Next Restaurants | Free Digital Marketing Ideas for Restaurants
Next Restaurants is the only source for innovative restaurant marketing ideas and intros to new restaurant tech tools. Here you will find free updates on next-generation tools, tactics, and trends for digital restaurant marketing.
It’s rare for a restaurant to have no trouble keeping up in such a competitive market. Caring for guests has never been so important, especially for small restaurants that rely mainly on loyal repeat-clients. Every lost customer can be calculated into the restaurant’s losses.
How a guest chooses your restaurant or decides to come back varies, but it’s widely agreed: ease and convenience are important. If a potential diner can’t get in contact with your team to make a reservation, or if your team lost their reservation – this is a loss to you. After 20 or 30 similar cases, the loss can impact the restaurant’s bottom line.
The first big problem this restaurant faced was “no-show clients.” As this was a routine issue, the calculations are simple: If there are 10 no-shows a day, and the average value of each missed table is $20-50, this costs the restaurant $4,800-12,000/ month in lost revenue. That is an extreme amount for a small restaurant! Integrating a reservation system, however, can help restaurants save a part of these losses.
Using an online reservation system, restaurants can send emails and text messages to guests with links to cancel or change a booking. Also, restaurants can send an SMS to guests who did not arrive with a shameful text (use this at your own discretion/risk). Asking for deposits from clients during holidays or events resulted in a further decrease of no-shows in restaurants. Overall, restaurants can decrease their no-shows by about 25% with effective online booking systems, saving approximately $2,500/ month in revenue.
Maximize Your Space During Lunch & Dinner Times
Everyone who manages restaurant reservations knows that most of the clients want to come at 7pm, so the restaurant mostly has 1 or a maximum of 1.5 turns per evening. A small kitchen has a huge load when most of their clients arrive at once and orders begin to flow. While using paper books, you accept most bookings in an advance of one hour, so you form a lot of time gaps – resulting in empty tables. A digital reservation system lets you use time templates and then schedule reservation times to get 2 and 2.5 turns per evening.
Getting rid of time gaps can save about 20 covers per day, meaning about $400-800/day. Finally, kitchen loads are decreased, as guests came at split times thanks to a better scheduling system and also means not needing extra hands on duty.
Restaurant Online Reservation Systems Save Time & Money in Administration
If you’re lucky, your restaurant receives a large amount of phone calls and e-mails with booking requests during the week. It is joyful news — until you realize that you will lose many reservations when the staff is busy answering calls or emails, or when they’re unavailable because the restaurant is closed.
Depending on restaurant booking system being used, restaurants can add an online widget to Facebook, as well as their website, and started to promote online reservations, asking people to book online in every single message. This can free up your staff and push the mundane work of taking reservations and automating it with your booking system.
The greatest benefit is restaurants no longer needs to keep administrators, because the waiting staff is fully responsible for the bookings. Everyone can book. Everyone can check in from any location, even when the business is closed. The restaurant can save one or two salaries for the employees per month with online booking alone.
Filling Your Slow Hours Can Add Extra Revenue
Even if you solve the major problems, one issue remains: your restaurant probably has slow hours between dinner time and the evening. One way around this is to offer discounts and some freebies for guests who came in during these slow hours. It is very easy to set up and schedule if you have a reliable database of restaurant customers part of (or connected to) your online reservation system. For example, you can propose 30% off pizzas as well as free dessert and coffee for later orders to guests who have come during or around your typical slow hours.
Also, the client database provides a visit history, list of cancellation numbers, a calculation of no-show clients, and a name database to help restaurant owners recognize loyal clients. Integrating a small loyalty program with a discount for loyal clients – giving 5% off after five visits, 10% after 10, and 15% after 15 – automatically. Clients do not need to have one more loyalty card in their wallets; this system does it for them.
The “price per client” of an online reservation system, on average, is $0.05. However, decreased no–shows, maximized covers, and filled gaps during slow hours allow restaurants to increase their income by about 27% per year — even if you have only 12 tables. It has never been so easy to optimize your restaurant reservation process and to earn more.
About the Author
Paulius Šuksteris is the founder and CEO at Tablein. He co-owned several small, award-winning restaurants before he launched Tablein. Paulius helps other restaurant owners by sharing his experiences with restaurant management, and by consulting owners with a focus in online reservations, SEO, website development, and marketing.
Digital signage is practically taking over the promotional scene of restaurants, food-joints, and eateries. Gone are the days of brightly painted billboards with giant donuts attached to them and overstuffed menu cards that were too difficult to understand. Digital signboards come with exciting new capabilities that can be used for much more than just displaying menus.
Now, more businesses have started to see the value in this investment and are installing these signs and screens both in and outside their restaurants. Judging from the speed with which these signs are being used, it can be safely said that the hospitality industry is not just classifying digital signage as a trend, but it is treating it as a step forward towards achieving operational efficiency and enhancing customer experience.
As a restaurant owner, you may be already aware of the benefits of installing digital signage. Reduction of operational costs, ease of updating menu without having to print new cards and paint new boards, and environment-friendly marketing are just some of them. However, there are multiple other ways in which these signs can boost your business profits that you may not be aware of.
You can open up a whole new world of possibilities by using digital signage for advertising and sharing information. The federal law also states that restaurants and eateries must display the calorie information of the offered dishes. By providing the same through digital signs, you can grab the attention of the guests with nutritional info about the ingredients used, customer milestones and food preparation videos.
Also, display updates on daily or seasonal specials, offers, deals and discounts on giant screens. This way, you can ensure that the information is getting conveyed. It is a proven fact that videos, music, and images work much better than text when it comes to communicating information and holding people’s interest. Remember the overcrowded local pubs on game nights? You can leverage the digital signage technology to tell your story to the world.
Do not exclude your employees from your digital signage strategy
Run employee interviews, behind the stage preparation videos, videos about the journey of the restaurant, its traditions and heritage, and guest testimonial videos to keep your guests hooked on to the screens. It will also help your new diners to know more about your brand. After business hours, the same displays can be used for training the staff. To celebrate a milestone, you can arrange for movie or game screening for your employees, too.
Integrate digital signage strategy with social media platforms
Today, social media is where the real crowd is. No matter where people are at any given time, they scroll through some social platform or other at least once a day. Restaurants can also allow their guests to access various social networking sites through the digital signage. You can do this by displaying QR codes on large screens that diners can scan to obtain information, deals, discounts and more.
You can show the restaurant’s Facebook page on the screens and encourage people to like it. Tweets and Instagram posts that guests make about the restaurant can be displayed on the screen as well. Also urge your guests to post reviews on specials, regular menu items, décor, and service on review sites and social media.
In the last few years, the digital signage industry has seen ample innovation, and experts say that exciting things still are in store for restaurant signs in the upcoming years. Practices will get more integrated, customer-oriented and comprehensive. Services will be faster, designs will be better, and the overall effect will be smarter and more fruitful. It is important to remember that this technology is built for people and around their experiences. It streamlines workflow, improves communication, increases engagement and helps to form communities. Thus, this technology should not be perceived as a necessary investment only for enhancing customer experiences; it is equally vital for making staff experiences better.
Apps by Starbucks, Domino’s, and Moe’s Southwest Grill each showcase a well-crafted approach to a restaurant loyalty rewards program. Learn more about the three apps’ approaches.
Restaurant chains big and small are increasingly using loyalty rewards app to engage with guests.
These apps often use a process known as gamification to keep guests interested. Gamification is the idea of turning something – such as brand – into a game using elements such as rewards and competition.
Certain apps employ the technique well.
Below, we explore the design of three apps from Starbucks, Domino’s, and Moe’s Southwest Grill. These apps use well-structured communication, simple graphics and a plethora of rewards to engage customers and add an element of fun to their brand experiences.
The Starbucks app ranked first in popularity in a recent survey of food delivery and restaurant loyalty apps. Starbucks’ app is popular for good reason. It communicates its value to the coffee chain’s customers well.
One particularly well-structured element is the points, or “stars,” system the app uses to engage customers. A Starbucks customer using the app can earn “stars” that build toward a reward by paying with the app.
Their progress toward that reward is tracked on the homepage of the app, with a clear progress bar that leaves little doubt how close or far the customer is from their reward.
These rewards feel a bit like a game. A user will be more likely to continue to buy another cappuccino or bagel if it feels like the action is contributing toward a free item in the future.
Starbucks also inserts an element of the unknown into their app with “Double Star Days” and other similar campaigns that pop up at random. For example, on some days, a user may be able to earn twice the normal amount of stars for a purchase.
These randomly scheduled events give the user a sense of urgency and a jolt of dopamine when they are able to successfully redeem their extra points.
Domino’s Makes Waiting Fun
You ordered pizza, but now comes the dreaded waiting period – when will your pizza come? Was that the doorbell you just heard, or something else?
Domino’s, the once-mocked pizza chain, embraced digital technology to become a powerhouse in the online ordering movement. The chain is becoming synonymous with efficient and easy delivery.
The Domino’s app famously features a “pizza tracker” that lets the customer know what stage their much-anticipated pizza is in its delivery journey.
The desktop version of the Domino’s tracker is also customizable, injecting an element of fun into the waiting process.
Despite this, there is no doubt that many users feel a small bit of excitement each time the timer moves to the next stage in its delivery journey. This anticipation is a small element of gamification that Domino’s was able to add to what is typically the worst part of the food delivery process – the waiting period. Thus, most users do not care whether the tracker is accurate or not, as long as their pizza arrives in a timely manner.
Domino’s also recently rolled out a “Hotspots” functionality that allows the chain to deliver to locations without traditional addresses, like parks and beaches. This makes the chain a go-to choice for providing food for outdoor hangouts.
Through its tracker and advanced geotracking, Domino’s has made delivery easy and fun.
Moe’s Dishes Out the Rewards
When it comes down to it, the best way to make a customer happy is to give them free things. Many free things.
Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual Mexican chain found in 40 U.S. states, features an extensive rewards program, complete with multiple levels of earning potential.
These levels ensure that casual fans feel appreciated, while superfans of Moe’s are honored with extensive rewards.
Each “level-up” gives the app user more earning potential – fueling their desire to keep spending money at the chain.
Moe’s also allows its customers to earn rewards points by referring friends to the program. This encourages fans to keep spreading the word about their favorite restaurant.
Simple Elements Keep Users Happy
The apps by Starbucks, Domino’s, and Moe’s Southwest Grill show that simple elements in a loyalty app can keep users highly engaged.
If you are creating a loyalty rewards app for your restaurant, consider ways to make communication, unexciting processes (such as waiting for delivery), and earning rewards easier and more effective.
About the Author: Riley Panko is a Senior Writer at The Manifest, a B2B news and how-to website. She primarily covers trends in the app development industry.
As a restaurant owner, you’ve likely heard this statement before:
“The best marketing is within the four walls.”
In reality, that’s a lie restaurateurs tell themselves when they don’t understand marketing or branding. A bromide to believe that marketing and branding are “for other people.”
Smart restaurateurs know that their brands are their biggest asset. Even though they once thought they were in the restaurant business, eventually – once they started paying attention – they found out they were in the branding business.
When I hear someone brag that they don’t spend time and effort on branding, I think to myself “not yet you don’t.” Spending time and money to define your brand is imperative to carve out a unique place in your segment.
Without it your restaurants will be ill-defined and will quickly lose ground.
The Importance of Branding Your Restaurant
Each dining decision is very much a reflection of whether or not a restaurant is a place “for me”.
It’s why “I would never go there” is something you hear people say all the time about an unfamiliar restaurant.
As industry professionals we have a hard time understanding that. We’ll go everywhere, from the finest, chef-driven restaurant to the weirdest dive, in search of current ideas and stimulation.
But restaurants are not the center of the universe for most people. They don’t do that. They rely on information. Unfortunately, there are a lot of restaurants out there that are ill-defined. Their potential guests have no idea what’s going on within the four walls, or whether it’s a place “for me.”
Branding is a permanent code of what your organization is and what it’s not. It’s a filter for every decision you and your people make about your restaurant. It defines the niche that you occupy within your segment.
I recently spoke in front of the board of directors of the largest state restaurant education foundation in the country. I knew there were marketing people in the audience from Coca-Cola, one of the all-time greatest brands and the fourth most valuable brand in the world according to Interbrand.
So, I asked them, “How do you define Coca-Cola’s brand?”
“Happiness,” “inspiration,” and “family” is what came back. That says a lot. In words you may never have chosen. What’s the equivalent for your restaurant?
How to Create a Branding Guide for Your Restaurant
Despite its importance, very few restaurant operators have a branding guide.
I’m not talking about a style guide that shows the colors of your logo or how it’s utilized. I’m talking about a guide to the essence of your brand.
Any restaurant, from hamburgers and pizza to the finest of fine dining, should have a well-defined brand. Here’s how to create one:
Define What Your Restaurant Is
The best branding guides clearly explain what your restaurant is in as few words as possible. They are reductions in the same way a great sauce is a reduction.
It’s important to know what you are, so you can repeat that and adapt every new decision to conform to your brand. It takes time to do this, but it’s worth it. And the outcome will clearly explain how to proceed when any conceptual question arises.
To help you get started, here are some brand characteristics of some of the different brands I work with.
A Vacation In The Middle Of The Day
Leading The market
Connected To The Community
The Home Team
Body and Soul
Now, Define What It Isn’t
So, why also list what you are not? Because it reminds you of something critical to your success:
And even if you could, you wouldn’t want to. Success in restaurants comes from finding a niche within a segment.
When a restaurateur says to me, “my guest is everyone one from 8 to 78” I immediately sit them down and show them that most of their guests are from a very narrow demographic. That’s who they ought to focus on. The rest are insignificant.
Here are some unattributed definitions of what some of the brands I work with do not stand for:
Not For The Purist
Not Peaceful And Quiet
Not On Trend
Not For Foodies
Not A Steakhouse
Not For The Unadventurous
A Few Final Thoughts
Once you create your branding guide, you’re unlikely to change it any time soon. So, take your time.
Refer to your branding guide when considering who to interview, during hiring and on-boarding, and when educating your employees about representing you.
You are now ready to say goodbye to a few guests in order to excite many guests – people who will come back more often and will tell the world about how great your restaurant is. Because it is “for me”.
You are ready to maximize your revenue, opportunity, and net worth. You are ready to accept that you are in the branding business, not the restaurant business.
About the Author: Matthew Mabel is the founder and president of Surrender, Inc, a hospitality and management advisory firm based in Dallas. He helps successful restaurateurs maximize profit, revenue, unit growth, harmony, and freedom.
Restaurants need good looking websites. It’s no longer excusable to just have your menu on Yelp or AllMenu.com or some similar third-party site. You need to have a website AND it needs to look good. If you built your website over a decade ago, it needs to be redone and updated.
How you design your website and the choices you make for it will impact everything in your business. It can influence what items get ordered more often, get you more customers on a regular basis, increase the number of returning customers, and reinforce your brand. But where do you start? What choices do you need to make to properly design a restaurant website? Here are some pointers to get started with.
Aligning Your Website to Your Branding
Before you start making any kind of design choices, you need to be aware of your current branding, how you want to grow/change it, and how a website will fit into that. Your website is basically a digital version of your restaurant’s dining experience, and it needs to reflect what your customers should experience. If your website looks like it belongs to a five-star fancy restaurant but it really is just a biker dive bar, people are going to be confused. Your branding needs to be the same across all marketing and in-restaurant experience.
If you want to take your restaurant’s branding in a new direction, a website can really help out with that. It’s the perfect time to make changes, and then reinforce that new look online.
The first choice you really have to make is your website’s color pallet. Your website needs to look like it belongs inside of your restaurant. If colors play a big role in your restaurant’s mood or feel, use those colors or similar ones on the website. A brunch place full of yellow, bright colors and natural light shouldn’t have a website with a black background.
Similarly, if your restaurant has a theme or focus, the website needs to reflect that too. Trying to provide an authentic Japanese experience, both with food and atmosphere? Your website needs to capture that vibe. Want to create nostalgia for the ‘80s with your new hamburger joint? Your website, both with colors and content, needs to provide the same.
Taking Good Pictures of Food for the Menu
Understandably, most restaurants don’t provide pictures of their food on their printed menus. For some, it’s a matter of space, for others, it just looks tacky. Images, though, are a key part of webpages, and your online menu needs them.
Ideally, every single unique item on your menu should have its own page and image. That way, if they click on a certain item on your digital menu, it provides them with an image of the food and a detailed description. If people are doing research on your restaurant or specific items, you can provide necessary information. Important information can include: common allergens in the food like peanuts, if it’s vegetarian or vegan friendly, ingredients, calorie count, and how spicy it is.
Now, pictures are going to play a huge part in attracting new guests, so be sure they are well done. Don’t just snap a photo with your smartphone and slap it online. The reason food looks so good in commercials but doesn’t look as appetizing in real life is because they hire professionals to make mock versions of it. You don’t need to go so far as to create plastic versions of your food, but you should consider hiring a professional photographer to help take the photos.
If you don’t want to hire a pro photographer, then at least invest in a nicer camera and learn Photoshop. When photographing your food, make sure you have lots of natural lighting, find a way to stabilize your camera, shoot in RAW, and arrange the food so it looks appetizing. Try and remove unsightly juices from the food, and remember it doesn’t have to be warm for photos. Steam could throw off the look of the food, but if the food develops a greasy appearance when cold, try to find a good middle ground for it.
Then, after you take photos, go into Photoshop and edit them up to look nicer. Edit out unsightly things you notice later, make slight lighting adjustments, and make the photo look more professional. You can do a lot with Photoshop, but life is a lot easier if you just take great photos to start out with. Don’t rely on editing the photos too much or it might end up just looking unnatural.
Easy to Understand
A good restaurant website doesn’t need to be complex. A home page, your menu pages, the “about us” page, contact page, and if you offer it, an online ordering function, is all you need. Don’t fall into the temptation of making your website overly large or complex. A simple website means less chances for visitors to get confused and leave. Navigating between pages should be simple and getting back to the homepage and menu should always be a single click away.
As long as you remember to keep the layout of your website simple, have it reflect your restaurant’s branding, and include high quality photos of your food, your website will definitely work out for you. The next step is making sure you push your marketing, so you can attract people to your website, and subsequently, your restaurant.
However, it’s unrealistic to expect that you and your staff can make every single customer happy. That’s why it’s good to have a plan in place for when something goes wrong.
Oftentimes, guests may leave your restaurant without complaint before they leave a negative review. This can make things even more difficult since your staff won’t have a good idea why that guest had a bad time. However, you can use that negative review to draw our more details and get to the root of the problem.
The most important aspect of handling a negative review is finding it in time. The longer a negative review sits, the worse it looks. Perhaps more importantly, leaving a negative review unanswered greatly diminishes the likelihood of that customer returning.
You should already have a process in place for handling reviews. Make sure that someone is checking the restaurant’s major review profiles regularly so that both positive and negative reviews can be addressed.
Some restaurant managers prefer to use an online reputation management tool. These tools simplify the entire process so that you are only required to sign into a single site. So, instead of logging in and out of dozens or profiles, you’ll be able to access everything from one centralized dashboard.
For a busy restaurant owner or manager, it’s important to create a process that supports online reviews. In this digital age, both soliciting and answering online reviews is key to maintaining your restaurant’s reputation.
Step 2: Ask the Employee
Once you have found a negative review that specifically names an employee, it’s important to get their side of the story.
Take note of the different points that the guest brought up and how severe they are. For example, did the customer say that the service was too slow and thought your server “didn’t care”?
In that case, it’s possible that the restaurant was busy and the guest expected faster service in general. Even so, make sure you talk to the employee to find out if the customer came at a bad time or if something else went on.
Pull your employee aside for an open conversation. Make sure you aren’t accusatory but let them know that the truth is important to improve the restaurant’s services as a whole.
You may notice that the dramatic situation described by a uest in a review wasn’t really that serious from your employee’s perspective. If this is the case, you’ll want to take things a step further and see if other employees noticed the situation.
Step 3: Interview Restaurant Employees Who Saw What Happened
Once you get the story from the employee who was named in the negative review, it’s time to check the restaurant’s employee schedule. Find out who else was working during that event and pull aside the employees who were stationed nearby the employee involved in the review.
Ask them if they remember the situation and to tell you any details they remember.
In their negative review, a customer may have claimed that their server screamed at them. If that employee’s coworkers say the only person who yelled was the customer, then you now have a more honest understanding of the situation.
Step 4: Respond to the Negative Review
Depending on what information your investigation brings up, you will have a few options when it comes to responding.
If you believe that the reviewer is exaggerating the situation, or that they left the review for the wrong restaurant, you can address this – delicately – in your response.
For example, you could say:
“Hi (NAME), we’re very sorry to hear about your experience. After speaking with the employee you named, and other staff, we were unable to verify the entire situation. I would love to speak with you personally to understand what went on and how we can improve our services. Customer experience is very important to us, so please feel free to call me at (NUMBER.)”
If the situation described in the negative review was truthful, you can let the customer know that you have addressed the situation and apologize for the experience. Invite them to contact you personally or to come back into the restaurant.
Before taking that final step, make sure you are following up with coworkers and even security footage to confirm the information prior to letting them go.
Handling a negative review is never easy, especially if an employee was specifically named. With some careful planning and investigation, however, you can make sure that your restaurant is reflected in a good light and that your services continue to improve.
Interested in learning more? Visit the online reputation experts at RepCheckup!
As laws and regulations change, most restaurants are now starting to see and enjoy the benefits of digitizing their menus as compared to using traditional paper boards, including faster and cheaper menu updates. Here are nine ways digital menu boards benefits restaurants and the food service industry.
Save time by maintaining a digital menu
Digital menu boards are flexible and allow restaurant owners to communicate to their target customers as needed in a quick and efficient manner. Furthermore, any changes made using the digital signage software can update the menus in your entire restaurant regardless of where the target audience is or how many you have.
Lower costs & higher profit margins
By investing in digital signage menus and boards, there will be a cost reduction in printing out new menus every time a minor change comes up. With digital signage, more information can be shared without bothering the viewer’s eyes which is often the case with an elaborate menu board. More information shared means more purchases; this will increase your profit margins.
There is always a tendency of employees to ignore or forget to change static menu boards. Digitalized menu boards ensure that all the restaurant locations are up to date and enhance consistency with each other. This is an important factor, especially for restaurants that have a chain of businesses in different locations as diners get to enjoy the same service irrespective of where they choose to go to.
Good customer experience and entertainment
Digital menu boards promote efficiency in the industry. They ensure speed in delivering the right information at the right time and at the right place. Additionally, they help the customer feel as if they were at home. Business videos, food pictures, recipes, and food ingredients are just some of the things that can attract the attention of your guests. The experience and entertainment will make guests come back and will boost brand loyalty.
With digital menu boards, restaurants can market, advertise and also share customized menus and information such as nutritional information about their meals. Restaurant owners can incorporate digital solutions into their marketing strategies to ensure that their guests get tailored information with special features and formats. In addition, information can be scheduled to be released at the right time to target audience and inform them about special offers available and any upcoming events.
Reduce perceived wait time
Restaurant digital signage can be used to distract customers by displaying fun facts, trivia or promotional material. Since digital menu boards are highly configurable, a certain area on the screen can be dedicated to displaying special content that will help keep guests waiting to sit down less frustrated. Using restaurant digital signage to reduce perceived wait times is something that not only prevents customers from abandoning a restaurant’s queue but also encourages them to come back in the future.
For any industry to survive, the community has to be involved in all aspects. The restaurant industry can survive for years with the support from the locals. With digital signage, restaurants are able to give back to the community through displaying of local news on their menu boards or other digital screens in the restaurant. This way, the community is able to see their input and achievements. You turn your location into a central hub for all things going on in your area.
Adaptability to the surrounding
Digital signage is flexible and adaptive since they can be used to display most of the available foods and drinks in your restaurant menu. In addition, they can be used to showcase other information that you would display on the regular boards. To achieve remarkable success with these sign boards, restaurant owners should put the guests’ needs into consideration. They must carry out market assessments for updates and ensure that changes are effectively initiated.
To wrap it up…
A digital menu board is worth a thousand bites. With digital signage, you are able to show realistic expectations of what your restaurant offers in terms of food and drinks, hence having the platform to draw people in and make them order for more. Digital menu boards have fully replaced traditional signs and posters. A digital menu gives you better control over where your customers’ eyes go. They allow you to make smart use of negative space, making your signage easy and fun to look at.
Restaurant owners should stop losing customers and up their digital menu game! Long gone are the days of using the sign-spinner.
Early-bird specials. Happy Hour. All-you-can-eat nachos. Beer & wing combos. There are a lot of staple promotions that get thrown around the restaurant and for good reason. They’re tried & true and diners typically flock to them.
But guests also like novelty and thinking outside the box to design some creative restaurant promotions is a great way to build some buzz, have fun, and add a little extra cash into your coffers.
Xtreme Off Beat Restaurant Promo Xamples
To build fun & off-beat restaurant promotions it helps to see what’s been done by others. Some of these promos are pretty far out there and there’s no need to this xtreme (everything is more extreme if you drop the ‘e’, right?) unless you’re feeling extra inspired. But it’s a good jumping off point to see just creative you can get with your restaurant’s marketing efforts.
“Our registry aims to bring couples together over their shared love of pizza,” Domino’s spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre said in a statement. “We hear often from customers that Domino’s was a part of their big day, from proposals to after-hours meals at their wedding. We wanted to make it easier for people to ask for and receive something that they’ll really use.”
This is really just a fun spin on selling gift cards, but shows that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to find fun ways of marketing it.
2016 had KFC releasing a slew of odd-ball and wonderful promotional items – and they were all fried chicken related. We’re talking about a KFC romance novella starring The Colonel himself to a chicken-centric clothing line to chicken-flavored truffles to boxed fried chicken for Valentine’s Day. They even had chicken-flavored nail varnish and chicken-scented sunscreen.
Seriously. There was no idea too crazy for the fast food chain.
There are two lessons here for operators. The first, brainstorm with your team. Stress the need for it to be weird, fun, silly or nostalgic. Write every idea down. Just like with KFC, there’s no bad ideas. Bizarre is good for this.
Also think thematically. What’s your restaurant’s theme? KFC is all about fried chicken and they ran with that… boy, did they run with it. You may be able to do the same for your restaurant, even if it’s on a more contained level.
This is a great way to turn life’s headaches into life’s pleasures. Paying that parking ticket sure does suck, but getting a free app out of the deal isn’t too bad. It almost feels like a wash.
Operators should look for opportunities like this. Look for ways of turning life’s miseries into joys at your locations. Your guests will love you for it.
Hell Pizza, known for its controversial marketing campaigns, challenged its diners to a little game of Pizza Roulette. The restaurant puts two drops of a 3am reserve chili sauce (which they came is the equivalent to pepper spray used by US police) on one slice of pizza. The catch is the guests don’t know which slice has the super-hot sauce.
Pizza Roulette - our most evil game yet - YouTube
We’ve seen other, less painful variations of this. Some bars have a Spin O Wheel to randomly choose a drink for an indecisive or adventurous drinker. We’ve also seen guests roll dice to pick cocktails off the menu.
So, if you want your restaurant to rank higher than your competitors in search results, you can’t ignore the power of links pointing to your website. The question becomes: how do you get those links?
What is Link Building?
It’s very unlikely that other websites will just start linking to your website just because you exist. While that would be really nice, it isn’t how the world of link building works and even less so for the bar & restaurant industry. You need to go out of your way and put in extra effort in order to get links directed at your website.
The base of link building is promoting your website to other website owners in hopes they see what you have to offer as a useful resource to their audience and provide a hyperlink to your site. Google then sees that link as a form of support and trust for your website, and will increase your rankings on relevant searches.
In order to get those links, you need to reach out to other websites. Even if you have wonderful resources on your website, other websites will probably never see them unless you point them out. You need to contact them and coordinate on the best way to incorporate your resource for their audience. That could mean writing a guest post that links back to your original resource, including a link to your website on a list of other helpful resources, or even copying the original resource and giving credit to your website.
For example, let’s say you have an infographic about the dangers of e. coli and how to prevent it. Very applicable to both the restaurant world and individuals who cook. You reach out to a cooking website and present the infographic.
Write a guest post all about diseases passed through foods, linking to your infographic as a resource during a section about e. Coli.
Have the infographic listed and linked to as part of a page all about different food based diseases and allergies.
Let the website post the infographic as a whole on a page and then link back to yours as the original.
All of these methods would lead to a powerful link to your website, meaning a boost to your rankings and even an increase in your traffic if the website’s audience responds well to the resource.
What Isn’t Link Building
About a decade ago, SEO was a wild west frontier, where SEO “professionals” were finding loopholes in Google’s programming in order to get quick boosts to a website. Linking was one of the ways they could get a website on first page results within days. Since those days, Google has fixed all of those loopholes and quick tricks and if they find you doing them, your website will be penalized.
First off, if anybody offers you a ludicrous amount of links for a small amount of cash, don’t take it. Something like “500 links for $100” is a scam and will end up hurting your website. Typically, these scams work by a person buying up 500 domains/websites that have no purpose and just link to other websites. They have no trust with Google, and getting that many links that quickly is a red flag.
Another thing that isn’t link building is getting your business and website on directories. While these sites typically link to websites, they almost always “nofollow” the link, meaning that while it is a hyperlink, it tells Google not to count it as a link to the website, resulting in no change with Google in rankings. Getting your business on relevant directories is always good, but don’t expect to see your website rank better because of it.
How to Link Build for a Restaurant
Restaurants present a unique challenge in the world of link building. Many don’t have the resources other businesses have in online content, are typically very local focused, and are very limited in what industries they want links from. It’s not very useful for a restaurant to get a link from an accounting website, as they are completely different industries. To help you out, here are some tips and strategies to get started.
Build Linkable Resources
Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean it will be easy to link build with. High quality content is key to running a successful link building campaign. It’s going to be very hard to link build if your content is solely self-promotional. You need unique and truly helpful content that will interest others.
Here are just a few ideas of content you can produce that can later be used for link building.
Cooking tips for both amateurs and the more experienced cooks.
Where and how to get the best ingredients.
Travel guides to the local area for both tourists and locals covering a variety of topics, not just food.
Guest Post for Food Related Websites
Everybody loves food, and many people have made their living writing about food online. Many of these people range from amateur bakers in the kitchen to professional chefs at five star restaurants, but all of them are looking for more content on the website. It’s impossible for them to know all of the tricks of the trade, and your restaurants has a few things to share with the world, in the form of guest posting.
First, find food websites that have a decent following online and have been around for awhile. Then, look through their blog and see what kinds of stuff do they write about. Find topics they haven’t covered very much, but still relates to their overall theme. You wouldn’t want to write about fish fillet techniques to a site dedicated to baking desserts.
Then, pitch a guest post to them about something that you can include a link to your quality content within. If they accept, write a great post for their website and include relevant links to resources, including one to your resource. Hopefully they like it, publish the post and poof! You have a link.
Do you have a special sauce, dish, drink, or salsa that your restaurant is famous for? Cooking websites are always looking for new recipes to share with their readers, so don’t be afraid to share yours. If you are afraid of losing customers because they can make your specialty item themselves, slightly change the recipe so it’s not perfect, but close. Even if you give the exact recipe, it’s likely it will still not taste right because people make mistakes cooking or don’t use as fresh of ingredients as you do. Also, your restaurant offers more than just food – it offers an entire experience that people just can’t get at home.
Anyways, share the recipe and then ask for a link back to your website. This could come in the form of “Recipe courtesy of X Restaurant” linking to your homepage, or even have the recipe on your blog for a direct link to that.
Reviews from Food Critics
In every town and city, there are food critics. People who think their pallet is more refined than others, and share their opinions on their websites. Food critics are always looking for a free meal, so offer them one in exchange for a review. Make sure you cook your best for the critic, as a negative review is never good, and then ask them to include a link to your restaurant as part of the review. If everything goes well, you get a positive review and a link for the cost of a single meal.
Link Building Takes Time and Effort
As with anything in digital marketing and SEO, link building takes time. You can’t expect immediate results from a single link. In order to see true results, you need to be consistently building links for a long time alongside other marketing efforts.
As the weather outside gets warmer and people look for reasons to get outside, food trucks start to warm up their fryers and fill up their gas tanks. While many food trucks stay open through the winter, summer is clearly their time to shine.
Yet, the food truck business is not easy at all. The lifespan of the average food truck business is pretty short, meaning that if you want to make a profit, you need to do it right. Marketing plays a major part in whether a food truck can last for the long run or is gone before summer is done.
Whether this is your first year in the food truck business, you’re looking to expand your restaurant with a food truck, or you’ve survived for several years, here’s some food truck marketing tips to make sure you find success this summer.
Brand Awareness: Get Your Name Out There
If people don’t know your food truck exists, you won’t get any business. So, the first step is getting out in public and attract the attention of the locals. Before you create a following ravenous for your unique take on cuisine, you need to tell the world that you are there. Enter: food truck marketing and brand awareness.
A good plan to start is to go where other food trucks frequent. Many cities have “food trucks at the park” nights where local food trucks surround a park or public location and locals come and feast. Other popular locations for food trucks include local farmers markets, charity events like walkathons, and other major events. Anywhere large groups of people congregate, and you can get your food truck there, plan on being there.
On other days, like the weekdays, try to plan out locations for your food truck where you’ll get extra attention. Contact businesses and business parks to see if their employees would be interested in having your food truck visit during work hours. Make sure they have enough employees interested to make it worth your time.
Having a strong brand for a food truck means being able to connect your name to the type of food you make. If people can’t remember your name, they can’t find you on social media or recommend you to friends. After a few months of operating, measure how effective your branding is. Interview locals to see if they recognize your name, including those who frequent food trucks and those who don’t. If you’re noticing a poor reception, make changes to your food truck branding to better stick out.
Strong Social Media Presence
Social media plays a huge role in getting repeat guests to your food truck and in creating fans to promote your business. You want to stay top of mind and be constantly reminding people you exist. Especially since you don’t have a single location your business stays, you need to always let people know where you are and alert them when you are serving food near them.
First, pick which social media platforms you want to be on. The typical ones include Facebook and Instagram, but if your local customers use something else too, like Snapchat or Twitter, consider getting on those too.
Once you’ve picked what platforms you’ll be on, then you need to give your customers a reason to follow. You’ll get some followers naturally because they love your food truck’s food and want more, but many others need an incentive. This could include giving followers a small discount, provide coupons on social media, or something similar, but the important part is to give a reason to follow your business.
Then, make sure you don’t spam their timelines with ads. That’s a clear route to losing followers and customer goodwill. Follow the 80-20 rule for social media, where only 20% of your posts are self-promotional and the rest is content your followers are interested in.
The hard part is that you also want to use social media as a means to tell people where your food truck is located anytime it’s out. If you make a post every time you park the truck, you’ll annoy anybody who looks at your social media and likely ruin your organic reach on the platform. One solution is to make a post at the beginning of the week detailing where you’ll be and (depending on the platform) pin it to the top of your page.
Work with Local Influencers
Every town and city has their own local social media celebrities and influencers, and working with them can do a lot to boost your brand and get a ton of attention. You gain instant access to their massive following and people will relate your branding to the influencer.
The key to doing this the right way though is to make sure your influencer branding matches or relates to your food truck. If you specialize in make meaty explosion meals, you wouldn’t want to work with a vegan influencer.
Then, work with the influencer to decide the best kind of content for their audience. For an Instagram celebrity, this might be simply a photo of the meal with some praise surrounding it, while a Facebook influencer might do a video review. Give them a lot of creative control on the project because they know what works and what doesn’t.
Making the Dining Experience Unique
You need to find some way to stand out. It’s not enough to just make a crazy food in today’s food truck world; every food truck is cooking something unique and new. You need to catch the eye of the passing customer and draw them in to your food truck.
Going to spend all day in a single location? Set up a dining area that adds to the experience. Put out tables and chairs, hang up some summer lighting for the evening, put on some music, and make it enjoyable. Turn the area around your food truck into a mini-restaurant. Do you specialize in cooking extremely hot food? Make a spicy food challenge or contest with a prize for the winner. Gonna be part of a night time party? Offer karaoke as part of the dining experience.
The key is to do something that looks fun and will draw the eye of those around. Don’t go over the top with the flash though. Keep it centered to your brand.
Being in the food truck business can be a lot of fun, but it’s also very competitive. Not only are you fighting for diners with other food trucks, but every other restaurant around. In order to find success, you have to be passionate, constantly working hard, and creative. Push the boundaries, try new things, and keep up with your marketing.