For many restaurants, online marketing is a piece of the marketing puzzle.  Many restaurants, however, don’t really realize the power of online marketing and the relationship it has to your sales and food traffic in the door.

The truth is that a growing number of consumers rely on social media to find recommendations for restaurants. And those recommendations and reviews have a huge impact on which restaurants they decide to patronize.

In other words, your social media accounts should be helping you to get more foot traffic in your restaurant– and if they’re not, here are some things that can help.

Advertise an Inexpensive Item or Freebie

A lot of times, people just need an incentive to come and visit your restaurant. One way to entice them to do it is to advertise a special sale item or a giveaway item to get them to come in.

For example, you might:

  • Run a buy one, get one free special (BOGO) on a popular item
  • Advertise a sample day where you give away free samples of your most popular food
  • Choose a small freebie to give away – like a Free Dessert with purchase

Giving people something for a reduced price or for free triggers something called reciprocity – a cognitive bias that makes people want to reciprocate when you do a favor for them. It’s responsible for that feeling of guilt you get when someone gives you a gift at the holidays and you don’t have one for them.

Incentivize Your Existing Customers to Make Referrals (and Incentivize New Customers, Too!)

It can be difficult for your existing customers to refer their friends and family members to your restaurant unless there’s something in it for them. And, the people they talk to will be more likely to check out your restaurant if they’ll get something too.

The solution? Offer a two-way deal where both your existing customer and the person they refer get something in return. An example might be a 15% off coupon or a free item. That way, your existing customers will feel that they’re offering their friends something valuable – and vice versa!

Partner with Other Local Businesses on Social Media 

One of the best ways to connect with new customers in your area is to partner with other local businesses – particularly those whose audiences overlap with your own.

For example, as a restaurant, you might want to partner with a movie theater or entertainment or rec center.  You can do many things with this partnership:

  • Running a social media contest where you and your partner(s) post content and run ads to promote the contest. (Each contest sponsor should contribute part of the prize.)
  • Offering special promotions and package deals for people who are willing to patronize both businesses.
  • Cross-posting content that’s relevant to both audiences.

You get the idea. The key is to make sure that the businesses you partner with are ones whose audience is likely to visit your restaurant.

Share Coupons

Coupons are a great way to incentivize people to come into your store. Everybody likes to save money and get a bargain.

If you decide to create a coupon, make it a significant one. A lot of restaurants offer one of these options:

  • A buy one, get one free (or get one-half price) coupon
  • A coupon for a significant percentage off an item or total purchase (10% is the minimum)
  • A coupon for a free item with a purchase

A well-thought-out coupon can accomplish several things at once. First, it can incentivize your existing customers to come into your restaurant and make a purchase. Second, if you encourage them to share the coupon, it can help attract new customers to your store.

Improve the results of your coupon by tying it to something like messenger marketing where your redemptions can be tracked.

Create a Social Media Code Word or Hashtag for Your Business

Social media is a great place to work on your word-of-mouth advertising. Think about what you can do to get people talking about your restaurant – and how you can use that online chatter to encourage people to come to see you in person.

One option is to create a “secret” code word or a special hashtag for your restaurant. You can spread the word by asking people to share it – and by letting them know if they come into your restaurant and mention the code word or hashtag, they’ll get a discount or a freebie.

This option is essentially a word-of-mouth coupon. There’s nothing to print. Instead, people simply need to know the code word and mention it when they check out.

Share Images of Your Customers

Social media marketing is an ideal way to forge personal connections with your customers and get to know them. One way to do that is to get in the habit of taking photographs (with permission, of course) of your

Restaurant Digital Marketing

Restaurant Digital Marketing

customers while they’re visiting. If you get their okay, you can then share them (and tag your customers) on social media.

What this tactic does is show people how much fun they can have eating at your restaurant. And, when you tag customers, you’ll also be putting your content in front of their friends! That’s a win-win.

Run Targeted Local Ads

While there are lots of ways to leverage organic social media marketing to get more foot traffic in your restaurant, the fact is that paid advertising is still the best option if you want to make sure your content is seen by local people – the ones who are most likely to visit your restaurant.

The good news is that social media advertising makes targeting easy. You should choose an audience that is specific to your geographical area. By narrowing it down further – with demographic information and interests – you can minimize your costs and maximize your reach.

Foot traffic doesn’t materialize out of nowhere. But careful leverage of your social media following can help you encourage your existing customers to make additional purchases from you – and incentivize their friends and other new customers to eat at your restaurant too.