Digital Tips for Chef Patrons

Digital Tips for Chef Patrons

Editor’s note: Digital Tips for Chef Patrons was originally published in November 2017 and most recently updated in May 2022.

While there’s still some validity in the older means of advertising restaurants, the world has gone digital. Online marketing now plays a big role in the success of any restaurant venture.

Wherever your restaurant is based, it’s guaranteed that you’ll be fighting for the attention of the same dining audience online. So it’s vital to keep up with current digital marketing practices and trends to remain competitive. Even if you’ve been Chef Patron for a while, with both restaurant and website well established, you need to be seen online (and favourably) to attract new customers. 

Ignore marketing your restaurant online at your peril. It will hurt your bottom line!

So read on for digital marketing tips for chef patrons. This month’s article is designed to help you cross check what you are and aren’t doing currently, giving digital tips along the way. 

Read: Becoming a Chef Patron

Digital tips for Chef Patrons – perfect your restaurant website

Even though your restaurant occupies physical space, its presence – your restaurant frontage – is no longer the face of your dining venture.

Like any other business, over 85% of consumers will judge your restaurant’s credibility based on its website. If your restaurant’s website is seen as lacking, there are strong odds that potential customers will go elsewhere. They’ll choose a competitor that has a better presence online. 

Your restaurant website needs to be professional, functional and user-friendly. Customers need to be able to navigate your site and quickly find things like menus, opening hours, contact information and restaurant location.

Remember that most people now use smartphones to go online, regardless of whether they are at home or not, so your restaurant website must be optimised for mobile devices. That means the site’s design and functionality needs to seamlessly shrink to fit smaller screens with design elements, content and links all remaining accessible and viewable.

We would strongly advise any restaurant website incorporates the following three things, if they’re not doing them already…

Get your menu online

You need to expect that any potential customer will do their online research before deciding to come to your restaurant. Before making any decision to visit they’ll look at your reviews and your menu/s. You must have your menu/s online and they must be easy to find. They need to be up-to-date, clear and legible and download quickly. Restaurants lose customers by not doing this properly.

You could go a step further and make your menu interactive by bringing it to life by way of pictures, video, perhaps even testimonials. This would create a point of difference. But the non negotiable baseline standard is to have current, in-date menu/s posted on your restaurant website.

Digital tips for Chef Patrons – have an online reservation tool

Offering online reservations via your website should be seen as a standard, not a nice to have. It should link up to your restaurant management system and be a clearly visible option on your site. There are many tools available that make it easy to offer online reservations, OpenTable, Resy, Tablein, Yelp and TableAgent being examples. 

Create an email newsletter sign up on your website

Even if the person researching your restaurant online decides to go to another, it doesn’t mean they won’t book in the future. They may well want to sign up to an email newsletter to be kept in the loop about your promotions and events. Give them the option to do that easily on your website. You’ve then captured a free email subscriber to market the restaurant to in the future.

Focus on SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to what can be done to help your website appear higher in the list of results returned by a search engine. 

When someone types “Sushi restaurants near me” into Google, a restaurant website’s SEO rating determines where in the results for local sushi restaurants their site will appear. First page or second page or third page etc. Done well SEO will drive organic traffic to your restaurant website.

A sure fire way to boost your position in search engine results is to implement certain SEO techniques:

List your restaurant business across search engines

Register and list your restaurant business with Google My Business, Yelp, Bing and others. Be consistent in how you list your name, address and phone number (NAP) in this process as that feeds into your SEO profile.

Wherever you add these details online, make sure they are precisely the same. In a world where false information and scams abound, NAP tells search engines that your restaurant is legitimate.

Google My Business

Google My Business is probably the most important of these, so make it a priority. Invite reviews via your Google My Business page, although you should list your restaurant on as many review sites as possible. Not only are reviews good for SEO, but 84% of people trust them more than any other form of advertising.

Digital tips for Chef Patrons – create a restaurant blog and post regularly

This could feature seasonal menu changes, chef techniques and tips, local producers, promoting dining events, how to make a popular restaurant dish etc. You are only limited by your imagination as to how your food/your restaurant can highlight what makes it uniquely yours.

Use both internal links to other pages of your site and external links to affiliate websites.

An example of this would be to list menu items via food delivery services that operate in your local area. This increases your local visibility and local customer numbers.

Make sure every page of your website utilises local keywords and other forms of SEO coding (metadata embedded in pictures, videos, headings for example).

Research image SEO specifically and get familiar with it. You also need to make sure that the images you use do not slow down your site. This frustrates visitors to your site, and search engines hate slow loading websites.

If you’re new to SEO, it can be a steep learning curve, but search online and you’ll find plenty of SEO forums and tutorials that will help, or alternatively seek out an SEO specialist to set you on the right path.

Leverage social media marketing

Social media marketing is one of the best ways to get your restaurant noticed online. People spend a substantial amount of time on social media platforms every day, so it makes sense that they are attracted to businesses that are active on social media.

Content plays a critical role in online marketing

Content brings more visitors to your business website. You can slice, dice and present the content you create around your restaurant and its food in different ways for different audiences on different platforms to drive different outcomes. But what’s crucial is that it has appeal.

You should aim to be active on a range of social platforms

This increases your chances of being seen by greater numbers that could then convert to customers. A baseline minimum would be to create accounts for your restaurant on Instagram and Facebook.

Instagram is the perfect platform for food photography and food videos as it’s image-led. We all eat with our eyes, so it’s a brilliant option to show off your food and invite engagement around your food creations.

Read: Food Photography Tips for Chefs

Facebook is still by far the biggest social media platform, and remains great for posting text, photos and videos. It’s a platform with a huge user base. Over 70% of all Americans use Facebook, for example and . no Chef Patron should pass up using Facebook given its reach.

You should be taking and uploading plenty of food photos or food videos to both these platforms. Go live! Instagram and Facebook stories, live video streaming at your restaurant can also be a fun way to increase your restaurant’s reach.

Food content can go viral on social media quickly because food evokes emotional connection. Use that to your advantage across these platforms to drive awareness of and engagement with your food offer. You want to encourage interaction, and look for opportunities to communicate with your audience around the food you’re producing.

Use social media in conjunction with blogging. Each time you upload a new blog post, publish it on social media.

Digital tips for Chef Patrons – send out regular emails to your customers

Email marketing is not to be sniffed at in today’s online marketing landscape. Non marketers can be too quick to dismiss it as a non-valuable promotional marketing tool. But a subscriber email list is a warm audience. After all they’ve signed up to hear from you!

You can gain subscribers via various different ways. The email newsletter sign up showing on your restaurant website (as discussed earlier), affiliate websites, through social media, landing pages, and paid online ads amongst others.

You should aim to categorise your email subscribers into lists of the different types of customers coming to your restaurant. For instance, long standing, new, signed off the back of a giveaway, frequent, infrequent could be examples.

This will mean email audience groups get messages that are more likely to be of interest to them and should result in more customers walking through the restaurant door.

Always pick a short, snappy email message title to explain why you’re writing to them. Be sure to convey the main reasons for your email message in the first 2-3 sentences. Customers tend to lose interest otherwise!

Create a diners loyalty programme

It is important to take care of your existing customers. Loyal customers generate more business than having to acquire new ones. Rewarding existing customers by offering incentives for return visits via email, is just one example of where to go with this.

Keep your online engagement high

Consistency and frequency is everything in digital marketing. To stay top of mind any business needs to invest the time, consideration and creativity in driving community engagement with their brand online. Regularly updating your website, regularly posting new content across social media, and regularly highlighting your menu will all pay dividends.

But keep in mind that ad hoc posts that don’t encourage community engagement, participation, feedback or comment add nothing to your restaurant’s online brand.

In fact, they will harm it as audiences disengage with your social channels.

Digital tips for Chef Patrons – consider paid marketing

If you have the budget available consider paid marketing. This refers to running creative digital ads on social media and search engines to drive people to your website.

But be warned it is expensive. It’s very easy to burn through a modest advertising budget quickly and be unsure of its real return on your investment. In the first instance it’s prudent to consider activity that is low cost or no cost to investigate and profile your customers and your market.

And finally…

Creating compelling marketing campaigns for your restaurant certainly isn’t easy. But we hope that these digital tips for chef patrons have given you a good idea of where and how you can start, or expand on your current activity.

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