Is your reservation book looking a bit empty? Is business inconsistent? Are you struggling to get repeat custom?
Below are some of our top tips for helping to attract and keep customers for your restaurant.
Be found locally – Google My Business
Google My Business is free. Getting a great listing on Google My Business involves taking the time to register for it on Google, and then updating your page.
Why is this so important? Well, when people are searching for a restaurant in a specific town, above all the normal search results – this appears…
These are results direct from Google My Business. So, if you have potential customer searching on Google in your town (that’s everyone by the way), then getting a good Google My Business listing is pretty important.
Be found locally – Local SEO
A restaurant is in the vast majority of cases a local business. The majority of your clientele are going to come from pretty tight vicinity. When building or, amending your website, you need to have some basics in mind. Your web developer or local SEO agency needs to have a good grip of the key issues. I’m not going to list them all now. If you’re into your SEO, then a good friend of ours Marcus Miller from Bowler Hat, writes a lot of good stuff on local SEO – here’s one such article on local SEO
We’d recommend auditing the local SEO on your site to make sure it’s performing
Be found locally – Local Listing sites
Many local communities have websites that bring together key services and other local businesses. These sites are well worth keeping up to date with your latest information. In addition there are sites such as zomato which list restaurants and are worth updating with your information
Get rated – Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor is important on a couple of fronts for restaurants. Firstly, the ratings you receive on Trip Advisor are important and very often well read. Trip Advisor also provides stickers and certificates for high performing restaurants, which acts as a badge of quality. Secondly, Trip Advisor is, unsurprisingly perhaps, very good at SEO and so your restaurant listing on Trip Advisor if well managed and maintained will enhance you own SEO.
In addition, finding methods to encourage your diners to post a rating on Trip Advisor is also important. If you’ve got regular happy customers posting on Trip Advisor, your ranking on the site will improve.
Get rated – Google reviews
Also associated with Google My Business, reviews on Google appear as part of your Google My Business listing. Again, requesting that customers complete these reviews for you, will strengthen your Google listing
Get reviewed – Press & Bloggers
Getting a restaurant reviewed in the press can be tricky, there are usually only a few press outlets in your area, and typically journalists will be looking at new sites rather than the existing eateries. The advent of food blogging has changed the landscape though.
In addition to traditional media there are now a host of food bloggers who will happily come and review your restaurant. It’s good for them; they get great content and often a free meal, and you get good exposure and a real hit on social media. In addition, the links from their site to your site and vice versa is great for SEO.
Make it easy to book – Website booking forms
People’s habits online have moved away from the phone, and most of us would much rather book online. Your website needs an easy to use booking system, with table availability which updates when you receive and confirm bookings. You need to make it as easy to book online as possible.
Grow your database
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a good database. Having a list of contacts you can communicate with regularly on email is simply good business. For many restaurant owners we meet, they have’t been collecting email addresses for their clientele, and so starting to do so can feel difficult. In our experience there are a few good ways to do this:
Online Booking – If you’re taking online bookings, you can be asking for an email address to confirm the booking.
Phone Bookings – Same story – you need to confirm bookings so email address or phone numbers for text based confirmations can be helpful
Customer feedback – Why not run a survey at the end of the meal with a monthly prize, requesting feedback on the meal and the service, while also collecting data to contact people on should they win the prize draw. Some businesses run these with paper, or you could use a tablet.
Business card draws – A monthly prize draw in return for a business card is a tried and tested method of adding contacts to your database.
Note: With any scheme where you’re requesting data it’s important to ensure you comply with data protection laws. Give people the option to receive marketing information from you or not, and also ensure that people can easily unsubscribe from any emails you send.
Stay in contact
Regular and consistent communication with your database of contacts is a key driver for regular and repeat business. Many customers often feel attached to a local business such as a restaurant and so keeping them up to date with what’s happening, special events and opening hours and similar, is a good way to build a community and to help sell when the need arises. Methods include:
Email marketing is a cost-effective way of staying in touch with your customers. It enables you to communicate regularly, and in a way which, depending on level of interest allows users to engage at their leisure.
Having an active social media presence for your restaurant has all sorts of benefits including SEO, connections with journalists, bloggers and other businesses, but it is also (and primarily) a great way to stay in contact with your customer base.
In general I would advocate text message communication to confirm or remind of bookings rather than marketing to fill tables. Exceptions might be last minute table availability to specific customers, but this would be something they requested.
Regular offers and activity
Keeping your restaurant active is important. Firstly, it gives you things to talk about with your audience on email and on social, but also it gives reasons for customers to come back when they might go elsewhere. Can you run theme nights or music nights? What about lunchtime clubs for mums, or other groups?
Having a specials menu is another restaurant staple and for many good reasons. From a marketing perspective, a specials menu that changes regularly as well as one off specials is a brilliant way to maintain communication with your audience, update your website and social media accounts, and give people reason to get in touch.
Improve your offering – customer feedback
We talked earlier about using customer surveys to collect customer email addresses. One of the key things you can do is actually looking at the feedback you get and responding to it. That’s not to say you’re individually addressing every issue, but rather look for areas where you can improve. Nothing is better marketing than word of mouth, and the best recommendations come when the restaurant is delivering great food and service
Recommend a friend scheme
Speaking of word of mouth…, can you incentivise people to let their friends and family know about your restaurant. Perhaps a discount for the party who have been recommended and kick back for the referrer.
You’d like repeat custom? What about a loyalty card scheme? What can you offer after 5 visits to your restaurant? A free meal? A free bottle of wine? 50% off? Whatever the incentive is, you want to encourage people to come back and loyalty cards are effective ways of doing this.
Give Birthday presents
Remember the data collection exercise through customer surveys? Why not ask for the month and day of a person’s date of birth? By adding this into your email system, you can automate messages to send people a voucher for their birthday party. A voucher for a free bottle of bubbly for the birthday girl or boy, may well bring you a large table reservation
Is your restaurant website easy to interact with on a mobile? If not, chances are you’re losing business. Many restaurant websites can be read on a mobile, but is it easy to call you from the website on a mobile device, and is your booking form also suitable for mobile usage.
There may be some restaurants whose reputation means they don’t need to do much marketing to keep them busy. In our experience this doesn’t apply to 99% of restaurants, and learning which activity works for your restaurant can be the difference between a busy and buzzing eatery and one that does OK.
Is your restaurant hungry for marketing?