The demand for restaurants has increased exponentially over the last few decades as more and more people have left the home to work longer hours. Incredibly, the number of restaurants currently in operation in the United States alone has risen from 155,000 approximately 40 years ago to nearly 960,000 today. The restaurant industry is crowded, competitive, and hectic—but it still has a lot of room for expansion. Strategic small restaurant marketing can help the owners themselves cleverly can easily carve out a very profitable niche within the growing field of food service. If you’re ready to get started, check out the seven budget-friendly tips below:
- Blog, Blog, Blog.
Attaching a blog to your restaurant’s website and updating it frequently (at least once per week) will enhance your marketing efforts in a number of ways: One, it will give you content you can share on social media. Two, it will boost your site’s search engine optimization and therefore increase organic traffic to your site. Three, it will drive link-backs to your site, helping to get word about your restaurant out there.
Food service industries are well suited to blogging because people are always interested in finding useful food-related content, e.g. recipes and cooking tips. And the best part of all? Blogging is free! You can do it in your spare time without having to invest in any additional services (unless, of course, you choose to hire a ghost writer or editor).
To give your blogging efforts an even larger reach, try submitting guest posts to other food-related blogs. Just don’t forget to include a short restaurant “bio” and link back to your site!
- Get Active On Social Media.
Social media marketing is especially effective for restaurant owners owing to the popularity of food images on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Make sure to take high-quality pictures of the food you serve (the more mouth-watering the images look, the better) and post them on social media frequently, along with hashtags that clarify the area in which your business is located. You should also post links to your blog content where possible in order to boost engagement. And of course, don’t forget to interact with your customers! Replying to comments and “liking” customer’s social media content is a great way to increase brand awareness and trust.
- Getting The Social Influencers To Help.
Ever heard of influencer marketing? A form of publicity that brings your restaurant maximum awareness and high conversion rate while producing quality content that will last a lifetime in your target audience’s mind. Save some time from your social media and identify highly engaged and passionate users that speak to your food, cuisine, and industry. Then, send them an invitation to visit and provide them with a good meal. They’ll take care of the rest in terms of the whole awareness and conversion thing. That just proves how powerful social media is. Forbes and HubSpot have some brilliant articles about this. Click on their names for the links!
- Make Sure You’re On Google And Yelp.
While being present on Google My Business and Yelp is important for many different types of businesses, it’s absolutely essential for restaurant establishments. People often use online reviews exclusively when deciding whether or not to try a new restaurant, so you want to make sure you have a strong presence on all of the major review sites. Don’t forget to politely and helpfully respond to any critical reviews, too; this will help to lessen their impact on potential customers.
Additionally, Google My Business ensures that your small restaurant marketing efforts will turn up in local search results and on Google Maps, making it far more “searchable” (particularly for those on mobile phones). Google My Business also allows you to provide photos of your establishment (showing potential customers that it’s clean and professional), post business hours, and add a link to your website. It’s therefore little surprise that restaurants listed in Google’s local listings get 37% more sales on average than unlisted restaurants. Incredibly, given all these benefits, Google doesn’t charge businesses for listing with them—Google My Business is 100% free to use.
- Build An Email List.
An email list is a great way to both reach out to new customers and retain the ones you have. An email list allows you to notify interested patrons about upcoming events, deals, and new items on your menu. Email marketing has an unusually high conversation rate (in fact, it typically generates more sales than social media marketing) so it absolutely should not be discounted as a marketing strategy.
Small restaurant marketing usually produces a neat email list, you’ll probably be able to manage it for free (most email management services offer a no-charge option for smaller lists). MailChimp, for example, offers its service for free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers.
- Host An Event.
Sponsoring a charity event is a great way to increase your restaurant’s exposure while also helping to carve out a place in the local community (and thereby enhance customer loyalty). To find applicable charity events, check with your local chamber of commerce—they should have listings of all the upcoming charitable functions. You can then reach out to these charities and ask if they need catering or refreshments for their events.
If you can’t find an upcoming charitable event to support, consider hosting a “themed” event (such as a celebration of a sporting event or a particular holiday). Offer discounts on the food and drinks you serve during the event and decorate your restaurant accordingly. You can also check out whether any local businesses are hosting events—they may need catering services as well.
- Connect With The Local Press.
Print media is still an extremely useful tool when it comes to promoting restaurants. Get in touch with your local paper (or papers) and see if you can place an advertisement in them and/or write guest articles. Additionally, if you do end up hosting a charity event, you should reach out to local radio and television stations as well and see if they want to cover the event. Local reporters are always looking for exciting new stories, so they’ll probably be happy to provide you with some free press. Just make sure you have a good “pitch” for the story that explains why the event is an important, relevant thing to report on.
If you use the seven strategies above, you’ll soon see your restaurant filling up with new patrons. Just like AllinBrand did for its restaurant client’s Saigon Lotus! Impress them with your food and your great service and your customer base will soon be firmly established. Before you know it, you’ll be eyeing new real estate to create your very own franchise!