Digital Marketing for Restaurants - a Workable Approach

Over the last few years, restaurants have been popping up all over the city of Dubai. The influx of new venues and their tasty temptations is partly thanks to the upcoming Expo 2020 and partly thanks to the changing habits of patrons. Unique, high-quality offerings are in higher demand than ever before. In Dubai and across the world.

Restaurants in a competitive marketplace would already know how challenging it can be to be seen. In a city such as Dubai, it's often too hot to casually stroll around the neighbourhood in search of a good spot to graze. This leaves customers little choice but to turn their search online.

Digital marketing done well can help venues to thrive - drawing steady footfall, developing greater brand awareness and credibility and generating customer loyalty that all, in turn, boosts earnings.

Restaurants of Today

Before delving into the marketing tips, restaurants must realise that the industry is changing. Customer demographics are changing, customer expectations are changing, and the tactics to reach this new customer are different from the tactics that worked on the previous group.

Out with the Old, in with the Young

That may sound like a harsh headline, but it is common to see restaurants continue to market in a way that is targeted to older generations, rather than the young professionals who earn good money, have no family and have plenty of time to dine out. In fact, they dine out more than any generation before them.

This younger demographic made up of millennials and post-millennials are currently the largest demographic in existence. Not only are there more of them than any other demographic, but they are also the ones who want to eat out, and budget a significant amount toward eating out each week.

It Starts with a Great Website

Every restaurant needs a website. This is the online space that you can fully own to present yourself online and give the best impression of what customers can expect to find within the bricks and mortar.

With your target market in mind -- young professionals -- it's critical to look at the website and think of whether it has the right factor that is going to convince this group to spend here.

Websites need to be easy to navigate, filled with relevant, useful information and a real representation of the vibe that customers will find when they come to visit.

Get the Basics Right

The website doesn't have to be a wildly complex portal pumped full of integrations and links and content. It can and, in most cases, should just be a simple design that is easy to navigate and simply covers the basics:

  • Brief bio  - What makes your restaurant unique? Why would people want to come?
  • Menu - People eat/buy with their eyes, so include pictures and list the updated menu online. This is the best way to get people salivating long before they get to your door.
  • Contact details - Phone number, address and link to Google map location.
  • Booking instructions - Make it simple for people to understand how to book.
  • Opening times - Ensure opening times are easy to find and updated whenever holidays or shutdown periods are coming.

Optimise for Mobile

Every website needs to be optimised for mobile. If the website design is kept simple and created as a responsive site, then this shouldn't be too difficult. Just be sure to check any designs on the desktop on tablet and mobile, also, before going live. In fact, these days, it’s preferable to design with a mobile-first approach.

Bring Out the Brand Persona

Perhaps the most critical element of a restaurant website is its branding. All of the above is relatively easy to get right. The brand persona requires you to really think about who you are and how to communicate that in a way that appeals to your target audience. If you don't have a brand identity, it is worth working with an agency to help discover this and strategise how to bring this out in your digital marketing efforts.

Optimise for SEO

If you want your website to be seen, SEO must be considered and implemented from the beginning. Look at what keywords need to be sprinkled through your site. Check what your customers are searching for and create content that matches their searches. Create URLs that speak to the content customers will find on each page.

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Be Found All-Around

Getting found online means being everywhere. The website will generate traffic from search engines or customers who search for you specifically, but strategies like local SEO will help more people to bump into your brand when they are searching broadly.

Google My Business

Google My Business is the tool that takes local listings and puts them on the map (literally - they go on Google maps). Adding a Google My Business listing makes you easier to find in local searches directly via Google maps on a phone or desktop, or via Google search when looking for restaurants near me, or restaurants Dubai, etc.

SEO Everywhere You Go

SEO needs to be central to everything that is done online, and the same goes with Google My Business listing. Make sure that a bio is included that lists keywords to make your restaurant optimally searchable. If you're an Italian restaurant, for example, that should be mentioned, as should your main dishes, so when someone searches for "truffle gnocchi in Dubai", your restaurant comes up.

Keep it Consistent

Part of SEO and part of making a good impression is keeping information consistent wherever you're found online. Be mindful of what contact details, menu information, opening times, etc. are listed on various web platforms. If customers see a discrepancy in opening times, for example, between Facebook and the website, they are likely to go somewhere else where they are more confident the information is reliable.

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Get Social

In today's social media landscape, it is more common than ever for patrons to search a restaurant on social media, particularly Instagram, and make a snap decision about whether or not the restaurant appears to meet their needs. Only by assessing a few pictures.

The target customers of today are social media savvy and, in their mind, there is a direct correlation between how your restaurant presents online to how they can expect it to be when visiting. This makes social media a powerful tool to win hearts and hungry tummies.

Creating Converting Social Content

Social media should be filled with mouthwatering images of food, quality snaps of the venue, smiling patrons and any features that would get customers excited to come in. Restaurants should use features like stories to give customers a sneak peek at new menu items, behind the scenes in the kitchen or what's happening at an event.

Beyond the images should be a strategy. Be sure your social page:

  • lists all of your contact details
  • link to your website or booking form
  • be cautious about crafting all social posts with a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage customers in
  • think of deals, promotions, etc. to create a sense of urgency

Content is King

Content is everything from the information on your website, to the posts on social media, through to the company information on your Google My Business listing. Content marketing is now one of the most important facets of digital marketing. It helps with SEO, and it helps to keep businesses on track to deliver the right information to customers.

Nothing should be done without a strategy. Not your website, not your social media and not your overall content. Content marketing ideas should be scheduled in a content calendar so that you can assess what to pursue while also ensuring you're looking at what customers want to see and what you want to achieve.

You may want to start a blog with unique recipes, conduct Live or Instagram stories interviews, or create more social content. Whatever your ideas, be sure to look at what your audience interacts with, track, measure and tweak, to ensure your content works strategically for your business.

Digital Marketing Options

All the Campaigns

There are so many campaign ideas that restaurants can run with. While all of them can drive great results, it's worth trying to tackle one at a time. Get comfortable with each campaign, tweaking for the best results, before diving into the next.

Offers, Promotions and Events

Offers, promotions and events are all fantastic ways to drum up excitement around your restaurant, try to get some last-minute bookings and to work to create a space for returning patronage. You can think of happy hours, special promotions for special days, live music events, or whatever works for your space and your customers. Be sure to spread the message far and wide on social media and your website, and even consider setting up an email list to keep loyal customers abreast of upcoming events, promotions and offers.

Influencers

Foodie influencers can be a great option to get your restaurant some serious credibility. As a first step, you should always be working to attract these individuals into the restaurant - a free tag is the ultimate sign of success. More likely, however, you will need to engage them professionally, in which case, be careful to have a strategy. Link the influencer campaign to a promotion or event, have a strong CTA and work with them to learn what their audience will respond best to.

Keeping up with the Trends

Every sector is changing at a rapid rate and the way we market is now set to be ever-changing. One could look at this discouragingly, or one could see it as an opportunity.

Viewing the fast development of this space as a positive, it's worth remembering that as technology develops, tools get better and they are going to make your life easier if you are open to adopting them. There is software that makes it easier to take payments, roster and pay staff and link customers to loyalty programs. There are new ways to market, meaning that your opportunity to attract new customers grows every day.

The most significant change is the power of today's customer. They know what they want, they know how to find it, and they are spoilt with options. All it takes to survive in this market is to give them what they want - more convenience, more transparency on what they're eating, a greater sense of community and top-notch food and experiences.


Running a restaurant is full-on! If you’re being pulled in a dozen directions and don’t have time to work on your marketing, can always outsource that bit to professionals. We’d be happy to help, working with restaurants is our sweet spot 😊