IF YOU OWN A RESTAURANT IN 2020, AGGRESSIVE DIGITAL MARKETING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS; HERE'S WHY.
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
There are two recent technological developments that, in my opinion, will have a dramatic impact upon the restaurant industry for the foreseeable future --- those being:
the advent of restaurant delivery apps; and
the proliferation of smartphones with 5G technology.
In short, I believe these developments will fundamentally alter the industry because (i) they will dramatically increase the potential size of the market serviced by the restaurant--- from a few thousand to over a million (in some cases); (ii) each restaurant, through these new delivery apps, can now compete for each meal eaten by anyone who lives or works within the “newly-expanded” service radius of the restaurant; and (iii) they will expand the way restaurants deliver their branded message to potential consumers, particularly during so-called "traditional" dining times. The possibilities are almost limitless.
As a result of these developments, the digital marketing strategies of restaurants seeking to compete for this new business should be "more aggressive" --- I think significantly (in some cases)---- in response to these expanded opportunities; and, by digital marketing strategies, I mean the use of some combination of the following: (i) Google search engine optimization of the restaurant website, (ii) a state of the art website with effective ecommerce website design features, and (iii) social media marketing for small businesses specifically with respect to platforms that serve the audience of likely customers of the restaurant.
As set forth above, those restaurants that can and do embrace delivery, can now compete for each meal consumed by any individuals that work or reside within it's service area (i.e. the delivery radius of the GrubHub, Uber Eats servicing the restaurant in question), without requiring them to physically come to the restaurant. Sales will now be a matter of getting potential customers to simply "click" on an icon on their smartphone, and their favorite meal will be delivered to their door. Therefore, those restaurants that are more proficient at digital targeting and micro-advertising (on a local, regional and national level, as applicable) and delivering an effective brand message to potential customers within the "extended service area" at the most opportune times throughout the day (i.e. during the so-called "traditional" dining times), will have a decided advantage, in my opinion, over those that are not.
However, in order to fully capitalize on these “new” opportunities, it is imperative that each restaurant first meet certain minimal criteria to compete in this new digital age. For example, each restaurant should, at minimum, possess the “basic” digital marketing tools to function (i.e. an active website and social media platform). Without these “basic elements”, it is difficult (if not impossible) to fully capitalize on the technological developments identified above. I say this because I recognize that 4 out of 10 restaurants are still without an active, dedicated website; and 2 out of 10 use a social media page as their website, which is a mistake.
I have, therefore, written this article in two parts. In this first part, we will explore the “basic elements” of a sound digital marketing program for a typical restaurant in 2020. In the second part, we will examine, in detail, how the advent of restaurant delivery apps and the proliferation of smartphones with 5G technology will impact the restaurant industry moving into the future, and how a restaurant's digital strategy should be modified to accommodate the opportunities encompassed by these new developments.
First, I will start with the proposition that if you own or manage a restaurant, effective digital marketing is essential to success. And by “effective” digital marketing, I mean that the restaurant in question maintains an active, functional website and some sort of social media platform (i.e. on either Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Twitter, or some combination of these four).
We will examine each “basic element” separately.
1. Maintaining an Effective Restaurant Website
As with most businesses, the website represents the foundation of a restaurant’s digital marketing program. A good website should showcase ---- with elegance---not only the restaurant’s fine cuisine and service, but also the restaurant’s décor and other ancillary features of the establishment (i.e. catering, delivery, live entertainment, etc.). If designed and promoted properly, an effective website can market the restaurant not only to local clientele but also to individuals traveling to the city in which the restaurant is located, as a tourist destination.
Needless to say, the photography of a restaurant website should be "stunning" and "enticing"----preferably done by a professional food photographer. Moreover, the other elements of the site (i.e. the graphics, animation, video, etc.) should compare favorably to other restaurant websites in the area. Remember, the restaurant industry, by its very nature, is very competitive. So don’t skimp or cut corners on the website.
Because competition is usually quite fierce in southern California (which is where my office is located), I strongly urge my restaurant clients to maintain an “attractive” site similar to those examples shown below:
The websites listed above are not perfect by any means. However, they all exemplify the six elements that are widely viewed as essential to a good commercial website, those being:
(ii) Color Scheme;
(v) Content; and
(vi) Mobile Compatibility.
If you own or operate a restaurant presently, you may wish to evaluate your current site against the above sites or the checklist of items set forth above. If you do not currently maintain a site, or if you feel that your present site does not compare favorably to the other restaurants in your city or town, or the sites listed above, please feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or direct message me. We can help you. The sites described above should not cost more than $2500 to $4000 to create, in most cases.
2. Social Media Marketing
Social media is one of the most cost-effective methods of marketing a restaurant--- by far. Social media platforms enable restaurants to connect with their patrons in a way that did not exist 10-15 years ago. Additionally, this can be done inexpensively. In fact, most social media platforms are free, although most offer paid advertisement as a premium service, which will be discussed below.
I have found that the best social media strategies are based upon:
From Social Media or Relevant Influencers;
In a genuine or authentic manner--- (i.e. no shills).
If used properly, social media can provide an inexpensive method of connecting with most (if not) all of a restaurant’s potential clientele, which in light of the new restaurant delivery apps (to be discussed in part two of this series), may now extend to a million or more individuals in certain big cities across the U.S. I believe that social media can now rival television as a "cost-effective" advertising media. Moreover, it is now possible to produce television-ready video commercials to run on social media for a relatively small investment (i.e. $5,000 to $7,500 in most cases).
Restauranteurs who can produce engaging video content to be posted on social media can access even “more advanced” social media tools than those described above. These include:
Social Influencer/Affiliate Marketing;
In addition to paid social media ads, I believe that restaurants should practice “alignment” as part of an effective social media marketing strategy; that is, they should seek to align the interests of the restaurant with those of the patrons.
A good example of “alignment” (for purposes of social media marketing) may be illustrated by the “Celebrate the Best Memories of Our Lives” Campaign. The “Celebrate the Best Memories of Our Lives” campaign is based upon the premise that restaurants are “unique businesses” in that people celebrate most (if not all) of their special events at restaurants. As such, it stands to reason that restaurant patrons will have media (i.e. photos and footage) of these events (i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, first dates, etc.) on their smartphones. If a restaurant owner or manager were to collect some of this footage (as part of an in-store contest or promotion), that footage could be “crafted” into a very effective, authentic video promo for the restaurant. The theme for the campaign, by way of example, could be….
“________________ Restaurant … where great memories are made every day.”
Once the promo is completed and posted to the restaurant social media pages, every restaurant patron whose media or content is used in the promo will immediately be transformed into social media influencer/promoters of your restaurant. One can reasonably expect that all of these patrons to immediately contact all of their friends, family members and co-workers to instruct them to watch the promo. Also, they will liberally share the restaurant promo throughout all of their SM networks, all of which should stimulate steady growth of the subject restaurant--- fueled by the new friends, family members and co-workers who were contacted by the restaurant patrons appearing in the promo. This cycle can be repeated indefinitely. I refer to this phenomenon as “alignment” (i.e. the interests of the restaurant owners/managers are aligned with those of the restaurant patrons for purposes of promotion).
*The “Create Great Memories of Your Life” campaign is a copyright protected intellectual property of E-Copywriters Plus. © 2020. All rights reserved.
3. Restaurant YouTube Channel
Finally, I would recommend any large restaurateur to consider creating a YouTube channel where the manager or chef (i.e. someone from the restaurant with screen charisma) can deliver to the patrons/viewers “lifestyle” tips on cooking the cuisine offered by the subject restaurant ---- nothing that divulges the formula to any restaurant “secret sauce”, but something that will get and keep the audience engaged.
If the restaurant YouTube channel is produced properly, at the very least the restaurant can probably expect to receive a steady stream of new customers. And, at the very most, the restaurant may be able to garner ancillary income from Google (if enough viewers regularly watch the channel). Finally, at the very utmost, the restaurant may receive an offer to produce its show for a cable network or streaming service. Stranger things have happened, I assure you.
This is why I advise all restaurant owners and operators to maintain an association with a video production company to create engaging video content for the restaurant, as needed. If you do not know of any, please feel free to contact us for assistance. We are happy to help.
If you have any questions or comments about any of the matters covered in this article, please send them to email@example.com/.