Times are tough for caterers and restaurants. There’s more competition than ever. And it takes more and more to make your food stand out from the crowd. Even if you have the right recipes and the right team in place, it’s hard to truly take things to the next level. But with a little planning, you can promote your business online. But how? Remember that you built this business yourself. That means you’re no stranger a little elbow grease. And once the orders start coming in, the value of of online marketing for restaurants becomes clear.
From social media to digital content, and everything in between, there’s a lot you can do to market yourself. Online marketing for restaurants is key to driving catering business. These 30 tips will take you from a beginner to an expert marketer in no time.
1) Build Your Website: Every small business needs a website. But this can be a challenge, especially if you’re still a newbie to online marketing. But a good site doesn’t have to be super flashy. Find a template you like in a platform like WordPress or Weebly. Just keep your site simple. But make sure you’re highlighting what you do that’s different from everyone else. Personalize your content by showing off your team and your dishes.
2) Set Up Your Social Media Profile: Social media is the place for conversations with your customers. It’s a way to show off any new dishes you’re serving and to receive immediate feedback. But setting up your social media presence can feel overwhelming. Do you need a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and whichever new platform just came out? The short answer is no. A tip for online marketing for restaurants is to start with one platform you’re comfortable with. It’s better to be really good at one platform than mediocre across many. You can always add on as you grow.
3) Update Your Google Listings: People need to find you. And they won’t if your information isn’t correct online. Do a quick Google search for your business. On the right side of the page, you’ll see contact information, hours of operation, and maybe even photos. If anything looks incorrect, click “Suggest an Edit” to correct it.
4) Encourage Customer Reviews: Online marketing for restaurants isn’t just about what you’re putting out. Your customers are your best advocates. So you need to find ways to take advantage of that. Make sure they know exactly how and where to leave a review. Their words will help potential new customers decide whether or not to work with you.
5) Offer Coupons or Discounts: While you’re building your marketing efforts, you may need to offer an incentive to collect email addresses or social media followers. One way to do that is with special coupons or discounts. When someone signs up for your email list, provide a discount on their next offer. Or, create special coupons that are only for your followers on Facebook.
6) Set Up Alerts: When people are talking about you online, you need to know about it. Set up alerts with Google and Bing with your business’s name so you’ll receive notifications any time you’re mentioned. That way you can get a positive review up on your website or shared on social media right away.
7) Reach Out to Local Food Writers: And if no one is writing about you (yet), why not look for people in your community that could start? Research the local food writers in your area. Offer them a free tasting so they may write about you. Food writers often have social media networks of their own. Their mentions could drive new business.
8) Create Creative Hashtags: Once your social media efforts are in full swing, create a series of hashtags on your posts. Your customers can use these to tag their photos of your food, or to talk about you on social media. Pick something that’s catchy. Just make sure you research it first. As Forbes points out, not all hashtags are created equally, so make sure you’re choosing the most powerful ones.
9) Update Your Online Menu: Your menu changes. Maybe it’s seasonal. Or maybe it’s every week. But make sure people know what kind of food you offer. Make sure you keep your menu updated on your website and any other places your menu feeds to online. Any online marketing for restaurants will never work if they don’t know about the food you offer.
10) Partner with a Catering Marketplace: One important way to extend your reach is to partner with a catering marketplace, like ezCater. When your name pops up in a search on ezCater, you’re getting the power of your own marketing abilities and their online marketing for restaurants. Who knows which new customers might find you?
11) Start Blogging: Once you’ve covered the online marketing basics, it’s time to get serious about content. The easiest entry point is to add a blog to your website. Talk about food trends, what’s going on in your community, and whatever else you’re interested in. Share your posts through your social media platforms. It will take you a few tries to find your footing. It’s easy to just promote your business. But to become a marketing leader, instead of a follower, find your niche in the space. The less you talk about yourself, the more people will trust you as a thought leader.
12) Utilize Social Media Management Tools: If you’re ready to take your website to the next level, it’s also time to upgrade to sophisticated social media management. Tools like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, and TweetDeck allow you to schedule posts in advance and link your various platforms together. You’re developing your brand voice, and this will help you unify that voice across your mediums.
13) Start an Email Newsletter: Online marketing for restaurants is dependent on getting the word out about your business out there there. So once you have content to share, it’s time to utilize that email list you’ve been building. You may have been using it to offer discounts in the past as it came up. But it’s time to start a sustained email campaign. You can decide the frequency, but monthly is probably a good start. Send your blog posts, any new menu updates, and whatever else will entice your customers to read and share.
14) Respond to Reviews: When you get a bad review, it can feel humiliating. You work hard. But you just can’t please everyone. If you’re getting reviews on Facebook, Yelp, or other sites, you can and should respond — to both positive and negative reviews. When you thank your followers for their business or apologize for a challenging order, it’s a nice reminder that you’re a real person. Keep your responses authentic, but avoid getting defensive.
15) Create Holiday Promotions: From Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Halloween, people love the holidays. Use social media to create promotions around specific holidays that promote your best dishes. Maybe it’s a two-for-one special for Valentine’s date night. Or you could give your dishes spooky names around Halloween. Raise awareness of your business by linking to these days.
16) Install the Instagram Feed Plugin: If people are Instagramming your food — and why wouldn’t they be? — adding an Instagram feed plugin to your site is the easiest way to leverage their photos. Every time someone tags your restaurant, the photos automatically feed into your site so you can show off the best of the best without any added work.
17) Build Boosted Posts: Boosted posts on Facebook can help you add likes to your page, drive business to specific menu items, and generally raise awareness of your business. You choose the budget, and you can track your analytics as you go.
18) Create Facebook Events: You’ve probably noticed people saying they are interested in certain events on your Facebook feed. In fact, as Tech Crunch notes, Facebook launched an entirely events-focused app that includes local business. If you’re offering a tasting to the community, or if you have a certain promotion in your restaurant, add an event. People will share it with their networks and the word of mouth will build.
19) Create a Mobile-Friendly Site: Most people are making quick searches on their phones or tablets. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly — and responsive — you should fix it to take advantage of the mobile traffic. Make sure potential customers can call or email you with the press of a button and that it’s easy to find your menu and pricing options.
20) Set up Google Analytics: If you’re not watching the analytics on your website yet, now is the time to set it up. GA will tell you where traffic is coming from and let you know how engaging your content is. Use this information to inform your content calendar and your digital strategy.
21) Update Your Strategy: By the time you’re an expert, creating online marketing for restaurants probably seems like old hat. But this is the point where you should update your strategy. Think about all of our digital efforts, including content, social media, and ads. Is your strategy cohesive? Are you speaking in one brand voice across channels? What are your goals to keep the marketing engine moving? Get these on paper so you can stay on track.
22) Up Your Content Creation: Now is the time to get serious about your blog. “Once in a while” is not the cadence of an expert marketer. Decide if you want to publish weekly, a few times per week, or even daily. The more content you create — and that you optimize for SEO — the more eyes are going to find your business.
22) Bring on Influencers: And if you can’t handle the commitment to produce all that content, bring in the cavalry. Bring influencers on who can create content for you, and then promote it to their networks to help fill in your content calendar.
23) Use Analytics to Pivot Your Strategy: Set aside time each month to analyze your GA results. Which content or pages on your site are doing really well? Which underperformed? Is traffic coming in from other sites or social media? Figure out what you’re doing well, and then do it better. Figure out what you could do better, and pivot your strategy to make improvements for next time.
24) Launch a Paid Search Campaign: With a paid search campaign you bid on the keywords that are important to you. If you have the best wings in Missouri, you better come up first when someone searches “best wings in Missouri.” Google AdWords and Bing Ads make it easy to plan the right keywords so you’ll pop up at the top of searches. And you’ll find that it serves your organic results at the same time.
25) Buy Geotargeted Ads: The key to mobile ads is delivering the content people need when they need it. You can do that with geotargeting. If you’re trying to entice people into your restaurant, offer a discount code when they enter a certain radius. Or, you know weddings need caterers, so target your ad for the area around an expo or a bridal shop. Just make sure you have the proper landing pages set up so that when they click they’re sent to the right spot on your site that matches their predicted needs.
26) Create Videos: Did you know that, as Social Media Today notes, that a user will spend 88 percent more time on a site that features video? That’s worth the investment of creating relevant videos to your business.
28) Create a Podcast: A podcast may be another relatively easy way to make your voice heard — quite literally. All you need is a microphone and some basic audio editing software, and you can be off and running. Find your niche, and your audience will grow with you.
29) Create an App: Entrepreneur offers six great reasons why you might want to create an app for your business. But, as with your other ideas for online marketing for restaurants, it hinges on solving a problem for your customers. If an app will help your base find you, order more easily, or offer value associated with your business, then give it a go.
30) Add Bots to Your Page: As Wired reports, there are many future applications of bots in digital marketing. Bots could answer your Facebook messages, and offer menu information, pricing, or hours. Or you can add a customer service bot on your website to answer simple questions. The key to bots is that when they add value, they earn trust.
Any good marketing idea should be a part of a solid marketing plan.