Think your restaurant doesn’t need an online presence? Think again. According to stats by the National Restaurant Association, 83 percent of adults use smartphones or tablets to look up restaurant locations, directions, and hours, 75 percent look up menus, and 51 percent order takeout or delivery online – and that’s just from the restaurant’s official website. Clearly, an online presence is increasingly a must for foodservice businesses - but driving constant traffic to your website and social media pages can be hard. How can you promote yourself online, make people aware of your great dishes and ambiance, and lead them through your doors? Here are a few ideas…
Team up with a food blogger
Turn on the television, or take a look at Instagram: chances are you will come across images of food. From programs featuring amateur cooks learning new skills, to whole magazines dedicated to recipes, to plain and simple pictures of someone’s breakfast dish, food is everywhere these days. And the thing is, people don’t seem to be getting tired of it. So it shouldn’t be surprising that food bloggers are trending like never before. And the good thing is, this is a trend you can use to your advantage! Team up with a food blogger, for example by inviting him or her to come to your restaurant to taste one of your most popular dishes on camera, and perhaps then cook it with one of your chefs in your kitchen. Making one of your prized recipes public is a small price to pay – the reward will be the ability to reach the food blogger’s fanbase on social media, and hopefully gain a whole new generation of customers.
Encourage customers to reinvent your mealsSocial media platforms are all about interaction. Setting up a Facebook page and getting likes is easy; keeping your fans’ interest alive is the hard part. In order to keep your relationship with your customers alive and kicking, you must engage your followers, and constantly provide them with fun and interesting information. You could for example publish some of your recipes on your website, and encourage your customers to make them and share the results with you. If your fanbase is already sizeable, you could even make a competition out of it. Dare your customers to share their recreation –or their personal variations- of your dishes on social media, and award the most original presentation of a dish with a free meal, and the most innovative recreation with a chance to get the dish on your menu for a week or two. Not only will you create engagement – you may also discover some great, new recipes!
Keep your pages fresh
If your website only contains your address, phone number and menu, you are not giving people a great incentive to visit it again and again. Post new content regularly to stay on top of mind with your customers, drive more traffic to your site and gain more visibility. What kind of content should you post? That depends on what you like to do, and on your brand image. If you don’t enjoy writing, don’t promise long articles that you know you will never deliver (few things are as sad as a lonely blog post dating two years back saying “This is my first post! I will update this page regularly from now on” – and no more). Instead, you could keep a regular photo blog where you share scenes from your business – perhaps new dishes ideas, moments of preparation, or your visit to the local bio farm where you buy your vegetables. If you like to write, you can share stories from behind the scenes, or interesting moments that matter to your brand – for example, you could explain the story behind your best-known dishes, or share cooking tips.
Connect your channels
Your business is a brand – and all the parts should be well connected to create a whole. In your restaurant, for example on the receipt, invite customers to keep up with you on your social channels. On all your social platforms, make sure you always include clear, visible links to your website, and that people can easily find all of your locations. Similarly, make sure that people who visit your website can easily jump on your official page on their favorite social platform, where they can perhaps start following you and stay tuned with all you’re up to. People today are always connected, and chances are that your customers are no exception. You might think this is terrible – after all, your dishes can’t be enjoyed in the virtual world! – but this online obsession presents restaurateurs with many new and cost-effective ways to promote their restaurant. Get creative online, get interactive and most importantly: be there!