In today's digitally-driven era, effective restaurant marketing goes beyond traditional advertising. Dive into these 11 essential tools, from data management to social media, that every restaurant brand needs to stay competitive and create memorable dining experiences.
Mastering Modern Restaurant Marketing
When you think of advertising, what comes to mind? Commercials? Flyers? Billboards?
Although these play an essential part in promoting your brand, marketing encompasses far more than just traditional advertising—it includes a wide range of strategies that aim to create a holistic and memorable dining experience for customers.
In this article, we'll list 11 must-have marketing tools you need for building a best-in-class brand and staying ahead of your competition in today’s digitally savvy world.
11 Essential Tools You Can't Ignore
1. All-in-One Data Management Solution
Feedback & Sentiment Analytics
First and foremost, when it comes to effectively marketing your restaurant brand, having a clear understanding of what your existing and potential customers want and expect from the restaurant experience and what your competitors are doing to stay relevant is paramount.
The only way to gain a panoramic view of customer sentiment is by collecting and assimilating guest feedback, both through online reviews (indirect) as well as through customer surveys (direct).
Customer data is readily and often easily available. But without the technology to help your team make sense of the data—promptly—you’re missing out on the opportunity to create true customer-centric marketing strategies focused on exactly what your guests want when dining out, ordering delivery or to-go, etc. And with AI-driven solutions evolving rapidly to continue to meet operational needs, there is no real excuse for falling behind on trends that can help your brand stand out in a highly competitive market.
A top-quality customer feedback management solution will function as a single source of truth. In other words, it can collect online review and survey data across multiple channels and allocate it within a single platform, giving you an all-encompassing view of customer feedback. And by leveraging AI-powered natural language processing, it can pick through feedback quickly and provide crucial insights into customer sentiment.
Feedback and sentiment analysis includes, for example, calculating your Net Sentiment Score (NSS), which analyzes guest satisfaction by capturing direct and indirect feedback through both social and survey data. NSS gives restaurant brands insights into how customers perceive the quality of food, service, ambiance, etc., giving them more actionable data they can use to improve operations and increase customer satisfaction. When combined with the traditional Net Promoter Score (NPS), which identifies a guest's willingness to recommend your restaurant, you can gain a more comprehensive view of customer satisfaction.
Marketing teams can leverage this information to create focused marketing initiatives, thereby enhancing the chances of successful campaigns and cutting down on budget expenditures. However, creating a successful marketing strategy doesn't involve just collecting and assimilating guest feedback—it also involves active participation.
GuestXM research has shown that guest sentiment and review sites remain key drivers of year-over-year increases in guest traffic. Engaging with reviews shows customers that you truly care about their opinions, which in turn strengthens your brand reputation. According to Google, businesses that respond to reviews are seen as 1.7 times more trustworthy than those that don't.
Look for a data solution equipped with reputation management features, which will enable you to respond across multiple channels and automate feedback management, saving time while enhancing your brand's reputation.
As new channels emerge, brands' online reputations become more scattered. A system that can help consolidate reviews from multiple channels is key to effectively managing your reputation online, but it's also important to know how impactful each channel is.
Looking at a sample of over 1.4 million reviews across Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor, we concluded that Google is one of the most critical review channels. This means not only monitoring reviews but also engaging with customers on the platform.
Additionally, positive reviews and social media mentions act as powerful word-of-mouth endorsements. Marketing teams can use these organic endorsements in their campaigns and promotional materials to build credibility.
On top of providing customer insights, a robust data management solution will also give you relevant insights into your competitors' overall customer experience and marketing efforts so your team can take proactive measures to stay ahead of the game.
Restaurant competitor benchmarking involves assessing various aspects of your restaurant's performance in comparison to your competitors. This includes analyzing menu offerings, pricing strategies, online reviews, customer satisfaction scores, operational metrics, marketing efforts, financial performance, online presence, customer demographics, and so forth.
Keeping an eye on your brand's financial health can help you assess the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. By comparing the cost of marketing activities to the revenue generated, you can determine which strategies provide the best ROI. It also enables you to allocate your marketing budget wisely and identify areas where resources can be optimized. For example, if a particular marketing channel consistently provides a higher ROI, you can then focus your efforts and resources there.
Read more about the importance of tracking financial metrics here: “Restaurant Calculations: Financial Metrics Every Restaurateur Should Track to Outperform the Competition”
To ensure you attract the best talent in the industry, you must focus on enhancing your overall online brand reputation. Your online reputation reflects your company’s core values, culture, and public perception, which can influence prospective employees’ decisions to work for your company.
Knowing what employees expect while working at your restaurant requires an in-depth understanding of industry trends as well as existing employee sentiment. Do your workforce benefits stack up against your competition? Are you investing enough in employee training? Why, if relevant, are you seeing high turnover rates?
It's not only important to attract the best—it is also imperative you retain your current employees. A high turnover rate often signals internal issues, such as poor management, low morale, or inadequate training, which can indirectly affect customer perception of a brand's overall effectiveness and reliability.
Moreover, well-trained, satisfied staff can provide exceptional customer service, which is a critical aspect of marketing. Positive customer service experiences lead to word-of-mouth recommendations, online reviews, and repeat business, all of which contribute to a positive brand image.
By using training software, such as Schoox, a learning and talent development platform, or Opus, a mobile-first training solution, you can simplify and streamline employee development.
Likewise, 7Shifts, a cloud-based solution designed for restaurant owners to manage shifts, labor compliance, employee communication, and engagement, can help you implement flexible scheduling to ensure adequate staffing during peak hours and days.
2. Loyalty Programs
As per Statista, loyalty programs can prove highly valuable—7 out of 10 Americans considered loyalty programs a leading factor in securing their loyalty toward their favorite brands.
If you have a branded app, consider integrating a restaurant loyalty program to reward frequent customers with discounts, free items, or exclusive offers. These programs can incentivize repeat visits and foster customer loyalty.
3. Website Optimization
Your website is often the first point of contact between your business and potential customers. A well-designed and user-friendly website creates a positive first impression, which is critical for building trust and credibility with your audience.
According to a 2023 survey study by BentoBox, 86% of respondents said they search for a restaurant online before making a decision, and 75% of respondents said they’d be more likely to choose a restaurant with a high-quality site.
Here are some of the benefits and features of a quality website:
Brand Identity: Your website reflects what your brand stands for. It can convey your values, personality, and messaging consistently.
User Experience: A user-friendly design makes it more convenient for visitors to navigate, find information, and engage with your content. A positive user experience encourages longer visits and higher conversion rates.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Search engines like Google consider various factors when ranking websites in search results. A well-optimized website with quality content, proper structure, and relevant keywords can improve its visibility in search engines. This is essential for attracting organic (non-paid) traffic to your site.
Effective Marketing Platform: Your website can provide a platform to showcase valuable information, such as marketing videos, menu selections, your brand's story, enticing imagery, positive customer reviews, and more.
Analytics and Data: You can track user behavior, measure website performance, and gather data about your audience via your branded website. This data is invaluable for making informed marketing decisions and refining your strategies.
Mobile Responsiveness: With the number of smartphone users on the rise, having a mobile-responsive website is crucial. Mobile users should have a seamless experience since this can impact your search rankings and user satisfaction.
According to Hubspot, 64% of SEO marketers call mobile optimization an effective investment. In addition, mobile accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide.
Social Media Integration: Many marketing efforts are closely tied to social media. Your website can be a hub for your social media activities, making it easy for visitors to connect with your brand across various platforms.
4. Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS allows restaurants to easily create and manage their website content without having to use code, which saves valuable time and is essential for keeping online information, menus, promotions, contact details, etc., accurate and up to date.
It often allows for seamless integration of various digital marketing channels, such as social media and email marketing, ensuring consistent branding and messaging across platforms; facilitates efficient content optimization for search engines, improving your brand's search rankings; and enables data analytics and tracking, helping analyze customer behavior. These insights can then be used by your team to create, adjust, or improve marketing campaigns.
5. Google Business Profile (GBP)
An essential tool for businesses looking to succeed in today’s digitally driven world, GBP is a free tool provided by Google, making it a cost-effective way to market your business online, especially when you are dealing with a limited marketing budget.
According to Bentobox, Google Maps is the most popular review site for online restaurant discovery. GBP allows your business to appear in Google search results and on Google Maps, increasing your online visibility. This is crucial because many people turn to Google when searching for local products or services.
The benefits of having a GBP account are certain:
Increases SEO, helping improve your chances of ranking higher in local search results and thus driving more traffic to your business.
Provides a convenient way for potential customers to find your contact information, including your phone number, website, and address, making it easier for them to reach out or visit your restaurant.
Allows you to provide detailed information about your business, such as your hours of operation, photos, and a brief description. This helps customers learn more about your offerings.
Allows customers to leave reviews and ratings for your business. As mentioned previously, positive reviews can boost your reputation, while addressing neutral and negative reviews can help you improve customer satisfaction.
Provides insights into how people find your business online, including data on the number of clicks, calls, and website visits generated from your listing
6. Google Ads
Google Ads allows businesses to display clickable advertisements in Google's search results and on various other websites and platforms to reach a vast online audience and efficiently target potential customers.
According to Google, it delivers an 8:1 ROI, and the average conversion rate is 4.40%, as revealed in WordStream’s conversion rate benchmark report. Apart from these, Google Ads offers many other advantages:
Targeted Advertising: You can target a specific audience based on keywords, location, demographics, interests, and more. This precision helps you connect with the right people at the right time.
Measurable Results: You can easily track the performance of your ads with detailed analytics. This data helps you understand which ads are effective and where you should allocate your budget.
Flexible Budgeting: Google Ads works for both small and large budgets. You have control over how much you want to spend daily or monthly, and you can adjust it at any time.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC): With PPC advertising, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, which means you're not charged for impressions but for actual engagement.
Ad Extensions: You can enhance your ads with extensions like site links, callouts, and location information, providing more value to potential customers.
Competitive Advantage: Google Ads can place your business at the top of search results, giving you an edge over competitors who rely solely on organic search rankings.
Local Advertising: You can target specific geographic areas, making it ideal for local restaurants trying to attract nearby customers.
Ad Testing: You can run multiple ad variations simultaneously and analyze which ones perform best. This helps you refine your messaging and improve ad effectiveness.
Mobile-Friendly: Google Ads is optimized for mobile devices, ensuring your ads reach users on smartphones and tablets.
Integration with Google Services: You can easily link Google Ads with other Google services like Google Analytics and Google My Business, helping you create a comprehensive online marketing strategy.
Control over Ad Scheduling: You can set specific times and days for your ads to run, ensuring you reach your target audience when they are most active.
Wide Reach: Google Ads allows you to advertise on the Google Search Network, Display Network, YouTube, and partner sites, giving you access to a vast online audience.
Quality Score: Google rewards well-structured and relevant ads with a higher Quality Score, which can lead to lower costs and better ad placements.
7. Online Ordering & Delivery
According to Statista, between 2017 and 2022, the number of users in the online meal delivery segment in the US doubled from an estimated 81 million people in 2017 to more than 161 million people in 2022.
Being present on popular online ordering and delivery platforms increases a business's brand visibility. Through these apps, you can showcase your brand to a wider audience, attracting potential customers who are searching for specific food selections.
In addition, marketing strategies like discounts, promotions, and special offers can be integrated into these apps, attracting more customers and encouraging repeat orders.
These apps also often provide valuable data and analytics to businesses. Marketers can use this data to understand customer preferences, track order history, and segment their audience for targeted marketing efforts.
Some businesses even collaborate with online ordering and delivery apps like Uber Eats to expand their reach. Such partnerships can be part of a joint marketing effort to cross-promote both the app and the business.
8. Sustainability Software
Embracing sustainability is increasingly important to consumers, and showcasing sustainable practices can attract eco-conscious diners who prioritize environmentally responsible businesses. What's more, sustainability efforts can generate positive PR and media coverage, positioning the restaurant as a socially responsible establishment.
According to a poll by the National Restaurant Association, 38% of adult consumers said they’re more likely to choose a restaurant that offers locally sourced foods over one that doesn’t. Another 30% said they’d likely choose a restaurant offering food grown in an environmentally friendly way or raised organically over one that doesn’t.
Restaurants can utilize sustainability software to track and report on their eco-friendly initiatives, such as reducing waste, sourcing local and organic ingredients, and minimizing energy consumption, which can be highlighted in marketing campaigns to differentiate themselves from competitors and resonate with a broader customer base.
For example, GreenPlaces, an all-in-one sustainability platform, aims to empower businesses with actionable insights so they can meet their "green" goals—from carbon reporting to emission reductions to measurable ROI.
9. Online Menu Platforms
Your menu is your number-one selling point.
When people consider dining at a restaurant, they often look at the menu to see what's available and how much it costs. So having your menu readily accessible helps potential customers decide if your food fits their budget and preferences.
Ensure you keep your selections and prices up to date and that you provide high-quality imagery, if possible, to entice potential customers even further.
10. Reservation System
Having a reservation system or offering online reservations (through platforms like Formidable and Resengo) enhances customer convenience and accessibility.
It allows potential customers to easily secure a booking at their preferred time, leading to increased customer satisfaction and a higher likelihood of them choosing your business over competitors. A study by BookingLive revealed that 69% of customers are more likely to book with a company that has an online booking system.
11. Email, SMS & Social Media
Given its vast reach and undeniable advantages, email remains the most effective marketing tool, generating an impressive $36 for every $1 spent.
According to Statista, in 2022, around 60% of marketers said their email marketing campaigns had an open rate of over 20%. Additionally, email is the leading way consumers in the US find coupons from brands.
Based on findings from a 2022 Statista survey, approximately 25% of consumers in the US stated that they were likely to purchase a product after receiving an email newsletter.
However, email marketing acceptance varies according to the age of consumers: 10% of US millennials and 36% of Gen Zs were very unlikely to do the same, which means marketers must focus on alternative channels to effectively reach the younger generation.
In general, people prioritize checking their text messages over any other application on their mobile devices.
The benefits of SMS marketing include:
High Open Rates: Generally, SMS messages are opened and read within a few minutes of receipt. As per Gartner, SMS open and response rates are as high as 98% and 45%, respectively. This makes it an excellent way to ensure that your messages are seen by your target audience.
Direct and Immediate Communication: SMS allows you to communicate directly with your audience in real-time. It's a direct line to your customers' mobile devices, making it a powerful tool for time-sensitive promotions, alerts, or announcements.
Opt-In and Permission-Based: In 2022, 70% of consumers opted in to receive texts from businesses. SMS marketing typically requires customers to opt-in to receive messages, ensuring that you're sending messages to individuals who have expressed an interest in your brand. This leads to higher engagement and a more receptive audience.
Personalization: SMS marketing allows for personalization by addressing recipients by their first name and tailoring messages based on their preferences and past interactions.
Versatility: SMS can be used for a wide range of marketing purposes, including promotions, menu updates, reservation reminders, customer surveys, and more.
The most common advantage of social media marketing is its ability to reach a large and targeted audience. With more and more people using social media networks and platforms like Instagram and TikTok, marketers are eagerly tapping into the promotional potential of these networks:
Marketing experts revealed the top benefits of social media marketing include direct communication between brands and consumers and increased exposure, traffic, and lead generation.
According to Hubspot, Instagram provides the highest ROI.
- TikTok is one of the fastest-growing brands worldwide. An MGH survey study concerning TikTok marketing revealed an astonishing 36% of respondents have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a TikTok video about the restaurant. Brands can capitalize on the platform's popularity, especially to draw in younger customers.
- Although TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social channels, Instagram remains the leading platform for influencer marketing worldwide, according to Statista.
By collaborating with influencers who have a large online following to promote your brand to their engaged audience, you are building credibility through trusted voices and creating authentic connections with consumers in the digital age, especially the younger generations.
Of course, the above solutions are all easier said than done, and as more innovative tech becomes available, marketers are facing choice overload.
Start by defining clear objectives for your specific marketing needs, then conduct thorough research to narrow down options based on those objectives. It's crucial to prioritize practical functionality over novelty because choosing technology solely for its newness can lead to inefficiencies and wasted resources. Instead, focus on solutions that best align with your strategic objectives and long-term sustainability.
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