Executing social media marketing for restaurants doesn’t have to be complicated. If you own a restaurant, listen up and start taking notes.
But first up: Why should you care?
Effective social media marketing can flood your location with paying visitors who can’t wait to bite into your best dish. Then they’ll tell their friends about you. And business will be booming!
That’s why you should care.
The only roadblock is how do you get these people’s attention? And how do you persuade them to visit your food spot?
By no means do you have the only place to eat on the block. This is highlighted by the fact that there are over 620,000 restaurants in the United States alone. Wow.
That many restaurants means there are most likely dozens of spots similar to yours—even if you have a “secret ingredient,” they probably do too.
Assuming you’re in a city with a decent location, competing to get patrons is a tough business.
To counter the heavy competition, besides having great food and excellent customer service, I’m convinced social media marketing can be the difference maker for generating new patrons.
You need people to know your restaurant name and location. You need to be loud. And not only that, you need people to crave your food before they walk in.
The best way to do that is social media marketing, using both organic and paid methods.
You have to learn this sometime if you want your restaurant to grow. The best time is now.
Basic Recipe For Social Media Success
I want to first break down general social media worst and best practices.
This initial education will soon develop into specific action steps for your restaurant in the next section.
But pay attention to this because the difference in actions and results from losing and winning accounts is night and day.
Weak social media game:
- Doesn’t know its target audience
- There’s no consistent brand voice
- Every post is selling
- Goes weeks without posting
- Never adds other media (pictures and videos)
- Weak content
Strong social media game:
- Knows its target audience
- Has a consistent and lovable voice
- Majority of posts are not self-promoting
- Posts at least once a day
- Publishes different types of media
- Interesting and attention-grabbing content
Although Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms create 100% virtual interactions, the way you connect to humans doesn’t change.
You still have to care about them and provide intrigue to get them to follow you and stick around for the future.
The strong social media game accomplishes this plus opens up a larger audience because other people will interact with your posts, tag their friends, and drive people to your profile.
With that said, it’s time for the specific tactics to get a packed restaurant with a crowd outside your door.
Game-Changing Social Media Marketing For Restaurants
1. Tell your restaurant’s story
The need to tell your brand’s story stems from an earlier point I made: there are over 620,000 different places to eat in the US! Those 620k competitors make it hard to easily stand out.
Whether your sushi, barbecue, or burgers are good is one thing. But you need to share your brand’s story or most people will never know about you and take the chance to try your food.
If customers aren’t understanding and emotionally connecting with the story of how your restaurant was founded, its mission statement, and what it believes about the customer experience, good luck gaining long-term traction.
Here are a few stories I came up with to get you thinking:
- Humble beginnings – Maybe grandma scraped by on food stamps as she went door to door having locals taste her chili until she got her recipe just right. Then she rented an abandoned truck to sell it out of the back. And after 5 years she scraped up enough money to buy her own restaurant building. Everyone loves an underdog story, so tell it loud and proud to stand out.
- Charity and service focused – Does your owner have a strong passion for charity? Are all employees allowed to take one day off to serve their charity of choice? Share this news to your customers. Maybe make an event of it where you invite your employees and community members to serve a local non-profit. Or you partner with a food shelter to run a food drive.It’s possible the local news will pick up on this event to help your cause. Charity is an endearing quality that attracts people’s attention.
- A+ service – Does your restaurant focus on customer service like no one else? Explain the hiring process, what you look for in waiters, and the procedure you use to train your staff to operate at the highest level possible to make the restaurant goers have a good time. You can record videos of the training process. Or have a customer testimonial of how friendly the staff is to make sure they enjoy their night out to eat.
Most restaurants aren’t telling their story. When you do, you’ll win over the hearts of local people.
2. Create perceived value
Truly believe your chicken (or other menu item) is the best in the state? Don’t be shy. Make strong claims about them on social media.
Create posts that highlight the details that go on behind the scenes to make the mouth-watering ingredients. This will raise the perception of your food.
Hire a video guy (or get your cousin Stevie) to zoom in on the making of the seasoning and handmade breading. Show the steps involved in creating the tasty sauce. And get shots of the chicken cooking to a golden brown.
Go on podcasts, local radio, and television to boldly proclaim you’ve got the best food in town and you challenge anyone to try it and disagree.
Price is just perceived value. So when your food is seen as top-quality, people will part with their money because they have to eat and why not eat the best food out there.
Just be sure you’re food is as good as you say it is. You won’t be successful for long if you create a hype train that doesn’t pan out in reality.
Where you’ll win is by making big promises and then over delivering to satisfy your customers.
3. Give away free food coupons
How do you get new people into your restaurant that haven’t been there before? Offer them free food!
From college kids to middle-aged adults and wealthy senior citizens, the idea of free food never gets old. Offer your burger, chicken, salad, wrap, etc. for free for multiple reasons.
One, it will bring your restaurant more awareness and visitors. Two, they’ll likely order a drink, side, or dessert so you can also make some money. And three, if they like it, you better believe they’ll happily pay for it next time they come back. They’re 100% coming back if it tasted unbelievable.
The key is free though. Because discounts hurt businesses in the long-term as the normal product price gets cheapened and customers don’t see value in coming back to pay full price.
That’s why it’s better to give a dish away for free if you’re going to lower its price at all. And this is why a free meal coupon works.
Play for the long-term. Give up short-term money to build customer loyalty. You’ll make 5 times the return, at least, on the back end.
Give a little to get a lot is a proven principle of marketing 101. Your restaurant would be wise to follow suit.
4. Get influencer shoutouts on Instagram
Influencer marketing is a growing, gigantic business with a ton of money moving from advertisers to influencers. Why? When it’s done right this marketing pays off for small and large businesses.
If you’re not familiar with the term, an influencer is someone with a large social media following who can influence their followers to take certain actions—like visit your restaurant. A brand pays them in cash or some other incentive (like a $50 gift card or free clothes), and they take a picture or video telling their followers about the company.
It’s no different than the most popular person in school influencing their clique to act a certain way, except these influencers lead customers to open their wallets and buy your best-selling entree.
And don’t get intimidated that you need to persuade celebrities with a large following to put on your food spot. You don’t need to pay millions to the hottest Instagram star or an A-level Hollywood celebrity to get the job done.
All you need is to find local Instagram accounts with 5,000 to 50,000 followers. You can search by location or hashtag to find them. Come up with an offer, direct message them, and see what they say about marketing your restaurant.
I’ve even been an influencer for some major companies, including for @Core:
Just like it took experiments to find the right food to put on your menu, throw some money in influencer marketing to discover how successful this marketing avenue can be.
5. Have 1-on-1 conversations with people
Social media is an amazing concept. Just think about how much people watching and market research you can do in a few minutes on your phone?
Thing is this only helps your restaurant if you’re putting in the time to learn about your audience and what they want in their ideal dining experience.
How do you work hard to communicate with your fans and new customers? Here’s how:
- Respond to every comment
- Make posts that ask thoughtful questions to get audience feedback
- Direct message random followers every once in awhile to ask them what they’d like to see improved at your restaurant
- Publish customer-created content to show you care about your community
From the customer perspective, knowing they have a restaurant who prioritizes its customers’ best interests goes a long way in building loyalty.
Once you enter these conversations, don’t stop at the 50 yard line. Implement the good suggestions to follow through on your commitment to excellence.
You can expect repeat business and referrals when you communicate plus treat your customers with genuine respect.
6. Run targeted Facebook ads
At the time of this article, I don’t know a single advertising platform with more potential than Facebook ads. There’s no question Facebook is king! Here’s why.
What traditional media (newspaper, radio, television) allows people to like, comment, tag a friend, or share your ad? None of them. Traditional media will make you pay more and give you less.
And what other social media platform has the reach of Facebook? Again, not a single one. Facebook has the most users by a long shot.
So say you own a Mexican grill in Ann Arbor, Michigan where you’re competing with Chipotle and Qdoba to bring in customers. A successful Facebook ads campaign can single-handedly change your business.
You should target everyone within 20 miles of your food joint, offer a free burrito, or run a giveaway where one lucky winner wins free lunch for a month.
When you put money into spreading this campaign, new people will learn about your restaurant, visit, and come back for more if the food rises above their expectations.
For a real example, in this illumen article 5 Restaurants Serving Hot & Fresh Social Media Success, I showcased how Black Bear Diner achieved a 1% average increase in sales across all franchised restaurants through Facebook ads at the inexpensive cost of $0.003 per impression.
It’d be around $40 to acquire a customer with traditional media, but Facebook ads has the bandwidth to acquire new restaurant visitors for pennies on the dollar.
Your restaurant doesn’t have to be digital and accept online orders to succeed. But your marketing needs to be digital to build a restaurant brand that has staying power.
Stick to the tactics described above, then you’ll see more customers walking into your location to order up your most popular dish.
When your marketing is top-notch, your sales trend that way too.
Don’t be surprised if you have so much demand the only logical next step is to open another location.
P.S. Want help marketing and growing your restaurant? That’s our specialty. Make your life easier and grow your revenue by working with us.