By Katie Schenkel
With 2016 coming to a close, the question on so many restaurateurs’ minds is “What should I focus on improving first?” There’s always room for growth, even if it’s just fine-tuning what already works to something that works even better.
With that mindset, check out these big and small ways you can raise your restaurant’s marketing strategies to the next level this upcoming year.
1. Evaluate what’s already working in your marketing choices.When it comes to your paid marketing choices, look at what kind of return on investment you’re seeing.
Is there a particular marketing strategy that has been consistently paying off for you more than others? When it comes to the paid marketing, are you seeing direct returns on your investment? When customers mention how they heard of you, are any of your paid marketing avenues being brought up? Those are the ones to keep going strong with in the new year, and maybe even add more funds to.
But when it comes to free marketing, especially social media, the ROI comes down to time spent rather than financial cost. Whether it’s you or one of your employees running your social media, it takes time and careful consideration to do so effectively. Time is precious and every businessperson should be using it wisely.
Which social media platforms are helping build your brand and customer base? Which ones feeling like you’re spinning your wheels? Maybe step back from the platforms that aren’t bringing you results and focus more on the ones where you’re seeing traction.
2. Invest in good food photography.Guests are enticed first by their eyes, after all. Taking the time to get some really beautiful, professional-looking shots of your most popular dishes can be a big boost to your marketing across the board. That doesn’t always mean having to buy an expensive camera. In many cases, the high mega-pixel quality of your smartphone can do the job quite effectively with the right light and eye.
3. Check your social media notifications.Even if you’re stepping back from social media after evaluating its benefits, you should still be regularly checking in and making sure you catch any interaction from your guests. If customers leave positive comments on Facebook and Twitter, make sure to share it forward with a “Thanks for dining with us! We’re glad you enjoyed your meal!” Not only does it continue to engage the customer, but it showcases the compliment to your potential guests as well.
Likewise, don’t ignore critical comments on social media. If someone has an issue with their last experience at your restaurant, address it in a timely, respectful manner. There are steps to take to turn this negative guest experience into an overall positive one, but it means you taking a little time to make sure it’s handled. Guests like to see evidence of positive resolutions nearly as much as perfection from restaurant managers. Everyone makes mistakes. Owning them outright can set a tone for respect and consideration.
4. Set up a Google alert for your business name.You never know who might be talking about your business. Be ready to share good attention on social media (or handle bad attention promptly), all while you’re busy running a business. Without the alert, when will you have time to search only for this stuff? By setting up a Google alert for your business name, you’ll be sent emails when people have written about it. It’s an easy way to keep track of news to promote without it taking away from your day-to-day responsibilities.
5. Be thoughtful about when you schedule social media updates.Think about when your customers go online to check their social media. Make it a habit to schedule your posts during the day, avoiding late at night when most customers will miss it.
Also think about specific days during the year (especially holidays) when your customer base will probably be busy and not checking their social media. Keep an eye out for national disasters or other overwhelming news that could interfere with you own promotion, and pull back if necessary. If you’re going to spend your valuable time on your social media accounts, you want to give the posts the best shots to be seen by your future guests.
6. Deploy LTOs thoughtfully.When planned carefully, limited time offers (LTOs) can be very lucrative for your restaurant. Because they are for a limited time, there’s a “fear of missing out” element to their appeal. The customers know they only have so many days to try this rarely offered dish, so they better come eat at your restaurant now!
Accordingly, the LTO should be an item that’s both high profit and expected to be highly popular. Once you know what the LTO will be, focus your marketing on pushing the offer. Just make sure you only market the promotion while it’s still going on – it’s a downer for consumers to get excited for an offer they see in an ad only to get there and find out the promotion is over.
7. Update your menu online.It’s easy to upload your menu online and then completely forget about it. Which is fine … until your prices change, or you add a gluten-free section, or you pare down your desserts. To best reflect the items you’re currently offering customers, take time to update your menu not just on your business’ website but also on the various sites where your restaurant has a profile, such as Yelp or Rewards Network.
8. Promote pick-up/delivery.This coming year, you’ll want to capture that growing segment of consumers who want to eat at home more but would rather not cook. Depending on what kind of restaurant you have, your customer base might not assume you do offer delivery services. By making it clear on your website and other marketing material that you do indeed deliver, there’s one less hesitation from a potential customer to pick you for their order. And don’t forget to mention pick-up options.
9. Keep your windows clean and signage unobstructed.This might not seem like part of your marketing, but remember that the front of your restaurant could be the first impression a passerby gets of your business! Ensure your windows are cleaned on the inside and out all year round (not just in the spring), making it easy for folks to look in at the tables of happy guests.
Making sure tree branches, dirt, or even heavy snow isn’t covering your signage is important, too. Not only does it look more professional to keep the outside looking tidy, but you want street traffic to know you’re there.
10. Make a year-long charitable commitment.When it comes to charitable donations, many businesses think specifically of giving a one-time contribution during the holidays. While this is of course still a good, philanthropic thing to do as a restaurant, why not consider making donations to charity part of your budget year round?
For one, consistently giving a monthly charitable commitment can be easier to fit into your budget rather than trying to find room for a lump sum at the end of the year. And for many restaurateurs it’s simply a smart PR move — many consumers look out for businesses that make charitable giving a priority throughout the whole year.
Catch up on my current posts along with industry articles