It’s Tuesday night. There are a couple of regulars at the tables and your staff is restless. You’re know that it doesn’t have to be this way because you’ve seen places where diners pack the place regardless of the day of the week.
Growing that customer base from zero to packed every night can be a long haul.
Restaurant growth, real restaurant growth, requires that you consistently turn those casual diners into regulars as well as continue to bring people through your door.
When it comes right down to it, the best promotion that you can get is through word-of-mouth, whether person-to-person or online.
According to a survey by Brightlocal, 92 percent of customers read online reviews, and 60 percent of customers read reviews of restaurants or cafes before going to them.
Customers are looking to those reviews and making their judgments long before they set foot into your restaurant. In times past, it used to be simply location that would determine whether a customer walked in, but now word-of-mouth promotion dominates.
Many restaurants, however, don’t take full advantage of the opportunities to control the story and their reputation. They are solely dependent on traditional methods of promotion including flyers, postcards, and other means.
While these are, arguably still valid, online promotion could very well be seen as the most cost effective in the long run. Here are seven tips that you can use for promoting your restaurant online and turning it into the Tuesday hangout.
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1. Optimize Your Website
Time was, you used to be able to simply get a relative to slap together a website and everyone would be happy. You’re not only competing with the restaurants in your niche, but you’re competing with the restaurants in your area.
When people visit your website, they want to be able to find your hours, menu and location. You have to make the case up front as to why they should visit you. Miss the point and miss the sale.
2. Get Your Google My Business Profile
By claiming your Google My Business profile, you are making your restaurant more visible. More than 70 percent of people in the world use Google as their search engine, so using your My Business profile will go a long way. When filling out your profile, be as thorough as possible. Your restaurant will start showing up in the special search sections above the fold when it’s done properly.
3. Pay Attention to Your Reviews
Reviews are crucial for restaurant success and everyone has an opinion. The most popular review site, Yelp, started out as a restaurant review site. You should offer the opportunity for people to leave reviews on these sites. Your Google My Business profile will let people leave Google reviews, but you should also get reviews on Yelp and any other restaurant review site you care to list yourself on.
4. Respond to Your Reviews
When you get a review, comment, or feedback from your customers, respond to it. If it’s a negative review, remember that your response to their review will be seen by more than just the reviewer, so choose your words carefully. When you’ve received a positive review, enthusiastically thank them and encourage the poster to share it with their friends. Through this response and engagement, you can develop a community of regulars.
5. Social Media
Once you have your foundation under you by setting up your profiles and following reviews, that's the time to start direct promotion through social media. The best social media site for restaurants is Instagram followed (and owned at the same time) by Facebook, hands down. You can share photos and video and it's much easier to keep a thread of conversation flowing. Stick with that one and keep following the review sites.
6. Try PPC
If all is going well by this point then you've exhausted your free promotional options and it's time to think about buying some PPC ads. It is best to go with an agency that has experience with restaurant promotion.
There are a lot of hidden dangers in PPC that you could fall into if you do it yourself, like spending too much or even getting banned outright, because of violating some Adwords policies. Smart business owners know what people are searching that can directly book tables, but for larger campaigns you'd better get some qualified consultation.
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7. Talk to Food Bloggers
Once you start to get some reputation, invite local food bloggers to try your place out. You could give an interview, or invite them to come in incognito to give an honest review, or whatever you think might get the blogger to write about your business. That will let you leverage their audience for even more buzz.
Try going through this list step-by-step to ensure that your online restaurant promotion strategy is working on all cylinders.