Written by Danielle Ryans
Getting a new restaurant set up is not the work of a moment. You’ve put together a brilliant team, decked out your venue, procrastinated over the menu — and most importantly, ensured that the food is worthy of your dream customers.
But without bums on seats, it’s all for nought. And unfortunately, in today’s economy and with competition greater than ever, that can be the hardest part.
It’s a sad statistic, but most new restaurants fail within the first three years of opening. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get the good word out there about your great establishment. Build a great website, kick off a killer loyalty program, get listed in those niche directories, organise some special deals and fun events — and so much more.
But when it comes to getting people to take the plunge to try out a new restaurant, it’s still good old word of mouth that makes the most impact. Better than any other form of advertising, four out of every five new restaurant patrons are there because a real person said you’re worth a try.
Marketing a restaurant can be a complex and exciting undertaking — but there is one way to super-charge a marketing campaign — and it’s called social media.
Firstly, whether Facebook, Twitter or beyond, your customers — no matter who they are — are already there. And secondly, the reach of the internet is pretty much infinite. So if your competitors are acing social media and you’re stuck in first gear, the ways in which you’re losing out could be catastrophic.
But perhaps most importantly, while most marketing is one-way, social media is the easiest way to have a genuine conversation with your customers on a mass scale. Build a community of supporters, establish trust and loyalty, and turn your brand and new restaurant into a lasting success.
Not sure where to start? Here are five tips to get you started.
- Post delicious photos.
Did you know that the posts most commonly shared on Facebook are photos? And because we start a meal with our eyes, that’s a pure gold stat when it comes to your social media strategy.
It’s also a brilliant reason to be on Instagram, where imagery is everything. Filters and simple editing abilities allow you to easily create colour-bursting photos. Clever use of hashtags — especially location-based — can bring in new customers, and fresh photos keep your followers coming in again and again.
You can also post photos of other things. Let your customers get to know the friendly faces of your staff; the cool interior of your dining room; and behind the scenes in the kitchen to really make a connection.
- Share customer-generated content.
Although your own posts can make a big impact, user-generated content is even more trusted. Think of this: are you more convinced by a TV ad, or a close friend’s actual recommendation about a product they’ve bought, used and loved?
Encourage those who visit your restaurant to take photos or write posts about their experience, and use a common hashtag. It’s the best form of absolutely free advertising.
Then, pick out the best hashtagged posts and share them on your official social media platforms. Rather than seeing something you’ve created yourself, your potential customers will be looking at happy faces and beautiful food through the convincing and authentic eyes of someone just like them.
- Announce exciting news.
The best marketing is quite often not marketing — it’s news. While a restaurant talking about how delicious it is can be met with a sceptical ear, just about everyone loves something new.
So, use your social media platforms to announce exciting things that will create interest and buzz. New chef in the kitchen with exciting credentials? That’s a story. Pastry chef introducing a brilliant new dessert? That’s definitely a story. Delivery driver of your everyday-fresh ingredients always got a smile on his face? That’s a great story to share.
Then there’s everything else you might like to announce: special deals, awards you’ve won, new signage out the front, green decorations for St Patrick’s Day. It’s all a perfect new reason to catch someone’s eye on social media.
- Stay ahead of the trends.
Yes, ‘social media’ is important. But it’s also a super fast-moving world — meaning that what worked last month now just makes you look stale. And while you’re stuck doing the same old thing, an exciting new trend that has everyone buzzing is just passing you by.
We’re talking about those all-important social media trends. For instance, live video has been huge in 2017 — so get on Periscope and film some behind the scenes in that kitchen. Just getting your head around the popularity of Snapchat Stories? Instagram is also now on the Stories bandwagon, so don’t let that opportunity pass you by as you chronicle a day in the life of your exciting new restaurant.
Social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger now have enormous audiences, so letting your customers get in touch 1-on-1 means you’re discovering one of the internet’s fastest-growing corners.
- Keep chipping away.
Perhaps the best possible tip when it comes to getting your new restaurant’s social media strategy right is to just keep chipping away. Social media is not the work of a moment, but a constantly changing beast that rewards those who devote time each and every day and have an eye for detail.
If your social media is neglected, done in a rush or seems tacky, that will feed instantly into your new restaurant’s burgeoning new reputation. On the other hand, if you’re bright and vibrant on your social media platforms, even a negative food or restaurant review can be turned on its head if you respond swiftly, positively and genuinely. Using the power to engage with your customers demonstrates transparency, builds your brand and generates trust — and with a bit of luck on top, will have mouths watering, bums on seats, and hashtags flowing freely.
Danielle is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She loves that writing lets her explore new topics and ideas, and has a particular interest in travel, health, food, business and life. Follow her on Twitter @DaniDoesEarth.