The 10 Commandments of Small Restaurant Marketing

More often than not, the marketing your small independent restaurant is the job of you, the small independent restaurant owner. You don’t have access to the limitless funds of a multi-national chain to hire the sharpest advertising experts. You need to work out an efficient, productive and cost-effective way to market to your potential clientele.

Like some sort of restaurant Moses coming down the hill with a couple of chiseled stone tablets, this article is here to guide you through those murky small restaurant marketing waters. You want 10 commandments? I’ll give you 10 commandments.

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1. Thou shalt market to your current client base

The greatest way to increase your bottom line is to market to those who already choose your establishment over others. These people are already sold on your products and service, now it’s up to you to get them through your doors as often as possible. It is imperative that you get some contact information from these customers, so that you can market to them.

2. Thou shalt promote giveaways over minor discounts

What do you think is more effective; a 100 percent discount given once, or a 10 percent discount given 10 times over? While both strategies will cost your restaurant the same amount, I’ll tell you which your customers will remember – that meal, drink or dessert that they scored absolutely free.

3. Thou shalt market from a customer’s perspective

When creating marketing material, it’s vital that you write with a customer’s perspective in mind. The changes in wording may be very subtle, but can ultimately be very effective. As an example, instead of saying “buy one, get one free”, use “get one free with every purchase.”

4. Thou shalt be the hometown hero

Small local restaurants have an inherent advantage over larger chains, in that they’re relatable. They can take an active interest in local affairs, without coming across insincere or obligated. Use this advantage, and support local causes, donate food to a local event or sponsor a sports team.

Pure, unadulterated goodwill can do more for your reputation than almost any other marketing effort.

5. Thou shalt be active on social media

Another way to connect with your current customer base and be active within your community is to create and maintain a strong social media presence. This will allow your customers to give you fantastically direct feedback, and will keep your name in front of people’s faces.

6. Thou shalt combine marketing with interior design

Over and above billboards, internet banners and radio ads, the four walls of your restaurant are your most useful marketing space. Think carefully about your interior design, ensuring that you allocate plenty of areas for things like specials boards, event posters and happy hour signs.

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7. Thou shalt be on the lookout for marketing inspiration

Every marketing strategy you’ll ever think up has likely already been done. Rather than this being a bad thing, it’s actually great news. There are a wealth of restaurant marketing ideas out there, all ripe to be picked and moulded to suit your situation. Don’t be shy about borrowing inspiration.

8. Thou shalt be unique

In such a competitive market as the restaurant biz, a little bit of X-factor goes a long, long way. Rather than ‘just another restaurant’, you want to be “THAT restaurant.” Whether it be a weekly event, a trademark dish, a kooky feature or a stunning special, having a unique identifier will help you stand out from the crowd.

9. Thou shalt act as a person, not a company

Once again, small independent restaurants have a huge edge on larger chains, in that they can bring a personal touch to the dining experience. Be sure to mingle among the tables every now and again, and get to know those that frequent your business. If a problem arises, sort it out in a pragmatic, personal way, rather than referring to an inflexible policy.

10. Thou shalt analyze

Any marketing campaign that you do end up running needs to be closely monitored. Data is king – it will allow you to dissect what worked and what didn’t, and will help you improve your marketing in the future.

Restaurant marketing Moses has spoken. It’s now up to you to put these commandments into action, and part the choppy marketing seas.

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The Top Social Media Analytics You Need to be Measuring

Whether you’re just dipping a toe into the social media marketing game, or you’ve jumped in head first, you’ll know how vital analytics are. Analytics are the tools we use to make sure that our marketing efforts are making the mark that we want them to.

Learning how to interpret this data can seem daunting, but just remember: you don’t have to measure everything. Understanding the top social media analytics and what they mean for your business is the most important thing.

Just a few key metrics can give you valuable insight into your social media posts’ performances and inform your future efforts in your social media marketing. You don’t need to spend hours learning the ins and outs of every metric. To help you on your way in the world of social media analytics, we’ve got the most important ones for each social media platform for you to become familiar with.

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FACEBOOK

Reach

Reach is exactly what it sounds like – how many people your Facebook posts reach. Facebook’s analytic program breaks it down for you into Fan Reach and Organic Reach.

Fan Reach measures the how many fans of your page have seen your post. If your Fan Reach is low it could be an indication that people who originally liked your page have since unfollowed you, indicating that you may need to reconsider what or how you post, and how you generate fans.

Organic Reach shows you how many people, fans or otherwise, who’ve seen a given post. If your Fan Reach and Organic Reach are more or less equal, it indicates that your Facebook posts aren’t being viewed by anyone who isn’t a fan, and therefore you should look to promote your Facebook page on other mediums, therefore driving more non-fans to your Facebook page.

Engaged Users

This is the other very important metric for understanding how well your Facebook posts are doing. The more people interact with your post the wider audience your post and your brand gets.

Use the Engaged Users as an indication of what content people were interested in and use this to inform your future content creation.

LINKEDIN

Page Reach and Engagement Rate

These metrics are the same for LinkedIn as the Facebook ones discussed above, and should be focused on just like with Facebook. The more popular posts – the ones which reach the most people and drive most engagement – should be the ones you choose to be sponsored posts (posts you pay to be displayed on more feeds).

Follower Demographics

This metric allows you to understand who’s following your page. What industry they work in, what level they are, where they are… This is very important to understanding if you’re reaching your target audience or whether you need to change your approach.

PINTEREST

Pins Created From Your Website Content

This metric is exactly as it sounds, and it’s the best indication of how visually appealing and “pinnable” your website images are. If this number is low, you should try adding more images or updating current images. Aim for images which speak for your brand and will encourage people to pin and re-pin.

Visits to Your Website

Once again, this is a very important and self-explanatory metric. This is an indication of whether your activity on Pinterest is driving traffic to your site. When you’re testing new types of posts, keep an eye on this number and see which content ends up driving more people to your website.

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TWITTER

Best Tweets

This metric is found by clicking Recent Tweets and changing the filter from “all” to “best.” This will show your 15 best performing tweets. They’re the ones which drove the most engagement. This metric will show you what resonated with your followers most. Your future tweets should reflect this.

Best Time of Day

There’s no actual analytic tool to find out this information, but you can easily work it out by looking at the time stamps on your best tweets and correlating that with the peaks in your Timeline Review.

Gauging the time of day which is most effective for reaching people and engaging them with your tweets can really up your Twitter game. With this info you can schedule tweets to be posted when they’ll make most impact.

How to Create Your Restaurant’s Social Media Marketing Plan

Restaurants and social media are a match made in heaven. Restaurants provide their clientele with an experience; one that is often documented on the customer’s own social media wall. Why wouldn’t your restaurant be keen to get in on the action?

Unfortunately, thoughtlessly setting up a Facebook page for your restaurant does not make for an effective online presence. You want to carefully plan your restaurant’s social media strategy, to ensure that your online presence comes across in the exact way that you’d hoped. With all of the flexibility that comes with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Yelp, a strong plan needs to be formed in order to capitalize on the (almost unlimited) potential of social media.

So how do you go about creating a social media marketing plan? It’s easiest to break the process down into four parts; the audience, the content, the voice and the competition. Each of these areas covers a unique aspect of the social media experience, and when they are worked in tandem, you’ll have all the ingredients you need for social success.

Let’s get to it!

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Find Your Audience

The very first step on the road to social media domination is to understand exactly who your core audience is. This will obviously be reflective of the sort of restaurant you own – are you a family diner, a hip café, a snack bar in an industrial area, or something a little more Michelin star rated?

You’ll soon get an idea of your audience by analyzing your current clientele. Focus on things like their age, their apparent profession, and the times that appear to be the busiest (whether that be a time of the day, or a peak period of the year). It’s important to get a good profile of your audience, as the result will govern almost all of the decision making from this point forward.

Think About Your Content

Once you can close your eyes and create an image of your standard customer in your mind’s eye, it’s time to work on your social media message; the content that you’ll be delivering to your audience from this point forward.

For the snack bar in an industrial area, for example, focusing your content around lunch (meals of the day, specials etc.) will ensure that your audience is engaged. If you’re a pub that enjoys a healthy Friday afternoon crowd, a drink special that has patrons hanging around for dinner may be worth thinking about.

Be sure to deliver a variety of content in a variety of ways. There’s no point in just putting up the specials every day at midday. Keep your audience excited to follow you. Post videos and photos, and showcase a little behind-the-scenes action.

Develop Your Voice

Just as important as the content is the voice in which it is delivered. If your audience is what you’d find in a hip inner-city café, for example, referencing (carefully chosen) pop culture or using local slang may be appropriate. For the establishment aiming for that Michelin star, flick through the thesaurus and replace “fancy” with “opulent”, “fresh” with “salubrious”, and “yum” with “succulent and flavorsome.” You’ve got free reign to double your normal word count.

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Analyse Your Competition

There are no secrets on social media. You can check out exactly what your nearest competition is doing, and analyse if their strategies are working. Doing such homework allows you to learn from others’ mistakes, giving your restaurant’s social media presence the greatest chance at success.

While copying every aspect of a competitor’s social media strategy is never a good idea, borrowing, customizing and improving upon their ideas is an excellent way to go about it. If you follow your competitors’ accounts there may even be a chance to join forces in the future, collaborating on a social project.

Once you feel as though you’ve got your head around each of these aspects, it’ll be time to jump online and put them into practice. While there will certainly be lessons that can only be learned on the fly, giving yourself a good strategic foundation will put your restaurant in the best possible social media stead.

The 5 Most Important Types of Content Metrics

Even if you’re just beginning to dip your toe into the world of content marketing, you will have already discovered the importance of understanding and acting on analytics metrics. Unfortunately to newcomers to the content marketing game, this can be very daunting. Even if you understand what a metric measures, how do you apply that information practically to your content marketing campaign? We hear you!

Don’t stress, with a bit of reading and a bit of practice, you’ll soon be fluent in content marketing analytics and be streamlining your campaigns in no time. Here are the five critical types of metrics you need to be familiar with, and how you can apply them.

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Consumption Metrics

Consumption metrics are exactly what they sounds like – they tell you how people are consuming your content. Regardless of what analytics program you use, there are some really basic metrics which will tell you how you’re doing…

For your website or your blog, the ones to watch are page views (number of visitors to your site), unique views (number of individual visitors), bounce rate (how many people click the back button) and average time on site. These will tell you how many people are reaching your site and how long they’re spending on it, therefore indicating how useful/interesting they find it.

On social media you measure increased consumption of your content by reading the click-through metrics – the more people that are clicking through on your links, the more people are reading your content. With email content, consumption is measured with the number of subscribers and open rate.

Retention Metrics

Retention metrics are useful for understanding how you are staying relevant and top-of-mind to current and future consumers.

For your website this is measured by pages per visit and returning visitors. This shows that people are coming back to your site and are spending more time on it and reading more than one page. On social media this measures your number of followers, and for email it measures subscribers and opt-outs.

Sharing Metrics

Across your website and your social media channels you want to measure how many times your content is shared, liked, and commented on. The sharing aspect of content marketing is one of its most powerful features as this is how you grow your audience and reach more potential customers. You want to make sure that your content is encouraging sharing.

Engagement Metrics

Similar to sharing, engagement is another aspect of content marketing which we really aim to maximize. You want consumers to get involved with your content. Once again this is measured with likes and comments, and for your website it is measured by session duration and page depth.

You want your viewers to be spending longer on your site and reading more pages, so by keeping an eye on these metrics you can determine whether your content is engaging enough.

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Sales Metrics

This is the most vital and the most complicated. People will tell you that you need to measure Return on Investment, and they’re right: you need to be able to measure the impact of your content marketing campaign to justify its existence. But how do you do that?

With Google Analytics you simply need to use their Ecommerce tracking. This will show you the revenue generated and through which channel. Then you need to work out how much money you’re spending on each of those channels. If it’s through your blog, calculate how much time it took to write and get a “cost over time” figure, then you can work out how much actual money you made out of that blog.

Also in Google Analytics, you can assign a dollar value to each “goal”, which can be anything from email subscribers to form submissions or increased page depth. Determine how much money each of these “goals” is worth and then Google Analytics will tell you how much you’ve earned from them.

If you’re advertising Pay-Per-Click your analytics will tell you how many clicks you’ve got, how much you paid for them, how many conversions you got from them, and therefore how much you’re paying per conversion.

Once you’re familiar with these basic types of consumption metrics, and the most important features within them, you’ll be on your way to running the smoothest and most successful content marketing campaign you can imagine – and one that you can boast about in the boardroom!

What Can We Learn from Well-Loved Restaurants on Social Media?

Food, glorious food. Oliver Twist knew what he was missing out on. It’s the main joy in many a person’s life, and the availability, variety and quality of food has never been better. While that is great news for the eating public, it does create a lot of competition in the 700 billion dollar restaurant industry.

While most of us grew up thinking that food was there to be eaten, in recent years it’s become apparent that food is quite obviously there to be photographed and shown to your friends and acquaintances on the internet. This torrent of food-based material has resulted in the food sector becoming one of the most successful industries on social media in the world. And a few big players are leading the charge.

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While fast food giants such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and Subway are always going to have the largest audiences (for those playing at home, they each have 50+ million followers apiece across their social platforms), what does “well-loved” actually mean? For the purpose of this article, the term “well-loved” doesn’t simply mean an account with a lot of followers, but rather an account with a lot of engaged followers.

By looking at engagement numbers, you can get a sense of the restaurants who focus on quality over quantity when it comes to their social media interactions. And these are the accounts that anyone in the restaurant business, be they a fast food chain, a family restaurant, or a neighbourhood snack bar, can learn a lot from.

Looking at Sprinklr’s analysis of a few of the largest social media players in the retail food market, it quickly becomes obvious that size doesn’t equal engagement. McDonald’s, for example, has a whopping 83+ million followers across social media. But at last check, just two percent of them were actively engaging with the brand. The same can be said for most large chains, with an average engagement rate for the industry of just three percent. There are, however, some notable exceptions.

With over 15 million followers, US chain Applebee’s has a stunning engagement rate of almost 10 percent; over three times the industry average. Another US chain, Wingstop, currently sits slightly under 1 million followers, but has an almost unheard of 30 percent engagement ratio; 10 times the industry average. What are these well-loved restaurants doing differently to everyone else?

The answer is one that spells good news for small restaurant operators. The more successful social players in the restaurant industry all have one thing in common – they do their best to come across as “local” and “connected” as possible.

Applebee’s have made an art form of replying to as many customer comments and queries as possible, often with local slang or with a reference to a particular store. It makes the audience feel as though they’re speaking to a person just a few blocks over, rather than a faceless social media intern at head office. This encourages engagement, as the audience feel as though they’re getting genuine, honest answers.

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Wingstop’s strategy is slightly different. Rather than appearing local, they are simply small enough (‘small’ being 900 stores. It’s America. Everything’s big) to carve out a very specific customer niche; one that they’ve spent a lot of time analysing and understanding. The standard Wingstop customer, it appears, is a sports-mad, America lovin’ dude, and the voice and content that they use on their social accounts reflects that beautifully. The result? One in three of their followers actively engages with the brand.

So what does this mean for you, the somewhat smaller-time restaurateur? The lessons from these well-loved restaurants are there for all to see. If you’re a local, family restaurant, be sure to play that card. Mention local events. Use local personalities to drive interest in your business. Start conversations about local issues, tying in your restaurant all the while.

And if you’re a restaurant that has a very specific feel, ensure that your social media activity reflects your customer base. Post content that your clientele will find interesting, and use a voice that they’ll find engaging. Reference their likes, avoid their dislikes, and create social media promotions that speak directly to them.

Your food, no doubt, is delicious. It’s now up to you to capitalise on social media, and get a slice of that 700 billion dollar pie.

How to Get Positive Reviews on Social Media

For bars, cafes and restaurants, online reviews are hugely important to business success. Potential customers will look to reviews to decide whether or not to visit a particular establishment.

Reviews are User Generated Content – they’re far more powerful in fostering social proof than promotional content directly from the company. On social media people trust consumer reviews more than content created by brands.

So, for bars and eateries, a large bank of glowing reviews is one of the best ways to ensure a steady stream of customers through your doors. But how do you get happy customers to shout your praises from the rooftops?

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Offer an incentive

This is the easiest and most obvious way for restaurants and bars to encourage people to leave positive reviews on social media.

“Leave a review for 10 percent off your next bill!” or “Go in the draw to win a 3 course meal for 2 by simply reviewing us on Facebook!” are tried and true methods of upping the number of reviews on your pages.

Let people know how to leave a review

The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely people are to leave one. Slip a business card in with the cheque which lets patrons know where they can go to leave a review, or which asks politely for a nice review on FourSquare, Facebook, TripAdvisor, or whatever your platform of preference is.

Include links to review pages in your emails to your emailing list. Add a gentle reminder that if they enjoyed their experience with you then it wold mean a lot if they left a review for you.

Use the ‘Tip Incentive’

The “tip incentive” works well for bars and eateries where a server has spent a lot of time with the customers. The server asks their customers to leave a review and explains that if they mention his/her name in the review the company will give them an extra tip.

This humanizes the good deed of leaving a review. If the customers had a good experience and liked the server, they’re more likely to leave the review because they know they’re doing a nice thing for that individual, rather than for the faceless company. For the customer it’s like leaving an extra, free tip!

Share other reviews on social media

Whether it’s screenshotting a TripAdvisor review, retweeting a nice message, or sharing a link to a great mention on a blog or newspaper, showing people that others are leaving positive reviews can be a strong motivator.

In yet another example of humans behaving like sheep, we’re more likely to leave a positive review if we’ve seen that others are doing it too. Not only does sharing the positive feedback promote your business, it also encourages more people to leave similar reviews.

Respond to negative reviews

Unfortunately, people are more likely to write a review after a bad experience than a good one. But you can mitigate for bad reviews. The easiest way to soften their impact is to respond. Respond with compassion, understanding, explanation, and apology. Don’t get defensive or angry at the reviewer.

A kind and thoughtful response to a bad review can potentially turn the situation around to work in your favor. Your response, especially if the original poster was unreasonable, can paint you in a favorable light, and someone reading it could potentially disregard the negative feedback.

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Listen to what people are saying

It’s important to actually read your reviews and take on board what they’re saying. They are feedback after all. You can’t generate positive reviews if customers aren’t actually happy. Read the reviews and identify any common themes or areas of weakness that you can improve on.

Share positive reviews with staff

In the food and beverage industry, customer service is paramount. Having happy, attentive servers is critical, especially if you want people to leave positive feedback on social media. Even if everything else was perfect, a bad server can be enough to put a customer off.

Sharing positive reviews with staff is a great way to boost morale and show that their hard work is not going unnoticed. This will keep the buoyed and ready to go out and wow some more potential reviewers!

Winning Marketing Strategies for Those in the Food Business

People need food to survive. This is the inherent luxury of being in the food business – some form of demand is always going to be there. At least until we all turn cyborg and just plug ourselves in overnight. I’m waiting, science.

The flip side of this constant demand is that there are a fair few others who want a piece of that same pie (if you’ll forgive the food-based expression). It’s a terrifically competitive business, that of food, and for those who are looking to not only survive, but thrive, a solid compliment of marketing strategies is vital.

So, I promised some winning marketing ideas, didn’t I. And I am, if nothing else, a man of my word. Here are a few quick-fire ideas that may be the difference between your business toast falling butter side up or butter side down (if you’ll forgive yet another food-based expression).

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Rewards for Loyalty

Often the hard bit isn’t getting customers through the door, it’s getting them through the door again. Repeat business is the lifeblood of any successful restaurant, café or snack bar. Not only do you get the dollars from your regular, but they will also often turn into a promoter of your business, getting their friends and family to frequent your establishment as well.

How do you create regulars? By rewarding loyalty. Set up a loyalty program to encourage new customers to return. It could be as simple as a “6th coffee free” punch card, or a percentage off of a meal for posting something on social media. Whatever fits with your business’s brand.

Use Mobile Ads

In 2015, mobile searches officially overtook desktop searches in many major markets, including the US and Japan. Subsequently, over half of all traffic on Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising now comes from mobile devices. It’s fair to say that this number will likely be far more dramatic when narrowed to restaurant specific search terms, as people more-often-than-not search for restaurants while on the go.

All of this means that using mobile ads is a no-brainer. They are cheap, effective, and simple to set up. You can even just invest in a test run of mobile PPC ads and see what their performance is like!

Curate and Maintain Your Online Presence

An incredible 89 percent of diners do some form of online research before heading out to eat, it has been found. And if you’ve changed address, telephone number, or website recently, and haven’t gotten around to adjusting Google’s records, you could be missing out on all of those potential customers.

Your online presence needs to be constantly monitored, ensuring that the information is accurate and up to date.

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Cultivate an Email Database

While the letterbox drop may seem like a more tried and true method for restaurants to market, it isn’t particularly effective. In comparison, email marketing is a cheaper, more efficient, more environmentally friendly and faster way to deliver news and deals to your customer base.

For email marketing to work, however, you need to grow a solid database of email addresses. You also need to give your recipients a simple way to unsubscribe, as there is nothing more unbecoming than an email round that you have no simple way of escaping. That will only generate ill will.

Get Social

Restaurateurs are gifted with a terrifically photogenic product – food. Photos of your delicious morsels are a sure-fire way to get bodies through the door. And what better way to share them than through the food-obsessed world of social media.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer far more than the opportunity to display your food porn, though. You can use them to introduce your staff to your customers, to deliver subscriber-only deals and specials, and to share positive reviews.

The business of food is a fun one to be in. But that fun can evaporate when the customers dry up. It’s important to invest resources in your marketing efforts early on, as they will pay off more and more as time goes by.

We’re not cyborgs (yet). People need to eat. Solid marketing gives you your opportunity to feed these masses.