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Digital Marketing Made Easy for Restaurants

Digital marketing—a phrase that can make some restaurateurs skin crawl and others dash off a quick post or tweet—has come a long way since its advent in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson sent the very first email. The 90s saw Google, blogging, and clickable ad banners enter the scene.

Marketing gurus would like you to believe that this type of marketing requires an in-house expert or, at the very least, their professional services. The truth is that digital marketing is not as difficult or time consuming as those in the business would like you to believe. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to start your very important digital marketing strategy.


We thought we’d start here because just about everyone these days is familiar with emailing. While some of you may be of the opinion that email marketing has gone the way of the dodo, we would have to disagree. Once Facebook started limiting followers and suggesting you “boost” posts for a fee, connecting with customers became more challenging, and emailing marketing strategies were revised.

There are several, make that massive, email marketing platforms that make it easy to send mass emails. These include MailChimp, Constant Contact, Fishbowl, and Vertical Response, to name a few.

The question you may be asking is just how do you get your customer’s email addresses in order to send them your daily specials or special events? Some restaurants are turning to Wi-Fi. When Dinex Group, Daniel Boulud’s 16-restaurant group company, installed Wi-Fi marketing platform Zenreach, they collected 64,000 email addresses the first year. Now they are able to send out targeted emails for specific events with some selling out just two days after announcing (via email) the big event.

Compelling emails include engaging customers by offering valuable information or specials. Send a bit of your blog with a link which promotes traffic to your website. Consider sending your email on a Thursday, catching your potential guests just as they’re preparing for their busy weekend. I know I’m always excited to see what P.F. Chang has to offer when I see their email in my Inbox!

Social Media

According to Toast’s 2018 Restaurant Success Report, 63 percent of restaurants advertise on social media. Another interesting statistic: While Facebook has been the go-to for restaurants, it dropped from 74 to 69 percent in relation to restaurants that use this as their primary social media platform. The social media channel that appears to be on the rise is Instagram which jumped from 18 to 24 percent in 2018. Almost 80 percent of restaurants that opened in 2018 have an Instagram account. In order to get your guests to snap and post, put up a poster that includes your business’s Instagram username and a hashtag. As an example, check out Crossroads at House of Blues’ sign at Lyfe Marketing.

If you’re wondering what to share on your social media pages, consider posting your 5-star reviews, describe a new menu item, post information about your chef and include one of his recipes that he’s willing to share, and don’t forget the call to action such as “click here for a reservation” or “call us today.”

Your guests love to feel engaged and a part of your brand, so be sure to include tips that they can relate to and comment on as well as quizzes, questions, or contests that will promote interaction.

Having high-quality, compelling photography of your establishment and even more importantly, your food, is a must for a successful social media campaign. Changing a photo or two on a daily basis is a way to keep content fresh and your platforms active.

And, of course, there are always paid advertisement opportunities on social media. Consider running a Facebook page like ad campaign, boosting posts, traffic ads on Facebook and Instagram, and a brand awareness campaign.

Your Website

Your website is your calling card—the first place your potential customers go to after hearing about your remarkable restaurant. It should function as your call to action—make a reservation or come visit us for this special event!  Besides beautiful pictures and a downloadable menu, it’s important to have it optimized for mobile. Check your website out via your Smartphone and make sure that it is easy to navigate and has functional elements such as a phone number that can be clicked on for easy calling.

And while we’re on the all-important development of your website, let’s not forget the content king—your blog. Creating content has become the key phrase in an online marketing strategy. What can a restaurant share with guests that will promote them to share with friends and other social media platforms? Recipes are a great place to start as well as special events, menu changes, tips in the kitchen, and surrounding events and places to go in your area.

While you’re putting together your first simple digital marketing strategy, don’t forget that your unique voice and brand should shine through all platforms, making your establishment recognizable and your digital marketing cohesive. Once up and running, be sure to keep engaged with your guests by responding to reviews and comments, following others online, and sharing customer’s photos and posts on your social media channels. And don’t forget who you’re marketing to—your local targeted audience.

This blog wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the importance of your hashtag. Once commonly used on Twitter, they have now morphed into a marketing tool that is used on Facebook and Instagram as well. Consisting of a pound sign and one or two words without spacing, they make social posts more visible and increase engagement. The hashtag becomes a means of connecting, allowing people to search for your hashtag on multiple channels and tying the conversations of different users into one stream. Here are some examples of some commonly used restaurant hashtags: #MargaritaMonday, #TacoTuesday, #TGIF, and #SundayBrunch.

One massively popular hashtag is #foodie which has over 78 million users who share their love of food and drinks.

Here’s an example of how restaurants are using these identifiers: Create a custom hashtag to promote a competition on Instagram with the winner enjoying a complimentary appetizer or dessert. Keep in mind the phrase, “too much of a good thing,” and don’t over use this popular marketing tool.


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