restaurants has something new on the menu. If you have a new menu item, be sure to share it on your blog and create some buzz.

Write about the process and inspiration that went into creating the new dish. A blog about a new item is also a great way to remind old customers why they loved your restaurant in the first place and will inspire them to pay an overdue visit.

Make Your Blog Visually Appealing

The way your blog looks matters. It’s best to go with a clean, simple design that doesn’t distract from your writing. If you have an established look then try and keep your blog consistent with that.

One of the most important aspects of a restaurant blog is having quality visuals. Don’t just describe your food, post appealing photographs of the dishes you’re talking about. Did you just host a really fun event? Put up some photos and prove it. Don’t forget to include photos of your restaurant full of people enjoying themselves.

Use Some Online Resources to Help Write Your Blog

Before you get cracking on those restaurant blog posts, you need to make sure your writing is as good as it can be. These online writing tools can help you improve the quality of your writing:

  1. ViaWriting, WritingPopulist, and Grammarly – If you find grammar a difficult thing to grasp, you’re not alone. These grammar resources can help make sure you’re not leaving any grammatical mistakes in your posts.

  2. Essay Writer and UKWritings – These online proofreading tools, suggested by UKWritings review, will make your editing process a whole lot smoother and easier.

  3. AcademAdvisor and StateofWriting – Check out these blogs and read through their useful writing suggestions. It never hurts to mix things up and try out a new strategy.

  4. EssayRoo and BoomEssays – Try out these editing tools and see how much better your blog posts are as a result. They are dependable and have been reviewed at AustralianReviewer.

  5. MyWritingWay and LetsGoandLearn – Use these writing guides and make sure you are following a complete, well-rounded writing process. Good writing takes time and effort, so it’s good to use a guide.

Conclusion

Blogs are an amazing way for restaurants to inform people about what they have to offer, as well as build buzz and excitement. They provide a great platform to do things such as answer FAQs, announce new menu items and events, share recipes, and post photos of your venue and dishes. Follow these nine tips to write engaging restaurant blog posts that increase sales.

Strategic Planning Tips for Restaurant Owners and Managers

As a restaurant owner or manager, what is your main goal? Of course, profitability is up there (and may even be #1), along with building a reputation that retains loyal customers. It’s every restaurateur’s dream to be the new hot destination for delicious fare and an attractive atmosphere. And it’s also wise to look at the bigger picture to determine how you’ll keep your wheels turning year after year.

Although there are hundreds of thousands of restaurants in the United States alone, it’s possible to approach the top tier of eateries with the right combination of data quality management and an impressive operation spanning from staff efficiency to food quality.

Data quality management simply means collecting the best information available and keeping it up to date. To do so, you should run reports often in order to keep tabs on all aspects, from sales to inventory levels and most popular items.

For a restaurant, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you keep tabs on all aspects of your business. Point of sale systems, like Toast or Upserve for example, do just that. They have extensive reporting capabilities that span from your transactions to your inventory and overall staff efficiency.

With good data and a firm understanding of your business goals and needs, you can make decisions that can potentially catapult your restaurant to the “must go” list for everyone in your surrounding area.

In this blog, we’ll discuss ways you can take a deeper look at your restaurant’s operations, and ways to improve on those operations, in order to set yourself up for success.

Start with SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is an exercise to determine your restaurant’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (hence the acronym SWOT). When performing a SWOT, you should look at both internal and external factors to get the best picture of the current state of your restaurant.

Among your strengths may be the popularity of your food, your marketing strategy, and your managers’ years of experience. Use these to propel your business forward, constantly maintaining (or improving) what your company is already good at. This is your angle that can help edge you ahead of your competition.

Weaknesses may begin with an inability to extract, analyze, and use the data at your fingertips. They may also include the inability to stay on top of industry trends, an issue with keeping track of inventory, or constant turnover of wait staff. Retention is tough in the restaurant business, and paying a premium for good, experienced employees may pinch the bottom line but result in significant long-term returns by retaining customers.

Opportunities can include business visibility through online reviews, the chance to grow your social presence, growing your online presence, and leveraging your loyal customers through word-of-mouth and marketing campaigns.

An easy way to act on an opportunity, like your online presence, is to have a clear strategy for responding to your reviews, both negative and positive. This is low hanging fruit that doesn’t take too much effort.  Of course, another opportunity to take control of your online visibility is by working with a menu management company like SinglePlatform. With 97% of people finding businesses through a search engine, this is key to attracting new customers.

Threats to your restaurant may include nearby competitors, an inconsistent social media presence, negative reviews, or poor staff management. You should pay special attention to these threats because they are the most risky factors that can tour your success sour.

Putting SWOT to Use

After putting together your SWOT Analysis, begin to create an action plan for business improvement. Determine which challenges you’ll tackle first and map out a timeline with goals and checkpoints. Without having a solid plan in place, you may push your responsibilities to the side in order to solely focus on the here and now instead of the future.

Start off by determining how you’ll improve on your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are your biggest hurdles and the elements that pose the most difficult challenges to your business. Then, focus on how to combat your threats.

And of course, don’t just focus on your threats and weaknesses. You should make those top priority, but don’t forget to continue to fortify the areas of your business that make you shine. Your strengths should be consistently monitored, and if needed, improved over time.

Competitive Analysis

Once you’ve examined your business inside and out, put a laser focus on your competition. After all, the surrounding restaurants with similar concepts are probably some of your biggest threats.

Make a comparison list between your restaurant and those of your competitors. Determine what you do better and what they exceed at. Analysis can include pricing, menu items, location, staff, and more. Be brutally honest in this appraisal, don’t just downplay a competitor’s strengths to make yourself feel better.

Putting Competitive Analysis to Use

If there’s something that a competing restaurant does very well, think about how you can put your own spin on it and use it in your own business.

Say their printed marketing materials are more eye catching than yours – consider hiring a graphic designer to help you take your brand to the next level. Or maybe they’ve got an enticing curb appeal that magnetizes passersby. Consider investing some budget into making your exterior more attractive.

From this competitive analysis, you will discover more areas in your restaurant in need of improvement in order to stay ahead of your competitors. It’s better to be aware of your surroundings than to turn a blind eye to those doing business around you. Staying informed about your competitors will help your business thrive.

Take A Look At Your Marketing Strategy

Marketing your business with success takes a lot of planning and strategy to uphold the creative aspect. We talk about marketing often in this blog, because it’s really important! Do an evaluation of your current, and even past, marketing strategies and tactics. What was successful? What was a complete flop?

Did you have success with paid advertising on Instagram? Have you seen an uptick in reservations since placing your action button on your social media? Maybe you sent out a direct mail piece with a discount and attracted large crowds. Use those tactics that work and repurpose them in new marketing campaigns. Like they say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

At the same time, you should always be evolving and keeping up with present day demands. Marketing is a bit of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to test out something new. A pop up event for the holidays could help boost sales. Maybe hosting a Valentine’s Day date night will inspire ticket sales. You won’t know until you try. Just make sure your plan is solid and the budget needed is there.

Of course, we believe a crucial part of your restaurant marketing is your online presence. If you’re not searchable online, you’re missing the chance to attract new customers that have never dined with you before. That’s equivalent to throwing away cash! Learn more about why it’s important here.

In Closing

Marketing can help you bring in business – but your overall restaurant operations will help you retain customers for the long run. Strategic planning is essential to any business and can help you get a firmer grasp on what you excel at and which areas of your restaurant need improvement. It keeps you in the know about your own internal landscape, as well as what you’re facing with your competition. Use these strategic planning tips to create a solid foundation for your restaurant and let the rest fall into place.

December Restaurant Marketing Ideas

I know December is all about festive fun and holiday celebrations, but there are other ways you can market your restaurant this month as well! Read on for some ideas on how you can make your business shine this December (aside from the major holidays).

December 3rd – National Apple Pie Day

You can’t get more American than apple pie, and it’s the perfect time of year to celebrate the delicious dessert. Although many families enjoyed apple pie on Thanksgiving, the classic sweet never goes out of style. If you’re a restaurant with apple pie on your dessert menu, offer up a discount for the day. If you’re a bakery, you can also market an exclusive deal on apple pie for December 3rd. Mention the offering on your social media pages ahead of time and add it into a customer newsletter to spread awareness.

December 4th – National Cookie Day

Keep the dessert trend going by celebrating National Cookie Day on the 4th. Whether it’s chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, or sugar cookie, diners will be delighted with your sweet discount. What’s better than one cookie? Two, of course. Promote a buy-one-get-one deal on cookies for the entire day.

If you offer catering or have a take-out bakery, you can even utilize this holiday to prepare for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. Give guests 10% off holiday cookie orders if they place their order on the 4th. This will incentivize people to get their orders in early so you can prepare ahead of time to meet demands.

You can even host a cookie-centric event. People love immersive cooking classes and workshops, so take advantage of the hype. Get creative and host a holiday baking bash or cookie workshop for kids; this is great for your social media content and will show off your restaurant’s holiday spirit. Plus, you can charge an entrance fee and let guests take home a to-go bag of the treats they made- win, win for everyone!

December 21st – Winter Solstice Celebration

Friday, December 21st marks the official start to winter. Host a Winter Solstice Happy Hour; introduce new seasonal cocktails and food items to get guests excited about the months ahead. You can even make it more interesting with a “beat the clock” countdown; drink and food prices will start low and increase by the hour, inspiring people to get there early and stay late!

If you want to make an event out of the day, put on a Winter Solstice Party. Decorate your restaurant, give out prizes, and set up a winter necessities station with hot chocolate and cookies for guests to feast on. Play some cheerful holiday music to set the tone and let your guests have fun.

Consider raffling off a prize that includes winter snack essentials and a gift card to your restaurant. This is more great fodder for your social accounts and will get people excited about returning to dine with you to reap the reward.

December Donation Drive

December is the month of giving, so why not participate? Do some research to see which local charities and volunteer groups are in need. Toy drives are always happening prior to the holidays and are a great way to get involved while brightening up a child’s day.

Encourage guests to donate to your restaurant’s toy drive by advertising it on social media and your website. Post flyers around town and outside of your restaurant to spread additional awareness and mention the drive to customers.

Ask for an unwrapped gift for local children in need and set up a bin for collection. From there, watch the donations flow in! You can post about your progress on social media, thanking participants along the way.

Participating in charity work helps your restaurant build a stronger bond with your community and shows that you care about giving back. It’s what the spirit of the season is all about, so get involved!

December 31st – New Year’s Eve

On the last day of December ring in the New Year with a large crowd! Although only 9% of Americans plan to go out to celebrate, if you market it right, you’ll inspire partygoers to spend the night at your restaurant.

Consider creating a prix fixe deal, which is quite popular for NYE. This can include a buffet, champagne toast, and restricted open bar for a fixed cost per ticket. People in search of a fun time are willing to pay the price, but don’t price your tickets too high that they’ll choose to celebrate elsewhere. Consider your profits as well as the willingness of guests to figure out a sweet spot.

An upbeat playlist, delicious dinner options, and a party atmosphere will help to make the evening memorable for attendees. You can even incorporate party favors, a signature drink, and special one-night-only food items to make it even more special.

In Closing

If you get creative and pay attention to the holidays that aren’t the biggest celebrations, you’ll be able to find unique ways to market your restaurant in December.

The month is filled with holiday celebrations, seasonal spirit, and family-bonding, but there are also plenty of opportunities for your restaurant to draw large crowds. With strategic pre-event marketing and solid execution, you’ll impress guests and increase profits.

Increase Restaurant Sales With These Easy Tips

Running a restaurant is a tough business. The profit margins are quite thin and unfortunately, many new restaurants fail every year. There are even TV shows about it! So how do you keep your restaurant from failing? The top goal, of course, is to get as many people into your restaurant as you can. The more regular customers you have, the better your chances are to keep a consistent profit flow. In this blog, we give you tips on how to increase your restaurant sales, both offline and online.

Ask For Referrals

Your best advertising will always be your existing customers. If they’ve had a good time after a meal, encourage them to tell their friends and neighbors about it. It may be best to have the manager on duty do this task, as it may seem forced if a server does it. It has to sound like a sincere ask in order to inspire diners to spread the word. Most managers are quite happy when they see customers having a good time, so this may be easier than you think!

Some restaurants even encourage guests to leave a positive online review; this helps to boost your online reputation to entice new customers at a larger scale.

Increase Table Turnover

Table turnover is a delicate balancing act. You want to get your guests in and out as quickly as possible, but you never want them to feel rushed either. Increasing table turnover is more of a matter of making everything before and after the meal as efficient as possible. This may mean pre-assigning guests to tables, improving server speed, dropping checks off early at the table, and using a menu that doesn’t require lengthy explanation.

If a table is just taking too long because of the customers, offer them a free drink in exchange for freeing up the table. The loss on the free drink should be more than made up for by the extra covers.

Can They Find You?

One of the most useful tools in a restaurant’s advertising arsenal these days your their online and mobile presence. If you can’t be found easily online, hungry customers will go somewhere else to eat. Take a look at your search engine optimization. Check the following:

  • Are you registered for Google My Business and Bing Places?

  • Do you have a website that shows your location, menu, hours, and directions to your restaurant?

  • Are you registered and active on review sites like Yelp?

  • Does your website look impressive on mobile devices?

Hiring an SEO services company for a few months to work on your basic SEO can make a huge difference in your visibility.

You should also consider online menu management and how it can benefit your business. Companies like SinglePlatform get your menu in the places that matter online so you can be found by hungry diners searching for specific menu items or local businesses.

Social Media

Social media is now the second-best way of interacting with your customers and engaging the audience of your own. Facebook and Instagram are the platforms best for this. The point is to get a good conversation going with your customers so they’ll remember your restaurant and want to keep in the loop of what’s going on.

This means that you’ll want to post about topics like the latest specials, weekly events, and other goings-on at the restaurant. Photos of popular meals are always a good idea. When someone responds to a post, strike up a conversation and thank them for their interest.

As part of your referrals talk by your manager, you can also encourage people to like or follow you on your social platforms. This is crucial, as a low-traffic social media page doesn’t do much to grow your influence. The more people you can get to show their appreciation, the better.

Online Ordering And Delivery

Offering online ordering and food delivery is the new darling of the restaurant world. People love the ability to order a meal from their phone and pick it up on the way home or have it delivered. You don’t have to worry about filling a seat, just a to-go container.

To accomplish this goal, restaurants are using third-party delivery services, like GrubHub and DoorDash, that let them do deliveries without having to hire additional workers or get a company vehicle. Rideshare companies like Uber are also getting in on this. If there is a demand for delivery in your area, you might consider this as well.

Online ordering may not be appropriate for a fine-dining restaurant, but for that kind of a restaurant you might consider a mobile reservation system. This technology makes it easy for people to make a dining decision the moment hunger strikes.

In Closing

As a new restaurant, there are plenty of things you can do, both offline and online, to increase sales. All of the tips mentioned above will help to build a stronger presence for your restaurant in your community. Of course, once you bring new customers in, you have to impress them! Do your best to provide great food, an inviting atmosphere, and top notch customer service. By putting in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with higher profits.


About the Author: Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. Since 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google

Where to Begin Your Digital Marketing Campaign as a New Restaurant

Let’s face it, the restaurant industry is fierce—a recent study even shows that most new restaurants close within their first year of operation. That means that not only do you need a killer menu and environment that keeps patrons coming in droves, you also need to get the word out to potential customers. Here are the top tips for creating a digital marketing strategy for your new restaurant.

Be Active on Social Media

Creating a Facebook business page and a Twitter page is a must for establishing your contact information and location, as well as for sharing information on discounts or specials, new offers, and for general promotion. But Instagram is a smart platform to use for foodie photos that will both make mouths drool and grow your business (more ideas on creative social media ideas below).

The most important facet of your social media strategy is that you keep up with it. A maintained social media presence shows a hardworking business that has something worth showing off. This extra effort and drool-worthy photos (as well as an outlet for you to be fun and friendly) will win over new and existing customers alike). Of course, running a restaurant is a busy job, but that’s where social media management tools like HootSuite or Sprout Social come in handy. Use them to create custom streams and pre-schedule your posts so you can reach out to customers at meal time when you’re busiest and they’re hungriest.

Encourage and Maintain Reviews

Research shows that  88% of customers look to online comments and reviews before considering where to eat, which makes it clear that encouraging and maintaining your restaurant’s reviews is a must. People will review your business regardless of whether or not you have an account–especially on Yelp, the go-to review site. That’s why you’ll need to create a Yelp account and also prepared for negative reviews, no matter how great your food and service is. The key to making reviews work for you—rather than against you—is to respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones, in a constructive and positive manner. That way, an anonymous disgruntled customer doesn’t take away any business for you because they found a dish to be too salty for their liking.

Get Creative on Social Media

Social media is where you get to establish your name, a following, and your brand’s identity. If you’re a sophisticated date-night venue with expensive fare, cater your content to reflect this, by showing off wine and dinner pairings, photos of patrons dining in candlelight. If you’re a casual lunch cafe with healthy fare, share photos of your dishes and include calorie counts, nutritional information, and special ingredients. Whatever you do, make sure you’re snapping photos in a well-lit spot, and that the surrounding area is clean. Use hashtags of your own making to generate buzz (and encourage your patrons to use these on their own accounts), and hop on board to join in on the most popular food hash tags of social media.

Leverage the power of SEO

Learning how to use SEO the right way is a make or break for websites and businesses alike, and for restaurants—who usually rely on the business of patrons in their specific geographic location—local SEO can be a godsend for ranking higher in Google search results. You can even utilize analytics  to find out exactly who your users are, what they’re searching for, and how they’re finding you, so that you can tighten your strategy according to their needs.

Google My Business is the first step in ranking higher on Google’s search results, so that your restaurant will be found more easily and quickly. You can also have your menu pop up in the search results, which simplifies the research process for customers (no more visiting each restaurant’s website and then locating, downloading, and reading a menu). Because your menu will be much more accessible to patrons, you’re much more likely to reap more business.


Brianna Barcena is a Content Specialist at TrustRadius. When she’s not in the office, she enjoys reading, watching a good historical drama, doing yoga, and going on adventures with her dog, Deeks.

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