If you’re just starting a new local restaurant or setting up a chain of restaurants, you know the struggle of handling the logistics of your business. Marketing your restaurant can be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll face.

I’ve been in the marketing industry for almost a decade and have witnessed first-hand the struggles of trying to market a local small business successfully.

10 Essential Restaurant Marketing Tools Every Owner Needs

Here are 10 free (or low-cost) restaurant marketing tools you can use to make your restaurant marketing more manageable and successful. These tools when used correctly, are proven to increase revenue, increase profitability, and find new and repeat customers.

1. Facebook

I hear so many people say that Facebook is only for connecting with friends. What they don’t see is the value Facebook provides, especially to restaurants.

When you create a Facebook account for your business and use that account to reach out on a regular basis to your audience, you can actually bring in new customers to your business.

Anyone can create a Facebook page for free, but it’s up to you to get the most out of it.

Create a page that’s visually pleasing and engage with your friends, family, and customers.  The chart below shows the significant impact of Facebook engagement on both free and paid search.

facebook engagement boosts paid reachChart source: Statista

2. Twitter

Nearly everyone from celebrities to the President has a Twitter account. It’s one of the fastest ways to reach a global or local market.

Be sure to optimize your Twitter bio and brand your company well by including a link to your landing page or company website. I’ve found that you can use Twitter Search to find customers by searching keywords related to your business.

I’ve noticed that it’s important to tweet relevant and useful information regularly. Also, get your colleagues involved to boost your visibility further.

Lastly, follow trends, offer discounts, and use images and videos to drive more clicks, views, and shares to your Twitter account.

3. Instagram

I’m a huge fan of social media. I mean, who isn’t?  Besides Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is a free and very powerful social media marketing tool. The chart below shows the rapid growth of Instagram.

It’s simple to set up and even easier to use. Create a username that’s similar to your restaurant name, snap pictures from your smartphone, and put your “handle” around your restaurant for sales and promotions.

You can also take photos of appetizers, meals, and desserts to post on your account and encourage customers to take their own photos and post on their social media.

why restaurants should use Instagram in their marketingChart source: Statista

4. Google My Business

The Google My Business platform is used to bring together all of your business information online…in one place for easy and quick access. I’ve noticed that using this tactic helps to increase your company’s visibility in search results, maps, locations, and even reviews.

One of the best aspects of Google My Business is the Monthly Insights stats it provides you. It gives you a snapshot of not only where customers view your business on Google, but how they search for your business.  I’ve found this to be a very helpful marketing tool.

word-of-mouth referrals for restaurantsChart source: Statista

5. Yelp

I’ve discovered that Yelp (see chart above) is one of the highest-ranking sites, even beating out Buzzfeed…and it’s free! Restaurants are the second most-reviewed category. (Chart below.)

So, how do you get started?

Claim your free business account, post photos, ensure your basic business contact information is correct, and set up user activity email alerts. But, don’t forget to read through your reviews.

To optimize your Yelp profile, be sure to add a photo of your business, as blank photos get passed up more often. You can even post videos to make your page more engaging.

I’ve helped clients make their Yelp page more personal by adding a “Meet the Owner” or “Meet the Manager” section. This is the perfect way to introduce yourself, give your background, add your interests, and list your favorite menu items!

restaurant reviews second-most popular on yelpScreenshot Source: Yelp Factsheet

6. Targeting Ads

One of the best ways I’ve helped clients is by creating ads that target customers based on location. You can use Google ads or other advertising services such as Pandora to get your information anywhere in the global market.

And since this is the mobile age, with everyone always on the go, there are mobile marketing services that can help you pinpoint certain areas based on such factors as age and gender.

If you’re sending potential customers to a page, I would actually recommend re-targeting that page and keep it simple.

7. Re-targeting Ads

Speaking of re-targeting, many restaurant owners don’t quite understand this concept. To make it simple, there are many potential customers navigating their way to your site, based on something they saw, heard about, or were interested in. But for some reason, they leave your site and go somewhere else.

You can actually put a code on your site that puts a free display ad for your restaurant in front of them for at least 30 days. And the best part is that it’s free, until they actually click on the ad and go back to your site.

8. Email Marketing

Some marketing companies forget about email marketing, as it seems so basic. I’ve found, however, that if used properly, it can be a great marketing tool.

If customers like your business, they actually want your emails, as shown by the chart below.

consumers want to receive emails from brands they likeChart source: Statista

Sending customers monthly email newsletters and lead nurturing emails is the perfect way to keep in contact. This way you can celebrate your successes, share discounts and coupons, and showcase new menu items. I think email marketing is a powerful way to reach your audience free of charge!

9. Free Restaurant Online Ordering

Many restaurant customers love the option of ordering food and picking it up to go home. This is especially convenient when you don’t feel like cooking and just want to grab food to go.  But, oftentimes you have to drive to the restaurant, order the food, and wait, or call the restaurant ahead of time. This can also lead to errors.

But ordering your food online not only frees up the staff member to take care of other customers, there is a reduction in errors since everything is on your site. Having your customers order online helps to build your restaurant’s customer database, and is also a great way to track your customer traffic.

One example of an all-in-one online ordering solution for restaurants is 247waiter. Their benefits include:

  • Easy to use website builder (no technical skills required)
  • Accept orders online and collect payments
  • Accept orders inside the restaurant through a mobile interface (this makes it social distancing friendly)
  • SEO, CRM, and other marketing capabilities
  • Can be used for any type of restaurant, even home-based food sellers

10. Free Online Restaurant Booking System

How often do you try to make reservations, only to find that the restaurant doesn’t take reservations over the phone? You actually have to show up and have your name added to a list. This is such a waste of time.

Taking reservations from your website is one of the quickest and easiest ways to build your marketing database. The best part is that many of them are free. You can take reservations 24 hours a day, save staff time, and reduce booking errors.

Ciara CookI hope that these free restaurant marketing tools I’ve provided will help skyrocket your business to success. There are other free marketing tools available but rest assured that the ones I’ve listed are quite capable of building a solid marketing foundation for your restaurant.

Ciara Cook is prior military, serving in the Army for 6 years as a Mental Health Specialist in Germany and Georgia.

She’s been a content writer in the Marketing Industry for almost a decade. She now writes for several blogs, including the Potts-law.com blog.

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