“How to Ace Your Restaurant’s Local Marketing Strategy” is a guest post by Envato, the world’s leading marketplace and community for creative assets and creative people.

The way restaurants once operated has radically changed over the last few years as technology continues to advance. An industry that once thrived on word of mouth marketing now must turn to other promotional methods to entice customers to dine with them. However, many restaurant owners are unaware of the plethora of digital opportunities available to them.  In this post, we will explore the different digital tactics we’ve seen restaurant brands benefit from and discuss how to effectively revamp your restaurant marketing strategy.

But first, let’s dive into where your restaurant brand’s marketing stands today by reviewing both your social media and local, online presence. To start, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Do you have a professional restaurant logo?
  • Do you have a graphic standard guide your employees should adhere to when posting and sharing content?
  • Do you have a unique voice to talk to your customers?
  • Do you have a restaurant graphic design style (minimalist, modern, bold, classic)?

Every single aspect of your brand—from your logo to your responses to your reviews—is important to make a long-lasting and favorable impression on your customers. Now let’s explore a few restaurant marketing tips and trends you can adopt to uplift your business:

1.  Post Foodie Photography

Visuals are a highly impactful tool for influencing consumer behavior. Well-photographed, high-quality images of your dishes can entice new potential customers to dine with your brand. In fact, 53% of consumers found images more important than ratings or reviews. Additionally, 63% of consumers stated clear images are more important to them than product descriptions. A few tips we recommend for capturing the perfect photos of your dishes include:

  • Use natural light when taking food photos
  • Make your food the central focus to reduce unnecessary clutter
  • Take photos of your dishes from multiple angles
  • Try taking photos in different parts of your kitchen and/or on your tables
  • Share only crisp, sharp photos

Example of Local Marketing For Restaurants

Prioritize Your Instagram Feed

Instagram is a prime platform to show off your food. 75% of Instagram users take action, such as visiting a brand’s website, after looking at an Instagram advertising post. Every photo you post doesn’t need to be food-related, you can also post lifestyle images and videos as well. Videos are also a powerful, often under-utilized tool that can help you drive conversions. Top publishers are ramping up Instagram video posts by 90-100% each year. A few other Instagram tips our experts recommend include:

  • Post at a regular cadence
  • Interact with those who comment on your posts
  • Create unique stories and videos
  • Follow and support similar businesses

2.  Create a Website

A professionally polished website is something all restaurant brands must-have. Customers have come to expect every brand to have a website and each of your individual locations to have a local page. Here, you can communicate longer-form content, share your social media accounts, share your updated menu, and use a call to action, such as linking to your online reservations or takeout options.

Use calls to action to perfect your restaurant's local marketing strategy

Take Online Reservations

Make your customer’s life easier by incorporating an online ordering tool and a reservation link on your local pages. This has proven to be a favorite, especially for millennials who prefer to order online rather than over the phone. You can try platforms such as Open Table to link to your site for quick and convenient reservations.

3.  Set Up a Google My Business Account

Set up your Google My Business account and add up-to-date details such as your address, working hours, price ranges, link your menu, images of your popular dishes, and your reservations link. It’s also critical to you keep all your information updated and complete across all your local listings to build trust and credibility with your customers.

Ask for Reviews

Ask your most loyal customers for an honest review. Highly reviewed restaurants are most viewed in Google than the restaurants that don’t prioritize their reputation management. You can read more about the power of reviews in the restaurant industry here.

Set Up Google Alerts

Google alerts will notify you any time your restaurant is mentioned online. By doing so, you can better keep track of your mentions and see what is being said, both positive and negative, about your restaurant and can respond to your praises and complaints.

4.  Consider Partnering with Food Delivery Apps

By partnering up with delivery apps, you expand your local presence, provide convenience to your customers, and introduce your food/brand to new customers. While food apps work well for some restaurants and can be a great source of additional revenue, others may benefit from their own mobile-enabled delivery service. Consider your own goals to determine which route is best for your brand.

5.  Leverage Yelp

A comprehensive reputation management strategy entails focusing your review efforts on a variety of platforms, including Yelp. A one-star increase on Yelp can boost a restaurant’s profits by up to 9%, proving the power of Yelp reviews. Recently, we covered 8 tips for optimizing Yelp listings, where we identify important sections on Yelp listings and how businesses can better optimize their Yelp business profile.

As with any reviews platform, you may receive negative reviews in addition to your positive reviews. When replying a negative review, on Yelp or anywhere else, remember to:

  • Empathize: See it from the guest’s point of view.
  • Acknowledge: Let people know you accept the problem and that you are listening.
  • Solve: Take action and resolve the problem for them, don’t just write “we will look into this”. No one believes that.
  • Evaluate: Consider how this problem can be avoided in the future.

Answer negative reviews to ace your restaurant's local marketing strategy

6.  Try Geo-Targeted Ads

Whether on social media or on Google, setting Ad campaigns to target your local potential customers can be a power play. Think about your hours of operation, your target audience, and their proximity to your location. Consider mobile ads first as most people do their research on mobile.

You can also set retargeting ads for those who visit your website once, to continue to appear other places they are searching.

7.  Send Email Newsletters

Send newsletters regularly, every month or so, to keep your loyal readers informed of new offerings, such as seasonal menu items or special discounts. Take personalization a step further by sending emails to your customers on their birthdays with a special coupon code and emails around the holidays.

8.  Promote User-Generated Content

Your customers serve as your biggest fans. Showcase their feedback prominently on your local landing pages, highlighting positive reviews left on your review platforms.  Keep in mind 77% of diners prefer peer reviews rather than critic reviews.

Create a Contest

Another creative tactic to highlight customer sentiments is creating a customer-driven challenge. Create a contest where your followers must share a relevant image or video related to your brand and then use it as content for your social media. Share their stories and build up your feed!

9.  Get Intimate with Your Followers

Show off your staff, your company culture, or tell the story behind how your restaurant brand came to be. Tell them about your ingredients, if you are you buying locally or growing your crops. Show off your food quality. By humanizing your brand, you build trust with your followers.

10. Focus on Your Social Media Presence

It’s no secret social media is an outlet many Americans use for both entertainment and as an escape from the everyday pressures of life. It’s also another platform restaurants can leverage to promote their brand and products. Work on a schedule, be consistent and post relevant content. Try interactive content too such as Instagram polls, questions, and lives. According to a recent poll, 68% of restaurant owners use Facebook to promote their business, while only 24% use Instagram. Tap into under-used platforms to stand out from your competitors.

11. Work with Food Bloggers

We encourage restaurant brands to work with food bloggers or influencers when and if possible. When determining which influencers to work with, consider the number of followers they have, their style, the demographic they target and reach out to those that match your brand style/demographic.

12. Analyze Your Guest Data

Keep track of your performance both online and offline. Measure the following offline:

  • How many people visit you?
  • What are their preferences?
  • How often do they come back?
  • What are my most popular dishes?
  • When do customers dine with us most? During what hours?

For online performance, you should have insight into the following across all your location’s listings:

  • Clicks to call
  • Clicks to your website
  • Clicks to driving directions
  • Clicks to phone calls
  • Social media mentions
  • New reviews
  • New questions

Whether you manage your local marketing reporting in-house or lean on a local marketing partner for support, it’s essential to know how your marketing actions are performing. Analyze your weak points at each of your locations and work on them to offer a better experience for your customers.

Last Words

To improve your online reputation, you need to consider how you operate offline too. Take care of your business from the inside out. Once you’ve mastered the above and you continue to work towards having a well-rounded brand, then you can then better encourage customer engagement and loyalty

Use social media, Google, email campaigns, take beautiful images of your work, and share them everywhere! The sum of your efforts will be rewarding.