Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing tool in the catering business. Offer great service and serve up delicious food and your customers will not only keep coming back, but they’ll also recommend you to others. It’s the surest way to build a loyal, local following.
But competition in the restaurant business is fierce. Last year The Caterer reported that restaurant insolvency reached a record high, with 1,123 restaurant businesses in the UK filing for insolvency in the first three-quarters of 2018. The insolvency trend in this sector has been growing since 2010.
There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the mid-market casual dining sector has, in recent years, become saturated. There are way too many restaurants trying to do the same ‘casual dining’ thing.
Secondly, many restaurants have been forced to cut costs in order to counteract rising business rates, higher wages and increased competition. Many have done so by lowering the quality of their ingredients, ultimately driving diners away.
Add in a side of Brexit uncertainty and you can see why many restaurants are struggling. There is little doubt that restaurants are facing challenging times, but some are bucking the trend. The one thing that stands out as being more important than ever before is having a savvy digital marketing strategy. Here’s a whistle-stop tour to get you started:
Get ranked online
No restaurant can survive without a website these days, but it’s not just having a website that is important. Getting ranked so that you appear high on the list for web-based searches matters. What’s the point of having a website if no one can find you?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial for any restaurant business. Understanding your competition and what they rank for, and mastering your keywords for searches is crucial. There is a certain amount of SEO you can do yourself, but, as Mike Knivett, MD of Artemis Marketing explains, the algorithms used by Google to rank web pages are highly complex, meaning help from an SEO expert is increasingly important; especially in an industry where there is lots of competition.
An SEO agency can help you to keep abreast of these changes and optimise your website for local SEO, as well as help with HTML coding issues, meta tags, Schema, redirects, building directory presence, link building and much more.
SEO isn’t cheap, but it is an investment worth making to give your restaurant a solid online presence and ensure it ranks higher than competitors for relevant searches. Get it right and the ROI (return on investment) could mean the difference between success and failure.
Ace social media
Whether you are proactive on social media or not, you can guarantee that you are being Tweeted about, Instagrammed and posted online or on other social media platforms by your customers.
Just as with SEO, keeping up with social media is a full-time job. Either employ someone in-house with specialist skills or outsource it. Whatever you do, don’t ignore social media. It’s a powerful tool for connecting with customers and creating visual content on social media channels is key.
Use mobile PPC
PPC stands for pay per click and is an advertising model that allows businesses to place ads on search engines. You only pay for the ad when a user actually clicks on it and that hopefully leads to a conversion (restaurant booking). You can geo-target mobile ads and show them more frequently at peak restaurant times.
Google and Bing users tend not to click beyond the first three pages of results. Ranking on the top three pages in an industry where competition is fierce is extremely difficult and requires a persistent SEO strategy, usually with the backing of an SEO agency or expert. Bidding on highly relevant keywords can assist in getting your business to top spot with a PPC campaign.
Remember to ensure that any landing pages linked from your ads are accessible on mobile!
Promote discounts and special offers online
Promotions only work if you get them to the right people – your target audience. Promotions also need to be clever – ultimately you want people to spend more money with you, not less.
And don’t forget to reward loyalty. A free bottle of house wine or money off if you come back within a set time is a great way to say thanks to loyal customers and keep them coming back for more. Build a customer database so you can email offers, announce special menus and events, and spike interest.
Did you know that Kafoodle Communications allows you to send notifications of offers, promotions and events directly to your customer’s smartphones?
Ramp up reviews
Building a cohort of consistently good reviews will help attract people to your business. You will need to encourage people to leave reviews. Perhaps offer discounts or vouchers as an incentive.
Keep an eye on the reviews being made about your business and be sure to reply positively and in a professional manner to any negative reviews. Keep an eye on the main restaurant review sites, such as Yelp, Trip Adviser, OpenTable and Zomato (there are more – do your research and keep checking).
Shout about your vegetarian and vegan menu
Recognise uniqueness in your marketing and don’t try to be all things to all people. But, equally, don’t turn your back completely on trends. The current wave of vegetarianism and veganism, along with a whole range of dietary requirements, including gluten-free shouldn’t be ignored. Just a single vegan in a party could take a group booking to a competitor if you aren’t on top of consumer wants.
Did you know that Kafoodle allows you to track food allergens from ingredient through to finishes dish, and also lets you tag dishes as suitable for vegetarians and vegans!
Stay true to your brand
On the marketing front and with your food, be sure to stay true to your brand. The key is to cater to trends and dietary requirements without detracting from your brand and who you set out to be. Over diversify and you will weaken what sets you apart. You can read more about how to build a successful brand in our interview with 48.1, a forward-thinking creative agency.
Author: Annie Button
Food Allergy Awareness
Winner | 2015
Product Excellence Award
Winner | 2016
Great British Entrepreneur Awards
Silver Winner | 2015