The restaurant business is a big business. Everyone loves to go out and eat and consumers nowadays are spoilt for choice. In the United States alone, there are over 1 million restaurants in operation. Across the nation and restaurant industry sales are projected to hit USD782.7 billion in 2016.
About 10% of the US workforce is taken up by 14.4 million restaurant industry employees. Not surprising given half of all adults in the country have worked at a restaurant at some point in their lives.
But the restaurant business is also one that has a significant number of failures. With more than 9 out of 10 restaurants having less than 50 employees in the US, it is an industry of small and medium-size enterprises. That means that there are a lot of family-owned restaurants out there, who really can’t afford to have their restaurant business to fail.
These days, things are a little more complicated than having great food and location when it comes to running a successful restaurant business. There are so many factors to consider in terms of marketing. If you fail to keep up with the times, this may have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of your business.
So, what is THE one Secret to having a buzzing restaurant business?
Your diners today does not only read one newspaper, watch one channel on TV and visit one hairdresser. They are exposed to dozens of devices and hundreds of media everyday. Investing in one channel of marketing simply isn’t enough to capture the short attention span your diners have nowadays.
How should I market my restaurant business?
Omni-channel marketing – it is the only way forward. Here are some traditional ways of marketing which could serve as the foundation on which you can build your omni-channel marketing strategy.
1. Use the local media: This may come in the form of placing advertisements in the local paper, offering readers meal deals and coupons to entice potential local clientele into your restaurant. Don’t forget to try to call around to all your local and regional newspapers and magazines to see if they’d be willing to cover your restaurant (but be prepared for negative reviews if you’re inviting a restaurant critics over). If you want media coverage of your location, try to pitch them a unique angle that is interesting, rather than just calling up and asking them to give you what is essentially free advertising.
2. Enlist your loyal customers to help reach out to the local community. Offer your clients gift certificates and discount coupons for introducing new clients to your venue. There is no better advertising than happy customers recommending your restaurant to others.
3. Create lunch specials and distribute flyers. Again, traditional methods do work. Lunch specials are one of the best ways to draw in a crowd. And don’t forget to distribute flyers. It may seem like they don’t work, but it only takes a glance at a great deal to lead a customer to your doorstep.
5. Create a loyalty programme. Practically everyone has one because they work. Having a good loyalty programme may mean the difference between losing your client to your competitor or keeping them coming back, again and again.
6. Offer delivery. It may seem like a lot of investment but there are a large number of food services that take care of the delivery part for you. Don’t miss out on the take-out game and offer delivery, you won’t regret it.
Now for some “new” methods
These include online advertising, social media, emails, and marketing through daily-deal websites such as Groupon. Let’s start from the most simple of these methods and work our way up.
1. Build an email list, be it through your loyalty programme or via texting to a mobile shortcode. No one wants to get a bunch of junk email from a hundred restaurants but people will keep interesting venues and deals. Remember, you’re asking for valuable information from your clients so offer something valuable in return, such as a gift certificate or a discount coupon.
2. Instagram. It will be well worth the investment. You might have notice that this the generation share experiences. They share not what wear, what they eat but also where they dine. By being active on Instagram is as good as being relevant to your customers. Building a good rapport with your Instagram followers will turn them into your walking influencers.
3. Facebook is the mother of all social-media websites. With over 1.7 billion monthly users around the globe, it is the channel to use for social-media advertising. Facebook’s filtering system allows you to streamline your advertising to as wide or as narrow as you want, by various categories such as location, demographics, connections and interests. Offer a wide variety of things on your Facebook landing page, not just a series of advertisements and coupons. If you want your clients to stay connected to you, provide interesting content such as how-to videos and homecooking-friendly recipes for some of your signature dishes. Remember the key is keep it active. But be careful, social media is a two edge sword. Keep an eye on it and don’t let bad social media management hurt you.
4. Be an industry innovator – have a chatbot carry some of the weight! Chatbots are a great tool for businesses to use, especially for customer service. Chatbots are basically robots that talk like human beings that will help answer any questions about your restaurant that your client may have. And they are usually accessible via popular chatting apps such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Snapchat. Chatobook.com launched its restaurant chatbot via Facebook Messenger, which answers questions, handles reservations and provides menu details with photos, all through chat. It saves restauranteurs from adding extra headcount for customer service and clients will love the accessibility and utility of the chatbot.
5. Use daily-deal websites. Many consumers are a big fan of websites such as Groupon. Make sure you put your best deals forward on these websites to attract footfall to your restaurant and to lead them to your own direct-marketing channels in future.
6. Partner with online food ordering sites like Food Panda, Uber Eats. It may seem like a deep cut to your profits to work with food ordering sites, however, what you get in exchange are exposure to hundred of thousands of customers that sites like these have. It is actually dirt cheap to think about how much you are paying to have the number of people that saw your brand or browse through your menu.
The key for all of the above digital methods is consistency, accuracy and regularity. Don’t open an Instagram account and have one photo of your restaurant logo up for five months. It’s better not to have an account than to have an inactive one. And remember to use all the tools that digital media has to offer – trending hashtags, tagging visuals, posting tutorial videos, create polls/contests, etc.
Use all the tricks in the book
To make your marketing campaign a success, you need to ensure that all your bases are covered. That means you should offer specials and updates about your restaurant business through multiple channels, be it via the website, through chat apps or by handing out flyers in the neighbourhood. Make sure that you maintain consistency in your branding and your key message.
Having a digital footprint means you will be opening your restaurant up to public criticism. Be well prepared for negative feedback and deal with it in a timely and controlled fashion. Don’t let your emotions turn criticism into weapons to tank your entire business. Be fair, be prompt and try to offer solutions if there are any, instead of getting on the defensive and attacking critics.
Restaurant business, like any other retail business, need the buzz of people to make them successful. Eating is usually not limited to a certain demographic so businesses have to make sure that they are able to reach a wide spectrum of potential clients.
Unless your business is catering to a very specific segment of the consuming public, the dual-pronged approach of traditional and digital marketing will likely yield the best results. Technology is taking up more and more of marketing budgets, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, as it provides very visible and tangible results at lower costs compared to traditional advertising platforms. But a small business can’t afford to let go the portion of the consumers who are not so digitally-savvy.
Omni-channel marketing is where it is at and if it’s good enough for global leaders such as Burger King and Taco Bell, it may be your best bet.