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Starting a Food Business: Build Your Marketing Chops for Success

Wondering why some restaurants with mediocre dishes are all the rage while others fail despite serving up their best? It all comes down to their marketing strategy.

How to build a successful marketing strategy that’s relevant for today’s digital age.

Have you ever wondered why some restaurants with mediocre dishes are somehow all the rage, and why others fail, despite serving up their best? The truth is, it all comes down to their marketing strategy, and how well they’ve done in promoting their business and spreading the good word around town.

But in today’s digital age – where consumer choices are dictated by mobile phones and social media – word of mouth recommendations or an ad in your local newspaper just won’t cut it.

Restaurant owners need to step up their marketing strategies, and build in digital tactics that are sure to cook up success.

Here are some tips on how to build an effective marketing strategy:

1. Create a killer website

Websites make it easy for your potential customers to find you, and are the first step to establishing your online presence. But they don’t have to be expensive or complex to develop. There are lots of tools and platforms available to help you set up your own, professionally-designed, website.

For example, Wix.com or SquareSpace.com offer a wide range of templates that you can pick from. Just make sure that you build in a responsive menu, and update your website regularly – including your menu, opening hours and news.

2. Go social

Did you know that there are over 200 million posts tagged #food and 23 million with #drinks? Social media is taking the industry by storm – and it’s time you hop on the bandwagon.

Restaurants that have a social media presence are not only easier to find and interact with, but can also help you pull in extra revenue – especially if your design or menu is eye-catching (or you happen to go viral).

If you’re not up for tackling every platform, just go for the big 2: Instagram and Facebook. Post swoon-worthy food pictures and keep your audience informed of your latest news and menu additions. A great way to get new followers is to start with a competition in the form of a give-away.

3. Offer a loyalty program

Because who doesn’t love rewards? Loyalty programs encourage your customers to keep coming back, driving repeat revenue. Opt for a digital loyalty program, so your customers can keep track of their rewards and receive tailored offers based on their consumption patterns. And as a bonus, you’ll generate lots of user data to help you make your offering more targeted.

4. Set up your Google Maps business profile

When people get hungry, they tend to run a search in their phone to find the best eatery close by. And compared to other apps, Google Maps is 6 times more popular with smartphone users. So make sure that people can find you if they’re looking for a quick bite. Update your profile and check that your menu, opening hours, phone number are correct – and upload some photos to let people know what to expect.

5. Partner with a delivery service

Research shows that take-away sales have increased 8% over the last few years, and customers who place an online order have a 95% chance of returning to your establishment. Offering a delivery option not only expands your customer base, but gives your existing customers the freedom to enjoy their favorite meals wherever they go. To start with, partner with a delivery service – like Uber Eats or Deliveroo. While they do charge a hefty commission fee (sometimes up to 15%), they can help you increase your exposure, and boost your revenue by 10 to 20%.

6. Monitor your reviews

Online reviews are like a double-edged sword. While they may not seem like much, they can (quite literally) make or break your success. In fact, 88% of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, so it’s best you make sure to track what people are saying about you, and are there in time to react. Monitor key platforms like Google Maps, Yelp and Tripadvisor and respond to negative comments swiftly (and with an empathetic tone). After all, the customer is king, right?

7. Team up with with food bloggers

Popular bloggers have an incredible amount of influence on their followers, and food blogging is just about the hottest new trend. Reach out to a few of your biggest local influencers and invite them to come for a menu testing and exclusive event that’s organized just for the social elite. Before you know, it people will be lining up to get in.

8. Encourage user-generated content

Research shows that Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than any form of media. This could be in the form of blog posts, Insta stories or Facebook posts. This is especially easy if your restaurant offers a feature wall, or has a design or unique food presentation that’s Insta-friendly. Encourage your customers to share their story and tag you. It will give you brand credibility and let people know that you’re worth talking about.

Regardless of which tactics you use, keep in mind that your marketing strategy should be:

  • Data-driven: Look to the past to predict the future. Data is your single biggest asset, and can help you reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your business so that you can make smarter, better-informed decisions.
  • Measurable: Set clear KPIs for your campaigns, and targets for what you’re trying to achieve. Measuring your success (or lack thereof) will help you develop more targeted communications.
  • Emotional: Food is emotional, so your communications should be, too. Rather than the product, sell the experience of eating – the love, happiness, joy, comfort – and you’ll be more likely to strike an emotional cord with your consumers.
  • Multi-faceted: Depending on your target audience, you may choose a different mix of channels. Make sure that to spread your presence across a range of different platforms – i.e. digital, tv, print, radio – to capture your audience, wherever they might be.
  • Relevant: Make sure that your communications and your message is relevant to your target consumer. If you’re a local business, get involved with your community, and talk about your local issues and topics that are relevant to them.

 

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About the author

Hospitality Insights is a platform for the analysis of growing trends and events shaping the hospitality sector.