March 15, 2022
In the modern media landscape, restaurants need to leave their comfort zones, test new tactics and measure what moves the needle.
With hundreds of thousands of restaurant locations throughout the United States, diners have no shortage of options on what to eat or where to order from.
That’s why restaurant marketing is an essential initiative for foodservice businesses. Restaurants need to make a concerted effort to establish their brand, reach out to their consumers and re-engage past diners in order to earn and keep a sustainable share of their market.
Restaurant marketing entails so much more than creating advertisements or maintaining a social media page. But with the right tactics and customer focus, restaurants can engage in effective and impactful marketing that boosts their bottom line and number of loyal customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the closure of 90,000+ restaurant locations. Thankfully, the worst of COVID is seemingly in the rearview, meaning restrictions and hesitations around indoor dining should continue to subside. This means 2022 could be an extension of the summer rebound many restaurants saw in 2021 for on-premise dining.
Meanwhile, the consensus around delivery and off-premises dining is that they’re not going anywhere, with 57% of diners planning to order more from restaurants and delivery apps this year.
With all that said, restaurants continue to face a unique set of challenges in 2022 — and marketing can help overcome them. Effective restaurant marketing ensures businesses send the right messages to the right diners, through the right channels, at the right time. It takes effort, but smarter marketing in 2022 will help a restaurant maximize the opportunities this year presents.
Plus, modern restaurant marketing is easier than it sounds. Restaurants can utilize an abundance of channels, tools and platforms to spread their message in a visual, authentic and engaging way — both online and off.
Here are ten marketing tactics restaurants should consider trying in 2022.
A restaurant’s website is often the first thing someone will see after typing the business’s name into Google. When interested diners click on the restaurant’s site and see an outdated design, no clear way to order online, no link to make a reservation and no easy way to view the menu, it’s a huge missed opportunity and makes a bad impression.
With online search volume not slowing down, restaurants need to capitalize on demand by building and perfecting their websites.
The first step here is to ensure a website meets the basics of SEO, or search engine optimization. These actions help the restaurant’s own website outrank third-party sites like Grubhub or Facebook, which the restaurant may be listed on. SEO tactics restaurants should prioritize include optimizing for relevant keywords and search terms, ensuring the website loads quickly and making the website responsive to all device types. These feats come easier when building a website on a platform with these aspects built in.
The second step is to make the website on-brand and easy to navigate. An example of this practice done well is the website for Federalist Pig. As soon as the page loads, there is a clear list of relevant options on the header navigation for the site, such as viewing menus, locations and catering options. The design is on-brand, features food imagery and is easy to navigate for new and existing customers. Utilizing a restaurant website builder ensures restaurants can make their site consistent with their business’s design and rank well in search.
Federalist Pig also has two clear links for visitors to place an order online — and optimized online ordering is a must-have for restaurant marketing in 2022. Direct online ordering reduces or eliminates commission fees charged by third-party marketplaces, which allows restaurants to serve orders at a lower cost. It also allows restaurants to capture customer’s email addresses and enroll them in loyalty programs (both of which will be covered next).
No, email marketing is not an outdated practice. For every dollar spent on email initiatives, $36 is earned back.
Notably, restaurants using restaurant email marketing software see an average of $96 in revenue for each click on a marketing email, plus a 247% increase in repeat diners. These emails can be set up quickly and sent automatically based on how recently someone ordered. For example, seven days after customers order, they can get a re-engagement email that’s triggered without staff lifting a finger. This feature helps restaurants stay top-of-mind for guests and reach them when the time is right.
Using email addresses collected from online ordering or their website, restaurants can enroll opted-in diners to automated email campaigns. These messages routinely send communications to customers, offering discounts or reminders to reorder. For restaurants like Loring Place, email marketing can generate more than $8,000 in revenue from just one campaign.
Still, email marketing needs to be done well to reap its benefits. Hundreds of billions of emails are sent every day, so a restaurant’s promotion can’t just be white noise. Some best practices to make a restaurant marketing email stand out include:
Using quick yet catchy subject lines, with the occasional emoji 🍕🍦.
Offering a discount to incentivize opening the email.
Testing email send times for optimal open, click and order rates.
Employing an on-brand email template for consistency.
Utilizing restaurant email software to automate messaging.
Following these restaurant email best practices.
Loyalty programs are an effective way to engage existing diners and encourage repeat visits and higher orders. Incentivized to earn their next reward, loyalty members are often eager to (over)spend — one study found that diners pay 92% more when enrolled in a restaurant’s loyalty program.
The biggest challenge for restaurants has always been acquiring new loyalty customers. The rise of direct online ordering mentioned above, along with the development of digital restaurant loyalty tools, has made this process much more scalable. Rather than allowing third-party apps to own online diner data, restaurants are capturing emails for themselves and re-engaging them with digital incentives.
Creating a digital loyalty program sounds daunting, but with the right tools, it's actually pretty painless. Geoffroy Raby, the owner of Cuisinett Bistro & Market, said that BentoBox's digital loyalty program "took two minutes to turn on." In other words: setup and complexity should not be a barrier to increasing lifetime customer value.
Unless a restaurant is a Twitter giant like Wendy’s, the days of limiting messaging to 280 characters are pretty much over. Social media is becoming more visual and eye-catching, with two key restaurant social media sites reigning supreme.
First up, Instagram demands a restaurant’s presence — not just for likable food pics, but also for sharing promotions and showcasing staff bonding. For example, the Instagram page for Gramercy Tavern mixes images of food, new staff and the team in action. The page also includes Story Highlights, which permanently embed Instagram Stories and allows visitors to see posts from important events or learn more about the restaurant’s safety protocols. The profile also links out to the restaurant’s website, pre-ordering and reservations pages, allowing visitors to choose one of many next steps with the restaurant.
Instagram and Facebook are owned by the same parent company, and both networks allow restaurants to place “Order Food” buttons and CTAs on their pages, which can immediately turn social media visitors into paying customers. With BentoBox online ordering, restaurants can actually connect their ordering platform to their social pages, making it even easier to capture online orders.
With integrations, Instagram content can also connect automatically to a restaurant's website, creating a dual purpose for the channel and adding more visuals to the restaurant’s page. California chicken restaurant Baba's built its website with BentoBox, which offers this easy integration.
Next up is TikTok. Originally considered a network for teenagers and aspiring "influencers," it has recently exploded onto the scene and expanded its audience. In fact, the #restaurant hashtag on TikTok has generated 6.4 billion views.
While much of this content is user-generated by customers making videos of great-looking food, restaurants have a unique opportunity to jump into this platform and generate high levels of organic reach. Boston brewery Night Shift is building a following by sharing videos of staff completing challenges, like the one seen here.
Organic social media posting is great for engaging with existing followers, but what about using social media ads to acquire more attention?
Reaching people on social media without promotional spend is harder than ever (especially on Facebook and Instagram), but ads connect the gap between a restaurant’s online presence and potential customers. They can show off tasty food items like Potbelly Sandwich Shop does, or announce new locations like PLNT Burger.
It’s important to put advertising dollars behind initiatives that will generate the most revenue for the business. Other social media advertising ideas include promoting open job positions, online ordering discount codes and upcoming events — all of which can help the restaurant make more money than it spends on these ads in the long run.
Advertisements on social media vary in instruction by site. Here are some resources on how to get started for each.
Sometimes, a restaurant's customers are its best marketing channel. After all, 86% of consumers trust word-of-mouth marketing.
An effective restaurant word-of-mouth marketing strategy acquires referred diners through social media posts, reviews and even the classic art of conversation. At its core, word-of-mouth requires a restaurant to lean into the guest experience for all of its diners, thereby sending satisfied customers out to advocate for the business. This is important when everyone has a social media account, as consumers are more likely to tell others about a negative experience than a positive one.
One specific way to turn customers into marketers is by selling wearable restaurant merchandise like hats, shirts and hoodies. Brooklyn pizza restaurant Di Fara, for example, uses its online merchandise store to sell Dodgers-style shirts with the restaurant’s name, turning wearers into walking billboards for the business.
If you've hesitated to produce and sell restaurant merchandise, now is the perfect time to get started. According to designer Rachel Comey, "There’s a trend in New York right now where people are wearing merch: carrying totes from local delis…or their favorite steakhouse.” If you've created a strong connection with customers and make it easy for them to buy merchandise on various channels, this can become a valuable source of revenue and word-of-mouth marketing.
Responding to reviews is hardly fun — particularly when they’re negative. However, a thorough review response strategy can prevent a restaurant from losing customers before it has the chance to engage with them. This is because if someone is searching for a restaurant on Google, Yelp, Facebook or TripAdvisor, one bad review can be enough to cause uncertainty.
The tactic here? Set aside 10 minutes every day (yes, every day) to respond to reviews, whether they are positive, negative or mixed. Doing this shows how committed the restaurant is to learning from customers and acting on their feedback. Plus, great review responses can change peoples' minds after the fact. Note how a speedy response from the team at Mazra brought this Yelp reviewer’s rating up one star.
Guests don’t only go to restaurants to to eat. Events and specials can get them out of their homes and into the bar or dining room.
That last point is especially important as the world bounces back from two years of on-and-off event restrictions. People are looking for reasons to go out and do things, and restaurants and bars are high on the list of places they check. Whether you're new to events or already know their value, you should be constantly brainstorming new ways to drive foot traffic.
Popular event ideas to consider include:
BOGO or two-for-one day.
Rotating daily menu specials.
Trying these events on slower days in the week can help the restaurant generate more weekly revenue, while also attracting and entertaining new diners. Restaurants can also use events software to plan and promote these events, while also collecting registrant information and sharing upcoming event details with them.
User-generated content (UGC) combines elements from social media marketing and word-of-mouth marketing. The practice turns fans and into a restaurant’s marketers by sharing reviews, photos and social media posts on the restaurant’s website and social media channels. This shows people that guests love the restaurant so much they’re willing to post and talk about it, and reduces the amount of time restaurants spend creating content themselves.
One of the best ways to promote UGC is to share tagged Instagram posts or stories to the restaurant account’s own story, like San Antonio’s Best Quality Daughter does.
There are likely thousands — if not millions — of people in a restaurant’s area that the restaurant hasn’t served. Targeting locals through direct mail ads, local PR and transportation ads can help bridge that gap. However, 2022 may be the year of event sponsorship for restaurants, particularly as the world clamors for more in-person connection.
Whether it’s local school, sporting or charity events, restaurants can position themselves as an integral and supportive part in their community through sponsorship. Restaurants can also bring the events in-house with revenue-sharing nights for local organizations. Chipotle does this by pledging 33% of sales on fundraising dates for those looking for support.
Restaurants are facing a sea of opportunity in 2022 — and effective, creative, visual marketing will help them seize that opportunity. However, if a potential diner discovers a restaurant online, it needs to be well-positioned to earn their business. That’s where restaurant technology like restaurant website, email and online ordering software comes in.
Make sure your restaurant is prepared to thrive online in 2022. Equip your restaurant with BentoBox’s restaurant website platform and take ownership of your business’s online presence.
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