Low Cost Tips for Promoting your SMB Restaurant

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The restaurant business has never been for the faint of heart, however the last few years have been particularly tumultuous. The pandemic-fueled delivery expansion (that only continues to grow), a shrinking labor pool, and an inflation that has uniquely impacted food prices, have left many struggling to keep up. Promoting and marketing their restaurant may be the last thing on their mind, but it continues to be one of the most important steps for ensuring lasting success.

Luckily, there are a variety of low cost and easy to deploy tools that can keep businesses front of mind for their both regulars and would-be guests. What they depend on is an understanding of the customer journey: how people search for and find restaurants within a particular area, their communication preferences, and what a great experience–from the service to the food–looks like for them. From deploying a loyalty program to the power of influencer partnerships, here is a shortlist of techniques that are helping businesses stand out in the dynamic food and beverage sector.

1. Optimize Google Maps

Google Maps continues to be a top destination for those seeking dining options – whether locals looking for a new spot or out of town visitors. In fact, searches like “restaurants near me” have seen a surge of more than 1000% in the past decade. To enhance visibility on Google Maps, businesses should claim their Google My Business listing, ensuring details like service area, address, hours, and other key information such as QR codes for accessing your loyalty program are accurate. They can further optimize by adding enticing photos, encouraging user-generated images, and actively managing Google reviews to highlight positive and respond swiftly and publicly to negative ones.

2. Create a loyalty program

Once in the door, the food and service will speak for itself. Next, restaurateurs need to ensure they stay top of mind amidst a plethora of options for both dine in and delivery. Here a loyalty program is absolutely critical. However most restaurants don’t have the time or resources to invest in an app-based digital loyalty program. Innovative establishments like Momo’s Italian Kitchen in Dallas and K’Town Pub Taphouse & BBQ in Kutztown, PA have discovered a cost-efficient and equally impactful solution: digital cards. Seamlessly integrating with standard mobile wallets, these customizable and intelligent cards not only allow a business to communicate directly with customers on their mobile phone lockscreen, they also promote real-time engagement. Restaurants can leverage this channel to create deeper relationships with their clientele, keeping them engaged with timely, relevant incentives and tailored promotions.

3. Social Media Optimization and Geo-targeting

Social media continues to be another important and no- to low- cost channel, as customers find new eateries and follow favorites on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. If budget allows, restaurants can use geo-targeted ads to reach potential customers in a specific area, offering deals that cater to local events or preferences. If cost is a concern, geo targeting can still play a part of the mix. Establishments can simply post the QR code from their digital card program on their social media channels. Then, once a patron has the digital card in their wallet, the restaurant can send out instant notifications to anyone within a specific mile vicinity, inviting them to that evening’s happy hour or trivia night, or any other time they need to boost traffic.

4. Influencer Collaborations

Speaking of social media: leveraging local nano-influencers, everyday social media users with less than 1000 followers, is a rising trend in marketing. Studies show over 60% of consumers trust reviews from friends and family more than traditional influencers or celebrities. Unlike traditional influencers who expect monetary compensation, nano-influencers often accept free meals or services in exchange for genuine endorsements, harnessing the trust and authenticity they have with their close-knit audience. With an ongoing relationship, eateries can organically weave other program pieces into these posts. For example, they could incentivize local influencers to share a story on TikTok of them eating the sandwich they just got for free through their digital card loyalty program.

In closing, these are just a few examples of marketing tactics that have demonstrated effectiveness in the restaurant business. The world of restaurant marketing is vast and varied, and using a mix of modern digital tools can significantly boost a restaurant’s visibility and patronage. To stay ahead, it’s essential for businesses to stay updated with digital trends and continuously integrate them into their marketing strategies. Keeping a pulse on emerging technologies and adapting them to cater to your audience can pave the way for sustained success and customer loyalty.

Louis Lombardi
Louis Lombardi is the CEO for The Wallet Group. Lombardi has spent his 18+ year career innovating within the technology and marketing sectors, having previously served as CEO at NuCitrus, and Founder of Insider Data 360. Currently, he's helping reshape the lead generation and customer retention landscape by empowering businesses, ranging from startups to national accounts, with advanced digital wallet platforms.

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