- Understand you customer and monitor your reviews before choosing marketing options. Look at your reviews to learn your strengths and weaknesses. Listen to what the diners say. You live or die on your reputation, so pay close attention to what people are saying about your restaurant online. Thank visitors for positive reviews and respond to and respectfully resolve negative reviews.
- Stay current. Keep yourself up to date on current statistics, trends, facts and figures that can help you analyze your restaurant marketing plan. Should you make any tweaks to how you market your restaurant? Should you position your restaurant differently? Look at the food trends customers are following on tv, cookery shows, supermarket magazines, Instagram, twitter etc.
- External Sites. Own your business page and correct information on external sites. Keep your information on sites like Google+, Yelp, TripAdvisor and facebook page up to date, including, opening times, what you offer, food pictures and videos. This helps the online customer find you and choose you.
- Customer service and consistency in food quality is everything. If your customers are happy, they will write strong reviews online. Review sites have become an integral part of a business’s reputation, and negative reviews have the potential to harm your business. Asking happy customers to write you a review, as well as responding personally to any negative feedback, is the best way to maintain a positive online reputation.
- Next, Branding. Your brand is your image, your logo, the font on your menu, the style of service and food you have. What people remember about you. Keep it simple, don’t change your menu, logo colours and fonts all the time. Like McDonalds and Nandos, diners should recognise you instantly. If you already have a great design that works well, great!. If you have outdated or confusing menus and leaflets, customers may think your food is not great as well. Simplify and add food that is healthy and trendy and appeals to your customers, like high protein vegetarian options for younger guests.
- Have a functional SEO optimised website. Can customers find your restaurant online? You should be 100% sure that your website will show up for keyword searches relevant to your restaurant. Make sure they can with an easy to use website that includes your menu, picture gallery and online ordering/booking system. Keep it simple, no fancy music and flashing images.
- Use an online reservation tool. Opentable is expensive, use cheaper online systems on your website such as OrderingDirect where your staff can receive a print out of the order/booking. Sometimes people just don’t want to pick up the phone – they’d rather make their reservation in just a few clicks.
- Get a social media presence. Strengthen your word of mouth marketing with an interesting, interactive social media presence. This gives you the ability to talk to your customers 365 days as year, represent your brand personality and encourage customers to share their great experiences at your restaurant. That’s priceless.
- Tailor your marketing, you don’t have to do everything, choose your marketing channels wisely to save money. Direct marketing and advertising are still useful during certain promotions, but in general, 45-80 year olds read newspapers and magazines, age 35 and below, follow social media, but everyone looks online at your website and reviews. SMS/Text messaging can be annoying to customers.
- Just ask! Ask your regulars and loyal fans offline to ‘Like’ you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter Instagram (choose one name for all), and help spread the word. Talk to guests at their table while they’re enjoying what they love about your restaurant. If you constantly put up your restaurant specials on Facebook, your fans will lose interest. Mix it up, don’t be afraid to have fun, and be a part of the local community, talk about things related to the topics your customers are interested in, and of course indian food! Pictures and videos work well.
- Run contests now and then. This is a great way to reward social media fans, grow your fan base, bring in more customers, and promote loyalty.
- Create and implement a customer loyalty program. You will need to decide what will work best for you, some restaurants can just use their social media pages. Promote your e-newsletters through social media, on your website, and inside your restaurant. Mailchimp is a simple and free email marketing service. Send out e-newsletters to those who sign up to be in the program, highlighting exclusive deals. Promote your loyalty program offline and online.
- Learn to be digital! Your local college will have cheap evening classes for beginners to learn the basics of IT and social media for free or less than £40, better still, encourage your children to teach you!
By Shareena Ali