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.
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
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.
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 If you give potential customers wrong business hours, an old phone number, or outdated address, you’re sure to lose their trust.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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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 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.
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.
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
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.]
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 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.
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!
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
Chances 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 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 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 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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).
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
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.
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.
Of 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!