With the rise of the internet (and location-aware mobile connections in particular), options for finding great food have grown at an astonishing rate. Within seconds of making a simple search on your smartphone, anyone feeling hungry can browse through a huge list of excellent eateries, peruse menus, and either make a reservation or place an order.
This is a blessing and a curse for restaurant owners. On the positive side, it allows a great business to be found from almost anywhere and can allow a small establishment to compete with much larger brands. And on the negative side, it ensures that there are always viable alternatives, so anyone, not 100% sold on your food or service can simply go elsewhere.
Provided you’ve covered the basics of running a good restaurant (i.e. your food is good and your prices are reasonable), you need to be thinking about your marketing. People search for food (and food recommendations) through so many channels these days, and whenever someone for the kind of food you offer, you want to have a solid chance of appearing.
So how do you do it? The key is going multichannel — spreading your marketing broadly to maximize the return. Here are 7 multichannel marketing tips for your restaurant:
Pick out the top-priority channels
Multichannel doesn’t mean omnichannel, and trying to market across every channel out there is a very bad idea. All it will do is drain your resources, waste your time, and push you towards burnout. This is partial because your content quality will go down if you let your workload get out of control, but mainly because not all channels (Buffer has a solid roundup of them here) are really worth your effort.
For every business eager to promote its products or services, there are some channels that are hyper-valuable, and some that are decidedly less so. For example, a restaurant with aesthetically-impressive food would do well to consider Pinterest and Instagram, two social media platforms that concentrate on imagery, but wouldn’t be able to use notification marketing very successfully (the lack of visuals would deprive it of that asset).
Vary your content based on the context
Each channel will have different people using it due to its unique appeal, and then you must factor in the time of day, what events are taking place, and anything else that would skew a demographic. What this means for your marketing content is that you always need to make sure it fits the context. Which people are going to be reading it (or observing it, at least)?
This is particularly significant ahead of notable events that tend to prove profitable for restaurants. Consider holidays, for instance: ahead of Thanksgiving, you should be marketing towards people with families who’d rather not cook, or people who don’t have families who’d still like to enjoy some good food on a special occasion.
Adhere to platform guidelines
Every channel has specific requirements for the content it hosts. Image sizes, aspect ratios, video lengths, audio formats — if you don’t adhere to them, your content might not look right, or you might not be able to upload it at all. If you’re not mindful of this, you can end up sharing social media posts with the wrong dimensions, making your business look unprofessional.
You should also think about the conventions of each channel. What do the most successful pieces of content look like? Think about the basic YouTube thumbnail formula that has become so ubiquitous Vice has an interesting piece on it.) You want your marketing content to persuade as many relevant people as possible, and that demands a strong level of polish.
Provide a mobile app
You definitely need a great website (more on this later), but you also need an app that works quickly and reliably for the recurring customers that constitute the lifeblood of your business. Very simply, you can have a custom ordering app designed, then use it for both table bookings and delivery orders (or just one of the two if you prefer).
Why does this matter so much? Because presentation is important (vital, even), and you’ll always be able to provide a slicker user experience through an app than through even the most mobile-friendly website. There are also the advantages of being hooked into the main mobile ecosystems (Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store), such as being able to easily use social logins and readily take advantage of location data to provide hyper-relevant offers.
Sell signature items online
One of the keys to marketing a food-based business has always been getting exposure for the products. If your burgers are spectacular but somewhat costly, they’ll be a tough sell to many — but if you can get them to experience your food first, you can win them over. Some businesses offer free samples, but the e-commerce world allows you to branch out.
Look at it this way: while you likely won’t want to sell your main dishes as B2C products, you can sell other things. For instance, you could sell your sauces, or your side dishes, or even branded merchandise (anything from mugs to kitchen utilities and aprons). This would give you something tangible to market across channels (this can be done through the type of app we already looked at, or through a multi-channel e-commerce platform like Shopify Plus), which would, in turn, help your business develop into a recognizable brand: if you got people hooked on your sauces, you could then offer them first-time discounts to visit your restaurant.
Optimize your website
Marketing is a means to an end, not an end in itself, so even a spectacular multichannel marketing campaign won’t get much done if it drives people to an underwhelming website. Your website is the convincer, the last step along the path to conversion, and mustn’t be anything less than outstanding.
Your website should immediately get across the strengths of your restaurant. Does it have a fascinating history? A unique culinary approach? A swathe of celebrity endorsements? Lean into whatever sets you apart. You must also make an effort to match it to your marketing materials, or, to be more accurate, match your marketing materials to your website (this is known as message match Unbounce has a good video on it) Any tonal disparity between the two parts of your sales funnel will cause confusion and push people away.
Adopting a multichannel approach is the right direction for your restaurant, and will help your business remain viable in a market increasingly dominated by delivery apps and incredible convenience. Use these 7 tips to move with the times — the results will follow.