Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How to Win at Restaurant Marketing

Marketing is hard.

Restaurant owners don’t go into business because they want to be restaurant owners -- not accountants, not marketers. They want to be in the business of food.

At Virtual Compass, we get that.  We have even gone through our own struggle with getting our name out because we’re so new. What we do is rely on our “why” to help us through. Our why is that we really believe we have a solution that is both affordable and effective.  We have put in the time to build up a marketing team that will create these (awesome) blog posts, post to twitter, allowing developers to do what they do best.  We think that having the right team with the right strategy makes every obstacle surmountable.

Our marketing team spends time analyzing what our clients care about, and they care about THEIR clients.  Well, in the restaurant business, those clients better be repeat customers. You want the same people coming through the front doors as often as possible.  Not only does a loyal following mean you’re doing well for one patron, but it likely means they’re telling their friends about your place as well.  And if you haven’t heard already, word of mouth marketing is the way to go.

Each recommendation you are getting from one person to another is marketing that will carry more weight that any TV advert would.

The two audiences you need to focus on the most are your repeat customers -- those who are already loyal to you, and your new ones.  This post is going to break down the differences between the needs of the two groups and tell you how to market your restaurant.

Work for the newbies
You want more people in the door, but you don’t know what steps to take to get them there. This is going to be the biggest obstacle you face, as reaching these people who have not heard from a personal connection that your place is THE place is tough.

Fear not, social media is here.

Social media offers a way to produce content that is both text and visual in nature.  If you need a reminder as to why visual components are so important in marketing, I’ll direct you to our “Going Virtual Means Going Visual blog post.
The main sites you will be using are: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Pinterest is also a current favorite.  Just because Facebook is the largest site out of the above does not mean it has to be your primary channel. Each restaurant has to find their footing by focusing on their audience.  For example, if you have a restaurant space that is full of cute corners, seasonal decorations, and wall memorabilia, consider Instagram yours.  Since Instagram is so dependent on visuals, you should be posting pictures that anyone would find nice, even if they aren’t familiar with your websites. This picture below is doing it right. The lighting is bright enough that it does not appear greasy or distorted, yet not so bright that it washes the colors away.  Food photography is tricky.

Next step is the caption. Use hashtags! Describe your place, the food, any specials going on, you name it. For example: #Flan special tonight only! #BOGO One for you, one for that special someone. Don’t miss out -- head to #downtownCLE tonight!

These hashtags will allow any Instagram user from across the globe to find your content when searching that particular term. The same hashtag concept can be applied to Twitter.

Although Twitter centers around text “tweets” with a 140 character limit, most Twitter engagements (i.e. clicks, retweets) come from tweets with visual content. So the same post you use for Instagram can be sent out on Twitter, meaning you can reach more people with the same media effort.

All these accounts have ways you can pay to promote your account using Geo-tagging, which means centering on only the regional area you care about.

In addition to these classic social media streams, don’t forget about paying attention to travel lists. Position yourself with a unique food and atmosphere offering that will get you on TripAdvisor lists and things of the like.

Work for the repeats

If you handle your first time customer’s experiences well, the hard part is over but there is still work to be done.

How you make people feel in your restaurant will be a main factor of their return. Staff should be courteous and kind.  People are more likely to recall a bad interaction than a good one, and you definitely don’t want your word of mouth marketing to be working against you.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the details.  Is the decor of your restaurant current...or does it need a refreshing? Paying attention to the design of your restaurant will pay dividends. If you could list 5 most important aspects of a restaurant, they would be:
  1. The food
  2. The atmosphere
  3. The atmosphere
  4. The atmosphere
  5. Available parking

People who who are more relaxed in your space are more likely to enjoy themselves, their company, and your food.  And if you put in that work, growth will come naturally (thus why you need ample parking!)

Concentrate on those 5 needs and you’ll be sure to be on a first-name basis with patrons soon.

Guard your triangle

Create your content, add a visual aspect, make it interactive in order to engage, and convert first timers into repeaters!

We call this the marketing triangle.  Your base of content needs to be secure. What do you want people to think of when they think of you? Take time getting to know the personality of your restaurant.

Then, you can move on to the middle area of the triangle -- adding visuals. The more pictures you post, the more people are to pay attention. But how do you get them to come in?

You add on the hat to the triangle -- interaction.  Reach out directly on Twitter to food bloggers in the area and offer them samples, post virtual tours of your space so people can both see the atmosphere and see what kind of area you offer for parties and celebrations, host happy hours promoted on Instagram. No matter what path you take, commit to it and engage!

I promise it’ll get the people talkin’.

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