Online Marketing Pains: Restaurant Edition

If I were running a restaurant (or several) there’s one thing that I know for sure would be true.  The following words would immediately annoy me:

Facebook – Mobile Strategy – Social Media

They may even bring rise to the subconscious feeling of concern that I’ve been fighting back for some time now.

(I’m sorry that I just annoyed you, but I’ll make up for that in a moment.)

Is it just me or is there just too much going on with all of this related to Facebook, Yelp, Google reviews, mobile-friendly websites, apps and the 100 other apparent options that I’m “supposed” to know about? It’s just too much!

If you’re familiar with the 80/20 rule (that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes) you’re certain that if you were crazy enough to try all 100 options, that only 20 of them at best would work.

At the end of the day all that a restaurant operator needs to know is WHICH efforts will enable our customers and prospective customers to be reminded of us more frequently – and visit more often. That’s all.

Finding the Online Platform that Brings in Customers

If you’re someone that likes to “skip to the end” (like me) then here it is:

Facebook is effective in many ways.

restaurant social proof


A Mobile-friendly website is critical because impatient people (everyone nowadays) find you faster and gain the information they need almost immediately.

Social sharing (from others) of your business is VERY effective because it conveys group acceptance and esteem for your business (we’re pack animals, remember?).

Visual frequency (how often your prospective customers are reminded of your business) is possibly the most critical, no matter which path you take.

Just remember this: Frequent lunch-goers and frequent mid-week dinner patrons are far less choosy. If they had lunch out three times last week or had dinner out more than once in the past week, these frequent diners are more open to somewhere different than the average patron. Frequent diners are EXACTLY who you should be targeting.

People that tend to get out more often are also more social and up to date on using these technologies than the rest. They just have more experience.

Do Mobile Friendly Business Profiles REALLY Drive More Business?


restaurant google search

If you operate more than one location, take a quick look at the location that:

  • Seems to have the most pictures taken inside by patrons, or draws more groups that are celebrating an event together.
  • Appears first in Google when you search for the business name.
  • Has the highest number of Facebook “Likes”
  • Appears first when you search “restaurants in _________ “.

If the location that wins three out of four of these tests is your best location in terms of revenue and profit, then we just answered that question. Case closed.

If you only operate one location, pick three competing restaurants that repeatedly seem to be YOUR CUSTOMER’S frequent alternative. Do those restaurants beat yours in at least three out of the four of the criteria above?

Chances are if you’re still reading this – they do.

How can Restaurants Beat their Competitors Online?

We still haven’t solved anything yet. So what do we do?

This seems like a daunting task because there’s an error in perception. There are essentially three types of mediums that your business should be covering.

Here’s a breakdown of the three types of online mediums:

Passive Online Marketing

In other words, you are putting the word out about your business so something could happen.

facebook page restaurant

Creating a Facebook Page

Have you noticed that no more than 3% to 5% of your followers actually see your posts?

Creating a Facebook page and posting to it is actually the lowest interaction medium unless you do a few MORE things right.

Facebook has the capability to be both passive and direct.  But if you simply build a page and post a few pieces of content, you are never going to get the kind of exposure that drives revenue.

Most restaurant operators are shocked and disappointed that the “build it and they will come” analogy that accompanies “You Have To Be On Facebook” really performs this badly.

Thankfully, we can fix that.

Interactive Online Marketing

Connect with customers by engaging with those that are willing.  Use information we believe they are looking for.

mobile friendly restaurant websites

Building a Mobile Friendly Website

We know at in the very least that someone visiting our website is a step beyond passive.

They are on the website because they need help making a decision. We interact with them passively (because we’re allowing them to view at their leisure). Hopefully you’re communicating what 80% of them want to know immediately (usually location, reviews, phone number, dining options, hours, directions in that order).

Over 70% of these people are on mobile devices.  Over half of them will leave if your site is not mobile friendly or loads slowly.    61% of users have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience.

Roughly 50 percent consumers who conducted a smartphone search for a local business will visit the the business within 24 hours.  And as of April of 2015, Google penalizes websites that are not mobile friendly.

If you’re relying on a static website where people have to zoom the screen and dig for information you’re losing LOTS of them before you even had them.

Mobile users aren’t all geniuses. Yes – some of them are actually driving a car while looking you up. Your non-mobile friendly website could cause them to wreck. Haha.. I’m being a little facetious but you will lose a very high percentage of mobile users if you don’t immediately deliver what they are looking for. A mobile-friendly website is a must.’

Proactive Online Marketing

In contrast with passive, you’re causing the interaction to happen. Hint: Proactive mediums are where 90% of restaurant operators miss the boat, and then believe that these online strategies just don’t work. Remember when I annoyed you earlier?

restaurant push notifications for mobile

Boosted posts on Facebook

Why are Tuesdays so slow? It would sure be nice to post a special and draw a good crowd for a change. Don’t just post the special. Boost it! For as little as $5 you can boost a post so FAR, FAR more people see it.

If your average ticket is over $10 per person you CAN experiment with different types of posts at different times of day and varying times of the week to see what produces AT LEAST ONE patron and you make a profit. Its not unheard of for a $5 or $10 boost to produce well over $100 in business consistently.

Text and/or Email Club

These give you permission to contact them directly when you want to. Years ago our company ran an ad for a particular type of service (in a slow week) and our phone was literally ringing within five minutes of posting the ad. That was advertising. Text and email cost FAR less than advertising, and is many, many times more effective.

 Your Own App with Push Notifications

You might be saying to yourself: We’re not Domino’s for heaven’s sake. What on earth would we do with an app?

The answer is…beat your competitors that have no clue how to use this technology.

Keep in mind that people check their phones and devices almost constantly. A vast majority check their phones more than once an hour. Your app icon just on their screen drops you into their near-conscious.

Using a notification from the app tells them you have a special intended for them. Incentives to use the app gives them a reason to pick you over the exact equal alternative.

Finding the Right Platform and Creating a Focused Strategy

Contrary to what people will tell you, none of these online marketing solutions costs a fortune.

You don’t have to spend $15,000 to develop your own app. You mustn’t spend thousands in advertising to boost posts and advertise on places like Facebook. In most of these cases you’re just paying what’s needed to be present.

Canvassing is a profound waste of money in the online advertising space. Targeting for the right kind of interaction can save you thousands, while producing a multiple return on investment. All it takes is some experimentation with what works for YOUR clientele.

Just remember that customers are highly predictable. Once you create and utilize a tested method that works, you’ll maximize the use of these existing technologies quickly.

Then, the headache and frustration with what to do and how to do it are over. You’re keeping up with the top competition, taking control of consumer “natural selection” and doing better business as a result.

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