We understand that as a restaurant owner, you are incredibly busy. From keeping track of inventory and reservations, to supervising employees and developing a business strategy, your marketing efforts can fall by the wayside.
However, as competition grows and restaurants become more demanding, an effective marketing strategy will get your restaurant in front of hungry diners. According to the National Restaurant Association there are over one million restaurant locations across the United States. You could say that the competition is a bit fierce.
Help your restaurant become a resounding success by avoiding these eight common marketing fails:
Not Having a Dedicated Restaurant Website
Do not overestimate the importance of a well-designed website. It tells your restaurant’s story to potential visitors in a way that online listings and social media profiles cannot. Is your restaurant a charming, family-owned venue with secret recipes that have been passed down for generations? What is the atmosphere? Does it feature multiple menus? Are there private rooms available for large groups to rent? And if so, does it cost extra to use the restaurant’s AV equipment?
These, and other questions, can be answered by investing in a mobile-friendly website that interested diners can visit in order to make a decision. Many potential guests who may be unfamiliar with your restaurant will use Google Search to find it. According to Google, 89 percent of dining research is done by mobile before visiting a restaurant. Having a website will improve your visibility on local Google search results.
If a complex website is out of budget for you, build a web presence for your restaurant on a smaller scale. Kadence, a sushi restaurant in Orlando known for minimalist aesthetics and intimate dining experiences, has a website that is three pages long. It features a welcome page with announcements and a booking button; an about page, sharing information on the three owners and awards they’ve won, and a location page. Before opening Kadence, the three owned and worked at a small sushi bar in East End Market, built a reputation with the local media and influencers, and provided excellent service which increased word-of-mouth recommendations and customer reviews. Their combined marketing efforts have made them an Orlando staple.
Skipping Routine Website Maintenance
Routine maintenance is required for your website to run smoothly. Regularly updating the content on your website with high-quality content ensures that it will be indexed by whenever Google crawls your website. This will ultimately help you rank higher. Your website should not be static. It should be a tool that continuously provides important information to your customers, such as announcements regarding limited hours during global pandemics, and other silly things.
Your Website Is Running On Hamster Power
Squeak, squeak! Can you hear the hamster wheel turning as your website attempts to load the landing page? User experience should be your number one priority, and an unresponsive website will lead potential customers right into your competitor’s claws. Some performance indicators that you can use to track site performance as your site speed changes include:
- Bounce Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Mobile Users
- Page Ranking
- Ads and PPC
Improving your site speed doesn’t have to be rocket science. There are many tools available to help you review your website’s performance such as Pingdom Website Speed Test and Google PageSpeed Insights. Other tactics include using less bandwidth by lowering your file size, cleaning up your code, increasing the efficiency of your servers, and more. Don’t miss out on potential customers because they can’t load your site.
You’re Off The Grid
Social media is an affordable and effective way to market your restaurant online and build brand awareness. Being on social media allows you to engage with existing and potential customers, build relationships, share the latest updates, and show off your brand’s personality. Additionally, a social media presence facilitates staying top of mind with your target audience.
While we recommend using high-quality images on your social media channels, we understand that not everyone has the budget or talent for a product photoshoot every quarter. However, the assets you use must contribute to your brand story in a cohesive manner, whether you’re borrowing your friend’s DSLR or using your iPhone.
Take WAVE Asian Bistro & Sushi, for example. The Central Florida sushi spot has amassed over 183,000 Instagram followers by posting their unique creations, such as the sushi hot dog, sushi burger, sushi donut, sushi lunchables, sushi burrito, sushi pizza… We’re beginning to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump, but you get the gist. The majority of their social media posts are pictures and videos that they’ve shot themselves, featuring their employees either cooking or eating, with music in the background.
Their simple Instagram strategy attracts hundreds of comments and thousands of likes each time, while taking the time to respond to comments, questions and praises. Being active and engaging with your audience shows that you value their loyalty to your brand.
Having an engaging presence on social media also guarantees that your audience will post relevant user-generated content (UGC), which you’ll then be able to publish on your own social media channels. UGC is cost-effective, creates brand desire and loyalty, and it helps marketers build an extensive content library.
Not Setting Up Google My Business
If you’re going to continue fighting us on setting up a website, would you at least consider updating your dated Google My Business listing? In 2018, Google shared that they had seen a 200 percent growth in mobile searches for “Open” + “now” + “near me.” For example, “restaurants near me open now.” If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool used to manage your restaurant’s online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Once you’ve claimed your listing, the first step in optimizing it is filling out all relevant information, such as your business name, address, phone number, category, website, hours of operation, special holiday hours and closures, description, hi-res photos, and other important details. Google My Business can be used to manage online reviews (more on that later), sharing updates, and even making reservations. Taking the time to optimize your listing will earn you higher rankings and connect potential customers with your business, and who doesn’t want that?
Brand consistency will help your audience recognize the brand sentiment you’ve created. By building and maintaining a consistent brand image, you will improve recognition, build trust and credibility within your target audience, and outdo the competition. Consistent branding goes beyond ensuring you’re using your logo correctly. Brands must be consistent in their customer experience, values, messaging and visual identity elements, such as the colors and fonts used. When done right, your brand consistency will evoke positive emotions from your audience.
The standards you set, whether they relate to the menu or food presentation to the customer service, define your brand and separate you from the competition. Neglecting these standards devalue your brand.
Ghosting Your Customer Reviews
We feel like we’re constantly telling you to monitor and engage with your customer reviews, from those posted on Yelp to Tripadvisor to Google My Business to social media. But it bears repeating, it is crucial to the success of your business to respond to both positive and negative reviews on as many platforms as you have access to.
The more reviews there are of a product, the more likely it is a customer will purchase it. Additionally, customers who read reviews often click through the bad ones first, to see what the worst thing people have to say about the product is. Before visiting, many of your diners will search for reviews. Monitoring reviews allows you to stay in control of the conversation.
Back in April, Carrie Hudson, the owner 33 & Melt, posted on her restaurant’s social media page that she was “over” the global pandemic and was going to reopen, despite the executive order suspending on-premise food consumption for customers at restaurants. What ensued on her Facebook page was complete chaos, from customers voicing their concerns and others choosing to boycott her restaurant.
It quickly became a case study of how to not run a restaurant’s social media channels. Rather than apologizing, Carrie rudely replied to her customers throughout the day and then blamed her “social media gal.” Before the post was taken down, it reached almost 5,000 comments, shared over 900 times, and covered by local publications including Orlando Weekly, FOX 35, and WESH 2.
You’d think that after that stunt she would’ve learned her lesson. But this patriot wasn’t going down without a fight. This month, her restaurant held an event promising free meals to the first 100 people who showed up without a mask. Keep in mind that the number of coronavirus cases in Florida had been soaring at the time. Her stunt attracted the news and state agents from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco who gave her a warning for not following social distancing protocols, which resulted in negative news coverage around the world, making Florida, once again, the butt of the joke. Since then, her Facebook page has been flooded with criticism from Facebook users across the country. Don’t be like Carrie.
You’re Not Building The Right Relationships
Don’t sweat it if you don’t know how to write a press release or know what a boilerplate is (hint: it is not for cooking). Building a strong relationship with the local tastemakers will guarantee that your restaurant will be included on relevant articles and round-ups. This means reaching out and introducing yourself and your restaurant to local food influencers with a good following and engagement, bloggers, food reporters, and even organizations such as your local tourism bureau or Yelp office.
While your business may not currently have a public relations budget, connecting with these organizations will bring forward paid, low-cost or free opportunities including appearing on their website, being featured on their social media channels, and being considered for events and media opportunities.
What’s For Dinner?
Promoting a restaurant can be time consuming, and it requires you to build strong relationships online and offline. It is also important to recognize your limitations and hire professionals to assist with the creative process, as you continue to grow your business. Hungry customers have many restaurant options to choose from. Follow these tips to get them in yours.