- Advertising a venue is not an easy task. Advertising a restaurant, a new local café in a sea of established food places is even more difficult.
- Fortunately, the online world and the online customer are the main things you should start with if you want to achieve any success in promoting your delicious food.
- Start with SEO and the ease of finding you, then concentrate more on what makes you special for the customers and see the wheels turning in the favor of your restaurant's advertising.
Effectively advertising your venue requires knowing where your most valuable customers are looking and having strategies in place so that your venue is top-of-mind when your potential customers are making a decision about where they’d like to eat.
There are two main ways this can occur and they each present different opportunities for growth. Most importantly, they are not equally valuable to your business in the short term.
The typical way customers come to a decision is that they have a need to eat, and they’ve decided on eating out – whether through hunger, time of day or a special occasion. Then they decide on a destination that best satisfies this need.
Research is how most customers come to a decision on where they’d like to go, common ways include:
- Friend's recommendations,
- The memory of good places they liked,
- Researching on Google (often for places “near me”),
- Exploring Google Maps,
- Looking for ideas on Facebook and Instagram,
- Browsing the home pages of delivery services like Uber Eats.
To make them choose you during this research involves a threefold approach:
1. Be listed everywhere customers look
Ensure you’ve grabbed your free listing on the big basics like Zomato, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, The Urban List and Broadsheet. Then, for more ideas, ask customers where they look, research competitors to see where they are listed and consider potential niches like local councils and wedding service pages that may be appropriate.
Whilst you are most likely to be found on the dominant listings, being listed in many quality locations puts your venue in front of more eyes and also helps your SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation is the ability to rank highly on search engines and may involve tasks like paid advertising on Google or creating landing pages on your website.
Landing pages are custom web pages that ‘answer’ niche questions people type into Google. As these are questions people are already searching for, being able to answer them well (bonus points if you’re the only one answering!) means that the search traffic heads straight to you.
For hospitality, a landing page might be a blog article like “How to run the perfect function” or “What is a golden latte?” These articles are not just good for your SEO; they also have the power to turn viewers into customers in their own right, especially if they’re local.
2. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot
There is an easy piece of housekeeping that too many venues neglect. Search for yourself on social and Google and ensure your information is correct and up-to-date. Otherwise, customers may think you’re closed when you’re open, or worse, they come to visit you only to find you’re on holidays – customers will not give you a second chance while there’s plenty of competition around, so pay special attention to the accuracy of your opening hours!
Need more incentive? The more consistent your information, the higher your SEO ranking too. This takes time but it is also completely free, so there’s no excuse – make it a priority.
3. If SEO is king, the brand is queen
You’re never on those lists alone so making sure your café or restaurant stands out from the crowd is about relevance and quality. Customers will choose whether they like you based on everything from your logo and website design, right through to the styling of your photography and social media feeds.
Appealing to everyone is an ineffective approach as it dilutes the appeal and ends up appealing to no one – there is so much competition online and off.
Going through a professional branding service will help you identify who your most valuable customers are, and ensure that when they see your brand on the list they know you are the most attractive one. Cool businesses are as popular as cool people... but different customers respond to different signals depending on what tempting means to them.
For the best branding projects, look for services that are strategically led and ask to hear about the results they have achieved for other food businesses. You’ll instantly be able to tell if they understand your needs based on their answer. Effective branding services can be found anywhere between $600-$10,000 depending on if it’s just a logo or an end-to-end website and social media solution, so shop around to find the best way to meet your needs on your budget.
These strategies are important, but they’re also about long-term gains and often take time to perfect and see a tangible return on investment. I often see hospitality business owner prioritise these techniques over the ones that provide immediate value.
Always Rank High in Search Engines
Make sure you are always on top of searches when customers look for your kind of restaurant and where you are located. For example, if you are an Italian restaurant, optimize your website and make it SEO friendly so that when people look for “Italian restaurants in Sydney,” you will appear on top of Google, Bing, or any other search engine they may use. Also ensure that you maintain great reviews on popular restaurant review sites as search engines also display high-rated restaurants on top of the search, after the paid ads portion.
Genecia Alluora, Founder of Soul Rich Woman
So how do you get busy, now?
There is another way customers come to a decision about where they want to eat and that’s when the venue itself triggers this desire.
If you want your customer to skip the research line and head straight to your door, you need to put a very compelling offer right in front of them.
There are many traditional methods of advertising that you’ve probably already tried, like discounts and letterbox drops, but I bet you’re not still reading this article because they’ve met your acquisition needs.
Paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram have enormous potential for immediate, powerful and tangible returns. Most people that eat food in the area you sell will also be on these platforms regularly, so the potential value of reaching audiences on social media is too big to ignore.
How big? After only one week of a client’s advertising being live, he went from turning over $2,000 a week revenue to $22,000 a week. Two years later they are still advertising, still busy and have a social following over 29,000 strong.
I recommend what is known as an “always on” advertising strategy, which involves running social ads all the time, but constantly innovating them to keep them fresh, exciting, and, of course, effective.
To begin any social media advertising strategy it involves gaining a clear understanding of your business to gauge your ideal clients and to understand what your best opportunities and customers look like.
By researching customer insights and behaviours around foods and food trends, I like to identify unique opportunities tailored specifically to the needs of a venue. Use an emerging food trend popular with your ideal customer group as a hook for advertising, or identify a special product on your menu that you didn’t realise will have immense appeal when targeted to the right audience. Then it’s about ensuring that the product (if new) is customer-ready and that your venue is ready to handle a sudden increase in demand.
Measuring the success is actually quite easy! From the metrics side you can literally see how many people are liking and engaging with the content. In store, an obvious increase in patronage and especially patrons going for those featured products is an especially important indicator of success. After all, that’s why you’re doing it in the first place.
The type of businesses that can get the most out of social media advertising services already have good food and a good atmosphere, they just need that missing piece to attract more customers which is exactly what social media advertising offers.
Hospitality is a saturated market where being good is not enough to put more bums on seats anymore. By putting your marketing efforts into strategies that boost both short and long term growth, your venue will be in the best position for success.