Offline Restaurant Promoting Verses Online Restaurant Promoting
By Stuart Leventhal
The yellow pages are dead! Okay, so what has replaced the phone book ad? Internet mobile phone searches of course! But, you scream, the internet is so vast! How do I know where to place my restaurant ads to get the best exposure? Stop making it more complicated than it is!
To get an idea of what you need to do online to outflank your competition simply turn on your computer, pull up one of the big three internet search engines and type in your town’s name then add the type of restaurant you run. For example, search in Google, Yahoo or Bing for; Italian restaurant in Cape Town. Now look to see if your Italian restaurant is listed. How hard is it to find your listing? Are there plenty of other Italian restaurants listed ahead of yours? If so, then you got your work cut out for you!
While you are still at the search engine results page, take a few moments and browse. Click on a few of your competitor’s websites and see what they are doing. Why do you think Google is ranking these websites ahead of yours? What do you like about these websites? What would you change? Are the search engines ranking only websites on their first pages or are some YouTube videos, Google maps, review site posts and/or Facebook fan pages ranking above the websites? All this information can come in handy as you design your plan of attack to take over the first pages of the top search engine suggestions.
DOMINATING THE SERPS!
Are you really going to continue to allow people visiting your town, searching for a place to dine to find your competitor instead of you, only because the internet confuses and annoys you? Can a business professional today afford to be that stubborn? I got news for you, the internet confuses and annoys your competitors too but they got over it and they are now getting more and more customers every day. Your customers!
You spent all that time developing your signature recipes, designed your dining room décor to look so inviting and comfortable, trained your staff to be courteous, caring and helpful, invested tons of time and money to get your restaurant off the ground; now is the time to figure out a real online marketing plan. You do not just want to grab your fair share of online searches. You want to OWN THE WEB!
No matter what the people search for, you want them to be brought first to your menus, your specials of the day, your glowing reviews by happy customers and your testimonials by local celebrities, photos of your delicious looking delicacies, award winning appetizers and videos of your professional staff serving happy, smiling guests in all kinds of interesting situations. This is going to take some doing but first you need to know how the internet as a whole works. Then you need to put together a plan of action.
There is no use in just spinning your wheels, trying out every new web based marketing fad that some salesperson is pushing this week. Yes, online technology moves fast and what is trending today is soon yesterday’s news. But, not all the new inventions are relevant nor necessary for successfully marketing a restaurant, bar or entertainment business. There is cutting edge and there is cutting edge! Staying current and looking hip is important for any hospitality enterprise but you do not have to re-invent the wheel every other week nor do you need to invest in purchasing every new promotional gadget that comes out.
Bear in mind people have been choosing where they dine based on the same four things for thousands of years; taste, value, ambiance and service! If you are reading this article, I know you are working 24/7 on giving your customers each of those. Now, all we have to do is let everyone know about your extraordinary, extra efforts and we will have them lining up around the block.
Below are a few restaurant internet marketing best practices that will help you stay one step ahead of your competition without having to pull your hair out and rack your head against the wall trying to keep coming up with crafty and cute new idea after crafty and cute new idea.
- SEO Search Engine Optimization is the name of the game when it comes to consistently ranking your restaurant website and other web real estate above your competitions’ for web searches. You need to hire a great Restaurant SEO Specialist who can assure you your site will rank on the first page searches for all the right search word combinations.
SEO is a technical science. Hiring an expert SEO with hospitality field expertise, especially restaurant field expertise, will give you an advantage over other SEOs not specialists in the food and beverage industry. One reason is because the keywords that customers search for are specific per industry therefore a SEO exert who knows intimately the ins and outs of running and promoting a restaurant as well as knows key restaurant terminology can easily out flank a regular SEO relying on his common sense to design his restaurant keyword strategy.
Obviously SEOs who work within the same industry get better and better at ranking web real estate for that specific industry because they can develop relationships within the online community for their niche of expertise. These relationships help Restaurant SEOs with all kinds of chores web related to getting great search rankings. For instance copy writing by restaurant experienced copywriters will make meals sound mouthwatering just by reading the descriptions all while incorporating a keyword density strategy into the text. This enables the SEO to rank the pages these well-constructed articles are on, fast, easy and with authority!
Restaurant SEOs on good standings with other restaurant related webmasters like review sites and restaurant webzines can establish fast relevant authority backlinks to the websites they work on which delights the search engines. Regular SEOs without those web master relations will take months longer and cost more to build up the same amount of link juice pumping into your website. Also restaurant SEO experts stay current on every new facet of restaurant SEO. They constantly tweak their methods to optimize performance because they are always working on hospitality type websites. And, as with anything else, practice makes perfect.
2. Restaurants and bars by their very nature have always been thought of as the social gathering places of the community. That philosophy has to be incorporated into your web strategy too. Your website, blog and Facebook fan pages, Tweets, text messages and email campaigns should all discuss everything that is going on in your neighborhood just like your patrons come to your place of biz to gossip and debate community issues. Think of the small town diner where everyone congregates before and after work and on the weekends after the movie theaters close or the corner bar where everyone knows everyone’s personal business and more.
Now-a-days, a hospitality business; bar, club, or restaurant must create a large internet presence if they wish to remain being considered an important authority figure of their community. Remember, you are competing with large national chains that have big budgets and internet marketing divisions trying to monopolize the first page of the search engine searches. Beating the big boys starts with setting up your own website and blog using all your local knowledge to insure that your site and blogging is much more interesting and relevant than a website being run by someone thousands of miles away.
You must also have plenty of social site profiles, pages and posts that address hometown issues and local fun facts. Your review site posts should have replies by you talking the way the people of your town talk and making frequent references to local things. Your traditional ads should show your hometown spirit and loyalty too. News-releases are great especially if you support a local charity or kid’s sports team. You have to court all the local food bloggers to review your menu items and services. Just send all the food critics invitations for a free meal and believe me, they will come.
Remember, the more articles and posts you have out there, the more your restaurant SEO will have to work with for getting those all-important backlinks which raise your value in the eyes of the search engines. Every post has the potential of getting to the first page. So do not just focus on your website. Sometimes it is easier to rank a video or even your Google map showing direction to your restaurant on the first page and the more first page spots you take up the less spots that are left for your competition to occupy.
3. It is important that you explain to your restaurant SEO one of your priorities is to set up a strategy for your website, blog and social sites to all accumulate email addresses so you can send out email coupons, special offerings and announcements. It is even a good idea to keep in touch with your clients via an opt/in monthly emailed newsletter.
4. Make it is easy for your customers to place their orders online. Install an integrated online to go ordering system. Your staff will love the fact that the phone rings less. The customers do their order placing themselves which frees up your employees to do other things. On that same note online reservation taking allows your customers a means of instantly making their reservation via their cell phones too.
5. Sell your gift cards on all your web platforms. You have to strike while the customer is hungry and salivating. You have gone to a lot of trouble to add delicious looking photos of all your new signature dishes to your blog, website and Facebook pages and you may even have paid a restaurant copywriting expert to describe your menu offerings using words that readers can actually taste! By offering your web real estate visitors an exclusive discount on gift cards that can only be had on the web, you are selling meals in advance. Regulars are not stupid. Some will purchase a bunch of gift cards for themselves and use them all year long for the discount but this is just what you want! The more the merrier! Now you have customers committed to dine with you for months to come. Do not sweat the discounts because you will make the difference up in other ways.
Full dining rooms and full tables fix all the major financial numbers of a restaurant. You have less spoilage and food waste. You can purchase at lower bulk rates thus adding to the bottom line. Fixed expenses like utility bills rent and insurance do not go up so the cost per customer goes down as you serve more customers. And best of all many gift card redeemers will bring other diners with them who pay full price!
6. Post your job openings online on all your web real estate; website, blog and social sites. This saves you time and the cost of placing help wanted ads as well as helps bond you with your community showing you are confident in hiring locals.
7. Design prominent online comment cards. This will give your complaining customers a place to vent on web platforms that you control and can moderate rather than them posting damaging reviews and off color remarks all over the web. If they leave their suggestions and concerns on your website or blog at least you will know about their complaints immediately and thus; you can follow up with them, apologize and do your best to repair the relationship with that customer. You may even choose to comment back online so other customers can see you take complaints very seriously and have addressed the problem immediately upon being notified so it does not happen again. This shows your sincerity and commitment to running the finest food and beverage establishment possible
* The hospitality industry winners have always been the establishments who have been known as being hip, current and cutting edge. Whether it is fair or not does not matter, the fact is the public now considers restaurants, bars, clubs as well as all other hospitality businesses that have a decent size web presence to be more modern and sophisticated than the sticklers who are still holding out, living in the past and not yet participating online. A bar, restaurant, entertainment venue or nightclub has got to play along with a cultural trend as vast and popular as the internet phenomenon and especially social media or risk being labeled out of touch with the times which is the kiss of death in the hospitality industry.
You are expected to have a website, blog and Facebook presence minimum and some people simply do not trust establishments that do not. It is no longer acceptable to wait for your customers to walk through the front door to begin communicating with them. Customers want to see your menu, see photos of your dining room, view videos of your staff preparing their meals and understand what you and your establishment stands for before they commit to come try your place out.
For a free consultation on restaurant, bar or club internet marketing strategies that will blow your competition away and fill every seat and bar stool night after night, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. – You and your customers will be thrilled and surprised once we show you how much fun internet promotion can be!