Top 8 Marketing Strategies for Restaurants


A staggering 60 percent of restaurants go under within one year of opening while 80 percent don’t make it past year five, according to researchers at Ohio State University. And while these figures may sound better than the exaggerated yet oft-quoted 90 percent failure rate, they’re still eye-opening statistics for today’s restaurant businesses.

In this fiercely competitive climate, what can your restaurant do to beat the odds? These eight marketing strategies for restaurants can mean the difference between shuttering your doors and success.

1. Have an Attractive, Well-Optimized Website

Think your old website is “good enough”? Think again. According to some reports, a whopping 40 percent of your visitors will leave your site within three seconds if it’s not loading properly. At an average of 10 to 20 seconds, meanwhile, the average visitor hardly sticks around much longer.

Entice potential customers to stay by making sure your website is mobile-friendly, current and relevant, including your menu, daily specials, reviews and a blog. And don’t forget to link to your social media pages.

2. Cultivate a Social Media Presence

In our sharing society, the importance of social media is paramount. There’s no better way to leverage word-of-mouth to your advantage than through comprehensive social media strategies. But social media isn’t just a way to communicate your message;  it also has the ability to transform customers into powerful brand advocates.

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Make sure to ask your customers to “like” you and share their experiences, keeping in mind that social media is as much about customer service as it is about marketing. Responsiveness is the operating word when it comes to harnessing the full power of social media.

One last thing to remember? All social media sites aren’t created equally. While your brand voice should remain authentic and consistent across all channels, content should be original and strategically site-specific.

3. Embrace Online Reservations

According to a Gallup poll, more than 80 percent of smartphone users have their phones handy “almost all the time during waking hours.” Just how often do they check those phones? A breathtaking eight billion times a day, according to a study by Deloitte.

And just as smartphone owners are likely to conduct mobile searches to find your restaurant, they’re also more likely to value the ease and access of online reservations which allow them to remain in the moment. In an era in which consumers so deeply prize expediency, putting the reservation process at their fingertips sweetens the deal.

4. Make Yelp Your Friend

Whether you like it or not, your customers are using Yelp. Not only that, but 90 percent of them say positive reviews directly impact their decisions. According to a report from Harvard Business School, meanwhile, every additional Yelp star corresponds with a five to nine percent increase in revenue.

Rather than being completely under the consumer’s thumb, take control by claiming your restaurant’s listing so you can start responding to concerns, questions and complaints as they arise. While this can be viewed as damage control, it offers even greater potential in the form of building trust and engagement with your customers.

When a customer writes a scathing review, acknowledging his comments and offering to look into the situation can quickly smooth things over. Conversely, a simple “thank you” for positive feedback also goes a long way.

5. Reward Loyalty

Did you know that current customers spend nearly 70 percent more than new customers? While plastic cards and coupons were once loyalty program standards, new technologies link loyalty programs and customers free from the usual barriers. Kickoff your loyalty program with an email blast and continue to promote it via both online and offline channels.

6. Take a Foodie-First POV

The old expression goes that we “eat with our eyes,” so why not consider “feeding” your customer long before she walks through the door? Photos and videos, AKA “food porn” can draw hungry eyes, as can the promise of a new menu featuring the hottest items, including everything from locally-sourced ingredients to seasonal specials.

7. Don’t Underestimate Email

Email may seem like the plain Jan Brady to social media’s much prettier Marcia, but it remains one of the most powerful forms of marketing communications: According to McKinsey & Company, email conversion rates trump both Facebook and Twitter by 40 times!

But not just any old email will suffice. Personalized, relevant emails have been shown to not only improve click-through rates, but also to drive revenue better than generic broadcast emails.

In other words, while doing away with your email strategies is premature, generating personalized, targeted content yields more desirable results.

8. Use Your Data

Today’s marketing automation software make it easier than ever to understand current trends, facts and figures in order to take swift corrective action , if necessary, and stay on track.

One particular metric which can be harnessed toward better engagement? Geo-targeting. Serving up ads to consumers in particular locations saves money, minimizes non-relevant clicks, and ultimately enhances value for recipients.

What do all of these strategies have in common? One word: omnichannel. In fact, if 21st century marketing had one overarching theme, this would be it. And while it may sound like a mouthful, omnichannel is a simple concept at its core: With so many different touch points along the customer journey, omnichannel offers a consistent, coordinated and symbiotic approach while keeping the consumer at the center of it all.

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