Restaurants have perhaps the toughest competition of any industry. With so many options available, particularly in a city like Dubai, standing out can be tough. Thankfully, there are loads of things a restaurant can do, and many don't require much financial or resource investment to generate significant results.
When it comes to restaurant marketing, the key is to produce quality content and tell authentic stories. Here are eight top marketing activities any restaurant can do with minimal cost:
1. Let the Food Do the Talking
People eat with their eyes. Tantalising images of delicious dishes are essential to get mouths watering and feet moving (toward your venue). Images should be used everywhere online so that potential patrons are attracted to your restaurant from all corners of the internet; that includes all your social media channels, your website, and any other platforms that promote the restaurant such as Zomato, TripAdvisor etc.
HOT TIP: By having a fully fledged online menu, restaurants can promote images directly from the menu and drive traffic to their website as well as footfall to the venue.
2. Get on Google My Business
Every restaurant, cafe, or bar needs a Google My Business listing. A Google My Business listing makes venues more discoverable through Google's search engine and Google maps; the places where customers search for venues and receive results based on their needs and are nearby.
HOT TIP: When registering on Google My Business, think about what information customers want and need to make quick decisions. Be sure to link to the relevant website and social pages, make sure the phone number and address are correct and keep operating hours up to date.
3. Tap into User-Generated Content
People are posting pictures of their food all the time. User-generated content can and should be used in your digital marketing. User-generated content is the ultimate marketing content as it's more genuine and represents word of mouth from actual people, rather than self-promotion from the restaurant. Using a customers content also encourages them back as they feel like they have been heard and made to feel important.
HOT TIP: Venues that use an online menu can run a promotion whereby they get customers to take a picture of their dish and share it on Instagram making sure to tag the restaurant and maybe use a certain hashtag. At the end of the campaign, the restaurant can choose the best customer image, then use that in their menu and offer the winner their next dish for free. The customer is not only encouraged to come back for a free meal but their content is also featured in the menu encouraging them to share the dish online (not to mention fall in love with the restaurant).
If you're one of the many new restaurants in Dubai, it's worth investing in some advertising so that new patrons can learn about the venue. Facebook ads and Google ads both give the option to define the persona of the audience you want to attract and will help to create campaigns that appeal to that specific audience.
HOT TIP: You don't want to rely on paid ads forever, so use them wisely; encourage the new customers into a loyalty program, offer a deal for those who write a review, list all of your social handles at the tables and encourage them to tag the venue when posting pictures on-site thereby capitalising on your ad spend.
5. Make SEO #1
Paid ads help to get people in the door, but SEO is free and can help the venue to get on the first page of search results. To succeed in SEO, restaurants need to be producing content and optimising that content, so they are most relevant in searches. If you have a website, make sure that it is written with search terms in mind: authentic sushi Dubai, best truffle gnocchi pasta in Dubai, etc.
HOT TIP: Putting your entire menu online helps with SEO as the menu items themselves can be optimised for search engines. When someone searches "best truffle gnocchi pasta Dubai", Google can present the individual page from your menu featuring said dish. The page can also be linked to from reviews so that when a customer adds their review somewhere, they can add a link to the menu item, thereby creating backlink which also increasing SEO ranking.
6. Get Social
Social media is everywhere and any restaurant not on Facebook and Instagram, at least, is missing out big time. Whether it's tips or pictures of dishes, or inspirational quotes, we are social creatures, and it makes us feel good to share good things with other people. Make sure that you're posting regularly on social platforms. This includes everything from food pics and videos, to promotions, events, news that supports your brand, etc.
HOT TIP: Encourage patrons to post and tag in the venue by listing social handles on the tables, menus or the walls. Pay attention to how you garnish food and present coffee. Make it worthy of being shared. Make it "Instagramable". Also, make it easy for customers to share your content e.g. pictures directly from your menu or website.
7. Optimise for Mobile
More than half of online restaurant searchers are going to find their ideal venue via mobile. If you have a website, it must be optimised for mobile; otherwise, customers will quickly jump off in favour of a venue that is easier to browse from their smartphone.
HOT TIP: Look at your website from desktop, tablet and mobile to see how it looks, compare it to other restaurants and find a way to make it most appealing on all screens.
8. Encourage Loyalty
Loyalty programs are a great way to get repeat customers. Whether it's a free coffee for every nine purchased, promotions on a particular day, or discounts for a specific number of people. These are a great way to boost spending while making patrons feel rewarded.
HOT TIP: Tie loyalty programs in with social media and other marketing activities. Share what's on offer across your online channels and encourage more visitors to sign up to your program.