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21 Innovative Ways to Grow Your Restaurant Business

Grow_Your_Restaurant_Business

For a long time, brick-and-mortar businesses, including restaurants, have struggled to truly understand their customers without the data available to online establishments.

However, changing trends in how consumers discover new restaurants and engage with the dining experience are changing restaurant marketing, opening up new tools and data that weren’t previously available. Leveraging this opportunity can help expand your customer base, bring customers back in more often, and even help you develop compelling new dishes and enhance the dining experience.

Innovative companies are reaping the benefits of this change. One such example is Starbucks, which has built a loyalty program of over 12 million users and sees one-quarter of its sales from mobile orders. Will your business be among these leaders? Here are some ideas to get started:

Modern Restaurant Marketing Tactics

Leverage Facebook’s Retargeting Tools

1. Build a Custom Audience of Website Visitors

By installing Facebook’s pixel on your website, you can track who visits a particular page and turn them into a custom audience. This is incredibly powerful because you’ll be advertising to an audience that is already interested in your brand.

2. Create a Custom Audience of People Who Used Your App

Whether you’ve just created your app or it’s already fully operational, adding in Facebook’s marketing API will allow you to build custom audiences based on people taking certain actions within the app.

3. Create Audiences of People Who Engage With Your Facebook Content

Perhaps the easiest of all, you can create custom audiences of people that have engaged with the content you share on your Facebook page. These are likely to be past customer as well, or at least people who have heard of your restaurant already.

4. Turn Your Existing List Into a Custom Audience

If you already have an existing email, or even can scrape your payment data for emails and phone numbers, it’s possible to upload this information to Facebook and build a custom audience of past customers - great to offer coupons or promote a special event!

Build Your Email List

5. Start a Rewards Program

Rewards programs don’t need to require a custom app and membership cards, instead you can create something functional without all the effort. Simply offer a discount, free drink, or some other offer if people sign up for your program - then, continue to reward them on a points-based, visits-based, or other value system.

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6. Offer Free Guest Wi-Fi (With a Catch)

These days, everyone wants to connect their phone, tablet, or computer whenever possible. By offering free Wi-Fi once customers give you their email, you can skyrocket your list growth.

7. Include a Signup Form on Your Website

Even many restaurants that have a loyalty program fail to have an effective landing page for it on their main website. Don’t be one of them - create a page that highlights the benefits of becoming a member, and allows readers to easily sign up and download the app (if applicable) with ease.

8. Utilize QR Codes

Whether you choose to place them on receipts, disposable cups, or even menus - QR codes are great for connecting the physical store environment with your digital presence. Use them to offer a coupon, and you can build your list quickly.

9. Lead Form Ads

Both Facebook and Twitter offer lead form ads, which allow users to express interest in your offer and sign up for updates. These also happen to be ideal for building signups for your loyalty program.

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Use Analytics to Understand Your Audience

10. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools on the web today, and with good reason. It provides some of the most robust information on user demographics and traffic sources available. Use it to discover demographic data on website visitors, see which keywords and channels are driving the most traffic, and learn where people are interacting with your search ads.

11. YouTube Analytics

One of the best ways to stand out from the competition today is to create compelling video content, but beyond view count, how can you know which videos resonate with potential customers? This is where YouTube Analytics comes in. Use it to see which channels are driving traffic to your videos, as well as demographic info on your audience and where they lose attention during videos.

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12. App Analytics

Both iOS and Android have their own suite of analytics tools to understand what drives people to use your app, and which functions they get the most value out of. This information can be used to improve future versions of the app and see which offers resonate with customers.

13. Facebook Audience Insights

Using this often forgotten tool, you can discover demographic and geographic information about those who already like your Facebook page. This can give you a good idea of what your customer base looks like, and who you should be targeting when advertising.

Engage With Your Community

14. Monitor Review Sites

Reviews not only play a major role in how potential new customers perceive your restaurant, but they can also provide valuable feedback. That’s why it’s important to regularly check Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable and respond to reviews, especially the negative ones. You can also use a service like ReviewPush to streamline this process.

15. Respond to Social Media Comments

With the prevalence of social media, many customers choose to contact restaurants with comments and complaints in the comments section of your social media posts on Facebook and Instagram. Responding to comments both positive and negative will help to build a brand that is perceived as friendly and customer-focused.

16. Use Live Chat to Interact Directly With Website Visitors

Innovative new tools such as Drift and Intercom are making it easier than ever to interact with customers in real time, answering any questions they have while they’re still on site. This can allow you to find any gaps in information, as well as give you the opportunity to sell them on the concept or sell a special offer.

17. Go Old-School

Despite all this technology, sometimes the simplest ways are still best. Handing out traditional comment cards when customers pay their bill or go through the checkout line can be a great way to gather feedback, especially from less tech-savvy customers.

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18. Use SMS Shortcodes to Gather Feedback

Using a service like Tatango, you can create an SMS shortcode that can gather feedback and sign customers up for text alerts. This usually takes place in the form of “Text KEYWORD to XXXXXX”, then customers receive an automated followup message.

19. Social Listening Tools

Finding out what people are saying about you online can be difficult. Using a social listening tool like Hootsuite or Social Mention makes things a lot easier by scanning for mentions that haven’t tagged your official account.

20. Create a Google Alert

Sometimes a media outlet might publish a story that includes something about your business, but not notify you of it. To keep on top of all the latest news, create a Google Alert for your business. It will proactively scan the web for new mentions of your brand, and send you updates so you don’t have to manually search.

21. Cause Marketing

Obviously we’re a bit biased, but here at Causely we believe that cause marketing is one of the absolute best ways to engage your community. Not only will it build your brand by associating it with a meaningful cause, but customers will also feel good about buying from you, and eager to return for another meal. Learn more about how this works here.

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How Will You Grow in 2017 and Beyond?

With more and more restaurants competing for consumer attention and working to engage customers in new and innovative ways, it's clear that understanding your customer base is the key to long-lasting success.

By engaging with customers in new ways using social media, mobile apps, and technology-driven rewards programs you'll be able to reach your best customers with relevant offers and grow your brand to reach more people. All that results in more tables filled, and more meals sold.

If you'd like to go ahead and get started, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Pick one tactic from this list and implement it today. Some tactics (such as adding a Facebook pixel to your site) only take a few minutes and can pay off handsomely later.
  • Pass this article on to your head of marketing or CEO so they can grab ideas for next quarter's marketing initiatives

Take a close look at your business and try to find where your biggest weakness is. Do you have trouble getting new customers in the door, or do you need help keeping them coming back again and again? Both of these require very different strategies.

Have you seen or tried other innovative methods to grow a restaurant business? Let us know in the comments!

PS - Looking for a more visual way to view this blog post? Check out the infographic by clicking below!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Austin Mullins

Austin Mullins is a content marketer and copywriter focused on helping software companies grow. Although he rarely writes in the third person, he does make the occasional exception for author bios. Looking for marketing advice? You can see more from Austin on his website, or add him on LinkedIn.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rougeux

John is co-founder and CMO at Causely. When he's not trying to build the most philanthropic company in the world, he's probably hanging out with his wife and three daughters in Lexington, KY. You can also find John on Twitter and LinkedIn.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Watson

Matt is Customer Success Manager at Causely, where he does everything in his power to help our customers succeed. He loves sports, his wife, his dog, and the great outdoors, but not in that order. He may love his dog more than sports. You can find Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Werner

Sarah is a writer, marketer, and brand specialist. She has experience in both non-profit marketing and financial development as well as for-profit content marketing and social media. She holds degrees in English and Art from Asbury University. When she’s not writing content for Causely, you’ll find her outside with a book or camera enjoying the company of trees. You can also find Sarah on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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