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restaurant marketing

Stand Out Marketing Ideas for Independent Restaurants

There are some must-do marketing tactics, and we’ll cover those. But we’ll also dive into some ideas you might not have considered.

BRAND

The first idea is about your brand. Whether you’ve been in business for years or are new to your neighborhood, think about how you come across to your guests – and potential guests. Having a well thought-through brand identity makes a lot of things easier – from writing social media posts to making future menu item decisions.

This isn’t hard to do, really. Just think about who you are and why you opened your restaurant to begin with. Whether you’re a laid back coffee shop, a long-standing family-owned bakery, or an Italian bistro, ask yourself how you want your guests to feel with every interaction with you and your staff.

Once that decision is made, you get to have fun creating or updating your public-facing materials.

ONLINE PRESENCE

Do you have a website or do you plan on building one? A lot of independent restaurants have decided to skip the website and have a Facebook page instead. Either way, you’ll want to be sure you have the necessary info that guests are looking for.

Cover the basics of course: a little blurb about you, address, hours, menu (lots of restaurants surprisingly neglect this part), price range, special offerings like wifi, outdoor seating, parking, special diets, etc. Photos you include are important, just be sure they match with your brand so you build upon one strong identity.

If you haven’t already, set up your Google Business Profile. This is an important way to get your restaurant on the map, literally. And, now that Google has the “order now” button, you’ll need to be sure your online menu is connected. Invest the time upfront and ongoing to fully optimize your Google Business Profile.  You can learn how to do this here.

Get listed on the most popular restaurant apps. These are Yelp, Zomato, Open Table, Zagat, and Trip Advisor.

ONLINE MENU

Make sure you have an up-to-date online menu with photos and correct prices along with choices for pick-up and delivery. The easiest way to get frequent guests – both dine in and off-premise – is to offer convenience.

Don’t rely on a third party delivery company or random online menu company to do this for you. You need to own the guest data and keep the menu up-to-date with the items and prices you set, not an outside party.  SWIPEBY can help you with your own branded online ordering site.

Here’s an example of a SWIPEBY customer’s menu to give you some ideas.

SOCIAL MEDIA

This is your opportunity to connect and engage with people in your community and visitors.

Don’t be afraid to get personal in your social posts. Guests want to know who you are – what is your favorite menu item to prepare and why did you create it? Are there regular customers who would be okay having a photo posted? Restaurants that have loads of regular customer photos give a feeling of a place for people to belong, and can be a terrific approach if it fits your brand.

Be sure to let people know when you’re doing something in the community. If you provide pizza lunches to the fire department, have a booth at the local Friday Fest, or have a coffee station at a 5K benefit, it will be appreciated. Community support drives loyalty.

You can mix and match carefully crafted posts (Canva is a great tool for this) with candid photos that capture fun and important moments like a server delivering something flambé or a specialty anniversary dessert of the house. You can always host a guest photo contest too.

Whatever the approach you choose, be sure it stays in line with your brand and that you post often. Some restaurants post every day, which is ideal if you can manage it. If you get the Facebook Business Suite, you can use their tool for scheduled posts on both Facebook and Instagram.

GET REVIEWS

Now you’re ready to proactively earn good reviews. This is another vital marketing tool since so many people use reviews to decide where they want to eat. They look at the number of reviews and how many are stellar.

First, you’ll need to ask. SWIPEBY customers enjoy an automated tool to do this to help drive 5 star reviews while managing the not-so-good reviews. But there are also other approaches. Create a QR code that is on the reception station or in the restrooms. Include a link on your receipts, menus, and coupons. Simply have your staff ask.

BUILD TRIAL AND LOYALTY

The best way to get repeat guests is through rewards. SWIPEBY built loyalty into the platform since we know how important this is. You can use an old-school approach with punch cards or consider integrating with one of the loyalty apps available.

You can build loyalty through coupons which you offer via mailers or local coupon books. You can also collect email addresses with online orders and send email coupons to diners. This is a great way to encourage people who order for off-premises to consider dining in for their next visit. There are a few good email systems for this, like Mail Chimp.  SWIPEBY has a programmatic remarketing email feature to drive repeat business.

As alluded to in the social media section, get active in your community. Sponsor a float in the July 4th parade. Have a booth at the farmer’s market or one of those 100-mile garage sales that seem to be a part of all communities now. Pass out coupons to people who attend school plays. Attend and be active in town council meetings. Give specials to first responders, healthcare workers, teachers, and city and county workers.

MEASURE AND MONITOR

Set aside a little time each month to take a look at how your guests are engaging with you. Are there certain kinds of social posts that get more likes and comments? Are there specific menu items or staff members that drive higher reviews? What times are not as busy that you can layer in some fun marketing program like a special or promotion? What upcoming events could be a good fit for your brand?

These are just some of the ways you can set your restaurant apart from all of the major chains. We hope you find these thoughts valuable.

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