The same conversation is happening around the nation. People are hungry. They don’t feel like cooking. They don’t know where to go.
How can restaurant owners get folks to come out and eat? You must stay top-of-mind through advertisements. The more people see your message, the more likely people will walk through your doors, drive up to your curbs, or ask you for delivery.
Restaurant ads have changed dramatically over the past decade. Instead of browsing print ads in local newspapers, everybody’s online now — and your restaurant should be too.
Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.
Digital restaurant marketing can help bring in more customers and increase your revenue. But to be successful with online restaurant ads, business owners must plan ahead and research both paid and organic advertisement opportunities. That’s what this guide is for.
The most effective digital marketing campaigns work through many channels. By combining free/low-cost outreach options with online paid campaigns, you’ll be able to maximize your exposure and be the first place people think of when it’s time to eat.
We’ll start with the top paid advertising options:
- Google Ads
- Social media advertising
- Yelp! ads
Then we’ll outline some free outreach opportunities:
- Optimizing your website
- Social media presence
- Managing your online listings and reviews
- Email marketing
Paid advertising options
Google Ads is a great place to start. You can target certain search query keywords and phrases such as, “fancy restaurants near me,” optimize for local or location-based searches, and attempt to address specific audiences such as young college students looking for “affordable restaurants.”
If you use Google Ads, you’ll need to have a Google My Business Profile, a free service that lets you connect with customers across Google Search and Maps. Make sure all your account information is accurate; double-check your physical address, email address, phone number, and other contact information. Also, feel free to upload photos to personalize your business and attract more visitors.
If you’re not sure where to start, the Google Ads process can be simplified and optimized with the help of Constant Contact’s Google Ads tool.
Social media advertisements
About 79 percent of the U.S. population is on social media; creating a business page on social media means you’ll join about 247 million U.S. users.
Social media apps like Facebook and Instagram are made for showcasing up-close and delicious pictures of your most popular menu items. Use high-quality, well-lit photos, and hashtags when creating restaurant ads. Most social media platforms use pay-per-click advertising, where you pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
Video advertisements are also effective, as you can fully recreate part of the restaurant experience — YouTube is a popular platform that can help you target your ads to the people you want as customers.
Yelp is another common platform people use to find where to eat. Often times, restaurants with paid advertisements can steal the spotlight from others by showing up on the listing site’s search result pages — and even alongside competitors’ profiles.
As with other paid advertising options, the first step is to claim your business. After you set up your ad online, you can monitor its effectiveness through Yelp’s business analytics page and adjust your strategy as needed.
Free (or low-cost) advertising options
Optimizing your website
When someone clicks on one of your paid digital advertisements, they’ll likely land on your restaurant’s website. You need to make sure that your homepage is optimized to inspire those hungry people to eat or drink with you:
- Make sure your website works just as effectively on a mobile device as it does on a desktop computer.
- Have a page with your menu.
- Include a clear call to action so customers can make reservations or place orders.
Your site should also follow local SEO (search engine optimization) best practices:
- Naturally incorporate keywords in your website’s copy.
- Be sure to incorporate local keywords so folks can find you via “near me” searches.
- Do not stuff keywords.
When you optimize your website, your business will be more visible online and folks will have a more pleasant time navigating your homepage. You’ll be top of mind as hungry folks decide where to go for food.
Social media presence
You don’t need paid advertisements to have a meaningful social media presence. You can personalize your business and organically grow your local following by:
- Sharing employee updates.
- Introducing new menu items.
- Announcing special deals or events.
- Posting about holiday or seasonal themes.
- Engaging with posts and comments.
- Including testimonials or customer spotlights.
- Adding photos of your food and restaurant events.
Social media lets you connect directly with your audience in ways other platforms simply don’t allow for. You can engage with customers in ways that are more casual, fun, and personal — but still professional and on-brand — to boost your local popularity and get folks through the door.
Managing your online listings and reviews
Someone notices your restaurant online. Your menu whets their appetite and they’ve decided: Your restaurant for dinner. But when they click on your restaurant, they can’t find your address and instead read a nasty review…This is where they back out and scroll past your listing.
Avoid losing customers by managing your online listings and reviews.
Make sure to completely fill out your profiles on platforms like Google My Business, Apple Maps Connect, and Yelp. Include:
- Operating hours.
- A correct address and location.
- Accurate contact information.
- FAQs such as concerns about parking.
- Menu items and pictures.
When managing reviews:
- Thank all reviewers for taking the time to leave feedback, positive or negative.
- Respond promptly to posts.
- Acknowledge negative comments and thoughtfully reach out to offer, or work out, a solution.
Your online presence will often be people’s first impression of your restaurant. Be sure to present yourself in a way that demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to quality customer service.
Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective digital advertising techniques. Sending newsletters helps you stay connected with customers and lets you send updates or special offers. To get started, sign up with an email marketing platform like the one from Constant Contact.
Grow your email lists with VIP loyalty programs, small discounts, or birthday gifts. You can even include a sign-up link with every bill at the end of a satisfying meal.
Stay top of mind online
Restaurant owners have plenty of online options to persuade hungry people to give their business a try. To make the most of digital restaurant marketing tools, brainstorm a timeline, budget, brand message, and list of measurable goals. Then break up the work of building a social media presence, managing reviews, and starting an email newsletter into manageable tasks that can help your restaurant thrive. To learn more about digital marketing, check out Constant Contact’s The Download. It’s a free guide just for restaurateurs just like you.