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Common Restaurant Marketing Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

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Did you know that, on average, only 3% of a restaurant’s profits are invested into marketing? Branding, social media, print collateral and online presence – these restaurant ingredients are just as important as what’s being served on a plate, and spending on marketing can directly translate to an increase in food and beverage sales.

No matter the size of your budget, it’s good to know that every dollar (or minute) you invest in marketing is being spent wisely. Don’t leave money on the table by falling into the trap of these common marketing mistakes.

Mistake #1: Going Website-less

Unless you’re a speakeasy, a restaurant’s physical signage is an obvious first step in marketing. A name, storefront and open door are all visual cues a diner is trained to look for. 

A website serves the exact same purpose for online visitors – and yet so many restaurants make the mistake of not having one, or at least not an up-to-date one.

On average, 51% of restaurant searches result in a visit to that location in the next 24 hours. Help customers searching for your restaurant by confirming your business details on Google and providing an informative website. Double-check your business address, hours and phone number, and links to your online ordering and reservations. Don't forget to add an enticing photo of your food or atmosphere!

If a custom-built, complex website is in the budget, go for it! If not, it’s far preferable to have a simple site with necessary information than no site at all.

Chica's Tacos website
Chica’s Tacos website is clean and easy to navigate with all of their relevant business info available along with easy branded online ordering and catering access.

Mistake #2: Ignoring the Power of Social Media

Maintaining a presence on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t have to mean hiring a pro, or devoting all your free time to hashtags! Social media is the easiest way to target new diners at very low cost, and allows you to communicate with existing fans of your business to drive customer loyalty. 

Use these platforms to share more “personality” behind your brand by showcasing the ambience, food and team. A simple hack to creating more content is to look up what your customers are already tagging you in and borrow it – just ask for permission to repost a great photo and give that customer a shout-out when you do!

social media screenshot
This restaurant uses their social media to show pictures of their food and specials, promote events and specials and just engage with their customers. They’ve reached nearly 20K followers.

If social media is going to be a significant part of your marketing strategy, it’s worth looking into paid social media advertising to broaden your reach – or hiring a dedicated social media manager who can keep up with scheduling, posting and replying to online comments and questions quickly.

Mistake #3: Staying Silent on Review Sites

More than half of your diners will seek out restaurant reviews before a visit. Stay in control of the conversation by claiming ownership of your pages on top review platforms. This also allows you to upload photos of your food and space with flattering lighting, and editing business information like hours and descriptions.

If you have a negative review (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) this can be a surprising chance to secure future business! Treat it as an opportunity to politely and concisely summarize your side of the story, fill in any omitted details, and recap how the situation was or will be handled.

Of the readers who take the time to check out reviews, 83% will also read the responses from businesses, and 40% will only seriously consider comments left in the last two weeks. This means that if you check reviews and respond regularly, you’ve impressed upon that reader that your brand stays up to date and cares about customer service.

Online reviews
It is important to have an awareness of your online reviews, and take the opportunity to engage with the reviewer and all the passive readers by responding to negative but also positive reviews.

Mistake #4: Cutting the Conversation Short

After a customer leaves the restaurant, that doesn’t mean their experience ends! There should always be a constant plan of outreach to invite the customer back soon.

There are many ways to start (or continue) that conversation: collecting emails and phone numbers, or encouraging mobile app downloads, can open up channels of communication to use in the future. If you already have a database of customer information, treat this as a gold mine of repeat business. If you don’t, start identifying ways to build your email list now – whether that’s a bowl for business cards at the front of the restaurant with a drawing each month, or through your online ordering system (OLO).

Your online ordering platform is one of the easiest and best ways to collect customer data. If you aren’t able to access your customer data with your current OLO company, you may consider options like ChowNow that not only give you access, but help you with connecting to your database.

Since it’s cheaper to keep a customer than gain a new one, email marketing especially has one of the best returns on investment – at $43 to every $1 spent. By sending a regular cadence of informative or incentivizing emails (events, updates, and promotions), you are keeping your brand top-of-mind. You then make it easy for your customers to search for – or forward to a friend – a relevant email from their inbox at any time.

If you have a mobile app, leverage that connection with your on-the-go diners by sending push notifications. Over 60% of users will open an app after receiving a push notification – so in addition to boosting mobile order volume, this is yet another easy way to keep the attention on your brand and product.

Ultimately, the biggest mistake a restaurant can make in marketing is forgetting the potential of its own brand.

As a part of a community’s culture and local business environment, the space your restaurant occupies both physically and online is a space to communicate with your patrons. Be able to communicate your identity and image through a developed website, active digital presence, and branded mobile app – the sentimental connection you’ll create and reinforce with your brand will be priceless.

About ChowNow: ChowNow powers an online food ordering system as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly from a restaurant's website, Facebook page, Instagram profile and custom-built mobile apps – commission-free. Learn more about ChowNow by visiting online ordering in CHECK Business Tools.

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