How to Cheaply and Easily Market Your Restaurant for Success

Top 10 Hospitality Marketing Tips

An exceptional restaurant is one that you’re excited to visit, love spending time in and lives on in your affections. The restaurateur and their team ensure your experience is as flawless as possible. But hospitality is a business, a tough and fickle one at that. Walk down your local high street and try to remember all the restaurants that have been and gone. With almost 60% of restaurants closing within three years you cannot leave anything to chance. Every customer, every meal, every dollar counts, as you compete with ambitious first-timers, world-beating veterans and everyone in-between. Marketing might not be your forte it’s too important to leave to chance.

For years I’ve been using all available sources to research restaurants, bars, cafes; all kinds of hospitality venues in my role as a publisher of city guides so I have some ideas about what makes a place stand out online. From the pre-digital age of turning a roll of film into a printable image (Ayyiyiyi how did we ever afford that?) to when the supply of images was only possible by handing over a CD. Soon images started to get sent by email but it was poor form to clog someone’s precious bandwidth with a humongous file that was going to slow everything down. At this time Photoshop and Illustrator by Adobe were exclusively professional software packages and priced accordingly. Everything was difficult, expensive and slow.

Today you can send a gigabyte as fast as you could once send a megabyte. That’s a thousand-fold increase, for free. And if you need some graphic design work done you can DIY using the ultra-successful Canva or create a design competition with the 99designs platform or make use of any number of free online tools. Or you can outsource the task to Fiverr for; you guessed it, five US dollars.

With the democratisation and disruption of marketing and advertising you, as a business owner, are now in a far more powerful position to shape the way your business is perceived and promoted. Pick and choose from my top 10 free, cheap and easy marketing tips to give your business the best shot at success and survival.

1.   Are you discoverable? Imagine that your venue exists only online, is it discoverable? Do you have a presence? What impression are you giving? Your business name – what does it convey and is it too generic to find or too difficult to remember? If so then rely more on your logo to be distinctive. This is one area I’d highly recommend you spend some money on. A striking, original logo is the easiest way to burn your venue’s identity into the memory of others and it helps people navigate to your business even if they’ve only viewed as an icon on a phone.

2.   PHOTOS. PHOTOS. PHOTOS Photos for the press, for social media, for your website and marketing collateral. A photo shoot might not be cheap but the payoff can be enormous. Get a suite of images to serve multiple purposes – show the venue inside and out, show the staff, show the food, show some detail but don’t let a photographer talk you into a batch of arty shots that border on abstract and generic unless you have a purpose in mind for them. Get some killer photos taken. Having photos can make all the difference when it comes to getting PR.

3.   Google My Business (GMB). Google Plus never managed to dent Facebook and while it’s still a popular site for some niches you no longer need it for your business. Instead, your standard verified business listing with Google can now do more for you. So ensure that your Google listing is fully optimized. Submit all information and upload images. This is the #1 way and place that people will find out about your business. In addition to photos, you can now include video files up to 30 seconds long to help promote your business. And a cool feature introduced in 2017 was Google Posts. These are functional posts that can be used in a myriad of ways to promote a single theme. The Google Posts last seven days and you can have a cassette of three at any one time. They are ideal for highlighting holiday hours, a new product or service, newsletter signup or even an event, in which case the post lasts longer. Get into the weekly habit of making Google posts so that you keep the listing fresh and relevant or diarise to repost them. Google Posts take just a few minutes to make and couldn’t be any easier. Consult Google Support to learn how to make and manage Google Posts.

4.   Facebook. With most of the connected world on Facebook, it makes sense to be here since your customers are already. It’s free, fast and easy. If you’re waiting for your website to be completed Facebook will suffice. Profile picture – This should be the logo of your business, not a photo. The profile picture appears everywhere as a thumbnail while people far less frequently visit your actual page to witness the glory of your cover image. Plus a tiny logo is far more recognisable than a photo. Show strangers your photo image at 43 x 43 pixels and see if they can guess what it is. The use of your logo here is far more effective than a photo when viewed at thumbnail size. The cover image should be something eye-catching and be representing your business. Then you can go to town filling out as much or as little other information as you please. You can even add functions like signing up for a newsletter, making a booking or a purchase. Learn more here: The Ultimate Facebook Marketing Cheatsheet

5.   Social Proof. Reviews represent the voice of the crowd and the majority of people tend to trust them and feel more confident when choosing a place that others have taken the time to comment on. It’s not always easy to ask but remind staff to at least put the idea in customers heads when they express their pleasure at your offering. Sometimes a “Thanks for the feedback, if you have a Facebook or Gmail account please consider reviewing us there. It really makes a difference”. Testimonials given directly to your business or in the conventional media are highly persuasive, even more so when accompanied by a picture of the person giving the glowing report. Businesses with many reviews benefit from the weight of this ‘social proof’. Learn more about ‘social proof’ in this insightful article – 7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts

6.   Offer free WiFi. Create a separate network name for guests and obscure your office name if you don’t offer WiFi. Being told you don’t have WiFi when I can see a network with your name on it makes my left eyebrow raise. Your password can be fun like these: dropitlikeitshot or prettyflyforawifi but you can create one related to your business such as ‘livejazzfridays’. Print the network name and password on the menu right next to your handles and hashtags. This can be done in a subtle fashion using a smaller font and WiFi symbol. Don’t expect people to remember to post about your venue and great food when they next have WiFi. Given them the chance to promote your business through social media immediately. Restaurants Add Free Wi-Fi to the Menu

7.   Empower your staff for customer recovery. Things can and will go wrong and reasonable people understand this. When things go pear-shaped it’s the attitude of the staff that that can transform the experience in one of two ways. A good recovery can be memorable and win a customer for life. The reverse is also true and they are more likely to talk about it. For many customers just knowing that you care and want to make things right is enough. Give what’s cheap for you but valued by the customer.

8.   Omotenashi. Service for the sake of giving not receiving. Omotenashi is the Japanese word that best reflects their concept of hospitality. If you’ve ever been to Japan you’ll notice, what to us seems like, extreme examples of hospitality. Taxies with self-opening doors and drivers in white gloves, elaborate gift wrapping of even the most humble product, respect for everyone and everything. With the mindset that you are a temporary servant to your guests, you can analyse every touch point between your customers and your business and consider where improvements can be made.

9.   Storytelling. Write your story. More than most other types of businesses, hospitality ones are often borne out of a long-held passion. Put this into words and share it. Storytelling is a uniquely human tradition dating back thousands of years to cave paintings. It’s still how we best communicate the kind of information that activates all parts of our brain – the neocortex, limbic and reptilian, roughly equating to the logical, emotional and instinctive. Simon Sinek is your go-to guy for starting the storytelling journey with his Start With Why approach.

10. Smile. A Duchenne smile: they’re the real ones with the whole face engaged, eyes crinkling and sparkling, rather than the token raising of the upper lip in a vaguely concave shape. No human falls for the fake smile but the real deal can buy a venue incredible goodwill that helps it glide over a handful of errors. If I walk into a venue and I’m not greeted at all or if my presence feels like an imposition then we’re off to a rough start. A genuinely warm welcome is the most potent marketing tool any business can harness.