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Top 7 Must-Do Digital Restaurant Marketing Strategies for 2018

Get your foodservice operation up to speed with restaurant digital marketing concepts


Sorry Kevin Costner. The screenwriter who penned, "If You Build It, They Will Come," in Field of Dreams (circa 1989) never had to consider restaurant marketing strategies.

Achieving foodservice success in 2018 takes more effort than creating the best sincronizada; an amazing Margarita; a mouth-watering Juicy Lucy.

Want your foodservice operation to stand out? Become searchable.

search·a·ble – capable of being computationally searched. 

Can foodies find you online? If so, can they review your web site menu from the comfort of their office, home or car? (hopefully en route to your foodservice operation!) 

Did you know Google Maps is much more than a GPS service? It’s also a valued search engine for consumers, including (and especially) Foodies. There's more... Have you claimed your business page on Nextdoor? Does your business post food photos on social media? A deeper question: when was the last time you posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.?

This is important because a growing segment of busy-bee customers - too busy to enjoy a sit-down meal, but eager to devour a sincronizada, nonetheless - want to order Mexican food through a third-party delivery service. Before ordering, they want to read your restaurant reviews on Yelp.

Ordering food has become serious business for consumers and foodservice operators.

Nowadays, restaurant digital marketing is just as important as the locally-sourced ingredients in the sincronizada... the tequila in the Margarita… even the type of cheese in the Juicy Lucy.

Check out ACityDiscount's list of must-do digital restaurant marketing strategies. Which tips will your foodservice operation utilize in 2018?  

Yelp

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 1: Yelp

Remember the days when word-of-mouth customer testimonials led to covers? Those days still exist. Only now, the reviews live in places like Yelp. 

A growing segment of Foodies eat out at least twice a week and research potential lunch and dinner spots on Yelp, a digital domain for crowd-sourced reviews, before stepping into businesses or ordering online. So, if you're not on Yelp - or your score is under three (out of five) stars - you’re missing out on potential revenue. 

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 2: Google My Business/Google Maps

Foodies will drive 30 miles (or more) to discover an unknown gem in their regional food landscape. But, today's driver won’t maneuver a half-mile without knowing how to get there. 

Gooogle My Business

Other Foodies utilize Google Maps as a search engine such as when they are unfamiliar with what restaurant is nearby. They search Google Maps for terms like, "Mexican foods."

In order for your business to be found on Google Maps, you need a free Google My Business Account. It’s the first step to make sure your foodservice operation can be found when someone searches for your type of cuisine.

Don't forget to place your menu, food photos and other information in your Google My Business account.  The more information found on your Google My Business profile, the better chance a consumer looking for cuisine will pick your spot.

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 3:Photos/videos

Pop quiz: Which human sense is a perfect fit for restaurant digital marketing?

Restaurant Photos & Videos

Answer: vision! That’s why food photos and videos are so important to your bottom line in 2018. 

In person, a BBQ smokehouse's aroma will outsell sight every time. Online? 

Advantage sight... Photos and videos to the rescue!

Step ahead of the rest with photos/videos showcasing what makes your eatery special, from amazing dishes and drinks to caring, affable, entertaining and attentive staff. Is your dining area a romantic scene?  Is your bar a great spot for a Happy Hour getaway? Show the world with images of your polished dining room and bar decor.

We also love one-minute (time lapsed) videos of food being prepared.

If you do not have a budget to hire a professional photographer, you can do it yourself, thanks to today's generation of megapixel smart phones. Consider investing in an inexpensive tripod and light kit. Both are readily available online.

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 4: Social Media

Social media platforms, when monetized correctly, are a mixture of marketing, sales, customer service, research and development, partnerships and recruiting.

Social media for restaurants

So make sure your foodservice operation has, at a minimum, a Facebook business page (this is different than a Facebook personal page). And if you're social media savvy, add a Facebook group.

Want to spread the word about amazing Mexican sincronizadas? Create a post on Facebook with related photos.

What drink should you feature on Friday night: dry martini or mojito? Start a poll on Instagram!

Menu? Check. Specials? Add that too.

This business profile is separate from your personal profile, along with different features: there is no limit to the number of Facebook profiles that can "Like" your business page. You can schedule posts; a feature allows an administrator to set up an autoresponse.

Facebook also prohibits businesses from utilizing a personal profile as a business profile. Ignoring this policy could lead you to one day, learning that Facebook deleted your entire profile, photos and all, without warning. So take advantage of Facebook’s business page which is also free.

Both Facebook and Instagram can post how-to videos via Youtube.  If you don't have time to do it yourself, consider outsourcing to a social media expert.  You can find social media experts specializing in almost every type of food service or cuisine, and even experts that know your local market. 

TIP: The more your business page engages with customers, the more Facebook will increase your profile’s reach. That means responding to all questions in a timely manner and creating a process for dealing with poor reviews. Facebook will judge your business on how swift it responds.

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 5: Online delivery services –third-party or internal

online delivery for home from restaurants

Restaurant branding is tougher when some customers don't visit your brick-and-mortar, opting for take-out. After all, food delivery is transforming in some American cities from a luxury to a necessity. Nonetheless, foodservice operators should consider the pros and cons of providing delivery.  

Some foodservice operations are better equipped to start a food delivery program, depending on location, type of transformed food, etc. Research this topic to discover if this strategy fits your business.  Meanwhile, look at these related statistics:

  • 51% of Americans use delivery services to purchase meals from casual dining restaurants (Mintel, 2016)
  • 26% of Americans order takeout or delivery at least once a week (Statista, 2016)
  • Since 2014, digital ordering/delivery have outpaced dine-in traffic by 300 percent (QSR Magazine, 2014)

We want your opinion...

Different delivery services are popular in every city, from UberEATS and Postmates to Door Dash and Grubhub. Which is popular where you live (and eat)? Let us know – ACityDiscount plans to write a story on this subject in the future. Email gestwick@acitydiscount.com. 

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 6: Online menu

Online menu for restaurants

Foodies are willing to travel - or order - anywhere for the right taste. What they aren’t willing to do - this is a change from decades past - is embark on a food trip with limited knowledge.

Potential customers want to glance at your menu on your web site, Facebook page, Google Maps profile, etc., long before deciding if they want to feast at your restaurant. They want to make sure something on the menu excites them. It’s like speed dating for restaurants.

Excluding specials, most menus do not change on a regular basis, so this should be an easy task. At the very least, post your menu online. Your free Google My Business account accepts links to your menu on your website which makes your menu only a few clicks away on a smartphone.  If you have a tight budget, consider asking your website manager to put your menu online or use a third party such as openmenu.com.

Restaurant marketing strategies No. 7: Nextdoor

Nextdoor business page for restaurants

You may not have heard of Nextdoor, but many of your customers have. It's a private social network for neighbors. Nextdoor is growing so fast, it is expected to reach 250,000 neighborhoods globally by 2019 (techcrunch).

What makes Nextdoor unique? Verification requirements: all members must verify their address, usually via a secure code mailed on a postcard to a residence. Nextdoor partnerships with local police and city agencies deliver important crime and safety messages to neighborhoods. Nextdoor members also utilize the app to connect with neighbors: asking for local service provider recommendations, inquiring about the best sincronizadasin the area, locating lost pets, borrowing a ladder... you get the picture.

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? What if Nextdoor members recommended your foodservice operation? #idea

Nextdoor prohibits self-promotion, but it allows businesses to claim a free Local Business Page. Check out how to claim your Local Business Page here.

The best thing about Nextdoor is that it's not just another social network.  Since Nextdoor membership is tied to the physical residence and not just an online persona, Nextdoor connects neighbors and those neighbors are trusting each other and want to help each other.  This is driving Nextdoor’s massive growth.

It’s a no brainer to claim your local business page on Nextdoor - it's free!  If you live in the same neighborhood where your business is located, you can recommend your business when someone asks about your type of cuisine or food service. If you do not live in the neighborhood where your business is located, you can establish relationships with loyal, local customers who can recommend your business.  Don’t miss out on this growing network.

busy restaurants

In Closing...

If a Foodie goes through the trouble of checking your reviews on Yelp, gets a strong recommendation on Nextdoor, reviews a menu on your web site, lavishes over your photos on social media (yes, plenty of Foodies do all of this) and they can find you on Google Maps because you have created your Google My Business profile, they're pretty close to a purchase.

Yes, we can cook; lots of chefs create masterful dishes. But taste alone does not guarantee a healthy number of lunch or dinners covers at your restaurant, gastropub or food truck. Not in the 2018 restaurant industry. So make sure your foodservice operation is utilizing updated restaurant marketing strategies. Because if you post it... share it... they will order.

In the meantime, if you need help with any of these strategies we outlined above, we are happy to help. Contact ACityDiscount's Marketing department at 404-752-6715 ext 145.

Gary Estwick writes about the foodservice industry and the equipment that keeps it running smooth – from deep fryers to pizza ovens. He’s a fan of chargrilled oysters, Nashville-style hot chicken, cool jazz, paintball and the TV show Quantum Leap (1989-93) – in that order... He’s written for the Miami Herald, New Orleans Advocate, Austin American-Stateman, Men’s Fitness and other publications. Gary is a native of New Orleans, and lives in Atlanta. Check out his ACityDiscount articles and videos. E-mail story ideas to gestwick@acitydiscount.com. And click here to join ACityDiscount's mailing list for more food stories, tips, tricks and foodservice equipment specials!

Tags: Management