Digital Marketing Strategies to Boost Visibility and Engagement for Restaurants

When customers choose a restaurant, what is their thought process?

Perhaps it’s, “let’s go to the neighborhood standby, where they know us.” Or they might say, “I’d like to try the new place I just saw my friend post pictures about on Facebook.” Maybe the potential customer is in a new city and does an online search for “best of seafood” or “near me” restaurants, followed by a thorough overview of reviews on Yelp and OpenTable.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 83 percent of adults use smartphones or tablets to look up restaurant locations, directions, and hours and 55 percent of adults read restaurant reviews. That’s why it’s critical for restaurants to have a robust local marketing strategy and can’t ignore the importance of a website with essential information, engaging social content, shareable photos, and leveraging online reviews. 

Here are some key elements for successful restaurant local marketing strategies:

Make it Easy for Customers to Find You

According to Google, searches with the words “near me,” “closest” and “nearby” have doubled since last year, and increased 34 times since 2011. Customers must find your restaurant first and, often, that starts with a strong online local presence.

There are a number of ways restaurants can update listings and use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to move up their site in the search results. Make sure listings are up-to-date on Yelp, Google My Business, OpenTable and other relevant restaurant review sites. This information should include location, contact information, a link to menus and photos of popular menu items.

Improve SEO with keywords, link building and having the right amount of quality content on your site. All of this will contribute to higher rankings in organic searches.

Leverage Social Media for Organic Engagement

Instead of casting a wide net on social media, do some research and find out where your customers are spending most of their time online. Then invest your social media efforts on these specific channels.

Use the platforms to build a robust online community of fans by engaging them with relevant content such as seasonal menus, weekly specials, cooking demos, specialty cocktail recipes, food trends, rewards and accolades, staff profiles, and of course, pictures of food. Likewise, encourage fans to share photos of the food, tag the restaurant or use a specific hashtag.

Harness the Benefits of Social Advertising

In addition to engaging with customers through direct conversations, targeted advertising is also a way to reach potential customers. For example, Facebook advertising continues to grow in popularity for marketers due to its 1.23 billion daily users, growth in engagement tools such as new types of video content, and the affordability of purchasing ads.

Facebook advertising allows businesses to target customers based on factors like gender, age, location and interest, making it easier to ensure that the right audience sees your marketing content.

If social media advertising seems like an overwhelming project to manage, there are a number of digital marketing companies, such as Vivial, that can help you manage this process by using a determined budget to target a defined audience, measure success and make adjustments as needed.

Optimize Your Website

The good news is that four out of five restaurants have a website and 83 percent of the websites are mobile friendly (source: National Restaurant Association). With Google saying that more than half of searches are performed on mobile devices, not having a website, especially one that is mobile-friendly, can mean the difference between a customer finding your business or going to the competition.

Having a website with basic, but important information like menus, location, hours of operation and contact information is essential as customers are increasingly looking for information on-the-go.

Monitor Feedback and Leverage the Positive

Restaurants need to vigilantly monitor reviews on sites such as Yelp, OpenTable, Trip Advisor and other review sites. Thank customers for their positive reviews and share these on other channels (e.g., website, social media, etc.) so a broader audience is exposed to the good reviews. Should a negative review appear, proactively acknowledge the issue and let the customer know you will help resolve the problem.

With an influx of restaurants popping up all over the country, it’s important to leverage digital marketing strategies to stand out in a crowded space. Whether you manage your own marketing or work with a partner, applying these strategies will help you connect with more consumers who could become loyal customers and brand ambassadors.