Repeat customers and the friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors they refer are the lifeblood of your restaurant. But in order to become repeat customers, they must become customers in the first place, which means you must devise a way (or several ways) to get those future “referral machines” in the front door, eating your delicious food and enjoying your fabulous beverages so that they keep coming back for more. So how do you both drive customers through your doors for the first time and encourage them to become regulars?
According to CNBC, the number one reason restaurants fail comes back to that classic real estate rule… location. It’s not always about where your building is built, however, but a general lack of awareness from the populace. Traditional thinking might involve offering deals such as BOGOs, Happy Hour Specials, and rewarding referrals to increase foot traffic. However, this is often the thinking of failing brands, not up-and-comers. Those methods simply don’t do what they used to. If you want to bring hungry people into your restaurant, you need to reach them where they live.
It’s easy to mock the people who spend the first ten minutes of every meal taking pictures of their food while it gets cold, but there’s true power behind it. According to Sprout Social, 88% of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, and 75% of them have made a purchase based on something they learned about on Social Media. Those are numbers you cannot ignore. Creating a social buzz and being relevant within the prominent social media networks is no longer a suggestion, but a necessity to the life of your brand. So how do you promote your brand and encourage users to do the same on sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Yelp, and Facebook?
- Create your profiles. Seems obvious, but it’s vital. More and more, users are utilizing social media for information on restaurants like hours, menus, and more. Ensure that your profiles are created and all information is filled out completely. And by all, we mean ALL. Cover images, hours of operation, methods of payment… Leave no stone unturned. The last thing you want to do is turn away a potential customer because they become frustrated with your incomplete profiles. And be specific. If your restaurant is great for kids and families, or offers special amenities such as co-working spaces or limited time menus, be sure to detail it.
- Create something worth looking at. More than other industries, restaurants are very visually driven. Who hasn’t drooled over a picture of something scrumptious looking? Make that first impression count. Take pictures of your best looking food, drinks, décor, and more to grab that initial interest of customers. However, be careful with the pitch. A common rule of thumb is that only 20% of your social media posts should be about selling your brand. Instead of constantly making a sell or throwing up a call-to-action, 80% of your posts should be something “shareable”… a great photo of some food, an article about your industry, or a video of you making your signature dish. Content like this expands your audiences online and keeps your brand visible without turning people off. Once you’ve built a sizeable audience, your remaining 20% of the time can be used to pitch your latest special or promote your new dish.
- Share it, but share it well. Now that you have some content worth sharing, it’s a matter of getting it out there. But be careful! Just because you have a portfolio of great looking pictures doesn’t mean that people want to see ten a day. In fact, 57% of users online quote brands posting too frequently to be the greatest annoyance on social media. Trickle your content our when you have it, no more than a few posts a day, to keep your audience interested without being annoyed. Also, your posts won’t do any good if you post when your users aren’t looking. Reference this article to determine the best times to post per platform.
- Engage with your users. Posting is half the battle. By regularly engaging with your users through multiple avenues, you can build a relationship before they even walk through the door. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to engage. Perhaps one of your posts asks your users a question about which cocktail to make the daily special. Another post may utilize a picture a customer took at a recent visit (giving credit, of course). You can read through comments your users leave and respond, encouraging conversation and giving your brand a persona. Finally, respond to reviews both good and bad to show that your brand is always listening.
Need a little more than friendly advice? The Gilkey Restaurant Consulting Group is comprised of industry leading restaurant consultants, providing feasibility studies, brand and culinary development, and restaurant turnaround for restaurants of all cuisines and scales. Learn more today, and contact us for a free consultation!