It’s no secret that word-of-mouth referrals are one of the best restaurant marketing tools out there — in fact, 85% of small businesses say word-of-mouth brings them the most customers. That’s why increasingly, strategically leveraging your online presence can generate significant foot traffic and boost sales.
In fact, Google reported in 2019 that searches including “near me” soared across nearly every category, with “where to buy” plus “near me” searches increasing by more than 200% from 2017 to 2019. Your nearby customers are searching for you — so how can you help them find your business?
By developing a thoughtful local marketing strategy, your restaurant will be bustling with regulars in no time. Read on to learn about the best restaurant marketing tips to help you win big in your neighborhood.
Benefits of a local marketing strategy
Why does your restaurant need a local marketing strategy? In addition to reviews, mobile searches, and getting customers excited about your restaurant before they even walk through the doors, local marketing targets potential guests based in your geographic area rather than people who live across the country. By focusing your marketing efforts on your local community and those who live, work, or are visiting your area, you’re more likely to gain repeat guests who will make your restaurant their go-to — and may tell their friends to do the same.
So how can your marketing strategy influence your local community? Here are six restaurant marketing tips to keep in mind.
6 restaurant marketing tips to attract local customers
Local marketing strategies go hand-in-hand with your existing marketing tactics. Better yet, they allow you to do more of what you love as a hospitality professional — interact with people, cultivate relationships, and create memorable experiences for all guests. Local marketing takes a more focused approach than other tactics. Here’s how to get started.
1. Research your nearby competitors
Fortunately, as a small business owner you’re already on the ground in the local community — your target guests are the same people you see at your local coffee shop in the morning or bump into at the store on your way home. And while understanding the demographics of the neighborhood is critical, from those who live there and want a relaxing Saturday dinner to those who are looking for a happy hour spot after work, learning more about peer restaurants in the neighborhood is also key.
While researching nearby restaurants, take a look at what specials, events, or menu items they have, whether by visiting in person or by browsing their social media channels. If you see a crowd gathering around the local Mexican spot every Tuesday, maybe locals are clamoring for specially priced tacos. If a Friday night jazz band attracts people to the cozy Italian restaurant on the corner, would live music fit your venue, too? When you notice special events that attract the same clientele you hope to bring in, take a page out of your competitors’ book and adapt it to fit your restaurant’s vibe.
2. Leverage local SEO & geotags
With more than 77% of restaurant goers saying they'll likely visit a restaurant's website before choosing where to dine, boosting your local SEO is a must for your marketing strategy. Here's how you can increase your local search engine ranking:
Optimize your Google Business profile. Your Google Business profile serves as a “homepage” in search results for local consumers trying to learn more about your hours, cuisine, reviews, and location. When you build out and regularly update your Google business profile with accurate information, menu updates, and photos, it increases your chances of being found in a Google search.
Encourage positive reviews. When customers search for “sandwiches near me” in Google, the search engine prioritizes listings that have positive reviews. As with any review site, the more feedback you have, the better.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Sure, your full-screen video of pizza dough tossed in the air may astound customers visiting your website on a desktop, but the vast majority of customers are looking up restaurants on their phones. Of diners surveyed, 56% said that mobile-friendly websites are very important. Most of the time, diners want to quickly glance at a menu or find your hours, so a website that allows customers to call, book, see the menu, or place an order in just a few clicks on their smartphone makes it much more likely that they'll join you for dinner soon.
Capitalize on geotags. By geotagging your restaurant in social media posts and encouraging guests to do the same, customers are mere clicks away from seeing not only that you’re nearby, but also other photos posted at your restaurant. Geotagging is a win-win — it helps to boost your online visibility among nearby diners and provides an easy way for consumers to explore photos tied to your location.
3. Network with nearby business owners and organizations
Getting to know other nearby restaurateurs and business owners can be a huge win for your restaurant. You may already know the closest neighboring restaurant from when your ice machine broke down or when they ran out of olives, but expanding your reach can help make you a pillar of the community.
Join a neighborhood alliance or business development organization. These groups often host networking events where you can mingle with fellow operators or meet business owners looking for a venue for their annual holiday party.
Donate to nearby schools. If a school reaches out during a fundraising event, consider donating a gift card to your restaurant — it will bring people in the door and build your local reputation.
Participate in local food festivals. This gives patrons a taste of your menu, while showcasing your logo on event marketing materials.
Offer neighbor discounts. If people live within a few-block radius of your restaurant, consider offering a neighbor discount card. A small percentage off the cost of their meal, paired with a short walk, is an easy choice after a long day at work.
4. Encourage team members to spread the word
Your staff can be your greatest asset when it comes to local marketing. Encourage them to invite their friends to dine at your restaurant by offering incentives, like coupons for a free appetizer or a round on the house when they come in. Guests with a personal connection to the restaurant are likely to tip well, leave good reviews online, and dine with you in the future — so take care of them while they’re there.
Another tip? Highlighting your staff on social media with behind-the-scenes photos or short videos of cocktail lessons can encourage them to share on their personal page, thus expanding your reach.
5. Interact with customers online
While it’s a no-brainer to create a positive experience for guests while they dine at your restaurant, don’t forget that you can continue to engage with them online. Taking your guest interactions out of the restaurant and into the hands of your diners (literally) is paramount to building an active brand community. The next time your guests plan a night out or think of a place to take their parents while they’re in town, your restaurant will be the first place they think of.
Have fun with guests on social media. In addition to reposting guests’ photos, responding to comments, and posting mouthwatering photos of favorite dishes, maintaining an active social media presence allows you to show off your restaurant on a daily basis and stay at the top of your followers’ feeds.
Create an email marketing strategy. A robust email marketing list is a powerful restaurant marketing tool that allows you to deepen relationships with existing customers. Send your regulars exclusive rewards, sneak peeks of seasonal menus, and new items previews, in turn encouraging reservations and delivery orders.
Reply to reviews. When guests take the time to leave a review — positive or negative — make sure to reply within a timely manner with either a thank you or a resolution. Replies can be especially beneficial for negative reviews because they show other guests that you take customer feedback into consideration. DoorDash partners can reply to customer reviews directly in the Merchant Portal, using efficient pre-written templates or personalized responses.
Reach out to local influencers and news outlets. If there are social media influencers — especially food influencers — based near your restaurant, reach out and see if they want to stop by and experience your food and atmosphere in exchange for sharing photos. Similarly, reaching out to the local newspaper or culture blog about an upcoming event or your new executive chef can help you generate online press coverage, which does wonders for your SEO.
6. Offer seamless delivery and pickup experiences
Providing high-quality delivery experiences can quickly convert delivery customers into regular off-premise or dine-in guests. Signing up for DoorDash allows you to get your name out there and encourage new business within close range. Include enticing photos and descriptions of your menu items, invest in proper takeout packaging, and be sure to focus on dishes that travel well to ensure a positive delivery experience. Read our blog for more tips on optimizing your food quality for off-premise orders.
Local marketing is an ongoing strategy
Once you’ve implemented these restaurant marketing tips, don’t lose momentum. A successful local marketing strategy requires constant monitoring, updating, and engagement in order to be effective. While it may take some time for your approach to gain traction, an effective local marketing strategy will help you build customer loyalty, attract new guests, and deepen your ties within the community.
Keep your restaurant at the top of every local's mind by signing up with DoorDash today.