There are more than one million restaurants in the United States, according to data from the National Restaurant Association. With that much potential competition, how do you cut through the noise?
Marketing for your restaurant can come in all shapes and sizes, from the appropriate signage to cutting through the chatter on social media. Having a variety of tools at your disposal is the easiest way to keep your sales up and your guests coming back for seconds.
Tell A Story
Knowing your brand is an integral part of your restaurant’s identity. Having a powerful brand goes a long way to building customer loyalty. When you consider companies like Coca-Cola, IBM or McDonald’s, you likely think about a brand identity that was uniquely crafted for the clientele that each wanted to foster. The common denominator: they’re reliable.
While those companies are global leaders, they all started small and grew with time. Find the personality in your restaurant, and use that as the cornerstone of your mission statement and marketing strategy.
Brand building can come in many shapes and sizes. For example, if you are located near a giant ball of twine, you can use twine in your decor, as the binding for your napkins or as art in the restaurant. If your brand is predicated on the charm of the area, incorporate local foods, and decorate with regionally appropriate wares. Doing so will help you develop the kind of atmosphere that will hopefully bring people back for a second helping.
Social Media Marketing
Use social media to help craft your brand by sharing pictures of your guests enjoying a night out or by sharing stories and anecdotes. And it’s worth your time. There are billions of social media users worldwide, and in the United States, those users spend around 45 minutes each day on social networking.
There is a lot of clutter on social media to cut through, so post regularly, and make sure it counts. For operators with small teams, you can use programs like Sprout Social or Hootsuite to schedule posts across platforms throughout the week, allowing you to batch your work when it’s convenient. You can get specific to location by utilizing geo-fencing, which ensures that only people in your target area are alerted to your ads.
Let Technology Guide Your Way
Technological progress allows for facial recognition and the use of limited artificial intelligence to help consumers make decisions based on their previous behavior. These advancements often work in tandem, and can certainly work to your advantage with targeted ads.
In 2018, approximately 194 million apps were downloaded worldwide. Restaurateurs can get apps in all shapes and sizes, from free apps to proprietary apps developed specific to their needs. These apps offer a world of potential to operators, including waitlist or reservation systems, loyalty programs and easy access to logistical information like menus and hours of operation.
Before you take the time to get an app, consider taking a few simple steps. Research indicates that more and more people use technology to help determine their consumer needs, irrespective of generation. Learn what pain point an app might solve for, and work from there. Find out what apps might be available for free and how much time they might take to implement. If there aren’t free apps, calculate the potential cost-benefit analysis.
A common search on Google is “restaurants near me.” Guests are likely to check out your restaurant online before visiting. Tools like Google My Business allow users quick access to the who, when, where, what and why of your restaurant. For participating restaurants, Reserve With Google offers a quick and easy path for users looking to get in line or save a seat.
Staying up to date caters to tech-savvy guests who may search online for your hours and menu items before they stop in. Google has a robust schedule of updates to its product suite, which is designed to evolve to customer needs. While that may seem overwhelming, you can gain a lot of insight from assigning members of your staff different administrative duties related to Google My Business. You can have staff dedicated to making updates and changes, and others to follow customer insights.
Whether through a limited-time offer or a seasonal promotion, scarcity marketing gives potential guests the nudge to get in now. Examples include the McDonald’s McRib, KFC’s Double Down and Pizza Hut’s hot dog stuffed crust pizza. These items are so popular that they have become the subject of public conversation, myth and parody. For smaller operations, daily specials can help move the needle in a comparable way.
There are a lot of ways to utilize scarcity marketing. Using coupons can boost sales. Likewise, you can introduce time into your online purchases by showing the user that they only have a set amount of time to make a reservation or get on a waitlist.
Listen To Your Competition
Knowing your competition can fuel your own branding ideas; in the marketplace of ideas, there are really no bad ideas, just bad execution.
Watch how your competition markets, and respond accordingly. Learn from the mistakes of others, and if something works, determine if that tactic is something you can build on with your own brand. Beyond that, you can build marketing campaigns that work in response to other businesses if you want to develop friendly competition.
Marketing is a lot of work in an ever-shifting world. What works today may not work tomorrow, so when in doubt, find ways to have fun with what you do.
Want to engage millennials or Generation Z? Look to ideas like the “unhappy meal” or to the personality behind the Wendy’s Twitter account. Put together competitions that encourage community-building that might brighten someone else’s day.
Whatever you do and however you do it, remember that satisfying your customer is integral to building loyalty and securing repeat visits.