Like every other industry, restaurant marketing is changing as technology and processes evolve in response to the global pandemic. As a restaurant owner or manager, you know that getting customers through the door is still a top priority.
However, more and more customers are turning to technology to order take-out, view menus, or speed up the process of getting their food. Additional challenges include labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions that may make it more difficult to meet customer demands.
Given the challenges of the past couple of years, it’s clear that restaurant marketing will look different in 2022. Going above and beyond, providing an exceptional customer experience, and reaching your patrons where they’re at are the name of the game. Here are the top seven restaurant marketing strategies you will need to implement in order to survive and thrive.
1. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is still one of the most effective ways to attract guests to your restaurant. Use it as a way to connect with your customers, provide value, and build loyalty.
The key is posting content that your audience actually wants to see. People are inherently distrustful of information they see on social media; however, as a restaurant owner, you have a unique advantage in that the star of your social media pages can be your popular dishes, your inviting space, and your loyal staff.
To entice your audience to engage with the content, offer incentives for people to share photos or testimonials about their experience with your restaurant on social media. For example, offer a discount or a free dessert for anyone who submits a review. (By the way, make sure you are monitoring your social media pages and review sites for any comments or negative feedback so you can respond promptly.)
You can also explore sponsored or boosted advertising opportunities on social media when appropriate for your brand and budget. These ads can appear as promoted posts within someone’s feed. Be aware that privacy and Facebook targeting options have shifted of late, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on ad campaign performance and make tweaks as you go.
2. Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Page
With a Google My Business (GMB) profile, you can claim and verify your business’s listing and help make your location visible on Maps and in search. It’s free and easy to use, and it also allows you to keep your information current. If you have adjusted your hours due to COVID or for holidays, for example, you can update your information in GMB so your customers know when you’re open.
To claim your profile, log in to Google or create a free account. This article provides a detailed walk-through of setting up your profile. From there, you can not only add your company information but also create events and posts that will appear in search results.
3. Integrate With Other Platforms
Your customers might not come to you through your website, but they could be using one of your partner platforms, like Yelp or OpenTable. Make sure you’re providing seamless service across all of these platforms to make things easier for them as they place orders, make reservations, or seek out information about your restaurant.
If you’re partnering with delivery apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats, be aware that you’ll be paying commissions and fees for their services. While some businesses have found the apps to be a lifeline during the pandemic, others say the fees are too high to make sense for restaurants. The Counter reports, “Commission fees can account for about 15 to 30 percent of an order’s sales.”
In some cases, restaurants are taking on deliveries themselves or even establishing cooperatives like Delivery.coop to manage the work. With a co-op, eateries might pay membership fees to fund operating costs and driver and dispatcher salaries in exchange for ownership responsibilities and a yearly share of profits, The Counter explains.
If the app-delivery model makes sense for your restaurant, make sure you allocate counter space or food lockers, along with designated parking for drivers, to ensure a seamless pickup experience.
4. Digitize Ordering
Particularly if you aren’t planning to work with app delivery services, it’s important that you have a way for customers to order on the go. At the very least, make sure your website is set up to accept online orders.
Even better is if you have your own mobile app where customers can place their orders. Not only does this streamline ordering, but it also provides a way to gain customer loyalty. Offer points and rewards in exchange for purchases to keep customers coming back again and again.
Make use of push notifications, too, to send out special offers and to update patrons on their order status. The more efficient and convenient your ordering process, the more likely your customers are to be repeat customers who also share positive experiences about your restaurant with friends, family, and on social media and review sites.
5. Be Prepared to Automate
With labor shortages continuing to impact restaurant owners, now is the time to invest in technology that helps pick up the slack. Hospitality Technology reports findings from Lightspeed’s 2021 Global State of the Hospitality Industry Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 restaurant owners, operators, managers and guests around the world. Key findings include:
- 87% of respondents agree that new technology adoption has been critical to their survival over the past two years
- Some 45% of operators plan to implement some form of automation technology within the next two to three years
- In the United States alone, 65% of guests are viewed as more demanding than before the pandemic, making efficiency and great service critical
Automation examples include self-serve kiosks, AI-driven drive-thru bots, and facial technology that recognizes a guest’s face and previous orders and even lets the guest pay with their face. Rather than being a job killer, automation can be a way to support businesses that are short-staffed, prevent burnout or resignation of current staff, and improve efficiencies and food quality.
6. Simplify Your Menu
Along with staff shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising food costs are causing many restaurants to ditch complicated menus in favor of simplified options. A smaller menu means more efficient kitchens, easier training for new staff, and shorter drive-thru times at quick-serve restaurants—a key point of contention for impatient patrons.
Technomic reports that by the end of Q3 2021, total restaurant menu items offered had fallen 10% since the pandemic, while a select few additions have made their way to menus. Among the findings:
- College and university and recreation menus saw the most significant drops
- Shellfish items are among those on the decline due to lack of availability
- “Portable eats” in the form of imitation meat bowls, mixed protein bowls, and speciality bowls are trending upward
Pro tip: As you’re planning your simplified menu, include plant-based options to help navigate meat shortages and supply chain issues, while tapping into the growing market of guests looking for vegetarian and vegan options.
7. Look for Ways to Increase Up-Sells
Technomic adds that certain menu items have become more popular and could increase the size of guests’ overall bill. Consider the following:
- Sales of hard sparkling water and soda are up 167%
- Bundled options like salad value meals and breakfast value meals are increasingly popular as guests seek convenience
- Dessert consumption is on the rise, with 38% of consumers eating dessert more than once a week
A word about dessert: Many dessert purchases are happening at retail stores as opposed to restaurants. However, you can increase restaurant dessert sales by creating your own signature desserts and other dishes that people will go out of their way to purchase. “To appeal to off-premise diners, operators should look to include more desserts on third-party delivery sites and promote popular portable options such as brownies, cookies and doughnuts,” the report states.
Restaurant Marketing Has Changed
Although restaurant marketing looks different today than it did a few years ago, there’s also an opportunity to pivot and make your restaurant even more successful. Patrons are making it clear what they want in terms of their dining experiences, and it’s up to owners and operators to meet their demands if they want to continue profiting.
If you’re looking to update your equipment and remove items you no longer need in your restaurant, TAGeX Brands can help to streamline the entire process. Whether you have surplus and dormant equipment, inventory, and assets that you need to liquidate, or you’re looking for a fresh start in the face of unprecedented challenges, we are able to assist you from start to finish in taking the next steps.
With over 30 years of experience in providing customized liquidation solutions, our mission is to eliminate your headaches and take on the heavy lifting for you. Get started by contacting us for a free evaluation of your project.