It’s easy to separate your marketing efforts from everything else that goes into running a business, especially once people are inside your restaurant. When people think about marketing, its only purpose is to get guests in the door, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about improving the restaurant dining experience, too.
Marketing creates expectations and impressions of your restaurant well before a guest walks in. It can also influence their opinion of you when they leave. Here are some tactics to implement that will increase the number of guests, improve their experience, and get you more positive reviews.
Managing Your Website and Branding
If people haven’t visited your restaurant or bar before, they’ll more than likely do some research. It’s a common practice to check out your menu, website and reviews before visiting. Outside of perhaps driving by a few times, this is their first real impression of your business.
So what pops up when potential customers search your business name?
If you are on top of the ball, the first result should be your website, but often that isn’t the case. Especially for smaller restaurants and bars, it’s easy and cheaper to simply put your menu on a third party site (like UrbanSpoon or Yelp) and call it good. This is a mistake though, as it raises concerns with consumers as why you don’t have a site and whether the menu is accurate.
But let’s say you made the smart decision to get your restaurant a website. Be critical for a minute and take an honest look at it. Is it a good looking website?
In the world today, with easy to use software, anybody can build a website, but making it professional is a little harder. Either take the time to learn how to build a great website, or hire somebody to do it for you.
Branding your site gives customers a glimpse of what to expect when they visit in person. Lots of images are helpful with this, including pictures of food, your establishment, and even some of your staff. That way, people will feel more comfortable going to your restaurant because they have an impression of your place. They have an idea of what to expect.
Your Online Menu
You’ve probably spent hours upon hours and many a sleepless night agonizing over your menu. So when it comes to put your menu online, you might have simply put your menu and short descriptions up and called it good. Unlike a printed menu, where space is an issue, you can do a lot more interesting things with an online menu.
For example, every item could, and should, have a picture on your site. Pictures are much more appetizing than a simple description, and people will get much more excited to eat it.
Another thing your digital menu can do differently is more thorough descriptions of each dish. No longer are you restrained to a couple of sentences to describe your food. You can even have unique pages for each dish that details ingredients and how it’s cooked. This is especially useful for people with allergies and restrictive diets.
Another benefit is giving customers the power to filter and search your menu if there are specific things they like or dislike. These include options like vegetarian, spiciness, common allergens, cold versus hot meals, and other things relevant to your business.
Offering Unique Ways to Order
How we order and pay for food is changing thanks to technology. Many of these, like Square and Ziosk change how guests pay for their food and interact with your staff, removing uncomfortable situations or the need to wait for a waiter to order or pay.
One major advance is the ability to order food electronically without calling. This is slowly becoming commonplace with fast food places, so if you don’t have the capability, get it. Especially if you have a lot of dine out orders, you can help ease the burden on your staff and give people the option to order how they want.
Another point to consider is whether you should start delivering. Clearly it’s a trend that growing, with brands like Uber developing their own delivery services, and you can make a name for yourself locally by offering delivery. Not every food travels well, but if yours can, consider it.
The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing
Nothing is as powerful as word of mouth marketing. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. This is huge compared to other marketing tactics. It casts your restaurant in a positive light which can lead to great experiences. Instead of having to prove yourself, these new guests come expecting a good time, making it much easier to please them
Now, it’s obvious that you want your customers to have a good time, and in turn, tell their family and friends to come. But there is another source of people who can recommend your restaurant. Your employees.
Keeping your employees engaged with your business not only improves their productivity, but also their opinion of their workplace. Focus on keeping employees happy by acknowledging their hard work and success. This will help them feel more connected to their management and the business.
Happy employees are going to feel more at ease inviting their family and friends to eat at your restaurant. When they do, give them the flexibility to serve and treat them, so their guests have a very positive experience. Not only will this make more happy customers, but your employee will be happy about the experience, too.
Marketing is more than getting people in the door, it should impact every part of your business. Keeping your marketing tactics at the front of your mind can help you find new ways to improve customer satisfaction, and in turn, how successful your restaurant is.
By Ben Allen
Ben Allen is a freelance marketing writer focused on helping small businesses grow and helping others succeed in life.