These days, promoting your restaurant requires so much more than placing a beautiful sign above the doorway and handing out flyers: people want instant access to menus, food pictures, and reviews before they decide to try a new spot. The good news is, thanks to the internet, you can give them exactly what they’re looking for! Don’t miss out on a single potential customer: follow these simple tips to show everyone why you’re worth a visit.
Create a Website
Your restaurant is an integral part of your local community, but you’ll also need to make sure it’s part of the world’s largest global community: the internet. Having a website is like owning a digital storefront, where people can check you out before stepping inside. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – you can even stick to a single page, as long as you include all of the essential elements.
Whether your site is one page or five, keep this checklist in mind while you build it:☐ Clean, simple design that does not overwhelm the reader.
☐ Well-lit, appealing photos of your food (no stock photos).
☐ News and updates, including the most recent menu and daily/weekly/monthly specials.
☐ Link to the menu (make sure to include alcohol and dessert menus if separate).
☐ Contact information, including address and phone number.
☐ Information about how to make reservations or place a delivery order.
☐ Amenity information: WiFi, outdoor space, accepted payment methods, BYOB, etc.
Manage Customer Reviews
The numbers don’t lie: 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 92% read online reviews for local businesses in particular1. So, if you don’t have the time or know-how to create and maintain a website, make sure you’re part of other popular online communities. Start by making a page for your restaurant on review platforms like Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. It’s easier than you think, and you can find lots of free tutorials online if you need some extra help. You can post photos and updates on these sites, so make sure to maintain them on an ongoing basis, especially if you don’t have a website of your own!
Once the reviews start rolling in, show people you really care by responding to their feedback in a timely manner. When someone leaves a positive comment, thank them for their input, and let them know you hope to serve them again soon. If you receive a negative review, respond politely and respectfully: apologize for the issue, and invite them to contact you directly by providing an email or phone number.
Focus on Your Brand
As a local business, you have a major advantage: people love feeling connected to their communities. They want to get to know their neighbourhood restaurants, and they enjoy supporting businesses they can feel good about. To tap into this consumer desire, focus on creating a brand that feels warm, familiar, and inviting.
A great brand is one that tells a story. So, here are a few leading questions to help you get started:
- Has your business been around for decades? If so, you’ve probably lived through lots of changes in both the industry and your community! How was it “back in the day”?
- Who taught you how to cook? Did you grow up in the kitchen at your father’s diner? Did your mom teach you her favourite recipes? How has your past influenced your menu?
- Are you a family business? Did you inherit your restaurant or build it from the ground up?
The answers to these questions can fill the “about” section of your website or Facebook page. Simply share your restaurant’s history with the public, like you would with your kids or grandkids! You could even dedicate a page of your menu to showcasing your story, or use vintage posters and pictures to decorate the walls of your restaurant (if you’ve been around that long)!
Get on Social Media
Creating a presence on social media may sound daunting, but it’s easy – we promise! As a restaurant, your food is your strongest selling point, so we suggest starting with Instagram. This image-centric platform is perfect for showcasing pictures of delicious dishes, your location’s interior, happy customers, your hard-working team, upcoming events, and exciting promotions. Given that 30% of millennials avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence2, having a profile is a must!
Not only is Instagram a great way for potential diners to find your restaurant, but they will also be able to tag your page and boost your visibility if they publish a picture of your food on their profile. Create your own hashtag, repost other people’s pictures, and engage with other users to build trust around your brand.
Before you post a picture, think strategically about your timing. For example, consider publishing a happy hour promotion around mid-week (lots of people go out on Thursdays and Fridays), putting up a photo of tonight’s menu around 3-4PM to get people in the mood for dinner, etc.
BONUS: Make your restaurant a visual destination. All you need is a single neon sign, colourful mural, or unique decor accent – customers will be lining up to take pictures in front of it and share them online!
Engage with Your Community
You’ve got physical space at your fingertips, so why not make the most of it? Organizing events like live music shows, game nights, or themed nights (i.e. Taco Tuesdays) creates buzz and excitement. It gets people to associate your space with fun and good times. Sponsoring a little league game or local event is another great way to get your name out there and show your support for other community institutions.
Sidewalk sales, block parties, and neighbourhood festivals are also golden opportunities to introduce people to your menu and build your reputation as a hands-on business. Collaborating with other shops in your area – for example, serving your food on local handmade plates – will further establish you as a team player that loves supporting the businesses around them. And customers will do the same in return.
TIP: All of these things produce great content for social media!
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