How to Build a Killer Online Marketing Plan for Your Restaurant?

You’ve sourced the best ingredients, crafted the perfect menu, styled your interiors and now it’s time to serve the public.

Just kidding!

Now it’s time to get the public to come to you!

Your restaurant is just a kitchen if you don’t have customers. You need a killer marketing plan in place if you want to get people through those doors. Here are five key pieces that have to be included in your restaurant’s online marketing plan.

Your restaurant needs a website

 The number one reason people put off building a website is that they think that having accounts on social media and restaurant review sites is enough — it’s not. Don’t rely solely on other platforms to communicate what your restaurant is all about.

You can’t fully communicate your brand on a Facebook page. And you shouldn’t want to since you don’t really own that account. If you rely on third-party websites to house your online presence, then you are subject to their shifting policies and user experience. What’s worse, they can shut down your account without notice and it’s totally within their right to do so.

Create your own website and do your best to evoke the tone of your restaurant within its pages. Make it user-friendly. Make sure it looks good on mobile phones and tablet. And don’t forget the must-have pieces of an excellent restaurant website: About page, full menu, ability to make reservations, location with directions, and contact details.

Make sure people can find out about your restaurant by using SEO

 So you’ve got the website and now you need to make sure people find it. But first, a word of caution: be realistic with SEO. Chances are, you aren’t going to rank for “Los Angeles Pizza Place”. Websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are going to top the page listings and chain restaurants will follow those. Don’t let that dissuade you though because SEO is still important and useful.

The amount of effort you can put in for SEO is virtually limitless.  If you find you have the resources to dig into more advanced areas, go for it, but start off with these basic tactics first:

  • Sign up for Google My Business. Make sure the name and address you use are the same as on your website, aggregator sites like Yelp, and all social media accounts. Keep it consistent.
  • On your website, make sure your homepage includes your restaurant name, street address, and zip code. Put your address in the footer of your website as well.
  • Your menu needs to be on your website but don’t just include a link to a PDF. Have the menu typed on its own page as well.
  • Get backlinks. Reach out to websites that serve your community and see if they can link to your website.

SEO is a beast and there are a lot more things you can do to help with ranking such as keeping an updated blog, creating pages on your site dedicated to signature dishes, and using SEO keywords in your “About Me” page. It really comes down to time and money so be strategic with your SEO efforts as not every option will have a good return on investment.

Embrace social media marketing for your restaurant

Chances are, you’ve got a few social media profiles already set up. The power of social media is no secret but how to utilize it for your business can feel like one. Don’t worry–using social media to market your restaurant doesn’t’ have to be complicated. However, it does need to be strategic.

The first step is knowing where your customers are spending their time. Identify who your target audience is, research which social media site that group most often frequents, and then learn how to communicate on that site. A good place to start is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The second step is sharing content that engages the reader. Be authentic, personable, and interesting. If you’re feeling lost, go take a look at what your competitors are doing. Pay attention to the style of posts that their readers most positively react to.

Don’t forget to optimize your social media profiles. Do not skip the “about” sections. Do make sure your name and address are consistent with your website. Do track your stats! Data is your friend so keep your finger on the pulse of which type of posts get lots of attention and which don’t.

Get listed on restaurant discovery platforms

There are dozens of restaurant-discovery websites that you can get listed on. Do not limit yourself just to Yelp and TripAdvisor. Many sites are going to be local to your area so search for “your location + restaurant review sites” and start signing up for accounts. Most of them will be free.

Here’s a tip: Keep a spreadsheet with all the restaurant aggregators and social media profiles you’re listed on. It will make it easier to go back and edit your listing if things like your hours, phone number, or menu changes.

Customer reviews are a part of restaurant marketing

Now that you’re listed on dozens of websites, it’s time to wait for the bad reviews. Because no matter how good your food is, how friendly the staff, how reasonable the prices, and how perfect the atmosphere, people will find a reason to complain on the Internet.  Don’t bury your head in the sand! Address these negative reviews head on and with grace. This will help you in building your audiences’ trust.

The easy part: thank people for positive reviews. Don’t let the good guys go unnoticed. The hard part: address the negative feedback. There are a lot of approaches to choose from when it comes to handling the negative feedback and what you chose will depend on your brand’s personality. But a good rule of thumb is to not argue but offering solutions and to thank them.

A solid online marketing plan is a key piece to your restaurant’s success and digital marketing is going to take up a big chunk of the overall vision. Don’t make the mistake of hastily throwing up a Facebook page and ignoring Yelp reviews–take you online marketing efforts seriously.

Author Bio:

Sameer Panjwani is the Founder & CEO of Mondovo, an online marketing toolset that helps you track your rankings, monitor your site stats and research your competitors’. A man of many talents, Sameer occasionally writes about social media marketing, content marketing and SEO. In his free time, he loves reading about the latest trends in SEO as well as spending time with his two little daughters.

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