After many many years learning how restaurant owners work and what they want/expect from digital marketing and from online sales, I, the Movylo founder, am writing this post, in order to help more people to drive sales to their businesses.
Now, let’s start with a game: let’s imagine I own a restaurant and I want to increase my customer list and my sales.
The first thing to consider is my mindset. If I run a restaurant, it is because I love doing that, I love spending time with customers, cooking and so on. Yes, I get that digital marketing is valuable and can help. NO, I am not a marketing expert (and I don’t want to be one, hey, I love my current job, no?).
I have no time/patience to learn how all these software tools out there work. I don’t even know what Hubspot and similar things (Movylo included) do, it’s NOT my business.
So, to all gurus out there: I need simplicity. I need to see the clear results that I want. Yes, clicks, open rates, viewers, followers are nice…but heck, I want more customers and more sales!
Before we see how to drive sales with restaurant marketing, let me just spend a few lines explaining how “basic” (and effective) marketing works.
Restaurant marketing step by step
- The so-called PRESENCE, which means having a website, a Facebook and Instagram page, Google My Business. This means for your business to exist in the digital world, to make it possible for customers and potential customers to find you, read your content and contact you. (GET FOUND)
- Once you have Presence, you realise nobody visits your website, like/follow your pages and so on. So, you need ADVERTISING, to drive traffic to Presence. This means
- increasing the clicks of your website,
- the “likes” of your Facebook
- Instagram page and so on.
- Advertising is the umbrella keyword for all this and includes all the strategies that can help Presence get traffic, so it includes
- SEO (to drive traffic to your website),
- PPC (Pay per Click, which means spending money on Google and Facebook to create sponsored keywords/campaigns),
- getting listed in directories and much more.
Once you have Presence and you are driving traffic to it with Advertising, you then need to convert all this into results. This means seeing more customers and more sales. Conversions arrive with MARKETING, which is the last piece of the customer journey.
How marketing helps restaurants
Presence helps your business to be found, advertising helps you to find more people and marketing helps you to convert all this into real sales and customers.
Now, let’s go back to my restaurant. And yes, forget all of what I have said, because the restaurant owner couldn’t care less about it. He likes food and customers, not digital marketing and customer journeys.
The first thing that I need for my restaurant is then to have a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram and a Google my Business account. These would be the first things to worry about, so that customers can find me and see how to contact me.
Increase your customer list
Then I need a customer list, which is something different and, very often, underestimated in terms of importance.
Now, all businesses have customers or they close. But customers come when they want, you have no idea when and how often.
With a customer list, you can instead send them precise, personal and targeted messages to motivate them to come more often. This is called marketing/engagement and works very well.
On this topic please have a look at the article How to create a customer list for your business.
If you have ever gone to a shopping mall (but even top-level restaurants do the same), you have seen they all ask you to sign up for their newsletters/invites/offers, they have a loyalty program, maybe an App and so on.
This works very well and math can explain it even better:
You have customers > they come when they want.
Discover the value of a customer list
You have customers AND a customer list of 100 customers > you can send them a message per month. Some of them will open it and read it. You can understand who opens it and clicks on it, and it’s already something valuable.
You have customers AND a customer list and send them 1 offer> some of them will open your message, see the offer and come to your restaurant or call you to redeem it. This then converts a list of 100 customers into some sales, usually 2-3.
Now, imagine doing this not once per month, but more and with a list that is longer than 100 customers. This can significantly grow your sales. (Yes, I know this takes a lot of time, I’ll arrive to that later).
Restaurant marketing – How to engage customers
So, having customers is good, having a customer list is better, engaging with the customers in the list is what moves the needle.
“Again: I know how to cook good pasta and select good wines, but…what are these messages I should send? How can I create them?” The truth is that…the messages to engage customers can even be basic ones.
Customer engagement examples
Welcome messages to new users, bring a friend, happy birthday, share feedback on our service…there are many many things you can include in these messages to engage customers, that are working extremely well for all of the businesses doing this right.
And now we come to the first crucial point: ok, I’m all in, I want to give this a start. where shall I start from?
You must start by building a customer list, because without that…you have no one who can receive your messages.
And how can I build a customer list?
To build a customer list and drive sales to your restaurant you need few things that are effective and, some of them, cost you nothing.
- Have a website? put a contact form and start capturing the clicks of it.
- Have a Facebook and Instagram page? The Facebook likes are great, but they are owned by Meta, so you should convert them into customers of yours. (Hey, have a look at the post How Movylo helps you close sales through Facebook likes).
- Are people searching for you on Google? Good! But…are you capturing such searches?
- The same things apply to Telegram, Whatsapp and many more sources. These are all sources where you can find and capture customers, to build your own customer list.
This also means that you are having clicks for your business, even if you’re not aware of it: the problem is you’re not capturing them, so they just arrive and go away in 2 seconds!
Improve customer engagement
I also left one source out, that is the easiest one, completely costless and works usually better than all the others: your customers. They already know who you are and trust your business, so…to improve customer engagement just ask them to sign up to your list and some of them (not all of them), will do it and be happy to receive your messages! Use printable flyers with QR codes to put on the table, at the counter…train the clerks and waiters to offer a bonus to all customers willing to sign up for the exclusive list and let them know they will receive good treats for doing that. This works very well.
And now we arrive at point #2.
Good, now, with some effort, I created my Customer list and I keep on growing it every day. So what?
The second part is what I explained with “engaging customers“. Something very easy to design for marketers, using inexpensive software tools, but…way too complicated for myself. I don’t have ideas, I don’t have content to share, I barely have a logo I can upload. Is sending newsletters valuable? Sure, it is! Good, I don’t know what to write in a newsletter and I can’t design it!
This is the second thing to worry about: how to engage customers to create a perfect “engine that engages with customers, making them feel privileged and not annoyed”. sounds complicated and…it really is. Technically, this is called “marketing automation” and there are plenty of platforms out there that can help you build a great marketing automation project/dripping email sequence. No, not for me, I don’t have time to learn what to do!
So yes, my restaurant would need a marketing automation engine that already knows what to do. Marketing automation, automated, basically.
These are the 2 crucial points for the restaurant marketing then:
- building and growing a customer list
- engaging customers list by sending messages (this is technically defined as “nurturing a list”).
If you run a restaurant and make sure to follow the above points, you’ll be surprised of how many more sales you could close, how more loyal your customers would be and how all of this could be fully automated, so that you don’t go crazy on posting pics of your food in Instagram or send invitations via WhatsApp.
Final take: don’t let yourself stay passive “I don’t have time for this“. This is crucial for your business, and it will be more and more. Even if you’re not digital, your customers are and sooner or later some of them (well, a lot of them…) will be attracted by your competitors.
Find a consultant that can help you with the restaurant sales, google what you need and try some tools (they are almost all free to start with) or use Movylo that does exactly these things all together for your restaurant’s marketing: do what you like, but do something, you’ll be surprised by the results.