Even before the pandemic forced many businesses to close their doors, there was already a marked shift toward online trading and mobile orders. As such, an estimated 11% of all QSR (quick-service restaurant) orders were conducted via smartphone in 2020, and this is a trend set to continue as the pandemic does.
Simply put, it’s no longer enough to have an eye-catching restaurant with a funky paintjob: with most eateries closed until further notice, nobody is just going to stumble across yours. If you want to keep your business afloat this year, here are some of the tips you need to market your business on social media.
Always engage with your customers
The first weeks of establishing your restaurant are often the most important within your entire business lifespan. These early days will determine the loyalty of your customers and how many regulars you can expect to support your trade in tough times. Never take them for granted!
Whenever a customer offers their feedback or submits a query – be they on your Facebook posts or via Instagram direct messenger – endeavor to respond to every one of them, as a customer will be quickly put off a business that seems to ignore them.
Present your product beautifully
This step is especially important for an image-centric platform such as Instagram but also applies to other social media channels: lead with an image. The saying that a picture speaks a thousand words is never more necessary than when marketing a restaurant. You want customers' mouths to start watering the instant they see whatever succulent, vibrant dish you have on offer, so be sure the product is well-lit and in sharp focus. High-resolution equals high interest.
Share your personality
It always helps to put a name to a face and there is no exception when launching your new restaurant. Just because you aren’t able to meet and greet your customers at the door, you can still introduce yourself on social media. A neat trick for this is to post on LinkedIn a head-and-shoulders shot of you in your natural habitat – a kitchen! – with a handful of short paragraphs explaining who you are.
LinkedIn always gives priority to images in a post, whereby only two lines of your caption will be seen as display text, so select an image that really stands out. That way, when you have your followers’ attention, you are then able to expand on why food is so important to you and what you aim to achieve with the opening of your new business. Let customers know they are in safe hands when ordering from your menu.
Provide attractive offers for new customers
When you’re just starting out as a restauranteur, you won’t yet have the business caché that goes with a reputation for quality service. In order to win over new customers – and turn them into repeat consumers – you need to offer the right kind of perks. You need to get your product tried by as many people as possible, and to do that you may need to offer it at a lower rate, or even for nothing.
This can be in the form of buy-one-get-one deals for side dishes or discounts on mains combos, or you can offer a free drink for every pair of steaks sold. Whatever you do, it has to be appealing enough to the customer to make them want to test out your menu, while also being manageable enough for your business to ensure you at least cover your overhead.
This is a fine line to walk, as you will obviously need a heavy content schedule in the first couple of weeks to establish your online presence, but you don’t want to put prospective customers off by spamming them with excessive posts. The golden rule here is to post every two or three days for the first fortnight, while asking your friends to share this content around their own newsfeeds to generate some assistive word of mouth. Once this two-week period has elapsed, take a more steady approach to posting and share content once every three or four days, as you will hopefully have accrued a small, secure follower base by then.
Optimize your content
Just as vital as when you post is what you post, and you can really deter some of your early followers if they feel they are not getting any value from what they consume. As fun as you may think it is to share photos of your cat wandering around the dining area, it’s unlikely a customer will be in on the joke. Keep your posts related to the menu and how it is prepared, how you order your ingredients. How you make your restaurant what it is. Understand who you consumer base are and carefully focus your content – in more ways than one, cater to your audience.
Encourage customers to share your products
Your customers can often be your strongest promoters, so utilizing their social media activity is a great way to enjoy free marketing. Creating your own hashtag would be the simplest step forward – especially ones relating to certain meal deals or special offers, like #TacoTuesday, say – but also by making sure customers are aware of your social media handles.
Encourage them to photograph their dining experience and have them tag you with your Twitter or Instagram names, displaying those accounts at the bottom of the menu. That way, there is no chance of your customers remaining unaware of your social media presence, as they will discover it at the same time as they decide on their orders.
Focus on video content
Visual content is the most eye-catching and engaging form of marketing, and social media channels are optimized for this kind of material. With particular focus on mobile-friendly platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, uploading a dynamic video from your restaurant – chefs frying a fiery concoction over a bright orange flame, for example – can do wonders in portraying your business as an exciting, attractive destination.
Showcase your staff
No man is an island and no business runs itself, so be sure to showcase the team of delivery drivers, cooks, and cleaners under your management. If you have any staff members who really vibe with one another, or if there is some especially strong kinship in your kitchen, ask your employees for their consent to be filmed. Genuine, candid footage of people honestly enjoying themselves at work can have an extremely positive impact on how your business is perceived. Customers will then be much more confident that the product they are consuming has been made with passion and care, if they are able to see that the people who made it really love what they do.
Reshare your customers' content
Share the love! Much as customers appreciate some form of engagement with their comments or enquiries, it sweetens the deal if they know what they do matters. If one customer shares an Instagram story featuring them holding one of your sushi boxes (while wearing a big grin on their face), let them know how much you appreciate their positive exposure. Reshare the story and add a small note of thanks, underlining your gratitude for this display of customer satisfaction.
The world of business has long been in the process of shifting online, and you’re going to need a strong marketing strategy if you want yours to thrive in the digital age. Social media channels are the most user-friendly for those just breaking into online promotion, but for those of you looking to expand your business you’ll need to master the best digital marketing strategies, too.
If you want to boost your revenue and maximize your orders, these marketing tips could make all the difference. While you’re there, be sure to scroll through our restaurant owner’s blog for more inspiration and innovative ideas to keep the wheels of your business rolling in 2021.