Digital marketing has become increasingly important in most sectors, and perhaps more so for the restaurant business in the pandemic. Many people like to try out new places or menus and, while looking for a suitable restaurant, the first thing that people do is go to the internet and type ‘Restaurants near me’ or ‘Restaurants in Park Street/Gariahat/Salt Lake’. From browsing menus to making reservations and ordering online, everything is done digitally. That is why restaurant chains like Bar BQ Nation or Mainland China, Bengali eateries like 6 Ballygunge Place and Bhojohori Manna and even well-known cafes such as Mitra Cafe and Flurys have their restaurants’ promotion strategies in place.
But how do you go about marketing your restaurant digitally without wasting money? Any digital marketing strategy requires differentiating the necessary from the desirable, evaluating cost-effectiveness among options, deciding what will work together, and making the right choice. This blog leverages years of experience across various kinds of restaurants to make your task easier.
Start with your potential customers
Marketing involves following your audience’s thinking and behavior to provide the right nudge at the right time to drive time your way. Your marketing efforts will be more effective if you know who your audience is. Are you marketing to millennials, the older generation, or families with young children? For example, in the case of Bengali restaurants in Salt Lake, the target audience is likely the older generation and families with kids because clearly, GenZ is more interested in Pizza than Pabda Maach. Some implications of this are that Facebook would be more effective than Instagram, and that space and service would rank higher than cozy corners and discreet waiters. Moreover, if your Bengali restaurant is in Behala, connecting with your audience means addressing them in Bengali rather than in English. From what you stress on to the food you show, different audiences have different tastes and an effective digital marketing strategy carefully caters to them.
The next step is to look at the various ways in which your audiences interact with digital media in the process of choosing a restaurant. Broadly, in the virtual world, customers will first hear of you (or be reminded of you) either by active search on search engines or food portals or come across your page or advertisements through social media. We can therefore describe them as Search Media and Social Media. For restaurants, each caters to different audiences. People using Search Media are usually looking for a restaurant to order from or visit today. Those who see your advertisement on Social Media may not plan to order immediately but can get tempted or keep your restaurant in mind when they dine out or order next. Very often search and social media work together to determine the choice of restaurant.
Create an attractive website
Your website is your virtual restaurant and more people will visit it than arrive at your door. In 88 percent of cases, consumers choose a business based on its website when doing online research, and both the food and decor of a restaurant will woo the customer. The website is often also the destination of your other digital marketing efforts as this is where customers will get to discover your menu, offers, promotions, and ambiance all in one place. If your restaurant’s website leaves something to be desired, people will bounce off to seek another. Having an easily navigable, professional, and eye-catching website is the first step of your restaurant’s digital marketing strategy. The choice of the right pictures, fonts, and colors on the website adds to your restaurant’s appeal. It is often through these that your audience will be tempted (or not) to visit you.
Add your cuisine’s special touch
Apart from essentials like your menu card, making your cuisine relatable to your audience will make it appear more charming If your restaurant’s specialty is Bengali food, putting up the menu on the website in Bengali is a must. Then, since Bengalis are very particular about their food, only the name of the dish and the price will not do. So, write a short description of the recipe. To make things more interesting, write which side of Bengal it is from and its history if possible. If it’s a Chinese restaurant, then some information about the origin of the Chinese food in Kolkata or the significance of
Use relatable visuals
While designing the menu, put relatable visuals, something which every Bengali is aware of. For example, under the ‘Hilsa’ section you can show a small illustration of a happy Bangali babu holding a bazaar bag in one hand and the Ilish peeping from the bag. Little touches that make customers smile or feel nostalgic make your restaurant more charming.
Ensure appetizing photographs
The most important thing to attract visitors to your website (and finally to your restaurant) is to have tantalizing food pictures. Invest in a professional food photographer and get as many shots of not only your dishes but also your restaurant. People always look for an ambiance that meets their taste and you have no doubt spent a lot in creating it so let it show!
An example: Recently, we designed and developed a website for a Varanasi-based restaurant. As we have already mentioned, a personalized menu and appetizing food pictures are a must for a restaurant website. While selecting the food photographs, we chose the ones that have:
Ample of white space
Interesting backgrounds. For example, a long shot of a Varanasi Ghat with a focused and zoomed-in picture of Dahi-Jalebi.
This helped us to make the website look as delicious as the food they serve.
Mention COVID-19 protocols
People are very safety conscious and many have become averse to visiting restaurants due to fear of Covid-19. Prominently mention all the COVID-19 and hygiene protocols that you follow. If all waiters have been vaccinated or wear gloves this is also important. Reassure customers that there is virtually no risk in dining at your restaurant.
Follow SEO techniques
Customers often search for restaurants by cuisine or location to find new places to eat. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique that helps search engines like Google find and put you up in front of your potential customer. Your SEO ranking will determine how quickly someone will locate you when they type in, say, “Bengali restaurants near me”. Lack of optimization can result in your restaurant not being found at all.
It is important for your website’s SEO to make you appear as a local hotspot, no matter whether your potential customers are locals or tourists. Here are some ways to improve your SEO:
Utilize local keywords, like Bengali/Chinese/Multi-cuisine restaurants, home-delivery restaurants, Max-safety restaurants in Kolkata on every page of your website.
While uploading food photographs, always put captions and try to include these local keywords there
Your website should have blogs that talk about the cuisine and recipes of popular dishes. Blogs on hygiene, and sneak-peeks of Behind The Scenes (BTS) will also help
Internal and external links should both be included
Make sure that your contact information and address are listed multiple times and are easy to find. Make it easy to get in touch
Set up Google My Business account
Google My Business is a free online service that helps promote local businesses online. Businesses can use this tool to improve how they appear across Google and can stand out from the crowd using little tips and tricks. As Google is by far the most commonly used search engine, this makes your business reach a wide audience, particularly if you promote it.
Here’s how you can open an account on Google My Business.
Step 1 – Sign in to the Google My Business site.
Step 2 – After signing in, click on ‘Manage Locations’ to select your location.
Step 3 – Choose the ‘Create business account’ option to create your profile on Google My Business.
Once you have registered your account, your restaurant will appear in maps and local pack listings. The Local Pack is a Search Engine Results Page that displays the places related to your search. In addition, it contains a bunch of other pertinent information that potential customers might find useful e.g. the business’s address, its telephone number, its store hours, and even its star rating. Businesses and customers both benefit from these features.
Customer reviews are extremely important, especially when it comes to search rankings. Online reviews may add up to 10% in determining search engines rankings. Google My Business to make it easy for your customers to leave positive reviews.
List your restaurant on online portals
Nowadays, every restaurant, no matter its size, needs to have a partnership with online food ordering services such as Swiggy and Zomato or appear in specialist apps like Dine Out. This is because it is through these platforms that most users refer to when in the mood for restaurant food. What Swiggy, Zomato and Dine Out do is spend a fortune on advertising through which they not only market their own platforms but indirectly advertise restaurants as well. Additionally, all these platforms have their own collectives based on cuisines where you can feature your special cuisines. Listing your business is simple. All you need is your GST number, PAN card, FSSAI certificate and you can partner with them anytime you want.
But how does one stand out in these platforms amidst the clutter of restaurant ads? It mostly depends on your reviews and uniqueness. The more good reviews you have, the higher are your chances of getting featured. Along with that, if you serve a special dish, like Daab Biryani or Imported Crab Curry diners will be more likely to visit your restaurant. This is even more true for foodies and those who stay outside Kolkata and come to visit their families during holidays.
Moreover, Swiggy and Zomato being popular food delivery channels will also boost your topline. What you can do to such orders is add a token of love, in the form of cute packaging with a hand-written note in Bengali every time you receive an order. These personalized touches make people remember your restaurant longer than others.
Apart from the above, registering your business on business promotion portals such as Just Dial is important, particularly for institutional and event orders. While the listing is free, subscription fees have to be paid for any significant benefit.
Make your presence on social media
Food is a popular subject in social media. If you want your target group to know about your restaurant online, you first have to be present on the various platforms available online such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. For that, all you need to put up social media pages, which is quite a simple affair. After you have created the pages, link all the page URLs with all the accounts. For example, the page description of your Facebook page should have links to your Instagram and YouTube pages and vice-versa.
Create engaging content
Now that you have created your business pages, it’s time to chalk out the kind of content that you will upload. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when planning your social media posts:
Stay active. Food and dining have infinite potential, particularly in Bengal
Be informative rather than blatantly trying to sell.
Humanize your content. Use humor.
Stay up to date on community events, concerts, etc., and offer something special.
Tell a little bit about your restaurant with brand posts.
Include customer stories and pictures – with their permission of course!
Post an inviting picture of your restaurant’s special dish along with a brief description. Provide a link to your menu or to the online reservation page.
Be an active participant in community events and let your followers know about them. Such posts will increase your followers if they are shared.
Introduce your employees and some fun facts about them. It helps build relationships.
Create a unique hashtag and include it every time you upload a photo.
Use AR filters
Everybody enjoys funny content. One way of engaging your audience on social media while promoting your business is to create AR filters for social media. Quiz filters like – Which Bengali food are you? or What will you eat next? are light-hearted content that engages attention. At the end of every filter, you can add your restaurant’s name stating that the dishes are available there. Visually appealing filters are another possibility. Here’s a look at this cake filter we created on our 4th work anniversary at Andreal.
Open a Facebook Group
Social media is for building communities and for any restaurant residents of the local area to form a bulk of their clientele. Bring food lovers of your community together by forming a Facebook group where they can freely post experiences, anecdotes, and recipes. Unlike a page, members can add people having the same interest to quickly build a foodie community, Building relationships through such groups will also encourage hosting get-togethers. On your part, you can post what’s new and exciting in the restaurant to a select high potential audience, including current customers.
Add user-generated content
People are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends than branded content. So take advantage of content that people post on a regular basis to promote your brand. Encourage your diners to click pictures of the food, ambiance, and staff and share them on social media with a mention and hashtags of our restaurant. You can motivate them with some future perks such as freebies and discounts on their next visit. Restaurant-based social media contests such as ‘click a selfie’ will also encourage participation. Remember when Starbucks wanted to launch a limited edition coffee cup? Instead of doing it themselves (which would have cost a small fortune), they asked their customers on social media to design one for them and the best one got $300 and also got their cup featured. Leverage the talent on social media to generate creative content and hashtags for your social media vehicles.
Start a YouTube channel
Having a YouTube channel of the restaurant is becoming a must. Video is not only one of the best ways to help your potential customers experience your restaurant virtually but also for building credibility by sharing expert and customer opinions. Sharing traditional food recipes, talking about their origins, or showing it should be eaten improves engagement as food is always a talking point. Using subtitles for clarity and translation is usually a good idea.
Do influencer marketing
A celebrity’s recommendation of your brand can drive astounding outcomes. There are a lot of influencers in Bengal who are food enthusiasts. Imagine, Swastika Mukherjee, Parambrata, or Mir, who are big foodies themselves, talk about your restaurant on their personal social media accounts. Imagine the impact it can have on your business if it becomes a must-see place among their fans.
If you are wondering how to get hold of big celebrities, don’t worry. There are many Bengali YouTubers who would happily collaborate with you if you can offer them a good deal. There are also some content creators who specifically promote small and new businesses on their channels. For restaurants, deals can be done on a barter basis as well.
Invest in paid advertising
No matter what people tell you, organic means of reaching an audience are always limiting. Whether it is Google, Facebook, YouTube, or any other media, their business model is based on advertising revenue. Paid advertising is the major way to reach the people you want. For a fee, Google will help reach your advertisement to people looking for restaurants in your area with banners and pop-ups wherever they go. Similarly, Facebook will help you find potential customers based on location, demographics, and interests. Compared to traditional media, advertising in digital media costs little as it is entirely virtual. What’s more targets and plans can be tailored to your budget making it quite affordable.
Advertising on Social Media doesn’t require a lot of knowledge. Easy-to-use tools for creating, running, and tracking campaigns allow you to manage campaigns easily. For example, advertising on Facebook requires just 6 steps to be ready-to-view for more than 1.6 billion Facebook users:
Step 1 – Facebook ads run through the Facebook Ads Manager tool, which can be accessed by clicking the ‘Manage Ads’ option in the drop-down menu on your Facebook account.
Step 2 – Now that you have entered the Ads Manager, it’s time to set your objective. This basically means that what is your purpose for creating a paid ad on Facebook. You will have to choose from 15 options given like – boost your sales, promote your page, get people to reach your page, etc.
Step 3 – After setting up the objective, you now have to define your target audience (based on age group, gender, connections, behaviors, interests, location, and language) and then set a budget. This is one of the most important steps. For example, a Bengali restaurant in Kolkata may select the target group’s age from 30-65, while a cafe’s target group’s age group will be from 18-45.
Step 4 – Now it’s time to create your ad. There are 6 different types of ads that you can create, for example – Image, Video, Carousel, Slideshow, Polls, and Collection ads. Highlight your main dishes and discounts and make sure your contact and location details are properly mentioned in the ads.
Step 5 – You have created your ad. But have you decided the place where your ad will be placed? In paid Facebook ads, you get to choose your ad placements. For example, will your ad be placed on the Facebook newsfeed, desktop feed or do you want to showcase it on Instagram or all of the above? Select accordingly.
Step 6 – Finally, hit on the ‘Place Order’ option on the bottom left. Now the Facebook team will review your ad and it will be published.
Maintain direct marketing interactions
While Search and Social Media dominate digital marketing activities due to their reach, maintaining direct communication with customers remains essential for restaurants. For the last twenty years, direct mail and SMS have been unheralded soldiers of digital marketing campaigns, WhatsApp is today widely popular with its versatile abilities. Messages in these mediums are rarely missed and they should at least be used to maintain regular communication with their own customers. Greetings for festivals and anniversaries, notices of events, and special offers are among regular messages that should be sent to people who matter.
Particularly for larger restaurants, an app is another way to maintain direct contact. This adds several additional dimensions to the way you can track and interact. For example, whenever a person comes close to your shop, the app can send a push notification about any special deals or dishes that you are serving. You can also have different options for different categories of people. At Andreal, we have expert coders and developers to develop apps with domain knowledge of the restaurant business. To view recent apps developed by Andreal click here.
Appoint a digital marketing agency
As should be obvious digital marketing requires constant stimulation of potential customers. To generate content and monitor activities and feedback is not an easy task for any restaurant owner with ambitions to grow. Developing a digital marketing strategy and developing creative content to detailed media management, requires multifaceted expertise. While there are agencies to suit every budget, effective marketing requires a large team of talent to do justice to the power of digital media.
Andreal is among the top digital marketing agencies in Kolkata with a team of 30 specialists, It is also among the leading providers of
augmented and virtual reality content that can add a magical edge.