If you're looking to increase bookings in your restaurant, one of the best places to begin is to review your marketing.
These days, there are so many different ways to market your restaurant business and reach potential customers, it can be helpful to know the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy. Then you can decide which is the most appropriate for your particular niche, and which is likely to be the most effective in delivering a return on your investments of time, energy and money.
So, here's a quick guide to the pros and cons of the most popular modern marketing strategies for restaurant businesses, including a mix of proven, time-tested strategies, as well as some more recent options.
PPC for Restaurant Marketing
Pay Per Click (PPC) was one of the first online marketing strategies and it’s still going strong, delivering some of the best ROI rates in the online space.
The biggest advantage of PPC marketing is that it connects with your target audience precisely when they’re searching for a restaurant in your area.
While other strategies interrupt social channels or email checking, PPC gets your business in front of people at the most opportune moment, ie when they're intending to find a restaurant.
Other benefits include being able to target an unlimited amount of keywords (so you can be seen at the top of Google by all your potential customers), and being able to clearly see and track your results. With PPC, you can see exactly what every penny of your marketing budget has generated for your restaurant.
PPC is a proven online marketing strategy that has stood the test of time, but it can be a complex and fast-changing strategy. To master the nuances yourself would involve a substantial learning curve. This is why hiring experts can be a wise use of your time and budget.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
In the last decade, social media has become a major force in online marketing. On the plus side, it can be quick and easy to set up a social channel for your business, and you can begin posting updates for free, in most cases. It's even possible to see some results and engagement almost immediately, if you are up-to-date with the latest social marketing trends.
Although some brands have mastered the art of generating business and revenue from their social profiles, there is still a great number that appear to be popular on the surface, yet aren't monetising their efforts effectively.
Social media marketing can also be very time-consuming and highly competitive. This is particularly true for restaurants - food and drink are one of the most popular areas on social media, with hundreds of millions of posts tagged with the #food hashtag.
It is also notoriously difficult to measure ROI. While you can track engagement and likes etc, these don't always translate into the bookings and covers that you need your marketing efforts to provide.
Social media also brings no visibility to the Google maps which can be so beneficial to restaurant businesses.
Email Marketing for Restaurants
Collecting email addresses and building up a database of potential customers can be an excellent strategy for nurturing long-term relationships with your target audience. As long as you keep up with regular communications, appealing promotions and enticing offers, having email access to your clientele can help to generate bookings on an ongoing basis.
It also has the advantage that you own your database. (Unlike social channels which can change permissions or even disappear completely.) You can also get useful feedback on which offers and emails people respond to, so you can segment your lists and target those who seem most likely to want more info or special deals.
One of the downsides of email marketing is that it can take time to build your list of subscribers to the point where it converts to adequate bookings and covers in your restaurant. It’s possible to accelerate your results with certain list-building promotions, e.g. challenges, giveaways, competitions etc, but these can be quite time-consuming and costly in the short-term.
The effectiveness of email marketing can also vary widely. Although it has worked well for many businesses in the past, as more people struggle with Inbox Overload, it may be that this strategy has had its day, particularly for some niches. Whether email marketing is the best way to reach restaurant customers can also depend on your particular niche and location.
It is also becoming increasingly difficult to navigate online data and privacy legislation, and to maintain deliverability as email providers tighten their anti-spam filters.
Restaurants & Local SEO
For bricks-and-mortar businesses, Local SEO can be a great way to reach the online audience that is local to you or are planning to be in your area. And as current figures show that 80% of tourists search Google and Google Maps to find places to eat, ranking well for these local searches can help to generate more bookings and enquiries from your online marketing efforts.
Done successfully, Local SEO is another instance of connecting with potential customers when they are actively looking for a local restaurant. However, similar to PPC, SEO can be a complex strategy that requires a great deal of research, patience and trial-and-error, if you choose to do it yourself.
Unlike PPC, though, SEO is renowned for being a long-term gain, often requiring many months of behind-the-scenes efforts before you can expect to see your business at the top of the most popular search pages.
Additionally, organic search is highly competitive, and this is likely to be especially true in the restaurant niche which is notorious for a high volume of competitors.
There are many ways you can market your restaurant - from online to offline, from the latest trends to time-tested techniques. Choosing the best strategy for you and your business will depend on a number of factors such as your budget, the time you want to spend on your marketing, and the type of customers you most want to reach. For example, your clientele may respond well to social media, or you might find that building up an email list is particularly effective in your niche.
But if you'd like to take advantage of one of the fastest, simplest and most powerful tools for reaching hungry diners when they're searching for a restaurant in your area, PPC is undoubtedly one of the most effective options. It's a proven strategy for being more visible online and ultimately getting the bookings and covers that your business needs.
If you'd like to explore the power of PPC marketing for your restaurant, please get in touch with us for your free consultation.