Does your digital marketing program offer the right combination of personalization and exclusivity? In the past year, that has been the winning recipe for Taco Bell, which has increased its customer base five-fold throughout the course of its new digital engagement campaign. In a recent podcast interview with Nation’s Restaurant News, Zip Allen, Taco Bell’s vice president of global digital and omnichannel product experiences, said the brand has tried to maximize both of those elements in their campaign. Part of this involved the launch of a $5 build-your-own-cravings box, which they made available to loyalty program members first. They have followed this effort by releasing new menu items to loyalty program members first via their app. Not only do these members-first offers make the program feel more special to customers, but they also drive sales through the app (and elevate the buzz surrounding any new items released). As a result, Taco Bell can gather more/better data on their customers, which they can then use to craft new promotions to further boost their loyalty. If you’re trying to increase your digital sales and engagement right now – and you should be, since that is where the best insights about your customers live -- what can you do to ensure your digital channels feel like exciting, customized, special places to be?
During the course of the pandemic, so many restaurants had to reinvent themselves in order to survive – perhaps opening in-store bodegas, offering takeout and delivery where none existed before, or otherwise operating in ways that might have been considered off-brand before the pandemic. Now that life is returning to normal, it’s time to refine your approach so you can glean the most success from your marketing efforts. In particular, it’s important to fine-tune your online marketing efforts, now that we have seen how important it is to have a strong web presence. The Rail suggests that once a restaurant has solidified its brand, it should approach online marketing from several directions. First, look to online media publications that cater to your audience and offer opportunities to collaborate with restaurant critics or pay for advertorial content. Your website should allow a user to easily and quickly place an order, find your hours and location, and leave a review (and also prompt you when that happens so you can respond right away). If your restaurant is looking to attract more traffic from people visiting the area who haven’t heard about you yet, consider crowd marketing, which allows you to promote your restaurant in themed forums on social networks. When it comes to advertising, think about whether it makes sense to pay for contextual advertising – perhaps if you’re a sports bar, you might want to have your ads appear online next to content about your city’s baseball team – or through influential bloggers in your area who have an engaged following of guests in your demographic and would take payment (or perhaps just a free meal) in exchange for an honest review.
When a consumer starts a Google search for something nearby, chances are they are looking for food. Modern Restaurant Management reports that “restaurants near me” is by far the most popular “near me” search, generating more than 6 million searches monthly. In fact, food searches comprise four of the top five positions in “near me” queries – with such searches as “pizza near me” and “delivery near me” appearing in the group. In the past we have used this space to talk about the benefits of local search engine optimization for restaurants – ensuring that your restaurant appears in those important “near me” searches when consumers get a craving. But you can be more proactive about attracting the interest of consumers near you too. Are you capitalizing on your local advertising opportunities to your greatest advantage? As the Rail reports, location-based advertising via search engines and social networks has become an increasingly precise means for businesses to target hungry customers who happen to be nearby. This form of advertising combines mobile advertising with location-based services, which enables a business to pinpoint a customer’s specific location and then direct advertisements toward their mobile devices. So on the afternoon before a big football game, a promotion about your chicken wing sampler could appear on smartphones of consumers shopping for game-time snacks in a supermarket nearby. Location-based advertising may help you win new customers who didn’t even know they wanted your food.
“More reviews equal more success.” That’s what restaurant consultant and coach Ryan Gromfin told FSR Magazine recently, adding that operators need some kind of well thought-out system for generating reviews – whether it’s a simple reminder on a guest check, or better yet, a text or email reminder that is automatically sent after a visit. What kind of structure do you have in place? At a time when consumers are heavily researching their dining options online, ironing out any weak spots in your feedback loop can give your business a much-needed boost. First, make sure your business has an updated profile on the main review sites including Yelp, Google and OpenTable. Next, ask and you shall receive: Post a request for reviews on your website, social media channels and on table cards if you have a dining room. If you can, use an automated system for requesting reviews electronically – if a guest receives a prompt on their phone that includes a link to where they can post a review, you make it easy and quick for them to help. (If you offer them loyalty points or another incentive for taking the time to share their thoughts about you, all the better.) If you get a less-than-positive review, make sure you respond professionally and helpfully – a quality response to a negative review can neutralize it. Promote your positive reviews as testimonials on your website and social media.
It’s not the eye-catching ambience on display through your front windows that is drawing people to your restaurant right now – your website is more likely the place responsible for making a good first impression and enticing people to support your restaurant. Are you making it as easy as possible for people to find you, be assured of the hours you will be open, access your menu and place an order? First, review and update your information on GoogleMyBusiness to manage your presence across both search and map functions. Beyond that, make sure your hours, phone number, webpage link and physical location are up to date, and that your website (with minimal clicks) allows people to access your menu and new safety and hygiene practices. On your website, consider a pop-up invitation to join your email list – and preview the benefits of joining it. Your online information – including what is viewable on a search engine or your site itself – should be just as easy to read on a phone as on a computer or tablet screen.
Word-of-mouth marketing is any restaurant operator’s goal: According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of marketing. If you can create the conditions at your restaurant that inspire user-generated social media content, you’re a big step closer to getting that user’s friends and family in the door too. NextRestaurants offers some tactics to help. First, boost your visual appeal. Fresh flowers, unusual interior/exterior design, stand-out artwork, special holiday décor and artful plating of menu items can all inspire the taking (and posting) of photos. You can also try the carrot approach: Offer a free coffee to anyone who posts a photo with your hashtag and geotag. Or, create a contest that challenges guests to submit photos and anecdotes of experiences with your brand, select your favorite entry and reward the winner with a gift certificate. Make it easy for guests to post content. Your brand name, logo and hashtag should be visible on such places as your menu, dishware, tables, decorations and the mirrors in your restroom (a favorite place for selfies, believe it or not). Once guests post content, mention and tag them when you repost it – not only does it help you avoid copyright infringement, but it will also help you forge a stronger connection with your guest.