Restaurants achieved a level of resilience in the last two years which expedited innovations in customer experience. Customer behavior changed at lightning speed, and restaurants quickly adapted to a marketplace that placed new demands on operations. As such, marketing efforts need to continue meeting those demands, attracting new customers and embracing strategies that keep restaurants competitive. As restaurants gear up for 2022, it's time to explore new marketing ideas and level up ones that prove to work.
First, what restaurant trends in 2022 might inform marketing plans?
- Expanded digital interactions mean going where your customers already are. They're exploring their options online and sharing recommendations.
- Easy ordering, delivery, drive-thru, and curbside pickup options are the norm now. Make online ordering easy.
- Customers are seeking new menu choices. Keep menus updated with fresh options and flavors that leverage food trends and respond to supply chain challenges.
- Outdoor dining is more popular than ever. Post-pandemic, customers have become comfortable with outdoor seating. It feels like a safe, enjoyable experience.
- Tech-savvy customers want to weigh options, find new dining destinations, explore recommendations, and save money.
Here are some marketing strategies that can help increase a restaurant’s bottom line:
Update and Expand Your Online Presence
- Social media: The more engaged you are online, the better. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are valuable tools to showcase promotions, new menu items, ordering options, reviews, images, videos, and more. Customers actively share their restaurant experiences, so allow them to share your content. You can also explore regional online groups that want to know about eating out. Make sure you get to know administrators and understand the group's rules. If allowed, you can offer content that group members might appreciate, including event information, discounts, and news. Also, consider starting your own Facebook group and host giveaways and contests. Make sure you're consistently posting great images and videos of your restaurant, employees, and delicious dishes—the more shareable the content, the better.
- Business profiles on major platforms: Customers love to discover new places to dine using platforms and search engines they already visit like Yelp, Google, Travel Advisor, and other popular sites. Just upload your restaurant's business profile on sites that make local recommendations. It's simple. And when customers write reviews, respond to both positive and negative comments. Transparency and accountability are essential to building trust and loyalty. Also, check out the free Google My Business tool and "claim" your business. This tool helps customers get a map of your location, menus, and other pertinent information like hours of operation.
- SEO: Customers constantly research restaurants online—whether to find a place near them or a specific kind of food in the desired price range. But they have to be able to find you easily. That's when Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can make a big impact. Again, creating and sharing strong content is key. But it's just as important to use the right keywords and phrases, so your website pops up faster. Think like a customer and use language that might appear in a search engine. If you're offering tacos, your website could include phrases like "the best tacos in Austin." SEO is all about attracting new customers to your site with natural language that speaks directly to customers' needs.
Adopt More Personalized Promotions
- Apps: BRP Consulting found that 38% of dining experiences start with customers on mobile devices. GetUpside is a platform that identifies which nearby customers aren't dining at your restaurant today and uses profitable cashback promotions to bring them through your doors. These promotions are based on the data you already have, and your profit is guaranteed.
- Customer Data: Gathering customer data has multiple benefits. If you know your customers, including their preferences, you can create personal promotions easily. Use customer data, like email addresses, for email campaigns and newsletters that feature upcoming promotions, events, and news. Also, when customers use your WiFi landing page (captive portal), they must enter an email address to gain access. That's a great way to collect customer info like visiting times, age, postal code, and more. Use this data to customize messaging.
- Discounts and Coupons: These proven marketing tactics are a cornerstone of any growth plan. And with more customer data, you can customize discounts. Offer deals when you need to up your business on slow days or when you have more inventory that needs to move quickly. Create promotions around holidays or city-specific events like marathons or festivals.
- Loyalty Programs: These can increase your sales by up to 30%. Consider creating a rewards program that offers free food and beverages after several return visits.
Create Regular Advertising & PR Opportunities
- Digital Advertising: Target audiences with cost-per-click (CPC) ads on Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other platforms where customers like to go. Use ads to let customers know about new menu items, promotions, and more. But ad prices do vary greatly, so research is vital.
Publicity: Create a local media list, write regular press releases with announcements about awards or community service programs, and forge relationships with local TV producers. If that seems a little daunting, explore hiring a local restaurant publicist who has existing media relationships they can use to help you get the word out.
When creating marketing initiatives for 2022, think about the best ways to know your customers and find them where they are. Through digital experiences and strong content, your customers can find your restaurant efficiently and quickly with incentives that change customer behaviors.