Entrees and Earnings: A Restaurant Marketing Guide

Running a successful eatery is no small feat. Despite generating nearly $800 billion in 2017, plenty of restaurateurs will close their doors before the year’s end. But while the restaurant industry is known for being cutthroat, the digital age has increased the odds of success by a huge margin. In fact, 40% of consumers now learn about food via the web (social media, websites, etc.)

So what can you do to ensure your restaurant has a profitable 2018? We’re so glad you asked!

These five critical marketing tasks (and subsequent action items) can put the odds in your favor by driving social media engagement, foot traffic, and ultimately revenue. Let’s dive in!

  1. Build a hunger-inducing website

It may come as no surprise that you’ll need a great website to win big. But how do you create a website that gives your customers hunger pains? You’ll need a few key features, including:

  • Online ordering. It’s here to stay, so consider building it into your site. 57% of consumers order their food from a website, and you don’t want to miss out.
  • Local SEO. Nearly 90% of your potential customers will search for local businesses online, so making sure your restaurant is easily discoverable by nearby patrons is essential.
  • High-quality photos. Descriptions are great, but mouth-watering images of a few of your best dishes will encourage hungry shoppers to order from you. Be selective though, too many images make a website look busy and cluttered.


  1. Respond to your customers

Restaurateurs who respond to reviews (especially the negative ones) win. A Harvard Business School study showed a one-star increase on Yelp! can mean a 5-9% hike in revenue. Here are a few vital things to know about making the most of your customer’s assessments.

  • Respond to negative feedback as quickly as possible. Instead of worrying about being “right,” worry about the customer coming “right back” and dining with you again. Nine in 10 consumers read online reviews, so ignoring those less-than-flattering comments only hurts your business.
  • When a customer leaves a review, thank them for taking the time to voice their opinion. Nearly 75% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so show your appreciation.
  • Set aside the time to (or hire someone who can) respond thoughtfully. Good or bad, customers write reviews because they have something to say. When you respond in a meaningful, emotionally intelligent manner, they notice. In fact, 7 out of 10 respondents to a Bazaarvoice study said their opinion was changed after a business responded to a review. And when a potential buyer sees a business respond, they are more likely to make a purchase.
  1. Optimize your menu

Not all menus are created equal. Some succeed in delighting patrons and increasing restaurant revenue, some don’t. How your menu is laid out can be almost as important as what you put on it. Follow these tips to make your menu work harder for you.

  • Include high-quality photos of your highest-margin items, as that alone can increase sales by 30% or more. As we mentioned in #1, too many photos can cheapen the menu’s overall appearance.
  • Get descriptive when naming your dishes, and don’t be afraid to make it personal. “Frank’s Original Catfish Platter” will outsell “Fried Catfish” any day.
  • Save dessert for later. Including desserts on your main menu can decrease the odds of diners selecting an appetizer, effectively lowering their total bill.
  1. Put the social in your social media

It should come as no surprise that restaurants need a strong social media presence. But, everywhere you look, there are great and no-so-great examples of it. Realizing the maximum ROI on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (insert other network) accounts isn’t as simple as writing a clever status now and then. Here are some things you’ll need to succeed in the social sphere:

  • Your social strategy should follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your posts should be audience-centric, which means informative, entertaining, or thought-provoking. Think recipes, cooking demonstrations, and the like. The remaining 20% can be calls-to-action (CTAs), where you directly invite your followers to dine with you. Also, posting consistently is critical to audience growth, so build a content calendar if necessary.
  • Take great photos of your food, staff, and location, then share away. Facebook posts with images are 3x more likely to get shared than those that are text-only, and Tweets are 150% more likely to get retweeted when a picture’s included.
  • Share user-generated content (UGC). UGC is a win-win for restaurateurs and diners alike. Your restaurant benefits from all the free exposure, and your customers feel important and engaged when you comment on or share their images.
  • Always, always tag your restaurant’s physical location when posting. Nearly every network allows users to register themselves as being at a specific location when posting. This lets viewers know exactly where you’re located.
  1. From Twitter to table, create a consistent customer experience

According to recent data, customer experience will be more important to consumers than price or product by 2020. From the time a potential patron finds your Facebook page, to the moment they’re paying the check, restaurants live and die by their ability to delight diners at all touch points.

  • Establish a unified brand voice and personality throughout all communication channels. From the content on your Instagram page to the way you answer the phone, customers should recognize your brand’s style at every exchange.
  • Engage with patrons with the same enthusiasm online that you would if they were sitting in front of you. Whether chatting in Facebook Messenger or answering an email, consumers should feel valued before they ever set foot in your restaurant.
  • Remember that consumer experience starts with leadership. Even the most well laid-out plan falls flat on its face without buy-in from management. If you want your staff to deliver a remarkable experience, you’ll need to set the example.

We’ve been supplying restaurants with the strategy, design, and content they need to drive growth for over 20 years. From the smallest gourmet eatery to national chains, we possess the experience and capabilities to build a lasting brand.

Partnering with an agency to execute these strategies not only helps restaurateurs scale, but at a lower cost than might be expected. Give us a shout!

About the author

Jake’s career as a copywriter began after a magazine editor stumbled across his personal blog and asked that he start contributing to the publication. Now fully obsessed with becoming a digital marketing expert, he devotes most of his waking hours to honing his writing skills and expanding his knowledge of the industry. Off the clock, he’s a YouTuber, podcast host, and motorcycle enthusiast who loves traveling with his wife and hanging out with his cat, Felix.

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