Restaurant Marketing Trends: How to Attract More Diners

Diners today are demanding innovation in ways that drive industry trends, restaurant marketing strategies, and entire operations. For restaurateurs and foodservice executives, this means keeping customers’ needs at the forefront, even well before they set foot in your location or make a call for a reservation.

Eager to supercharge your marketing performance and attract more diners to your restaurant? Here’s a list of industry trends, plus actionable tips and tactics, to help you get started:

Build and Optimize your Presence on Google

If online reviews can make or break a restaurant, you might be wondering: where exactly can these reviews be found?

According to the 2018 online reviews survey by ReviewTrackers, Google is the platform that’s dominating the review market.

  • 64 percent of consumers say they are likely to check reviews on Google before visiting a business — more than any other review site.
  • 21 percent agree that Google reviews are one of the most important factors in their search for a local business, ranking them as more influential than pricing information, proximity, and search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Google has also become the No. 1 site for online reviews (followed by social media platform Facebook), reinforcing the trend where sites that focus primarily on reviews (like Yelp and TripAdvisor) are seeing less growth than sites where consumers are likely to already have user accounts (and therefore experience less friction in leaving reviews of businesses).

Here are a few more interesting highlights from the survey:

  • Reviews are getting shorter. Your customers are writing simpler and more to-the-point reviews. The average review has gotten 65 percent shorter since 2010 and is now roughly the size of a tweet.
  • Customers expect businesses to respond ASAP. 53.3 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within 7 days. This marks an increase from 51.7 percent in 2017. Moreover, 45 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
  • Diners are writing increasingly positive reviews.Reviews are shifting from being a place where consumers rant to a place where they are recommending restaurants after a positive experience.

One key takeaway: make sure you claim and manage your business listing on Google via Google My Business, if you aren’t already doing so.

Add your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone), upload high-quality photos of your interiors and menu items, respond to your online reviews, ensure that your location is displayed correctly on Google Maps, and write out your Google business description.

Share Lots of Photos and Videos

You probably already created profiles or pages of your restaurant on multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to develop a plan around regularly sharing high-quality photos and videos: visual content for driving engagement with hungry diners.

Here are some great ideas on what to upload:

  • Mouth-watering shots of your menu items
  • Photos of your restaurant location’s interiors, facilities, and kitchen
  • Photos of your chef and kitchen and wait staff
  • A live Q&A interview with your chef of mixologist
  • Video tour of your restaurant
  • A behind-the-scenes video of what goes on in the kitchen
  • Live video streams of parties, fundraisers, special occasion events

Photos and videos allow your customers to feel more connected to and engaged with your restaurant, before and after their actual dining experience.

Share Your Menu on Social Media

Seven in eight consumers routinely turn to technology to discover dining destinations, and 86 percent regularly check out menus online before they eat out.

This means you shouldn’t let your menu sit idly on your website. Make sure you also share it on social media as well as other digital properties where your restaurant has a presence. Include a link to it in your emails, tweets, and Facebook posts, so that potential customers can take action, browse for more information, and engage. Sharing your menu on social media is a great addition to your restaurant marketing toolkit, especially if you offer delivery.

Manage Your Restaurant’s Online Reviews

At a time when diners can quickly become food critics, you must be able to monitor and respond to online reviews of your restaurant across multiple sites and platforms.

Facebook, Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are some of the top review sites that diners use, but pay attention as well to restaurant-specific review sites and booking platforms like OpenTable, Eat24, Grubhub, and Zomato.

  • According to Weber Shandwick, 77 percent of consumers pay more attention to reviews written by their peers than to professional critic reviews.
  • 33 percent of restaurant-goers will not choose to eatat a restaurant with an average rating of less than 4 stars out of 5.
  • According to OpenTable, 60 percent read reviews before going out for a meal, a habit that takes precedence over getting directions to a restaurant or looking at food photos.

Responding to reviews, listening to the voice of the customer, and resolving their issues will go a long way in helping you protect your restaurant’s online reputation; more importantly, review management will provide you with the insights that you need to consistently deliver great dining experiences.

Restaurateurs who keep their fingers on the pulse of evolving diner demands and expectations are the ones most poised to succeed. This means that managing reviews and customer feedback is critical and can spell the difference between experiences that delight and experiences that don’t.

Create or Join Conversations Around Food-Related Holidays

Most restaurants will have marketing campaigns for traditional holidays like the Fourth of July or the Super Bowl. If you’re looking to further distinguish your restaurant from your competition, cook up something special — on social media or in-store — for foodie holidays, too, particularly if it’s relevant to your menu offering.

It could be Chinese Almond Cookie Day, National Seafood Bisque Month, or National Spanish Paella Day. Whatever the occasion is, find a way to tie it into your menu in order to continually boost your restaurant’s visibility.

Invest in Data and Tech

According to Franchise Help:

  • 75 percent of consumers will at least view menus on their smartphone before trying a new restaurant.
  • Approximately 40 percent will pay with their phone when they can.
  • About one in three are receptive to SMS marketing.

Your restaurant’s highest marketing investment priorities should include customer-facing technology offerings like digital menus, online ordering, and digital loyalty programs. Forget business cards in a fishbowl. To truly understand diners and customers and inspire loyalty, you must make technology an investment priority — and develop the capability to collect actionable data and manage high-impact trends and issues affecting the guest experience.