At SinglePlatform we have the privilege of speaking with thousands of restaurant owners on a daily basis, learning about each of their businesses on our phone calls. Each owner we speak with has a unique business history and interesting background. They come from across the globe; some are one-shop operations that have been serving their community for decades, some are new franchisees who are fulfilling their lifelong dream to be a business owner. The cuisines they offer are diverse, from traditional Northern Italian fare to trendy Asian/Mexican street food.
They also tend to have different approaches to restaurant marketing. Some are old-school and believe word of mouth is the best way to capture new business, while others recognize the need for technology, a website, and social media. Some choose to invest in local advertising efforts, while others rely heavily on online advertising.
Although these restaurant owners don’t have the same strategies when it comes to marketing, every single one of them relates to a common theme: they love their business and they work hard to continue to make it thrive (which often means wearing many different hats in order to get the job done). You’re a restaurant owner too, so you can relate. Since opening up your restaurant, you’ve probably acted not only as an owner, but as a waiter/waitress, a cook, a busboy, a hostess, an accountant, a grocery shopper, and a bartender. You do it all in the name of helping your business to prosper, which is what any dedicated owner would do! But, when you’re busy having a hand in every aspect of the operation, you don’t have time to take a step back and look at your bigger picture. Unless you have designated staff members, elements like marketing and advertising in order to drive new business can often fall by the wayside.
But, marketing is essential when you’re looking to grow your business. If you can rely on your repeat customers to keep you afloat, that’s great. But, most restaurants need a steady influx of new customers in order to enjoy a healthy profit. Of course, you’ll want those new customers to turn into loyal ones, but the first step is getting the new diners through your door.
We talked to real restaurant owners to get their opinions on the most important marketing tactics in the industry. We’re discussing 3 of them with you today.
Getting Involved in the Community
Owning a restaurant shouldn’t be just to prove you have the town’s best pizza. As a small business owner, your community is what helps you thrive, so giving back in any way possible is wise. One restaurant owner suggests, “find a way to give back to the community. Donate to nonprofits or school PTAs within the community your restaurant is in.” We love this idea! Find opportunities to get involved with school events, fellow small business efforts, and town celebrations, markets and street fairs. Donate food and/or your time to local charities and causes. Putting the faces of your staff and a personality to your restaurant’s name helps build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Attending events and giving back shows that you care about the community you serve.
Although there are plenty of ways to promote yourself online and in traditional advertising, old-school word of mouth is still an extremely useful tactic and can be achieved by attending events. One restaurant owner said, “word of mouth has been really great ahead of my business opening. I’m in a small town, so many people already know me, and they’re excited about what they’re hearing about my grand opening.”
Getting involved locally is a win-win for you as well; share high-quality photos of the events on social media to build your brand presence online. You can even offer exclusive discounts when sponsoring or attending events to encourage locals to dine at your restaurant.
Leveraging Social Media
Social media is free (unless of course, you want to do some paid advertising), and easy to set up. Not to mention, mostly everyone is using it! As a restaurant owner, you should at least one social media platform for your business. But, it’s key to know your demographics when deciding which ones you should be using. If your average customer is a woman between the age of 45-60, Facebook is probably the way to go. 68% of adults in the US are on Facebook (two-thirds of the country!) Post weekly specials and events to your page and engage with followers whenever possible. If your demographic is on the younger side, let’s say you attract after-school high school kids for dinner, you may want to try out a different channel. Some 78% of 18-24 year olds use Snapchat and 71% use Instagram. These social media outlets may be better in reaching those younger customers. If you’re having a daily special or exclusive menu item, update your Instagram or Snapchat story. You can see who views your story and follow them to increase your social community.
One restaurateur said "I started using social media and quickly noticed how a community was created within my small town. It was great to see people coming into my weekly happy hour event because they saw my reminder on Facebook. It's an easy tool to interact with my customers on these platforms too. Social media keeps the conversation going and helps build those important relationships."
To take it a step further, you may want to try out small paid advertising campaigns to reach a targeted audience. As we always say, make sure if you’re posting photos that they’re clear, enticing, and attractive. If you’re publishing blurry or unappealing photos, chances are people will scroll on by. It’s also important to note the correct dimensions for posting on different social accounts. This is a great guide for determining what size your photos should be to achieve the best quality. Your social media may be the first taste of what you have to offer for some potential diners, so make sure it accurately reflects your brand.
Prioritizing Online Menu Management
We’ve said it before & we’ll say it again, online menus are crucial! The majority of people (93%) are looking at online menus before dining out. SinglePlatform data shows that certain holidays, like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, are proven to show spikes in online menu views as people plan celebrations. You can post beautiful photos of your restaurant and food, respond to reviews, and keep your website fresh, which are all things you should be doing as part of your restaurant marketing strategy, but the information people most want to know is what food you’ll be serving them when they walk through your door.
We talked to a restaurant owner who realized his missed opportunity when it came to menu management. When asked about marketing his restaurant he said, “I knew I needed a better plan for getting more people into my restaurant for holidays and occasions like Mother’s Day. I also knew I needed a way to communicate to diners that I was offering a special brunch menu for the holiday. But, my staff is small, so in the months and weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I was busy taking orders, greeting guests, cooking in the kitchen, and doing all of the ordering of supplies. I simply didn't have the foresight or the time to plan ahead. I’m sure as a restaurant owner you know the feeling. Needless to say, when Mother’s Day rolled around, my restaurant was almost empty and I lost out on the opportunity to make a ton of money. I wish I had thought ahead about marketing and getting my menu online earlier to make the holiday a success for my restaurant.”
Menu management allows you to get out there past just your business website. People are looking for places to eat on websites like Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. You want to be there, and accurately represented, on all of these search engines and review sites. And menu management can get you there.
You’re a restaurant owner, and maybe you’re too focused on the day to day operations of your business to think about marketing. But, getting the word out there about your business is crucial if you want to get new customers and make more money! There are a ton of marketing strategies to try, but some are more beneficial than others. These three marketing elements we shared are simple, effective ways to help you build your business that don’t require countless hours or tons of money to get the job done. Choosing your marketing mediums wisely and being consistent with them will go a long way.
About the Author: Joe Sclafani is a Sales Training Manager here at SinglePlatform. He has the privilege of teaching new sales talent the importance and benefits of getting restaurant owners' menus online. He enjoys interacting with business owners on a daily basis and even has prior experience in working in restaurants as well.