10 Best Digital Marketing Strategies to Boost Restaurant Sales

Busy restaurant after improving its digital marketing strategies

Whether you own a small sidewalk café, a lunch wagon, or a full-service family dining establishment, you know that competition is fierce in the restaurant business.

Compounding the problems of a crowded marketplace, shrinking profit margins, and the rising cost of doing business is the question of how best to market restaurant services with a smaller budget.

Counting on foot traffic to put guests in seats is no longer as reliable as it was in the past. Between expanded delivery options, uncertainty in a post-COVID world, and shifts in consumer behavior, you need to find innovative ways to raise awareness and establish customer relationships that make dining out in your establishment the best option.

Fortunately, digital restaurant advertising is a cost-effective way to broaden your reach and boost restaurant sales in a highly competitive industry.

The Importance of Your Restaurant Website

Your website is often the first point of contact in terms of brand awareness. Its reach extends beyond a favorable brick-and-mortar location and takes it global.

Relying on word of mouth alone is no longer necessary when SEO can spread awareness to an audience that transcends proximity.

In addition to attracting customers who live in your community, consider:

  • Vacationers
  • Business travelers
  • Conventioneers
  • Out of town guests
  • Seasonal events and celebrations

Don't think of your website as just another online advertising channel. It's a digital front door that enhances and extends the guest experience beyond your physical location.

A recent and very effective tool for marketing your restaurant is the addition of push notification subscriptions on your website. This tool allows you to send news and updates directly to your customers' mobile devices in real-time even after they have left your restaurant's page.

Go Push is a simple service that adds Push Notifications to your website. It's a great way to engage users who might otherwise be lost forever.

Sign up now to try it for free.

No credit card required. No coding required. Cancel anytime.

How Digital Marketing Works for Restaurants

Digital marketing restaurant website

Restaurants that were able to keep the doors open amid the pandemic altered their service model through online ordering, curbside pickup, and expanded delivery options.

Although these options are no longer a necessity, customer expectations have been challenged and raised. Even if they aren't ordering online, 90 percent of diners will turn to the internet to research a restaurant before choosing a place to eat.

Establishments that want to stay in business need to change the way they advertise and serve guests to match customer demand.

Restaurant marketing is a sensory-driven experience. Through the power of digital advertising, you draw your audience in through a multi-media, multi-channel approach that brings diners almost close enough to smell what's cooking.

How do you accomplish all this without breaking your advertising budget? Through creative use of visual appeal, word of mouth, and strategic SEO best practices.

You don't have to be a tech genius or hire an expensive marketing firm. All you need to do is harness the power of digital media and platforms that are already freely available, and then use them to build a bulletproof brand.

10 Best Strategies of Marketing for Small Restaurant Owners

The best strategies of marketing a restaurant involve taking a multi-pronged approach that combines the power of social proof with digital marketing best practices.

Marketing strategy for a restaurant

1. Prioritize Data-Driven Local SEO

Local SEO is the number one way to attract business to a physical location. This means that they are using geolocation indicators to find goods and services in the immediate area or a place they intend to visit soon. In fact, almost half of all searches are based upon local intent, and 97 percent of all users have conducted a search for a business in their area.

Consider search terms like "fast food near me" or "Chinese restaurants in [Your City]".

A robust local SEO strategy involves:

  • Using high-interest/low competition keywords and phrases that include your geographic location
  • Collecting online reviews and check-ins from guests
  • Using alt-tags for images that are location specific
  • Including complete, up-to-date NAP citations (Name/address/phone number) on all platforms
  • Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing (more on that in a minute)

Make sure to use schema markup to get your Google star rating to appear directly below your restaurant name in the search results listing. You don't need to know any coding for this to appear. WordPress websites and other applications offer plugins or code generators that will do the work for you.

The advantage of this one tweak is that it will help search engines better evaluate and rank your content and increase your click-through rates.

When deciding on how to further optimize your place in the SERPs without going over budget, skip the sponsored adds and aim for lunchbox placement or organic search instead.

Search engine results pages are divided three ways. Sponsored ads naturally appear at the top of the page, but not always. The next space is reserved for "Map Pack" or lunch box results. These are the restaurants that appear along with a Google Map locator when someone conducts a search with local intent. In order to get in this group of listings, you need to specifically use a keyword combination that includes business type + city.

Just below these listings are the organic search results that are found through on-page and local SEO.

2. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

One of the first things you should do after launching your website and optimizing for local SEO is to claim and optimize your Google My Business (GMB) profile. In addition to the usual elements, like up-to-date NAP (Name/address/phone number) data, reviews, maps, and images, it's important to add a "make reservation" button.

Google search results for restaurants

In order to do this, go to the Google My Business website and claim or add your business.

Your profile should include:

  • Name of your business
  • Up-to-date phone number and physical address
  • Google map image with exact location indicated
  • Business category
  • Hours of operation
  • Hypertext link to your website
  • Images of your business, including a street view, logo or sign. You can also add an image from a menu item or of diners enjoying your fare; make sure to get permission before adding actual photos of customers.
  • Reviews

Right at the bottom, prominently displayed, add a button so guests can reserve a table.

3. Design for Mobile First Responsiveness

Most users take a systematic approach to researching a restaurant. They may begin by searching for a specific type of food or restaurant from a mobile device, but they'll also hop on the business website and search for reviews on Google, Yelp, and social media.

Regardless of where they begin their research, or where they end up, all of your content should be optimized for mobile responsiveness. This simply mean that all design and layout should look and perform the same regardless of device, without the need for zooming in or swiping sideways.

The best way to ensure this is to design for a mobile screen first, with a layout that's clean and easy to navigate, fast page loads, and CTA (call to action) buttons that are prominent and easy to use with a tap. As long as your content looks and performs well on mobile, it will do the same on other devices. Your SEO and position is the SERPs will also improve because Google crawlers index for mobile first.

4. Optimize On-Page SEO

Whatever other strategies you use, your website is still the central platform for your online presence. When building a website for your restaurant, keep the layout clean, uncluttered, and easy to navigate.

Every page should contain:

  • A street view image of your restaurant and/or logo
  • Navigable site menu
  • Complete, updated contact information
  • Hours of operation
  • Social media and GMB (Google My Business) links
  • Call to subscribe to your website and push notifications (CTA - call to action); this can be a popup, a button, or a form. Make sure that there is a clear directive and reason for your CTA, such as "Subscribe now", "Make a reservation", or "Join our email list".

In addition, all content on your website should be optimized for on-page SEO. That means using well-researched keywords/phrases in all text, title tags, meta data, and alt-tags for images and video.

A well-rounded, compelling restaurant website should also contain your full menu, information about daily specials, high-quality images of menu items, and customer testimonials. Make sure to create an About page that highlights your story. Guests love to connect with businesses on an emotional level. Use this page to highlight your connections in the community, with images. You can also include behind-the-scenes photos of your staff in action.

Other content that connects with readers is a restaurant blog with content such as suggestions for drink pairings or any other value-added features. Broaden your reach with backlinks to relevant, high-authority websites.

Make it easy for customers to order online for curbside pickup or to shorten the wait time when they dine-in. Create a loyalty program with discounts and other incentives or a digital coupon or QR code that can be used with mobile devices.

5. Keep Customers in the Loop Through Strategic Email Marketing

One of the best ways to connect with guests on a personal level is via email. You can encourage your diners sign up at your business and on your website.

Email marketing

What do they get with a subscription? That's up to you, but the most effective email content contains:

  • Customer loyalty incentives
  • Discounts and specials
  • News and events
  • Birthday, holiday, and celebration greetings and/or deals

Make sure that emails are only sent to subscribers who have opted in, optimize subject lines for SEO, and personalize the message. Keep the content brief, relevant, and to the point. Include clear calls to action at the end, thank them for their patronage, and invite them to dine again soon.

6. Offer Flash Deals and Promos With Push Notifications

A recent and very effective tool for marketing your restaurant is the addition of push notification subscriptions on your website. This tool allows you to send news and updates directly to your customers' mobile devices in real-time.

Example web push notification for a restaurant

Through a simple, two-click process, customers can receive flash deals, discounts, updates on COVID protocols, or specials. Pair your push notification with an enticing photo from a featured menu item and add to the appeal.

These notifications offer a measurable ROI, they're effective, and they're secure because they don't collect or endanger user data. There are few better ways to generate good will and create customer loyalty while increasing click-through rates.

With Go Push, you can add push notifications to your website in 15 minutes or less: sign up now for a free trial.

7. Engage With Customers and Grow Your Audience Through Social Media

There are so many social media platforms, and so little time. Make sure that your content and outreach matches your target audience, and that the media matches the platform.

For example, most people use the Big Three: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, TikTok is great for short video clips and user-generated content. YouTube is great for longer video content and behind-the-scenes footage. You can use long or short form video and images on Instagram, and it's great for adding to your story or sharing community connections. Twitter is ideal for news briefs, announcements, and flash deals. Use Facebook for targeted ads, community building, and check ins.

For whichever platforms you choose, make sure that the branding is unified and consistent with all of your other digital marketing platforms.

Create a business profile for each that includes:

  • Correct NAP information (Name/address/phone number)
  • Map with specific location indicated
  • Links to your website and other social media platforms
  • Testimonials, reviews, and star ratings
  • Hours of operation

Boost sales with social media

Update regularly on a predictable schedule so that your customers will know when to expect content, and engage with them by acknowledging/answering comments and encouraging shares, likes, and check ins. You can also include promotions and discounts if allowed by platform TOS agreements.

Other great ways to engage and boost interest are to create customer surveys, hold contests, and ask for user-generated content.

Remember that restaurant marketing begins with visual appeal. If your menu includes daily specials, you can add descriptive content that increases anticipation and an image of featured dishes.

8. Leverage the Power of Social Proof

Not to be confused with social media marketing, social proof is the online equivalent of word of mouth advertising. People are more likely to check out a business if it has good reviews or it's recommended by someone they know.

Need more proof about social proof? Consider these statistics:

  • Nearly half of those looking for a restaurant will get recommendations from friends or family members
  • 35 percent of potential guests will read online reviews
  • Another 35 percent will browse a restaurant's website before making a decision

How do you furnish social proof?

In addition to building a solid online presence, encourage guests to leave reviews and testimonials on your GMB (Google My Business) profile, Yelp, and travel websites like Trip Advisor. Actively engage with reviews, especially if they are less than favorable. Diners will be more likely to visit a restaurant, even if it has bad reviews, as long as you address them immediately and professionally. If the criticism is valid, offer solutions rather than excuses.

User-generated content is another way to build trust and get recommendations. Encourage guests to take pictures or video while dining in your establishment and post them online. In fact, you can add a dedicated page to your website for guest-generated content and highlight it on your social platforms.

This not only furnishes visual proof, it also capitalizes on FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Who doesn't want to be in on the food and fun? Make sure to use alt-tags on images and video to double-dip your SEO.

9. Incorporate Location-Based Marketing and Geofencing Into Your Marketing

Out of town visitors and locals alike are always looking for new dining experiences. In addition to optimizing your content for local search, use location-based marketing and geofencing to tie your establishment to the community in a more granular way. You can deploy this technology to send targeted ads within a designated area or personalize your marketing.

For example, link your establishment to local landmarks, tourist attractions, or well-known streets through tags, hashtags, and images. Reach out to community information websites, get your restaurant listed on travel sites, and partner with relevant blogs. Options include using backlinks, sponsorships, or guest posting. Mention a local event or festival on your website and tie it to your restaurant.

10. Give Back to the Community

Communities love to support businesses that give something back in return. Partner with local schools, other businesses, and charities to sponsor events and donate time, money, or food. Make sure to get your staff involved and share to your website and socials.

Be aware that folks can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. Make sure that whatever projects, events, or organizations you partner with are relevant and meaningful. It's especially helpful if they are personally significant to yourself, family, or employees.

Final Thoughts

In the digital age, it's no longer enough to bank on a great location or word of mouth to increase restaurant sales.

Establishing a solid online presence that prioritizes mobile responsiveness and local SEO is not just cost-effective. It's a smart way to let technology do the heavy lifting so that you can nurture the customer relationships that are the foundation of food service.

Our restaurant marketing tips are designed to help you turn casual diners into return customers. By implementing digital marketing restaurant best practices, you'll be able to build your brand, level the playing field, and stand out from the competition.

Published: June 2, 2022