By Mark Plumlee
Consumers are more fractured than ever before. People receive their information from different channels and different devices, and businesses and brands must compete with a thousand other distractions at any given moment. This makes the job of marketing a restaurant much harder, but it also provides interesting opportunities for omni-channel marketing.
Advertising on a single platform is no longer enough to reach a significant chunk of consumers. So how do restaurants ensure they are cutting through the noise to achieve touchpoints with potential customers?
What is omni-channel marketing?
Omni-channel marketing is the promotion of products and services across all channels, devices, and platforms using unified messaging and a cohesive brand. It ensures operators reach their customers wherever they are via their preferred medium and device.
Marketing is a game of touchpoints, and the more a restaurant is visible to customers, the greater chance they think of that restaurant the next time they decide to go out to eat.
So, a restaurant needs to be everywhere, all the time? That sounds… complicated. Let’s simplify it.
Here are the seven biggest marketing channels for restaurants. Maintaining consistent messaging and brand voice across these avenues will put a restaurant well on its way to a successful multi-channel marketing strategy.
The menu is the foundation of a restaurant brand, the tangible piece that customers can pick up and handle. The rest of marketing starts there and spreads out to other channels, so restaurants must make sure their menu design reflects the spirit of their restaurant.
More than a branding tool, the menu can also be a place to inform customers and display important messaging, whether that’s happy hour prices, new operational hours, seasonal specials, happy holiday greetings, notes from the chef, or anything else.
To this point, the ability to quickly make changes and updates to the menu design is vital. Not only will this help with dynamic pricing, but messaging can be altered to incorporate a menu into omni-channel marketing efforts. Menu maker tools make it easy with thousands of preset templates that can be edited and updated in minutes.
The online menu
In today’s age of digital marketing, an online menu has become an essential part of marketing efforts. This should be both highly functional and branded; gone are the days when a PDF of a paper menu will suffice.
Once a stellar online menu is published and live, it can be an incredible marketing tool, especially for promoting takeout. Having issues with third-party delivery apps? Include a button on the online menu to order directly from the restaurant. Need to close for a holiday? Put a ribbon at the top of the menu notifying customers of an upcoming closure.
Having a presence on big social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is increasingly important to provide further touchpoints to reach more customers. Social media also functions as a great platform for updating customers on any changes at restaurants. A lack of social media presence can also make a restaurant seem unprofessional.
The truth of the matter, though, is that many restaurants can’t afford to have someone take the time to operate social media properly. It can be time-intensive and require a certain degree of design expertise. Fortunately, there are free social media templates online that cover every occasion, allowing restaurants to maintain a healthy social presence without breaking the bank to hire a social media editor.
People can still overestimate what a website – clearly a vital tool in 2022 – means for restaurants. It doesn’t need to be complicated with multiple pages. What’s more important than overwhelming customers with every piece of info they could ever need is distilling the basics into an easy-to-navigate format.
Within five seconds of being on a restaurant’s website, customers should be able to find the key info: menu, hours, location, online ordering form or preferred delivery app, and a banner for any custom or urgent messaging. That’s it. That’s what is needed front and centre. Everything else — story, social media, sustainable practices, etc. — can still be included, but shouldn’t distract from the most important info.
One of the best ways to reach new customers is with Google and local SEO. Search Engine Optimization is the art/science of ranking higher on Google. Since most people click the top result on a Google search page, top rankings can have a massive impact on a restaurant’s reach and views.
For the average non-chain restaurant, it’s all about optimizing for local SEO, or searches tied to a certain geographic region (i.e., “Vancouver burritos” or “pizza near me”). Ranking for local searches can bring in new customers that never would have discovered a restaurant otherwise.
So how does a restaurant rank well for local SEO? Google is fairly tight-lipped about what actually impacts rankings, but here are some things that are known to help:
1. Conduct keyword research
A restaurant operator needs to figure out what specific terms people search for when looking for menus similar to theirs. Nailing down exact terminology can make a world of difference. Google Ads can help unveil what search terms customers use to locate related businesses, both locally and nationally. The results may be surprising. It’ll also help uncover what search terms should be targeted and what’s out of reach. Some keywords are so popular that it could be a waste of time to pursue them, and Google Ads can clue you into what keywords you should target instead.
Plugging a keyword into the Google search bar and seeing what pops up in the suggested searches dropdown is also useful. Again, the results are often surprising, but they are rooted in analytics from actual searches. This is a great way to discover longtail searches that won’t be as competitive on account of their specificity (an example of longtail would be “smothered burritos in Scarborough, Toronto”). When you have a list of potential keywords, it’s important to determine which ones receive higher search volumes. There are lots of tools to help with this, such as the easy-to-use and free https://searchvolume.io/.
2. Create a separate URL for the menu
Giving a menu its own page with its own URL immediately lets Google know the general contents of the page. Google then knows that when someone searches for the menu, they can direct them right to the most relevant information and URL. This creates the best customer experience, which is what Google cares about and rewards.
Print materials, like restaurant flyers, table tents, and sandwich boards, may seem outdated in an era of digital marketing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They are still an essential part of any omni-channel marketing strategy. The digital space has grown so crowded that sometimes, a restaurant needs to stand out in print.
Not only that, but print can serve as a bridge connecting print marketing with digital marketing. A table tent with a QR code on it can instantly move a customer from physical marketing to a website or social media, connecting a restaurant’s many channels.
Reach customers anywhere, anytime
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to reach customers, but harder than ever to actually gain their attention. With an omni-channel marketing plan, restaurants can increase their odds by simply increasing the number of touchpoints.
Mark Plumlee is the Sr. Editor for MustHaveMenus, a DIY design and digital marketing service for restaurants, and has written for CRFN and many foodservice publications on food industry trends and technology.