6 Restaurant Mobile Marketing Strategies to Drive Growth

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Why Do Restaurants Need to Think About Mobile Marketing?

Whether you run a large restaurant or a small cafe, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Ordering supplies, managing budgets, planning menus, handling complaints, recruiting staff, the list goes on.

But in the end, the success of your establishment comes down to two things: bringing in customers, and making sure they come back. Simply put, restaurant owners and managers need to have a mobile marketing strategy if they want to compete.

How can you know what works when it comes to restaurant marketing? The first step is to consider where your customers (and potential customers) spend time. This brings us to mobile marketing.

The latest research shows that average smartphone user checks their device 47 times a day. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that people spend around three hours per day on their phone.

Leaders in the restaurant industry are already capitalizing on this trend. All the big players have even launched their own apps: Burger King, Chick-fil-a, McDonald’s, etc. Software companies that specialize in online ordering and marketing are being acquired for billions of dollars. There’s no way around it—the industry is changing and it’s not going back.

Hungry people are on their phones, and restaurants are dedicating large portions of their budgets to reaching them. If yours isn’t, you risk losing out to your competitors. In this article, we’ll explore what mobile marketing is, and six strategies for restaurants you can implement at your establishment.

What Exactly Is Mobile Marketing?

Mobile marketing is the process of targeting campaigns to people on mobile devices. “Mobile” is extremely broad and can cover a wide range of tactics including banners, video, email, search ads, and texting. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but we’ll break down the most effective strategies for restaurants and explain why they’ll work.

Mobile marketing isn’t just a next-big-thing that’s destined to disappear in a few quarters. Just look at how much money advertisers are dedicating to it. Estimates show that mobile accounted for $76.17 billion of US media ad spending in 2018. That’s over $6 billion more than TV! By 2020, mobile will likely surpass all traditional media combined.

This is a big-picture look at mobile marketing in general. But what about the restaurant industry specifically? A 2018 survey of over 800 restaurant owners, managers, and leaders found that 49% of restaurants have an email database, 38% offer a loyalty program, and 20% use SMS marketing. But here’s the really important point: 73% of diners agreed that these technologies improved their guest experience.

The numbers are clear: mobile marketing is essential if you want to grow your business. Let’s discuss how you can get started.

Top 6 Restaurant Mobile Marketing Strategies

The use of technology can be a differentiator for your restaurant’s success. The key is to find opportunities to delight guests and make their lives easier when they’re searching for the perfect place to dine.

1. Target Local Keywords Using SEO

SEO stands for “search engine optimizations.” It’s the process of improving the design, content and usability of your website so that it ranks higher in Google searches. We don’t need to tell you how popular Google is, but it may be worth noting that data shows overall restaurant-related searches have grown by double digits in the past two years.

As a restaurant, your goal should be to rank for local searches. For example, “Burger restaurant Denver.” Let’s take a quick look at the results for this search:

Screenshot of top three results for restaurant query on Google

Notice that there are three results at the top. This is where you want to be. Take a minute to do a similar search for your restaurant. For example, if you sell tacos in Atlanta, go ahead and Google “taco restaurant Atlanta.” Are you in the top three results? If not, this is how you can get there:

  • Make your website easy to navigate on mobile. It should take no more than one click to find your menu.
  • Add a contact page to your website with your name, address, and number
  • Add a Click to Call or Click to Text button to your site
  • If you have multiple locations, add a map with all of them
  • Include reviews from customers on your website
  • Claim your restaurant on TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, etc.

50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit a store within 24 hours. Take the time to do the quick fixes above, and you should see a boost in your rankings.

2. Request Reviews from Diners

In the last section, we mentioned that it’s important for local SEO to have reviews from customers. The reason is that often times review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor appear on the first page of search results.

Every year, Bright Local conducts a survey with around 40 local search experts to find out what specific factors influence a business’s search ranking. What was the fastest-growing local ranking factor in 2018? Reviews. They found consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.

If your restaurant’s profiles on Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are looking sparse, it’s time to start asking for reviews from customers. It isn’t difficult. Happy customers are excited to share about their experience with others. Try the following tactics to get more reviews:

  • Add a call to action asking for a review to your table tents, menus, receipts, etc.
  • If you have a text message list, send out a campaign asking for reviews
  • If a customer made an online reservation, send a follow-up email with a link to review sites
  • Ask your servers to remind diners to leave a review after they’ve finished their meal
Image of sticker on window requesting TripAdvisor reviews

Of course, keeping the coveted 5-star rating is challenging. Negative reviews can happen, even with an amazing back-of-house and wait staff. Don’t panic if you get a negative review. The best thing you can do is respond to it sincerely, and offer to make things right. Incentivize them to come back and show them how great your restaurant really is.

3. Make Your Meals Selfie-Worthy

This 2018 report found that (when factoring in profits) no-growth restaurants were more likely to use Twitter (44% vs. 39%), whereas more successful restaurants were more likely to use Instagram (69% vs. 64%).

It’s easy to see why. We’ve known for years that we eat with our eyes. People are gravitating to visually-appealing platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, while moving away from Facebook and Twitter.

Think about the design of your restaurant. Does it make someone want to take a photo? Yes, the taste of your food is incredibly important. But as a savvy marketer, you need to think about your tabletops, wall decor, and lighting too. You should also work with your chefs to make sure every dish is being plated in an appealing way.

Even well-established brands are changing the presentation of their food to take advantage of the free advertising that snap-happy customers can provide. Casual restaurant chain Chili’s started serving fries now in stainless steel dishes and changed the buns on their burgers to be more aesthetically pleasing.

Go through your entire dining experience and try to identify opportunities to create Kodak moments.

4. Offer Online Ordering

According to the aforementioned report, one in five restaurants say that online ordering is a top priority for them. However, this is at odds with what consumers want. 71% of diners say online ordering is very important to their restaurant experience.

This gap between what restaurant owners think and what customers want poses a huge opportunity. Offering online ordering lets to pull customers away from the competition. People want to be able to order ahead and forgo the line. And online ordering doesn’t have to be complicated to set up either. There are a few affordable services that let you implement online ordering easily. Three of the most popular and highly reviewed are:

  • ChowNow: Take orders through a website, Facebook page, or mobile app.
  • Square Order: Allow customers to place pre-orders through via mobile.
  • GrubHub: Accept mobile orders through a marketplace site.

This strategy is especially important for quick service restaurants (QSRs). Fine dining or full-service restaurants should spend less time on online ordering, and focus on other customer experience strategies instead.

5. Use Third-Party Delivery Apps (Better Yet, Offer Delivery Yourself)

Online ordering is great, delivering is even better. We’re sure you’ve heard of Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates and Door Dash. In just a few years, these apps have become household names. It makes sense. The National Restaurant Association reported that 74% of millennials report a preference for delivery service. And now, anyone with a smartphone can get pretty much any food they want delivered to them in an instant.

Customers want to be able to quickly order from their phones. If you don’t offer delivery, your customers will seek out another restaurant. A third-party app means you don’t have to deal with the headaches of hiring a delivery driver and finding a POS system equipped to take online and delivery orders.

Man who works for Door Dash delivering food

Not offering delivery can be a death sentence for some companies. Third-party apps can be a quick way to get your delivery service running. But depending on the size of your team, you may want to take an even bigger step and bring your delivery in-house. This will help you create an even more consistent customer experience.

6. Regularly Engage with Customers Using Text Messages

All of the strategies we’ve talked about so far help you find new customers, and make your restaurant more appealing to them so they’ll decide to dine with you. But what about your current customers? You can’t forget about them.

Text messages help you engage with past diners and encourage them to come back. The industry term for texting with customers is SMS marketing. Here’s how it works: First, a customer subscribes to your messages. They can do this using a web form or by texting in a keyword to your number. For example, a sushi restaurant could make their keyword “LetsRoll.” All a customer would have to do to sign up for their messages is text “LetsRoll” to their number.

Earlier, we mentioned that nearly a quarter of restaurants are using SMS marketing. Why? Number one, it’s trackable. When you include a link in a message, you can track who has—and hasn’t—opened it. Two, it’s immediate. It only takes a minute to send a message to thousands of people at once. When you need to fill chairs in your restaurant, texting lets you do that right away. And finally, it’s interactive. Customers respond to your messages which makes it great for asking for feedback or conducting polls.

Here are a few ways that restaurants can use SMS marketing:

  • Send mobile coupons with limited-time offers
  • Inform your customers about weekly specials
  • Remind customers about upcoming events
  • Send notifications when a customers reservation is coming up
  • Alert customers when their table is ready

Want more ideas? We wrote an entire guide to walk restaurant owners through everything they need to know about using SMS marketing for restaurants. We also offer a 14-day free trial of our platform if you want to give texting a try.

Summary of Restaurant Mobile Marketing

Smartphones and other mobile devices are changing the way people look for restaurants and order food. More and more people are spending more and more time on their phones. If that’s where they are, that’s where you should go. Restaurants have many mobile marketing tools at your disposal including local SEO, online ordering apps, merchandising, and SMS marketing among others. Whether you have one unit or hundreds, adding even just a few of these to your marketing mix can boost your bottom line.

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