How to Promote Your Restaurant and Attract New Customers

Your signature dish is great for keeping customers coming back to your restaurant time and time again. If you're really something special, word of mouth might get you where you need to be, but for the vast majority of restaurateurs word of mouth does not get the job done. So how do you get from local awareness to city-wide hotspot?

Enter online marketing.

Mobile and online channels are going to be instrumental in getting your restaurant's name off the ground and into the common household. In order to make the jump from hole-in-the-wall to local legend, here are 3 online marketing tips to consider:

Utilize Loyalty Programs

At the top of your to-do list should be increasing customer retention and pushing incentive programs. Modern loyalty program marketing has been around for 100 years (See Betty Crocker). The same old incentives that have been offered for a century still drive customer engagement today, with the only difference being where and how to access the incentives. Today, studies show that millennials prefer discounts above all else, although there are other incentives that come close, such as earning points.

Loyalty programs have latched onto mobile. Customers love an easy purchasing experience, so when you combine reward programs with on-the-go instant access functionality you're providing your customers with a low-effort high-reward opportunity. According to Facebook Insights, 77% of people consider themselves to be brand loyal. Your first objective should be carving out a loyal customer-base that will form the foundation of your restaurant traffic.

There are a handful of popular online customer loyalty apps that foodies love. You should consider partnering up with one of these apps as part of your online marketing strategy. Here are several customer loyalty apps to keep in mind:

  • Belly: offers customized rewards, email campaigns, and social exposure that integrates with payment options
  • Front Flip: combines a rewards, social media promos, and mobile offers through gamification (in-app game)
  • Pirq: digital customer rewards programs that offers analytics for deeper insights into your loyalty program

Befriend Google

Although it's a less-fancy way of saying enhance your Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, befriending Google and understanding how it's search engine works is the best way to go about raising customer traffic to your website. The more people you get onto your website, the more people you will convert into customers who are coming to feast on that delicious con-fit burger they saw in a mouth-watering picture on your website.

Before you expand your restaurant into a global super-chain, you have to become a local favorite first. This means ensuring all of your information is available on the web. But where do you start building your online profile? Simple, just register on every restaurant directory you can get your hands on. This means Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, Urbanspoon, and other local directories that will help put your restaurant on the map. Google likes when you update your pages with correct locations and descriptions. The more your address is listed, the easier it is for Google to list the correct address to allow people to find you.

The last piece to the SEO marketing strategy puzzle is engaging with Google+. Within Google+ lies Google Places, which is designed to promote and benefit local businesses. Consumers like having access to enough knowledge for them to make a decision. When a hungry foodie types in a keyword or two that applies to your restaurant, Google will pull up everything they need to know to make their decision, meaning location, hours, menu, specials, reviews, the whole nine. Best of all, none of these SEO-enhancing methods will cost you a dime. It's up to you to get your information out there, your customers will take care of the rest.

Source Local Ingredients

The bulk of this tactic will occur offline, but you'll need a strong social media strategy in order to turn this trending movement into an increase in revenue. Your customers want to contribute to "green" and "anti food waste" initiatives, but their options to participate are not always clear. Your restaurant can provide one of those options. Your customers want to hear that they're eating locally sourced ingredients from the freshest non-GMO farms. Getting your restaurant involved in purchasing from local Suppliers is the first step in marketing your thought-leadership to your existing and potential customers online. If you're looking for a place to start, there are several mobile and online ordering apps, like BlueCart, that can get you connected to some locally sourced Suppliers in your area.

Participating in initiatives like these offer people intrinsic value, also known as that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you know you've done the right thing. After you have your strategy in place, it's time to take to the web to publicize your activities. This means social media, specifically Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Internalizing progressive trends around food waste and green initiatives offers your customers an opportunity to "do their part". If a potential restaurant-goer is evaluating his/her options and they see that your restaurant has a fantastic menu, atmosphere, AND is active in the locally sourced movement, then you've made the buying decision that much easier for them, and just gained a new customer in the process.