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How should you market your restaurant or catering business?

A marketing campaign hinges on one simply goal, brand awareness. Here are the main marketing strategies you need to be aware of when coming up with a strategy, courtesy of Catering Equipment suppliers Nisbets..

  • Sell Your Story
  • Social Media
  • Reviews
  • Influencers
  • Loyalty Programs

A combination of these is the key to reaching a wide range of potential customers and securing their business.

Unless you’re that community restaurant that can rely solely on word of mouth, it’s certain that you’ll need marketing to maintain and increase your customer base.

Sell yourself

What impression do you want your customers to have of yourself and your business?

Are you a family business who prides itself on serving the local community? Do you value farm-to-fork and promoting a sustainable business? Or do you simply serve the best burger in your region?

It’s not necessarily always about what you serve, it’s also about the people behind the business.

Upload an “Our Story” section on your website letting people know who you are, your mission statement and what you can offer your customer. Your front of house can also be themed around what your brand represents, such as hanging pictures of the farms you source your food from. Another avenue to explore is social media.

The importance of Social Media Marketing

Facebook for restaurants

Facebook is the most diverse form of Social Media and one that excels in its engagement with customers.

Showcase your brand. This is the most diverse channel and is great for interaction with customers, posting images and videos (food, décor, staff etc) and sharing the important details like your menu and address. Users may want to book a table, read customer reviews or find out what your opening hours are.

Replying to reviews graciously is very important as it’s such a public forum, it’s your chance to show off your great customer service. Also be sure to answer questions, no matter how repetitive the questions may be. Taking the time to reply will establish rapport and encourage people to book.

Instagram for restaurants

Posting images and videos of your food being sourced and produced can play as big of a part as any in building customer trust.

Show off the different aspects your business from delivery to cooking or cleaning. Let people see the work that goes on behind the scenes to make your business a success, it’ll convince prospective patrons that you’re worth checking out because it shows authenticity.

Twitter for restaurants

Again, the more shareable content posted on Twitter the better from a brand awareness perspective. Use hashtags to create an instantly recognisable phrase people can associate with you, or to gain exposure for anyone searching for a common phrase like #pizza.

Snapchat for restaurants

Mainly used by a younger demographic who want quick content that catches the eye. Think flambe or a 10 second video unveiling your Christmas decorations as you prepare for the festive season.

They might not be looking for a three course meal, just somewhere to meet friends and have a cheap evening, but they’re the next generation of diners – it’ll be beneficial to get them exposed to your brand today.

Benefits of Social Media for restaurants

  • Free marketing
  • Interact with customers
  • Humanises your brand
  • Get customer feedback

We’re living in the age where digital marketing can make or break your business. While traditional offline methods are still viable, the internet has simply become too big to ignore.

Using social media to market your restaurant is the first key step to take, but how should you approach it? And what do people want from your social channels?

This can be a little tricky to work out because each social media platform is different – both in the demographic of users as well as how people interact with the channel.

The first thing to remember is to humanise yourself. Let people see a business made up of real people who live and work in the local area.

You can even get ideas across your channels by asking people what they want to see. Themed nights? Certain dishes on the menu? A live band?

Ultimately, social media is about giving your brand a face and creating hype. Let followers know who you are, what you’re about and what you can offer them.

MIDWEEK ATTRACTION

People enjoy an evening out in the week, but they traditionally don’t spend as much as they do on the weekend. They also usually have work the next morning so don’t want to drink too much, therefore it’s probably not the best time to be promoting jagerbombs! (Unless it’s student night, more on that later.)

You can entice midweek diners and drinkers in with a snappier menu and great deals. For pubs, a two meals for £10 deal will go down well. Clearly, this won’t be a top end dish – but for your standard pub food like burger and chips, this will prove popular.

Pubs, bars and restaurants can also benefit from live music. Pubs and bars can go the open mic night route, and restaurants can consider a live band playing live music in the background. This will transform the atmosphere and appeal to those who want something a little different with their meal and drinks.

Pub quizzes will always draw in customers. Offer a free tab to the winner and a bottle of wine to the runner-up. Everyone loves to pit their wits against other people – we all become very confident after a drink and relish the competition. Wait half an hour after the quiz ends to give the answers, ensuring everyone has time to get that final round in.

Dedicate one night for students. Whatever your business is – you can attract footfall by offering students a discount. Whether it’s 2 for 1 drinks or deals on food, your quietest night of the week can be transformed. Students live for going out and while they don’t have the most disposable income, a lot of their budget is for nights out. Offering them deals will ensure they spend their money with you.

MARKETING YOUR WEBSITE

Despite the rise of social media, it’s still beneficial to have your own external website. With the right SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) knowledge, it’s easier getting websites to rank higher in search engines than it is social media pages. Be sure to include your location and list yourself on Google Maps to drive traffic to your site.

Another benefit of having your own website is you control everything the user sees – such as the design or customer reviews. You also don’t rely on a customer having to be active on social media to find you and make a booking.

USING REVIEW WEBSITES

Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor allow people to get independent and authentic reviews of your business. You have two options: bury your head in the sand or take ownership of the discussion.

Treat your pages on review sites (which can be created by anyone) as though they are part of your social media campaigns. Make them a one-stop shop for your brand: Your location, your menu, a book-now feature, plus images of your food and front of house

Most importantly: Respond to reviews!

Everyone will receive bad reviews at some point, what matters is how you handle it. Is it unreasonable? If it is, explain why. Does the customer have a point? Apologise, accept the criticism and offer to make it right to the customer.

This will offer multiple benefits. Firstly, the person who complained will be happy and more likely to visit again. Secondly, you’ll show readers that:

  • Your business is run by genuine people who are just trying to do a good job
  • You care about your customers and are receptive to feedback
  • You’re less likely to make this mistake again

How you react to negative reviews can be the difference between people steering clear or giving you a try anyway. As well as this, negative reviewers feel they’re venting to a faceless entity – there are numerous examples where reviewers have retroactively improved their review and star rating after getting a reply.

PROMOTE WITH CHALKBOARDS

Don’t forget the basics.

A simple chalkboard outside your business, as well as prominently-placed boards around your premises will showcase what you have to offer.

For pavement chalkboards, either a deal or advertising your events (such as a quiz or themed night) will help draw people in. For deals, advertise something that will appeal to the broadest of consumers.

The majority of your crowd probably won’t be interested in your niche cask ale, but 2-for-1 cocktails or a free shot with every drink should do the trick. Your wall mounted chalkboards can push high margin drink deals such as two jagerbombs for £5, which are especially attractive to those waiting at the bar.

For restaurants, use them to advertise your upcoming live bands or promote your eco-friendly approach to business. In the age where consumers place great stock in the environmental commitments of who they buy from, this can help win over customers and encourage them to spread the word.

LOYALTY PROGRAMS FOR RESTAURANTS

Loyalty programs are all about encouraging and rewarding repeat visits.

Customers who like your brand will be more likely to visit if they can get something for it. It’ll encourage them to come in a little more often if you dangle a carrot in front of them – such as a free meal on their 10th visit (within a certain time frame).

You can do this with a membership card or through an app. Customers who express an interest in signing up to receive offers are handing over their data and giving you consent to contact them with SMS text message and email marketing campaigns. Be careful with customer data though, privacy is becoming a controversial topic with the Facebook data mining scandal and GDPR laws are becoming much more stringent. Ensure you comply with regulation, using and protecting data correctly.

With most of the country being paid in the last few days of the month, that makes it a great time to contact existing customers and let them know what’s on. Payday gives people a boost and makes them feel sociable, so give them a gentle nudge in your direction!

TIP: It doesn’t always have to be an offer or discount to entice customers in. Use these programs to promote new additions to the menu, send customers a reminder about Valentine’s or spreading awareness of your Christmas period opening hours.

USING SOCIAL INFLUENCERS

Invite bloggers and reviewers to a launch party. Or if you’ve been open for a while, revamp the décor and throw a relaunch

Invite people who will create buzz online or in print. The more they talk about you, the more people will want to check you out. Increasing your visibility is vital – so do whatever it takes to get these social influencers through the door.

“A launch party is a must for a new outlet. To kick the marketing off, use social media to win followers and fans. Listen to customer feedback and be quick to change direction if necessary.” – Alison Davey, Real Eyes Marketing

LOCAL MEDIA

You have the traditional method of paying to take out an advert in your local newspaper, but there may be a cheaper way. Hard-pressed regional journalists are always looking for a quick, easy story – so give them one.

Find a reason to put on an event. From a launch party to a charity evening, anything relevant to the local area will be jumped upon by reporters who are looking to fill space. Free advertising!

Building a relationship with your local paper will give you further opportunities down the line for promotion. For example, you may offer a prize to be included in one of the paper’s competitions – such as a free meal or drinks for two. This gets your name in the paper, brings in new customers (albeit for free, but they might come back if they like it) and builds up credit with the journalists.

People will be quick to discard them so the brand and offer must be simple and eye-catching. A great offer can drive people through the door – then it’s on you to make sure they stick around and come back next time.

CONCLUSION

There are endless ways to market your business – both digitally and via traditional methods. The ultimate goal is to get customers through the door – so find out what your customers are looking for, use all the available channels to reach them and show them why they need to visit your business.

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