Restaurant marketing, like all other enterprises, is facing the challenge of keeping up with digital marketing ideas to promote their business. Independent ventures especially need to multiply their efforts in the face of stiff competition from franchises and chains.
The inexorable fusion of technology with our daily activities has an undeniable impact on our lives. In the food business, it makes imperative the need to create a marketing strategy that will reach consumers through the internet. Tablets and smartphones allow quick connection and delivery of messages. Hence, the unstoppable popularity of mobile must be exploited for online advertising for entrepreneurs in the food business. Here are 5 digital trends in restaurant marketing that will create a buzz for your business:
Build a responsive website or a native mobile app.
With 48 percent of restaurant website traffic happening on smartphones and a 64 percent conversion rate, it’s a no-brainer that you should have a responsive website or native mobile app for your restaurant. You can have a web design firm create one for you or you can save on money and use one of those DIY mobile website builders like Wix or Weebly. Whatever your choice, make sure to include the following features:
It is easily updatable. You will be adding to the menu, having daily or weekly specials or even changing prices. You have to be able to update the website quickly and without much effort even if you’re a techy moron, so you don’t have to be rushing to a web developer every time.
It accepts online reservations. An online booking system is a requisite for any dining place website. A good one allows you to manage the number of reservations so you don’t overbook and disappoint customers. It also doesn’t share your customer contacts with others; they remain yours only.
It has email marketing. Yes, good old email marketing and (not exactly) new kid on the block mobile restaurant app go well together. It is targeted to existing customers who have opted in. Since it’s mobile, your email marketing should be short and swift, contain rich content and images and sent weekly or when you have specials and offers.
It is SEO’ed. The method Google uses for SEO is constantly evolving. Getting an SEO specialist is advisable so you can focus on your main goal, which is building your restaurant business.
Prettify your Yelp and other review sites accounts.
Yelp is the acknowledged king of small business review sites and the food industry makes up a big chunk of it. Dedicated review sites for restaurants include Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon,) MenuPages and Zagat. Facebook may also qualify as a review site since people often go to this social media giant to research a product.
If you see a listing for your restaurant on these sites (not all listed businesses are created by the owners,) claim it and dress it up with the correct information and images. In Yelp, you simply fill in the blanks for the info.
Review sites are very powerful. As separate studies have shown, bad experiences are more likely to be posted than good experiences, a raise of one star on Yelp resulted in a 9% increase in revenue and 67.7% of people reading reviews admit that their buying decisions are influenced by the reviews they read.
Replying to comments on review sites should always include a thank you, even if the feedback was negative. Be polite, use gracious language, apologize and try to explain why it happened. Some business owners offer a discount or freebie if the customer comes back.
Offer healthy food alternatives.
While this may not be digital, it’s still worth including because it is timely and invites social awareness. The healthy lifestyle trend as far as eating is concerned has transcended the basic “low-fat, low-calorie eating” practice of a few years ago. Now people look for locally-sourced ingredients, and organic and sustainable fare. Let your customers know that the food they are eating come from local sources. Offer non-allergenic and gluten-free alternatives for people with allergies or celiac disease. Give vegans a choice in your menu. Several food companies committed to sustainable practices have come up with products that appeal not just to taste buds but also to values and principles. Visit Hampton Creek Facebook page for plant-based food you can include in your menu offerings.
Join the on-demand bandwagon.
Uber started it and now the “I want it and I want it now!” trend has spread to marijuana, medicine and laundry pick-up and delivery. While fast food chains have silently recognized the sales benefits of on-demand service, independent restaurants have not yet fully caught on. Make sure your online menu is updated. You don’t have to hire your own delivery staff and buy scooters. Partner with the online delivery services that many consumers have come to love, like GrubHub and Caviar. You may even gain new clients from these services.
Post foodie pictures wherever you have an online presence.
Don’t believe the food porn haters. Pictures of droolworthy food your restaurant offers will draw people to your restaurant. Visual content is a compelling tool for marketing. Post them on your website, blogs, social media accounts and review sites. Keep in mind though that food photography is a skill you may not have. Hire a professional to take your pictures so that proper angles and lightings are followed.