We all know competition within the food industry is fierce, and that climb to make it to the top is only heating up…
However, we’re here to introduce you to our most effective and efficient ways to get more customers through your doors. Not only will you see an increase in bookings and sales, but you will start growing customers that will last a lifetime too!
You’re busy running your business and don’t have time to add more tasks to your plate. We get that, so let’s dive right in.
1. Develop Your Brand identity & Voice
Your brand identity is your business’ personality. Without a defined personality, your business is plain old vanilla. Your brand identity is what creates an impression and makes your business memorable.
Think about the people you know for a moment – who are the people you HAVE to have at your party? And who doesn’t really make a difference? It all comes down to personality. You don’t want to be that boring person, right? Developing a memorable personality will get you an invite to your customer’s party!
Sweetfin is a great example of a brand with a defined personality. Check out their caption – “cheaper than therapy”. Light, funny and casual.
and then there’s Wendy’s who has now defined that their brand is a millennial per the use of “tho” 🙂
More on how to develop your brand identity here.
2. Create a memorable experience
People love experiences and love to capture them. You have to make yours stand out. Creating these memorable experiences will have your customers dreaming of your restaurant for months to come. As they scroll through their image feed, they’ll remember their time at your restaurant fondly and they will be itching to book again. These experiences can be as simple as implementing a fun way to order your meal.
Cafe Gratitude does a great job of creating an experience. This vegan restaurant’s experience is uplifting and stays true to its name – it’s all about gratitude. First, their menu items are all adjectives. To order, you say “I am… Fabulous” (doesn’t that sound like so much more fun than saying “I would like a raw lasagna, please”. If you want spring rolls, you would say “I am… Glowing”.
To add to that experience, every dish at Cafe Gratitude has a question on it, such as “What are you grateful for?” Answer and dig in!
Memorable experiences build brand loyalty – your customers will not only remember you, but they will also RAVE about you. They will want to come back and bring all their friends, who will tell all their friends. Cha-Ching!
This experience should ideally be in line with your brand identity and simply be an extension of the theme your business is trying to encapsulate.
3. Make it Instagrammable
You might hate us for saying this as you’re in the business of preparing delicious food, not making things look pretty but… looks do matter! Good food = happy customer. Good food and good presentation = happy customer and an Insta-famous restaurant.
This is the age of Instagram. Don’t fight it, but rather view it as an opportunity. Leveraging the power of Instagram and social media platforms will get your business all over the internet and it won’t require you to spend a cent on advertising.
Watch our video about how to make your business Instagrammable here.
Pro Tip: put your business name or logo somewhere near that Instagrammable element and encourage your customers to tag you in their posts.
A few examples of Instagrammable businesses:
4. Optimize your Google Business Account
Google Business is SUCH a great way to attract new customers. Not only will your listing allow people who already know about you to get directions and visit you, but it will also allow others to discover you!
Your business will show up in local search results, which is exactly the search results you want to show up in! It’s important to optimize your page to attract those people. If someone searches “lunch near me” it will return a long list of restaurants near them. What will make them visit you instead of all of the other restaurants in the area? How inviting you look compared to all of the others. Optimize your page and turn those searches into customers!
How? Update all info, upload high-quality photos of the food and areas, and add a link to your menu, phone number, and website. If you take reservations, add a link to your booking system.
The easier you make it for potential customers to book at your restaurant, the greater the chance that they will visit you.
In the digital age, people want answers at an instant. Why not give it to them and reap the rewards that will follow?
5. Use Geo-Targetted Ads
These are HEAVEN SENT for local businesses! The ability to target people in your geographic area based on their demographics and interests is a marketers DREAM COME TRUE! (Yes, we’re passionate about this!)
Are you a hip, upscale vegan restaurant? You can target people within a 1 mile radius, who are vegans, and within the too 20 percent of income earners. This is POWERFUL!
Three very important details to keep in mind:
- Targeting is very important
- Ad imagery is very important
- Ad copy is very important
For the highest advertising ROI, make sure you use high-quality imagery, effective copy, and an effective call to action.
BONUS: Use Mobile Ads! Mobile ads are perfect for restaurants AND they’re currently underutilized… the lower demand for mobile ads on the business side means… lower competition and lower costs!! Mobile ads are cheaper than desktop ads, and they boast impressive results!
What’s really cool is that you can even adjust the times when ads are shown… like increase discovery before dinner to boost dinner reservations, or turn ads off after lunchtime if you don’t serve dinner.
6. Build a Social Media Presence
It’s 2019 and a social media presence is not only essential but soooo powerful too! Look, everyone loves food, and social media is where “food porn” belongs. It doesn’t take a lot to persuade someone to come and visit your restaurant or cafe, it’s not like buying a house. An online presence will allow you to attract and engage customers. Every audience member you engage with, you’re giving them a reason to come and try out your restaurant for themselves.
A combination of high-quality photos and targeted hashtags will go a loooong way.
Tip: use keywords in your username to appear in search results. Are you a coffee shop? Incorporate “coffee” into your username. Located in Zurich? Incorporate Zurich into your name.
7. Be social
Building on our last point, take your social media strategy to the next level with engagement.
Instagram makes it so easy to engage with your ideal customer. You can comment, DM people, and easily start conversations – this is the online version of flyering and it’s so much more effective. First, you’re not wasting money on flyers, they won’t end up at the bottom of someone’s purse or trash can, they won’t get destroyed by the weather, and they will be displayed for everyone to see!
Out of all the tips we’ve given you, this is the most time consuming but most effective. You may be tempted to automate this through a bot, but DO NOT. We repeat, DO NOT USE BOTS. If you need to, hire a real person to do your engagement for you…
Using a bot is like cheating on a high school exam. You might get away with it, but you risk getting caught and punished, judged or expelled. Punished or expelled by Instagram for breaking community guidelines, and judged by all the users in IG when your automation posts something super irrelevant on a photo and it becomes obvious you used a bot.
Tip: treat this as a normal conversation. Don’t comment “hey come eat at our restaurant” or “hey we’re so great”. No, start a sincere conversation with the intent of making a connection. Ask a question, make the person feel special (that’s what we all want right”. If they’re interested they will come to your profile to see what you’re all about.
Listen and ask questions, like Which Which does!
8. Promote User Generated Content
There is nothing better than word of mouth referrals, right? Turn your customers into promoters by awarding them for posting about you. A simple repost or comment thanking them goes a long way.
Following what we learned from Pavlov- rewarded actions are more likely to be repeated. Simple acknowledging and thanking someone for sharing will make them more likely to repeat it. You can also encourage people to post about and tag you by making your Instagram handle and hashtag visible somewhere.
9. Share Your Story
Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone loves hearing stories. Sharing your story allows your customers to connect with you on a deeper level. Shared values = shared connections. What’s a better way to share your values than to share your story?
Are you a family owned business? Have you endured certain struggles? Is there a story behind your logo or most popular dish? Is your coffee sourced from somewhere special?
The more people know about what makes you special, the more they will buy into what you’re selling. Marketing used to be all about the sell, sell, sell whereas now we’re seeing a shift of focus on consumer relationships. Consumers want to know who they’re supporting and they want to feel like they’re a part of your story.
Another idea is to share your team/employee stories.
Hiltl does a great job of this, check this post out!
Anything you share could allow your customer to feel more connected to your brand.
BONUS: To make your story even more powerful, turn it into a movement and allow the customer to be the “hero” of the story. People like to feel understood and like they make a difference. If you can turn your business into a movement, you can connect on an even deeper level with your customer… and every customer will become a fan and a promoter.
10. Drive Repeat Visits Through Email Marketing
Email is the #1 way to reach and engage your customer. The user intent for email inboxes and your goals are perfectly aligned. You will reach your customer when they are ready and looking for you, and you will remain in their inbox… so leverage this!
The best part of email marketing is that it can be compleeeeeetely automated! You can set up sequences to automatically email people x days/weeks after their visit, and then again x days, and you can even segment emails based on the receiver’s activity. Did they click? If yes, send this. If not, send this.
Bonus Tip: you may be wondering how to collect email addresses… a great way is to do a fishbowl business card giveaway. Nothing beats the simplicity of a business card drawing!
People are in a hurry, so it’s important to reduce all barriers between them and what you need from them. Instead of asking them to spell out their email address (who has time for that?) just have them drop their business card for the drawing! Keep in mind that the prize you select should be valuable enough to motivate your customer to leave their info.
Plus, you can get super valuable info from these cards. Take the time to analyze them and learn from them… do you find that you have a lot of customers coming from a specific industry, but not a lot from another? This can give you ideas for partnerships or promotion avenues. No one visiting you from a specific company? Approach their team and offer a special discount to their employees.
11. Invite Food Bloggers & Influencers
This one won’t cost you much time or money, but if done correctly it could have a huge impact on your business. Doing so will only cost you the cost of the meal to you, and will put you in front of the eyes of the figures following, who likely trusts him/her. Not only this, but the figure will likely take high-quality photos, which you can then use on your own channels.
Tip: make sure that the figures are well aligned and that they have engaged audiences. We also recommend defining your collaboration/trade terms. What do you offer and what do you expect in return?
12. Automate Bookings
This will save you time and make for a improve the user experience (at least for millennials and Gen Z who prefer automation and less direct contact), which will also lead to an increase in bookings!
Instagram and Facebook have both introduced booking tools which can integrate with online booking systems. This helps integrate all systems and allow people to book directly within their favorite apps!
Now imagine, someone is taking a quick break from work and scrolls through IG. They see an amazing photo of your food on Instagram, head over to your profile to check you out, and then sees a “Book” button, so they book right away.
By reducing the need to call in, you reduce the barrier between the customer and their reservation, thus increasing the probabilities of them making that reservation. Think about it, if they’re at the office, they can’t just pick up the phone and make a reservation…. but they CAN click through a few steps to book one online!
13. Promote Customer Loyalty
As this post is all about growing your customer base and encouraging long-lasting customer relationships, you have to think about what makes your business worthy of these relationships. When your customer dines at your restaurant, what do they get? What makes them want to come back for more?
On the obvious side, you’d hope your mouth-watering food does the trick, but you have to think beyond that. Every touch point your customer has with your business leaves a lasting impression. From the waiter’s service to the decorations you have on the wall, to the contact you have with them once they’ve left. It all counts!
While this may not seem like an overly complicated marketing tactic, you’d be surprised as to the difference it will make on increasing your rate of returning customers. If you have a takeaway restaurant, offer loyalty cards to your customers. If this doesn’t suit your brand identity, even the occasional freebie or personalized dessert will go a long way!
The world has made a huge shift towards automation and mass production… but one of our fundamental desires as humans is to feel special and understood. Adding a little personalization will go a long way.
Write down your customers’ name, send handwritten notes, personalize your offering, and train your team to always remember and repeat your customer’s names.
And always, always, always reply to comments, DM’s, posts and story mentions.