According to one study, online marketing results in 926 million restaurant visits each year – a number that expected to rise as time goes on.
If you learn some local online marketing tactics, you’ll know how to benefit from this trend and thus drive more diners to your location.
But if you’re a marketing novice, it can be difficult to work out which tactic is worth your time.
Should you focus on social media marketing or should you double down on 3rd party review sites?
This post aims to walk you through some of the key tactics you can use to attract diners. Execute on this information, and you’ll have so many diners that you may need to open up a second location.
Establish an Online Presence by Creating a Google My Business Listing
Upon starting their search, 75% of people haven’t decided where to dine. Thus, if you can make restaurant visible in the search listings, you’ll be able to capture the attention of people that are ready to spend money with you.
By setting up a Google My Business (GMB) account, it’s easy to establish a presence within the search listings, for search queries associated with your restaurant.
Note that there may already be a GMB listing associated with your restaurant. But if you didn’t set this up yourself, it’s likely not verified.
Verifying your listing is crucial as businesses with a verified GMB listing are considered twice as reputable than those that aren’t verified. Plus, by verifying your GMB listing, you can ensure the information associated with your listing is accurate, and up to date.
A GMB account also allows you to respond to reviews people have left about your restaurant, both positive and negative.
A key point when you consider that 89% of consumers read the ‘review responses’ of local businesses.
You can also use GMB to post your menu, thus making it easy for people to learn more about your restaurant.
A verified GMB account, also allows you to add pictures of your restaurant.
These pictures will be visible should someone perform a search that brings up information related to your restaurant. And when requests for driving directions are 42% higher for listings with a picture, this is a huge benefit.
A GMB listing also allows you to track the number of people that are calling you, from the search and Google Map results.
All this is being said to stress the importance of setting up a GMB listing.
If you take the time to set up a verified GMB listing, you have a solid foundation for your local marketing efforts, making it easier to achieve success with other local marketing tactics.
So, how do you set up a verified GMB listing?
Head over to https://www.google.com/business/ and click on ‘Start Now.’
You then need to type in the name of your business.
Next, provide the location of your restaurant.
After doing this, you may see a list of restaurants, one of which might be yours. If your restaurant isn’t part of this list, click ‘None of these.’
You’ll then need to pick the precise location of your restaurant on the map.
After this, you’ll have the option of selecting a category that best matches your restaurant.
There are some pretty specific options to select from here. We’d recommend spending a little extra time choosing the one that most closely matches your restaurant.
So far, you’ve only created a listing for your restaurant, but it stills requires verification. As a result, Google will now show you a screen that lists the benefits of verifying your account.
If you click ‘Finish,’ you’re then asked to provide a contact name, so that you can receive your ‘verification postcard.’
There will be a verification code on this postcard, and you can use this code to complete the setup of your GMB account, for this specific restaurant.
Google Local Search Ads
After creating a GMB listing, your business should take up more ‘real estate’ in the search listings, should someone type in a relevant search.
But, there’s a good chance you have competitors, and this can mean your listing will probably not be near the top of the results.
This can be a problem, as it can result in potential diners brushing over your restaurant and deciding to visit a competitor instead.
To address this problem, you should think about using Google Local Search Ads.
With such ads, you’ll be able to jump to the top (or near the top) of the listings for ‘local’ searches and Google Maps searches.
If you take a look at the screenshot below, you’ll notice that the top result makes use of this ad product.
Following this, the company can gain more visibility than competitors, within the search listings.
As shown below, this is the case, even if other competitors have more reviews than the company that’s running an ad. The example below relates to a Google Maps search.
Now, there’s no definitive way to make your ads appear in the manner shown above, and it’s at Google’s discretion whether your ad appears in this way.
That may sound odd, but this is a new ad product, and sometimes Google will limit the control advertisers have over such ads.
In any case, you can still do some things to maximize the odds of your ads appearing, in the manner shown above.
These three things include –
- Creating a Google My Business Account
- Enabling Location Extensions
- Creating a Google Search Campaign that targets the right location and relevant keywords
Note: For this ad product, Google will figure out how to showcase your restaurant for searches, you might not think to target. For instance, AdWords may promote your restaurant, for the keyword ‘Mexican restaurants near me’ even if you don’t target it. We’ll cover this in more detail later.
Moving on… We’ve already covered how you can create a GMB account. So let’s go through the other parts of the process.
Enabling Location Extensions
Go through the basic AdWords account set up process and then visit the homepage.
Select the ‘Ads & Extensions’ options, found in the left-hand sidebar. Then click on the large ‘plus’ sign.
You should then see a drop-down menu. From this menu, select ‘Location extension.’
When you see a box like the one below, select the ‘Link to an account I know’ option and choose your ‘Google My Business’ account.
Then click ‘Continue,’ and you should see the location of the business you set up earlier when setting up your GMB account.
If everything looks in order, click on Finish and you can then think about creating an ad campaign.
Creating Your Search Ads Campaign
Click on the ‘Campaigns’ option in the left-hand sidebar and then click on the large plus sign.
You’ll then see a wide range of campaign options that you can select from. For the purposes of this ad, it’s best to select ‘Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.’
Once you do this, you’ll be able to select the campaign ‘type.’ As discussed earlier, you want to go for the ‘Search’ option.
After clicking ‘Continue,’ select the ‘Website visits’ option and then enter in your URL.
After clicking continue, you’ll then see another page where you’ll have the option to adjust various settings associated with your campaign.
The first thing you need to do is give your campaign a name.
Give your campaign name a precise name that represents the purpose of the ads. This makes it easier to manage your ads, should you create many campaigns.
It’s also vital that you deselect ‘Include search partners’ and ‘Include Google Display’ network. This’ll ensure your ads will only appear in the search results of Google, and not on any other sites.
If you scroll down, you then have the chance to select a location for your campaign. Be sure to pick a location that’s relevant to your restaurant, and make your selection as precise as possible.
The budget section relates to how much you’re willing to spend on a daily basis.
It’s hard to say what will work for your campaign, as different locations will have different levels of competition. This is important because the level of competition determines how much your ads will cost and thus how much you’ll need to budget for your campaigns.
That said, consider starting with a $20 a day budget. If your ads fail to generate any clicks on this budget, you may need to consider upping your daily spend.
Select the ‘Clicks’ option when presented with the ‘Bidding’ section.
Finally, when you get to the bottom of this page, you’ll want to click the ‘Additional settings’ text.
This will then reveal a drop-down menu that allows you to associate your restaurant, with this specific campaign.
By associating the campaign with a location extension, your ads will be more likely to show, should someone perform a ‘local’ Google search or a Google Maps search.
Once you’re done with this section, you then have the chance to select some keywords. These keywords will determine when your ads will show.
Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer to help you figure out some worthwhile keywords.
You can also use the ‘box’ on the right, to help you come up with some relevant keyword suggestions.
Note: If you want to have a large level of control over your ads, use ‘square brackets’ when providing your keywords. This’ll ensure your ads only appear when someone types in the exact keyword you’re trying to target. An example might include ‘[best restaurant in seattle].’
There’s also the option of using the Google Keyword tool to help you come up with some ideas.
For instance, here are some suggestions provided by the tool, as a result of providing the base keyword ‘steakhouse Seattle.’
As mentioned, with location extensions enabled, your ad may also appear for relevant ‘local keywords’ you may not actually decide to target.
Next, you’ll need to ‘write out’ your ads. This is for scenarios when your ad doesn’t show up, in accordance to the formats covered at the start of this section.
Here’s an example of such an ad might look.
Focus on describing the type of restaurant you have and some of the benefits/highlights associated with your location.
You should also include ‘call to action’ that tells people to arrange a booking.
Once you’ve done this your ad will go under review will go live as soon as it’s approved.
Using Facebook Ads to Attract Diners
When talking about Facebook Ads, we’re also talking about Instagram Ads. Facebook bought Instagram and integrated the platform so that businesses can use ads to reach Instagram users.
You can achieve three different kinds of outcomes with Facebook Ads when promoting a restaurant.
- You can use it to generate awareness for your restaurant
- Use it to promote direct offers to people so that they visit your restaurant
- Promote to past diners and get them to visit again
This graphic does a great job of describing the way you can use Facebook Ads to drive diners to a restaurant.
Note: When creating a Facebook ad you’re presented with many ad products to choose from. All these options can be a bit overwhelming, but if you’re trying to market a restaurant the best option is generally the ‘Reach’ objective.
Overall, there are three factors that have a huge impact on whether you’ll experience success with Facebook Ads —
- Your location settings
- Your creative (the design of the ad)
- The ‘offer’ (the ‘thing’ you use to get people to engage with the ad)
When trying to select a location for your Facebook Ads, things can become quite complicated.
For instance, if you take a look at the options below, you’ll notice that there many choices available.
There’s no reason to overcomplicate this, and so you’ll want to go for the ‘Everyone in this location’ option.
For the creative of your ad, it’s very hard to predict what’s going to be a success and what’s going to fall flat.
When starting out, the best thing you can do is study the ads of other restaurants.
In doing so, you’ll be able to learn some of the elements that make go into making an effective ‘restaurant Facebook ad.’
That said, you should never assume you have a winning ad on your hands, and it’s critical you create many ad variations, for a specific campaign.
You’ll want to run each of these variations in their own ad group, for around 3-5 days, and then see which one gets the best results. Each ad might promote a different plate of food, or showcase a different image/video of your restaurant.
The offer is essentially the reason people will engage with your ad and end up visiting your restaurant.
It’s worth noting that some ads, such as those designed to drive awareness, don’t always promote an offer that’s designed to promote direct engagement.
But other ads may include some kind of coupon that draws attention and gives an individual a reason to engage with the ad and then visit your location.
Here’s an example of an ‘Awareness ad’ designed to promote a location known as the ‘Boba Guys.’
As you can see, this ad isn’t designed to promote anything directly. The sole purpose of this ad is to bring attention to one of the products that this location sells.
Yet, even though this is an ‘awareness’ ad the results of the campaign amounted to a 9x return on ad spend. In fact, the campaign worked out so well, that their total customer acquisition cost amounted to an amazing $1 per customer.
Creativity + Facebook Ads = Massive ROI
Facebook Ads works best when you practice some creativity.
Fortunately, Facebook’s targeting features make it easy to experiment with a wide range of marketing angles. You can then use these features to create relevant ads that’ll resonate with the people that see them.
For instance, you can target people that have an upcoming birthday.
With this targeting method, you could offer people a free drink, if they dine in your restaurant on their birthday.
When you consider that they’ll bring other people with them, this can produce a great return on investment.
Or you could target someone that has an upcoming ‘anniversary.’
Again, you could offer this category the same kind of incentive, so that they visit your location on their anniversary.
There are many targeting methods on offer, and it’s vital that you experiment with each one to find an angle that suits your location.
Encouraging Return Visits
Earlier we covered how you can encourage people to revisit your restaurant, using Facebook Ads.
The goal here is to –
- Upload a list of existing customers to Facebook
- Show ads only to this list
Note: If you want to benefit from this approach, you need to think about collecting the email addresses of your customers. Think about asking customers for an email address when they visit your location. You can offer something free, to increase the odds of them providing you with an email.
That said, let’s take a look at how you can do this.
First, visit the ‘Audiences’ section of Facebook Ads.
You then need to click on ‘Create Audience.’
Then select the ‘Custom Audience’ option.
You’ll then want to select the ‘Customer File’ option – follow the instructions and upload your list of customers.
Once you’ve done this, you can select this audience, when setting up your campaign.
You do this by typing in the name of your audience in the dialog box shown below, or by looking for your audience within the ‘Saved Audiences’ section.
How to Reach New Diners Without Having to Worry About Your Targeting Settings
With Lookalike audiences, you can reach relevant people, without having to tinker around with your targeting. This is great when you consider that targeting is what determines a large part of an ads overall success.
Facebook will take a ‘source audience’ and then create a new audience that has similar properties. As a result, this form of targeting will ensure you reach relevant people, even if you’re not an expert when it comes to targeting your ads.
Here’s how you’d set up a Lookalike Audience.
Go back to the ‘Audiences’ section of Facebook Ads, but this time select ‘Lookalike Audience.’
You then need to select your ‘source’ audience. This generally means the list of email addresses you’ve collected from past customers.
Be sure to pick a relevant location and then leave the ‘Audience size’ as it is. Then select ‘Create Audience.’ You can target/select this audience when setting up a new ad campaign, the same way in which you’d target a ‘Custom audience.’
Encourage Diners to Use Social Media
If you want to market your location organically, it’s worth looking at how you can encourage social media posts.
In doing so, you’ll be able to achieve two things.
Firstly, you’ll be able to achieve some brand awareness for your restaurant.
If people come across your restaurant, as a result of an Instagram post, it means that your restaurant is now on their radar.
Following this, they may take it upon themselves to learn more about your restaurant and may even decide to book a visit.
Secondly, you’ll also generate some social proof.
Think about it – if you one of your friends posts a picture of a cool restaurant on Instagram, you might want to visit it yourself.
By posting it to their profile, your friends have indirectly suggested that the restaurant is worth visiting. Of course, if the caption is good, then they’re recommending your location in a direct way too!
The pictures don’t have to be extremely high in quality, and something like the example shown below is often good enough.
Because this is an organic means of marketing, you don’t have to follow any hard rules here when it comes to generating social media content.
So you’re free to incentivize people to post about your restaurant. For instance, you might offer people a free dessert, if they post it on their Instagram feed and use a relevant hashtag.
But if you want to take it to the next level then you should look at implementing a social commerce solution.
With social commerce, you can turn each and every share into a potential sale.
Someone sees the picture of the free dessert and, after engaging with it, are able to book a table or order a serving for delivery directly from their social media account.
Here’s how it looks.
If you want to see how this could work for your restaurant, be sure to sign up for a free jumper account today.
Reviews and 3rd Party Review Platforms
It can be frustrating to think that the success of your location is dependant on how people perceive your restaurant on these sites. But, whether you like it or not, 3rd party review sites will have a big impact on your ability to attract diners, and so you can’t ignore them.
After all, the difference of just half a star on Yelp can affect the results a business by 27%.
That said, there is another way to look at this.
The flipside of the coin is that if you can figure out how these sites work, you’ll be able to gain that extra ‘half a star’ and thus massively improve the number of people that take an interest in your location.
There are two 3rd party review sites you’ll want to pay attention to –
If you can establish a presence on each of these sites, you’ll be able to draw the attention of diners that are actively looking for a place to visit.
This might relate to people that are using these platforms, or people that are performing a Google search.
It’s worth noting, though, that both feed into one another.
If you improve your presence on review sites, you’ll enhance your presence in the search listings and vice versa.
If you look below, you’ll notice how the search listings contain information from the 3rd party review sites.
This example relates to Yelp.
Google will even summarise the reviews from various websites and present the data in the manner shown below.
Note: Outside of 3rd Party Review Sites, you’ll also want to establish a presence on Google and Facebook.
This is important when you consider that Google will sometimes make its ‘own’ reviews highly visible. For example, if you take a look at the image below, you’ll notice that the ‘Google reviews’ are right at the top.
It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook receives the same treatment in the search listings, in regards to showcasing reviews.
Attracting More Reviews
It’s worth noting that you can do some things to speed up the process. But, you need to be careful as some sites do not take kindly to the ‘solicitation’ of reviews. In fact, certain sites may blacklist you if they find out you’re soliciting reviews.
Yelp is a prime example of a platform with strict rules. If you look at the graphic below, you’ll see they have some pretty strict suggestions in regards to their reviews policy.
For platforms like Yelp, you may have to allow things to happen in a more organic fashion.
But for platforms like Tripadvisor, you can be a bit more aggressive.
For instance, you can use the TripAdvisor ReviewsExpress tool to send customers email reminders, which ask them to leave a review.
You could also use the ad products within each of these platforms, to bring attention to your restaurants. Doing so will encourage more visits from the people using these platforms, which will eventually amount to more reviews on these platforms.
You’ll want to collect the emails of customers so that you can ask them to leave a review.
Consider setting up a process wherein you send people an email asking for a review, perhaps a day after they’ve visited your restaurant. If someone hasn’t left a review, you may then want to send 2-3 reminder emails, to further encourage reviews.
So there you have it, a range of local marketing tactics you can use to drive more diners to your locations.
Once you take care of the basics and apply the tactics explored throughout this post, you should find it easy to get the attention of would-be diners.
That said, creativity will help you reach the next level of results. With many sticking to best practices, you’ll be able to build on your initial results, if you’re willing to experiment.
Best of luck!