Restaurants and bars are in a great position to capitalize on marketing. Restaurants deal in the business of pleasure and indulgence, and those two things are easy sells. Whether you’re celebrating a success or a nursing a failure, there’s always an excuse to dine out. But, the restaurant industry is a highly competitive market, and increasing brand awareness and your marketing force is a great tool to stand out from the competition.
In general, there are two ways for restaurants focus on marketing: inbound and in-house.
Inbound marketing for a restaurant seeks to capture the attention of new customers by creating a presence in the market so new customers become aware of them through a variety of channels.
In-house marketing is promoting items that will increase sales from customers that are dining at your restaurant. In-house marketing is a large focus of what Uncorkd does. We help restaurants manage their beverage menus in order to increase sales and better market their products to interested customers.
Here are a some tips for both types of marketing.
Restaurants are a notoriously slow industry when it comes to advances in consumer facing technology. Restaurants, bars, and pubs are naturally social environments. They are built on interaction and community. Sometimes restaurant owners fear that advances in technology will reduce the social and organic experience of a restaurant. But if you’re a restaurant owner, you need to utilize new forms of technology, because your customers are. The way people seek out new information out is on the internet. And restaurateurs should take note of this important 2013 study that found restaurants to be the most search industry by consumers on mobile devices. It’s important for the food service industry to embrace the internet and changing technology to execute new forms of marketing to reach potential customers
A quality website is crucial for a restaurant. When someone plugs your name into Google, it’s important that you create an informative and useful page for your guests to land on.
Your website’s design should mimic the feel of your restaurant. Potential customers should have an understanding of what an experience dining with you will be like. Use photos to promote and highlight the space. Make sure you offer key information like food and drink menus and that this information is accurate and maintained like you would the menus you have in-house. List hours of operations, your address, and telephone number or contact email. If you have a private dining program or event booker, make sure that contact information is available. Offer the ability to sign up for an email list or newsletter. Your website is the place that you can really extend yourself online for interested guests.
Also, when building the content of your website, be sure to add keywords that will help search engines find you. The content of your website should be relevant to your brand. If you’re new to the idea of SEO, or curious about implementing better SEO practices, check out this restaurant SEO article from Sidewalk Branding.
Social Media: Don’t Leave it to the Professionals
Social media marketing isn’t the holy grail people thought it would to be. The ROI is hard to quantify, and if the social media marketing company you’ve hired can only talk in terms of page likes and post reach, and not in terms of that reach converting into sales, then you need to ditch them.
That said, social media isn’t something that should be abandoned or ignored. Facebook and Twitter are great places to connect with your fans and community. It’s a wonderful space to promote daily specials, highlight new dishes, advertise monthly themes or talk directly with customers through messages and comments. You can really utilize these forms of social media to personalize your brand. Just remember, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars a month to do so.
Aside from simple information sharing and specific promotional material like daily specials, you can use social sites like Instagram to share images or Youtube to post videos. Take a smart phone and record your chef’s trip to the farmer’s market. Use this video to help promote the dishes you are creating with the ingredients found at the farmer’s market, and then use Instagram to promote those dishes through photos. This creates a lucid theme and a focused media campaign that engages your audience. And it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to create this media from a smartphone.
According to a recent PEW research report, two-thirds of Americans have smartphones today. 56% of these smartphone users use their phone to stay informed and aware of what’s going on in their local community. Tracking events in real-time and researching activities constitutes a large percentage of online mobile activity. We mentioned above how big a role mobile searches is for restaurants. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Especially how your menu is displayed on a mobile device.
A great way to gain better access to your customers is to gain access to their inbox. We mentioned compiling an email list earlier. This is because mailing lists are a great way to share both content and information for those who have enjoyed dining at your restaurant in the past. With email lists you can alert your guests about upcoming events, menu changes, or offer them early access to dishes or ticketed events and inform them of promotions. You can set up a scheduled newsletter to go out biweekly or monthly. Or you can use it more sporadically to inform guests of weekend specials they need to try.
You should utilize different means to capture emails from your guests. You could offer surveys that ask for an email, or offer discounts on their next meal if they sign up for a newsletter. You can also prompt visitors to your website to sign up for a mailing list. However you manage to connect with them, email is a great way to reach customers.
Be Active in your Community
Being active in a community is a great way for a restaurant to engage their market and become known. You can work with local farms to source fresh and local produce, meats, and dairy. Or work with charities and local organizations to host fundraisers, donate sales, or serve as a venue for events.
Create engaging events that provide a unique experience for guests. If you have a party room, don’t just wait for guests to book it, but create an event that draws people in. Invite local bloggers and writers to come cover the event to create press buzz.
Restaurant’s have a great opportunity to influence the purchasing choices of their guests. You can rely on servers to up sell, which good servers will do, but you can also hedge your bets by featuring items and using promotional tools in house to market to your customers.
We here at Uncorkd spend most of our days working with restaurants to help improve the way they market in-house. We’ve spent countless hours researching ways menus can improve sales.
Your menu is your restaurant’s in-house billboard. It should be laid out in an intuitive way that is easy to follow and understand. Think of the menu set up like you would the courses in a meal. A menu should guide the guest through the service.
A food or beverage menu should be focused and clean. The last thing people want is to try and decipher a menu that is too busy. If you’re displaying information that isn’t relevant, or using too many words to describe a simple dish, then you are doing your guests and your restaurant a disservice.
One of the best ways to up sell is to suggest food pairings. Many guests are open to suggestions from restaurant staff on what items they should try. Give your guests the inside scoop on what wines pair best with what meals. This allows you to bring attention to wines a guest may not have considered before, and it adds value to the guest’s experience because they seem to be getting an insider tip to ensure their meal is complete.
Another reason for suggestive selling is that it allows you to sell dishes that best represent what your restaurant does well. This aren’t just you’re favorite dishes, but the menu items that capture the style and philosophy of the restaurant. These dishes highlight your brand.
One marketing tool Uncorkd has suggested to many clients is a featured items page. Featuring an item puts the spot light on it, and guests will be drawn to purchase it. There are many reasons to feature an item, both for practical and personal reasons. One of the most common motivations to feature items is to deplete standing inventory for an item that just hasn’t been selling. You can also feature items through nightly or monthly specials, or create separate lists that feature staff member’s picks that will give your menu a personal touch.
An educated staff is one of the best ways to market to your guests. Servers and bartenders are spokespeople for your business. They should be well educated on all products in order to offer guests knowledgeable service. An educated staff benefits everyone involved – guests, staff, and the business. It’s important to take the time to train your staff and make sure they are offering the best service possible.