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Essential Restaurant Marketing Strategies for 2021

2020 was an unprecedented year for the restaurant industry. The onset of Covid 19 brought about mass shutdowns of restaurants nationwide for an extended amount of time. For those that were lucky enough to be allowed to reopen, many of them had to operate with limited or no indoor seating and had to rely on outdoor seating or carryout orders. Even the restaurants that were able to operate without heavy restrictions saw a drop in revenue as consumer confidence eroded due to to worries about contracting Covid 19. Now that 2021 is here and most markets are making the slow climb back to the “old normal”, restaurant owners need an effective marketing plan to start brining back lost business. Here is a list of essential restaurant marketing strategies to reach out to new and existing customers to get them to choose your restaurant.

Focus on Local SEO

restaurant marketing

Putting an emphasis on your local SEO may be the single most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your marketing. A strong restaurant local search marketing campaign will ensure that you are ranking for popular local search terms. If you are not showing up when people in your local market are looking for you online, then don’t expect your restaurant to be around for long.

A study by conducted by Singleplatform found that 81% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92% through a web browser in the last six months, outperforming other highly searched industries, such as entertainment, retail outlets, hotels, and personal services. Additionally, 75% say they often choose a restaurant to dine at based on search results.

Your goal should be to rank in your local pack also known as the top three Google map spots when users search a specific keyword like “best pizza.” These top three restaurants are going to receive the most traffic simply because they are the first results a user sees.

Getting your restaurant to rank at the top of search listing is difficult, but here are few tips:

Post Reviews. Always encourage your customers to review you on Yelp, Facebook, or Google. Good reviews are some of the strongest type of advertising that you can get.  Data shows that 91% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase, and 68% percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews. Yelp averages more than 178 million unique visitors every month, and a whopping 82% of consumers visit Yelp because they’re intending to make a purchase. Be aware that inevitably there will be some bad reviews mixed in. Make sure that your respond to any questions or concerns in negative reviews to show that your are working to resolve them.

Manage Your Google My Business and local listings. Setup a Google My Business Listing ASAP. If your restaurant has been open for a number of months and you have not set one up, chances are one has already been created for you and you need to claim it. Your Google My Business page is very important because it shows customers when you are open, your address, contact information and even photos and reviews. Also claim your profile on Yelp and other local review sites.

Update Your Website with Fresh Content. Search engines are constantly crawling websites to make sure that they are still active and have relevant information. Make sure that the content on your website is up to date and reflects your current offerings. If you website has not been updated for a number of months, that could cause it to start slipping down in search rankings.

Start a Blog. A great way to post fresh content that is relevant to your customers is to start a blog. In blog articles your restaurant can share recipes, cooking/eating tips, or just share stories about your restaurant that your customers may find interesting. The more time your customers visit your website and the more time they spend on it reading your content, the more Google will see your website as relevant.

Optimize Your Website Design

restaurant website marketing

A top-quality restaurant website gives the customer an accurate feel for what to expect before they walk through the door. Make your content easy to find, keep it up to date, and arrange the elements in an intuitive fashion the reflects how people search for information.

According to Constant Contact, some top things that customers visit a website for are:

  1. Menu
  2. Reservation options
  3. Online ordering
  4. Contact information
  5. Social media links

Make sure all of these items are easily accessible to the customer. You will want to make sure that your site is compatible with mobile devices as well! Most visitors will interact with your website on a phone or other mobile device, so make sure that your site is designed to work well on those devices.

  • 70% of consumers think it is important to be able to read the menu of a restaurant on a mobile device
  • 62% of consumers are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on a mobile device

Use Pinterest to pin your food photos

local restaurant advertising

Pinterest allows you to pin photos of your food that you can link to your website or social media platforms. Pins are visual bookmarks are constantly being pinned and repinned which creates an endless marketing cycle for your restaurant.

Pinning great photos of your menu items is a great way to get web users to share them all over social media. If your business name and info is attached to your pins, then it will be shared from consumer to consumer as more people share your pins.

Email Marketing

restaurant email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most affordable ways for restaurants to advertise to customers. Constant Contact reports that for every $1 a restaurant spends on email marketing, they can expect to earn $38 of revenue on average.

Start by creating a quality email list. One way to do this is to put pupups and opt-in forms on your restaurant’s website where people can sign up to receive information about promos, daily specials, or loyalty programs. These emails will then be added to your monthly marketing list.

Once you have put together a quality email list, the next step is to craft quality emails that have value to your customers. Remember, people are busy, so if there is now immediate benefit to the customer, your email will most likely be ignored.  

Some good things to include in your marketing emails are:

  • Menu Changes
  • Weekly specials
  • Special Events
  • Customer Appreciation Days

Network with Influencers

restaurant influencer marketing

Influencers are the people who already have a huge following that typically listen to their advice and suggestions. An influencer can be anyone in your local market, such as a food critique, local personality, or anyone that is in a position where they have influence on group of people.

For instance, if you are a restaurant that has healthy options, it might be a good idea to have a local exercise instructor or someone in the fitness industry come in and post about their experience. Finding the right influencer on social media for your restaurant can be tricky, but do not be intimidated by the process, as it can pay big dividends. Here is a helpful article about influencer marketing. According to a Hubspot survey, 71% of consumers are likely to buy products or services based on social media referrals.

Social Contests

restaurant social media marketing

Having a contest or a giveaway is a great way to give your brand a lot of saturation in your local area. Let’s face it, most people love free stuff! You can get creative here.

ONe of the simplest ideas to execute, but also one of the most successful is to have one day a week where you ask your followers on Instagram and Facebook to share one of your posts promoting that day’s special. To reward them, one of them will be chosen at random to receive a free entree or gift certificate.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the number of shares you will get, which means your special is being spread all over social media, for only price of one entree.

Another idea is to have your followers tag their favorite dining buddy. Again, the winner will receive a free entrée or gift card. This can help you gain more followers, boost your brand visibility, and get more customers to check out your business.

Understand and USE Hashtags

restaurant hashtags

Oh, those confusing hashtags. Why should you use them? What is the purpose of them?

Well, simply put, hashtags allow you to associate search terms to your social posts which increases the discoverability of those posts.  

For example, If “Don’s Pizza” in Midtown that is doing a “free slice of pizza” promo at a local car wash, they would want to attach both local and branded hashtags to their social post. Example: #FreePizza, #MidtownCarWash, #DonsPpizza, #GetaFreeSlice

If your restaurant consistently uses a hashtag it will encourage your followers to use it as well. This could increase engagement in your posts and lead to more followers as your hashtag grows in popularity.

Using a mix of unique, branded hashtags mixed with geographic hashtags will keep your posts from getting lost in the mix and also help your posts show more in your local area.

In-House Branding

restaurant in house branding

When your customers are in your restaurant, they are a captive audience. This is one of the most valuable opportunities you will have to market your restaurant. 

Take this opportunity to make sure your menu inserts, handouts, and signage represent your current promotions and push your biggest profit centers. Everything from your employee uniforms to the decor should represent your brand in an accurate and consistent way, while also taking in the possibility of pushing products and services. 

While uniforms can often cost a considerable investment, there are now many print-on-demand options available to business owners that allow you to create a multitude of different promotional products in low quantities. Anything from dog socks, to cat mugs, to niche products like Sturgis T-Shirts can now be purchased in as many as one piece at a time. 

This gives restaurant owners to access to have branded items created quickly and affordably to promote short run specials or events.



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