Hi There! I'm Amanda Lewis, the Marketing Director at Wolfe Management Inc. I've been working in the restaurant industry for 10 years, and have been specializing in restaurant marketing and social branding for a little over 3 years! I'm psyched to be featured with The Boston Food Journal today to chat about what I love most: Restaurant Marketing!
I love restaurants – like, a lot. I love the back of house chaos in the kitchen, front of house flow on a busy night, and all of the little bits and pieces that come together to make it run so smoothly (or in some cases, rough…). I’ve been the Marketing Director for a Boston area restaurant group for the past 3+ years and I’m here to share my top five “quick + easy” suggestions for better positioning your restaurant! Let there be no mistake, there is nothing “quick + easy” about marketing – but if you are starting from the bottom, here are a few impactful suggestions:
1. Ensure you have a mobile friendly website: This is absolutely essential for restaurants these days. Your website is your best tool for communicating essential information to your guests (i.e. phone number, address, menu options, etc.). I recently reviewed the acquisition Google Analytics for one of my restaurant websites and learned that a whopping 62% of our all time website visitors are on mobile devices, and one step further, 70% of them are using an iPhone device! This information is so important. From this we can learn that in order to convert those website viewers into customers, I need to ensure the information they are looking for is easily accessible (as in – ensure they can find it in the first 3-5 seconds of viewing our page! Again….thanks, Google Analytics...). In some cases, compromising design for functionality is necessary to ensuring a better user experience! One great way to better the user experience is to ensure your information is all appropriately linked. For example, ensure guests can simply “tap” your phone number and have it prompt a call on the smartphone, or “tap” your address and have it link to Apple Maps. These little things become so important when it comes to converting browsers into storefront traffic!
2. Get your biz on social media: This is kind of a no brainer. But, if you are still one of those people that doesn’t understand the value of social media to businesses, let me put it this way: do you think having a website is valuable? (the answer is: yes). Think of your social media accounts as an extension of your website. Just like your website, your social accounts increase your brand authority, perpetuate brand loyalty and engagement, and provide you better customer insights and tracking. Marketing, regardless of your business model, is all about creating opportunities for conversions. It’s about putting your brand in front of your ideal “guest” and making a compelling argument as to why your guest should spend their hard earned money with you. An estimated 83% of all Americans own a social media account, and 91% of those users are on their mobile devices. So, the people are there and you have the chance to serve them your content. You have literally nothing to lose for this one, so trust me and just try it out.
3. Influencers: In today’s market where social media and digital marketing is quickly taking over traditional marketing efforts, it’s important to embrace the change and leverage its offering! The places customers are looking to make their purchasing decisions has shifted, and you need to adjust your reach methods too. Makes sense, right? Local influencers, or micro-influencers (Hey BFJ!), are individuals that hold a certain authority and following in the online sphere – use them to help expand your reach! You can find some excellent Boston area influencers that have a range of followers (anywhere from 5K – 500K+) that are willing and able to partner with businesses to help expand your reach, encourage your follower growth, and act as “brand ambassadors” through their own social networks to promote your business. You will see a LOT more micro-influencers in 2018, so get on board and start to develop those relationships NOW!
4. In-house social events: Someone recently said to me, “I’ve always thought that great food and great service would be all you need to get guests into the restaurant….until 2017”. And this is so true. Unfortunately, Boston area (and beyond) restaurant owners in 2018 are working against a higher saturation of dining options, an insanely hard-to-track new generation of restaurant goers, and an overall shift to healthier at-home eating options. It’s not as simple as it once was, and restaurants need to think outside the box to generate inbound traffic. Hosting in-house events is a great way to do just that. Activate your space when you are not otherwise using it! On those early weekdays, we’ve offered a variety of organized events within our restaurant’s unused private dining room (hi, Sip & Script!). We’ve also expanded to more food-focused educational events like cooking classes, cocktail demonstrations, and even a monthly underground private dining club! Organize, promote it (heavily), execute, and collect the feedback. Social events like these are typically a trial-and-error system, so keep trying until you find what works well for your space – be creative and be patient!
5. Your neighborhood: It’s essential to understand and intimately know your neighborhood! What other businesses are in your hood – can you collaborate, share guest-lists, and activate locals together?! YES! Working together with other businesses has been such a key growth point for my current restaurants whether it be teaming up for a giveaway experience with a local spa for a lucky mom on Mother’s Day, or hosting a “Barre & Brunch” event on our restaurant’s patio with a local exercise studio. Your neighboring businesses are in this too – so work together! Also, what relationships have you created with local key traffic points – do you know the local hotel concierges? Have you connected with the leasing office at the nearby apartment buildings? What about the admin assistant at an office building (make sure they have a copy of your takeout or catering menu for group lunches!). Create these relationships, and work overtime to keep them strong as they allow you to connect and extend your reach to a captive audience that either lives, works, or visits your exact neighborhood!
As aforementioned, there is no quick and easy solution to marketing for any business, including restaurants. It is a constantly changing process that requires trial-and-error, maintenance, and patience while you find what works. If you are struggling to drive sales to your restaurant, you have to first look inward: is your space right? Are your people right? Is your menu right? Once you feel confident with your operations – look to the above five tips to get yourself started and above all – you need to listen. Actively collect feedback from your customers, both good and bad, and make thoughtful adjustments based on their feedback. This can be hard – really hard. But, if you don’t listen to the people you serve, no amount of marketing in the world will keep customers coming back!
I love to meet and chat with people in the industry, so feel free to connect with me on social media – send me a message and say hello, I’d love to follow your restaurant.