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19 tips: Improving your marketing game if you own a restaurant or cafe

From using the power of the online world, to building email lists and using search engine optimisation, there are a number of ways that you can improve your marketing game if you own a restaurant or cafe. 

Here's presenting 19 marketing tips that can help you promote your business: 

1. Make the most of the Internet

Today, people turn to the Internet for nearly everything, including looking for great eating spots. Taking advantage of that is near-essential for your restaurant business.

So now’s the right time to make the most of all that the Internet has to offer. Create or improve your website or try online advertising. Creating a mailing list to send your customers regular deals, discounts or updates is an affordable way to keep them coming back.

2. Use WiFi marketing platforms

Cody Hicks of Turnstyle shares how WiFi marketing platforms can be surprisingly effective at helping restaurants build their email lists quickly.

You can get contact information from guests who sign-in to your WiFi in exchange for a free wireless connection. This way, you can send out updates, messages, and coupons, giving them more reasons to keep visiting your restaurant.

3. Spread the word

“Word of Mouth” can be a very influential element that can drive purchase decisions. Consumers recommend a restaurant to their friends and family if they’ve had a great dining experience. If you have loyal customers, loyalty cards/membership will make them 70% more likely to spread the word about your business.

Here are 5 Principles of Word of Mouth Marketing:

4. Use SEO to grow your audience

Carlos Swinton-Lee of Bar & Restaurant Consultants shared that using SEO and digital marketing are still the most effective ways of growing your audience.

Claiming your Google places page early and keeping your site updated with fresh, relevant content will always help you rise to the top. Respond and encouraging reviews from Zomato, Trip Advisor and the other 3rd-party platforms will also keep you more current in the e-world of food. Likewise, using SEO tools on your website to target local searches will help you gain exposure on Google..

“Converting your audience to paying customers is a little more tricky and cannot be done with marketing alone, reputation will always spread far and wide so concentrating on a quality experience with great service and a fantastic product is paramount.” – Carlos Swinton-Lee

5. Make the most of Facebook

According to Carlos, Facebook is a great tool for highly targeted marketing. You can define your offer with variables such as age group, area, behaviour, and time that people are online. Particularly powerful is the fact that Facebook allows you to segment your marketing and open areas of your business up to other customers without damaging your core business.

The founder of Marketing4Restaurants.com, James Eling reminds us that:

“Remember, Facebook marketing for restaurants is not about how many Likes you have, it is about having the right objectives, and that is usually finding more new customers and turning them into repeat customers.”

6. Organise blogger events

Bloggers – potentially those with large online followings – can help you create a buzz around your business. Have a new menu? Set a menu launch and have food and lifestyle bloggers over to try your new offerings.

Aside from coming and experiencing your new menu, these bloggers would write about the whole experience on their blogs, share photos of the place and food on their Instagram accounts, or even tweet about your restaurant and your new menu.

7. Put up a food/recipe blog

Blogging about your restaurant can be a great way to spread the word and attract more customers

There are loads of ideas for blog posts. Recipes, events or stories about how you started, your staff, or behind the scenes in your restaurant are great starting points.

You can mix it up however you like. Give your blog an authentic voice that matches your brand personality and it’ll do wonders in marketing your business.

8. Start a birthday club

When a customer comes to celebrate his/her birthday in your restaurant, reward the birthday celebrant with a free meal. This is a huge opportunity to encourage other prospective customers to celebrate their birthday party at your restaurant with their friends and family.

You can also use your mailing list to invite whoever is celebrating their birthday in any given month to do it at your restaurant.

9. Set-up an email sales machine

The goal is to stay in your customers’ minds. Come up with creative ways to get customers to give their email addresses (like having a birthday club or setting up a blog)

You can use this email list to update customers on your latest menu additions, promos, blog posts, upcoming events, holiday specials, and a whole lot more.

10. Reward loyal customers

Rewards give your customers a good reason to keep coming back to your restaurant. Come up with a loyalty program installed on your Point of Sales (POS) System that will record what customers purchase so they can collect points and rewards.

If your customers know that they will get something in return for always eating at your place, they’ll not only keep coming back, they might invite their friends to visit your place, too.In winning loyal customers, Nicole Kelly of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, says we can make guests feel special by remembering their birthdays (via Facebook) or their favourite dish or wine style – this will drive loyalty and repeat visitation.

A recent survey was made on 2000 businesses with different loyalty programs. 14 million visits from 1 million customers were recorded. According to the study, loyal customers (those who visited at least 10 times) only make up 20% of the total customers. However, that 20% drives a whopping 80% of the total revenue and 72% of total visits.

11. Be on social media

Restaurant businesses simply can’t afford to skip on social media. Make sure that you both engage with your customers and staff. You can share your staff’s photos at work, your special dishes, or any important event happening in your restaurant. Focus on appealing content that adds value

Use social media to drive visitation – photos of dishes should be posted daily – photos of staff having fun, mixing cocktails, receiving new or interesting stock, visiting the markets. – Nicole Kelly of Restaurant & Catering Association

Social media agencies can take care of engaging with your customers on social media on your behalf. However, there’s the risk you’ll lose authenticity if customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers rather than the business owners all along.

You’ll lose your authenticity when customers find out they’ve been talking to strangers all along, and not those who really own and run the business.

Here are a few helpful things to consider when joining social media:

  • After creating a restaurant profile on the most popular social networks, don’t leave them dormant – stay active and post regularly.
  • If you’re only starting up, you can still interact with your future customers before opening your restaurant.
  • Keep people up-to-date on the latest in your restaurant.
  • Get your customers engaged by having them vote on things like menu items, specialty dishes, as well as cocktails.
  • You can also throw in contests and reward those who will share about your restaurant on their social network.

12. Work with influencers

Work with “Influencers” such as bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers. Those with large followings on social media can serve as a great channel to reach your target customers. Come up with creative ways to get these “digital celebrities” to talk about you and your business on their social media channels.

Kochie’s Business Builders tips to keep in mind when working with influencers to get customers.

  • Focus on building relationships and ambassadors
  • Don’t just look for celebrities
  • Involve your influencer’s followers
  • Trust the influencer

13. Create an email marketing campaign

This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to both retain and attract customers. The quicker you become established, the better – your competitors are slowly picking up and applying the same email marketing techniques.

Here are the basic things you need to run an ideal email marketing campaign for your restaurant:

  • Build and manage your contact list
  • Think of a creative mailing strategy
  • Create effective content and attention-grabbing calls to action
  • Measure and analyse the results

14. Update your free and paid directory listings

Aside from social media, don’t forget to regularly update your listings on free and paid directories regularly. Directory listings like Zomato (UrbanSpoon), TripAdvisor, Yelp, AGFG, TrueLocal, FourSquare, TimeOut, PartyStar, Venuetohire, VenueMob, and TheHappiestHour help people when searching for a restaurant or café, making these an easy, low-effort way to attract more customers.

15. Spruce up your mobile image

Millennials are an influential customer demographic and therefore should be important for your restaurant to attract. Technology is a constant part of their lives. When it comes to something simple like where to eat, the information millennials find online has a huge influence. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you want to have a presence on the platforms they visit.

16. Create a website for your restaurant

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you find a good restaurant online? ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with finding, well, nearly anything. If you don’t have a website, you are guaranteed to miss a large number of potential customers

Set up a website for your restaurant as this will help convince customers to visit.

Clueless on how or where to start in building your restaurant’s website? Here’s a simple guide on learning what important things your customers need to see on your website.

There are many free website templates available on the Internet that are tailored for restaurants. You can also pay a webmaster who will create a customised website for you.

17. Accept online orders and offer online bookings

Customers who are too busy to go out prefer ordering online.“The Free Restaurant Online Ordering system is completely free for restaurants to use. We have taken thousands of orders and most importantly saved Restaurants thousands of dollars in commission.” – James Eling, founder of marketing4restaurants.com

Add a booking button to your website so that visitors can easily make reservations in just a few clicks. Unless you are open 24/7, then it’s best that you have an online booking system.

Having an online booking system will make everything easy, practical, and fast for your customers. Give them that kind of convenience and they are surely going to remember you.

18. Get listed on popular food guides

It’ll make it easier for your customers to find you, especially those who haven’t heard of you before.

Reference guides such as TheFork or TripAdvisor are just some of the websites customers run to when they need to find a good restaurant.

Here, they can search by location, price range, type of food, and the service offered. The key here is exposure.

19. Manage your customer reviews

Online reviews are a critical factor for your customers. If your restaurant has a lot of good reviews, then you have a greater chance to attract new customers – customers who may not have even heard about you before.

So, make sure you stay active on these listing websites and keep building a good online reputation. Respond to negative reviews constructively and encourage positive reviews. Show them that their feedback matters to you, and they’re far more likely to trust and respect your business.

These tips was first published on alsco.com.au's  100+ more tips on restaurant planning strategies article. Alsco offers cost-efficient rental services that are tailored for your business. including first aid kit rentals and training services, linen and workwear, and hygiene systems. 

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