When it comes to the restaurant business, the only successful operations are those that are constantly looking for ways to drive food and beverage sales.
The restaurant owner who chooses to get comfortable with their lunch hour rush will, at some point, watch sales drop as foot traffic dwindles.
Attracting new customers and cultivating interest among prospects are the keys of success in the restaurant industry, both of which can be achieved with inbound marketing – the powerful booster of your restaurant’s bottom line.
Read on to get familiar with this marketing model and learn about three ways it can help you increase your restaurant sales.
Understanding Inbound Marketing
As its name suggests, inbound marketing is a promotional approach that aims to attract customers instead of going after them.
As opposed to traditional marketing methods that include making phone calls or sending cold e-mails in order to reach customers, inbound marketing is all about making people come to you themselves.
In the digital marketing world, inbound marketing can be achieved through various means such as organic search, social media activity, website content campaigns, and others.
For restaurants, the idea is to attract prospects by giving them valuable and dynamically presented content that they can appreciate.
The basic formula of inbound marketing for restaurants is to publish quality content on great websites (including your own!), boost the SEO power of your website, and develop a great social media presence.
The goal is to keep prospects engaged through online channels so that they can be eased into visiting a brick-and-mortar restaurant or placing a telephone/online order.
Now, you are probably wondering about the concrete benefits of such a marketing approach.
Before diving into three important results that inbound marketing will produce for your restaurant, here are some reasons it’s worth considering it in the first place:
- Less expensive marketing and a more competitive restaurant
To put it simply, inbound marketing is a much cheaper method than the outbound approach.
Although, of course, you don’t need to abandon outbound marketing altogether, you will witness significantly lower costs if you switch a part of your marketing strategy to the inbound approach.
That means you no longer need to have a sky-high budget in order to compete with exclusive restaurants that can afford spending millions of dollars for outbound marketing.
With inbound marketing, smaller and less famous restaurants can become competitive if they produce interesting and engaging content that will attract guests, and if they keep communicating with their current customers.
So, if you operate with a not-so-glamorous budget, inbound marketing is the right approach for your restaurant.
- Outbound marketing doesn’t really work
To be quite direct, outbound marketing is not the best way to go when it comes to restaurants. Why? Because it doesn’t really fit with the specificity of this business.
Restaurants are specific because they target a relatively small market that consists of loyal customers.
Now, is it better to bombard such a market with outbound messages or to build close relationships? The answer is more than obvious.
So, here is where social media come into play. If you keep communicating with your customers through Facebook, Twitter or other platforms, you will keep the relationships alive.
And not only that – you will be able to reach other people of similar interests.
If you are still wondering why you should consider inbound marketing, here are three results that restaurants can achieve through its utilization:
1 – Extending Positive Interactions outside the Restaurant
Most restaurant owners provide positive table experiences that can foster repeat visits, customer loyalty, and word-of-mouth promotion.
However, with inbound digital marketing, you don´t have to wait for you guests to return to service them properly and provide them with a fantastic experience.
Let’s say your guests had a great meal and a good time, and that experience opened up an interaction channel between them and your restaurant. Now, the nature of inbound marketing makes it easy to keep that channel open long after the guests left a tip on the table.
Keep in mind that your restaurant is a business and your guests are your customers – you must make an effort to satisfy and engage them at all times, including through online activities.
Now, let’s see what that means in practice.
For example, diners often think about how great it would be to prepare some of their favorite menu items at home, but most of them are reluctant to ask the chef about it. Enter inbound marketing.
To engage your customers some more (and maybe even anticipate their wishes), you can share a recipe on a blog, publish a post about the history of a menu item, or post photos of elaborate dishes as they are being garnished in the kitchen.
These are all examples of extending positive table experiences beyond the restaurant while developing a unique voice for your restaurant.
2 – Establishing Brand Authority
The restaurant industry is highly competitive. Think about the culinary scenes of Miami, New York, London, Paris, and so on.
Some of the most famous restaurants in the world are located in these cities, and they are widely regarded as brands that carry a certain authority.
As a restaurant owner, you can establish brand authority by being a good member of the local gastronomical scene. To achieve such a reputation, activate your inbound marketing campaign.
For instance, you can organize cooking workshops, be present at community events, and actively invite both food critics and average diners to review your restaurant. The more you do, the more guests you will attract to your restaurant.
To be a highly regarded figure in your niche, you need be educated and committed to lifelong learning. It’s not enough to know about food, you also need to possess knowledge on running a company and develop great communication skills.
Keep improving, but don’t forget your employees – this is something many restaurant owners tend to ignore! For example, your waiters are the first point of contact with your customers, so they need to be motivated at all times.
Teach them how to treat guests, use available educational technology to invest in their improvement, provide guidance and assistance, and always treat them with respect.
If they are happy and fulfilled, it will reflect on the way they treat your guests, which is something you should always keep in mind.
Consider, furthermore, how much customer reviews can be beneficial for the reputation of your restaurant.
When people hear satisfied guests talk enthusiastically about your food or service, they will more likely want to visit your restaurant themselves.
Reviews are a great way to establish trust and authority, so why not ask your guests to leave them?
For example, you can ask your employees to solicit short video testimonials from happy guests. Let them talk about what they liked about their visit.
Those videos needn’t be professional and expensive. Quite the contrary, you will make a much better impression with ordinary, amateur videos – they will convey authenticity and a human touch.
Embed those videos on your website, and let them to the marketing work for you.
You can also include customer testimonials in the written form, which is a more old-fashioned method, but still very effective.
When people read such testimonials that are presented at a restaurant´s website, they automatically start trusting the restaurant more and become increasingly interested in its offer.
It’s just the kind of effect that other people´s positive experiences produce – no one will want to go to the restaurant that is bad-mouthed.
Therefore, you should definitely consider including short and effective customer testimonials on your website.
Whether it’s a video or a short massage, customer testimonials are great for boosting the authority of your restaurant.
3 – Restaurant Discovery
These days, online search engines have come to replace the Michelin and Zagat guides of yore.
The modern restaurant search experience is very localized and tends to be mobile.
For this reason, you need to ensure that your restaurant´s website is properly optimized so that diners can discover it.
Search engine optimization for restaurants may involve link building, following a certain website structure, inserting specific keywords, including visual content, and so on.
Capturing clicks is the first step, which must be followed by an optimal menu presentation and an offer to book a reservation if needed.
Having an eMenu is an important factor that can draw visitors to your restaurant, especially if you have an elaborate offer.
For example, FIG Restaurant put every menu category (dinner, dessert, cocktail, and wine) into a separately downloadable PDF file. Consider doing the same.
Of course, you can have fewer files if your offer is smaller, but the point is to make your menu accessible. If you let people download it on their pads and phones, you will enable them to have that important information about your restaurant at hand.
To sum up, if you want your restaurant to be discovered more easily, make sure to undertake adequate SEO activities as a part of your inbound marketing strategy, and don’t forget to have a downloadable menu as a part of that process.
The benefits of pursuing inbound marketing are multiple. Inbound marketing is both cheaper and more effective than outbound marketing, and it can also make your restaurant more competitive.
It also produces some concrete results. The three inbound marketing results listed above should serve as a good starting point for restaurant owners looking to establish deeper and more profitable relationship with diners.
With inbound marketing, you will be able to not only drive sales but also extend the online reach of your brand.
In the end, inbound marketing is a smart approach that allows you to reach diners even when they are not physically at their tables.
Author Bio: Natalie Smith, a Seattle-based freelance writer and copywriter, enjoys writing about marketing, social media, and customer service. She is also an ardent follower of the new trends in the business world, as well as on the Internet.