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May 2, 2024
5 min read

7 Common Restaurant Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Running a restaurant business is hard – it is risky, competition is high and consumer preferences are constantly changing. Offering great food, amazing service, relaxing atmosphere and reasonable prices is not enough to succeed. A clear marketing focus and strategy is no longer a competitive advantage, but rather a must-have if you want to stay in the game. In this blog post we will examine the most common marketing mistakes in the industry and what you can do to avoid them.

Christian Scherbel
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1.  Not Investing in Marketing

Everybody is in love with organic marketing and why wouldn’t they be? It is an online digital marketing strategy that helps promoting a brand without spending any money. Typically, this is done through blog posts, case studies, posting on forums or relevant social media groups, etc. Organic marketing has its limitations and restaurants can’t get away with spending on paid advertising channels. In fact, studies show that on average restaurants spend around 3-6% of their revenues on marketing activities.

You also need to take into account the costs associated with hiring a marketing team, including a PPC manager, social media manager, graphic designer, videographer and a PR expert. Not relying on professionals must sound reasonable at first, but it will cost you more in the long run, since online advertising has its intricacies and it will be hard for you to stay ahead of the curve.

2.  Social Media Mistakes

All restaurants should have a social media page. It helps you stay in touch with your customers, acquire new ones and build a brand. However, managing social media pages effectively is a skill a lot of business owners underestimate. Let’s take a look at some rocks in the sea you should be aware of.

Posting Inconsistently

Irregular posting can lead to a loss of audience engagement and can decrease the number of followers a page has. Restaurants should maintain a consistent posting schedule to keep their followers informed about menu updates, promotions, events, opening of new locations or renovations.

You should plan your topics in advance, at least for a month ahead and have a clear idea of what type of content you create and when to post it. There are plenty of tools online that can help you with scheduling and posting, so you will never miss your content goals.

Leaving Negative Reviews Unanswered

No matter how amazing your restaurant is there will always be customers who will be dissatisfied and leave you a bad review on your social media page. Don’t ignore it, get back to the customer, address them by their name and apologize for what went wrong. Elaborate briefly on the issue, explain what caused it and list some actions you are willing to take to prevent it from happening again in the future. Avoid responding to a review when you are angry and don’t make the conversation personal. End on a positive note and keep the door open for a second chance.

Low Quality Images

The ancient Roman saying "We eat first with our eyes" is valid today more than ever. Low quality images due to a bad camera, lighting, exposure or unprofessional composition can make even the most delicious meal look unappealing. Professionally shot and well-lit images not only capture the essence and visual allure of your dishes but also evoke the desire to experience them firsthand. These visuals can drive online engagement, bring you more comments, likes and shares, which will boost foot traffic to your restaurant.

Generic Audience Targeting

You can’t just throw a wide net in the sea and expect to catch some fish. Targeting the right person on social media is easier said than done. Business owners still believe that hitting on the promote or the boost button, selecting an age group, gender, interests and a location within a few miles away from the restaurant will work like a charm.

In reality, it takes much more effort than that. Approach targeting strategically! You can choose to target people who already like your page, since they are familiar with your restaurant and probably visited it before. Another option is to experiment with retargeting – advertise to people who already landed on your website. You can also create a similar audience based on your previous customers. For example, if you have the email addresses of at least several hundred website visitors, platforms like Meta can go ahead and target users who resemble your initial audience. It’s all about giving it a try and it is unlikely you will hit it out of the ballpark the first time.

3. Having a Bad Restaurant Website

A website is no longer just a business card. It is a place where users can interact with your restaurant, order food, compare dishes and look at photos. If your website looks and feels outdated and people find it difficult to navigate, it is very likely they will not consider your restaurant as an option for dining.

Besides, most online searches happen on a mobile device, so if your website is not mobile-friendly, visitors will find it hard to access the information they need, leading to lost business opportunities. As we mentioned above, every once in a while you will get a negative review, so a good website can help counteract this by showcasing positive reviews and testimonials addressing customer concerns.

Don’t forget about online ordering. According to statistics, the meal delivering industry amounts to 76 billion dollars annually in the US alone and the market is expected to hit the 500 billion mark by 2027.

Last but not least, a well-structured and categorized website can provide valuable data and insights about customer’s behavior and preferences – what pages they click on the most, how much time they spend on each section, how many dishes they view in a single session and so on. All this information is vital for understanding how users perceive your business and you can use the data for retargeting and launching personalized marketing campaigns.

4.  Lack of SEO Efforts

Probably every restaurant owner pronounced at least once the following statement: “I want to rank on the first spot in Google”.

Everybody wants to show up first on the search engine results page, but you have to be realistic – competition is high and it takes a lot of time and consistent effort to achieve it. Quite frankly, you don’t need to rank for best restaurant in town in order to get high quality traffic. Target niche keywords that match your food offerings –for example garlic-butter steak bites or creamy vegan pasta with peas. Focus on what people are searching for in your area and create relevant content to match it.

SEO is not about content alone, there are a lot of technical improvements to be performed, so that your website ranks higher. These include faster loading times, restructuring the code and redesigning the navigation menu to name a few. We advise you to discuss SEO optimizations with your web developer first, because making any adjustments on your own can do more harm than good.

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5.  Missing a Google Business Profile Page

In today’s digital marketing there are barely any online advertising channels that are free. Luckily, Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business is still available at no cost. It literally puts your business on the Google Map. You can update your company details there, such as working hours, link to your website or upload your menu. Additionally, the platform allows you do create events and upload images, so your local community can be aware of any special activities going on at your restaurant.

It is worth mentioning that Google rearranges the search engine results page based on what the user typed in. So, quite often, companies listed on the Map show up before organically ranked or sponsored websites.

6. Not Advertising in Local Newspapers

Using display ads in local newspapers is a great strategy for restaurant owners to target a local audience effectively, reaching potential customers in close proximity to their business. Additionally, these publishers often have a loyal readership, which means the ad is seen by individuals who trust the publication, lending credibility to the restaurant. This approach works great for showcasing the restaurant's offerings, special promotions, or events in a visually appealing manner, which can spark interest and attract new visitors. That’s why at Smartico we partner with regional publishers in Europe and the US to deliver profitable ads for SMBs. They help restaurant owners get the most out of online advertising at a fraction of the cost compared to advertising on the big tech platforms like Meta and Google.

7. Email Marketing Pitfalls

Email marketing is one of the cheapest ways to reach potential customers. The average email open rate in the restaurant industry is almost 20%, so you will definitely miss out on a lot of potential customers if you don’t launch this type of marketing campaign. However, pay attention to the following common mistakes:

Buying Email Address Databases

Don’t believe that buying several hundred email addresses online is some kind of a business hack to bring more diners to your restaurant. Such email lists do not only have a close to zero relevance to your business, but they also violate data protection and privacy laws like the CAN-SPAM Act in the US or GDPR regulations in Europe.

To make matters worse, recipients of such emails will probably report them as spam, which can ruin the reputation of your domain and it could get it blacklisted. In other words, chances are you won’t be able to send messages from that particular domain anymore.

What we recommend you do instead is to grow your email list naturally. Create a newsletter on your website asking users to provide an email address in exchange for getting a free PDF book with home recipes. You can put a form on your website where users can sign up for an event organized by your business –the options are endless, so you have no excuse for not trying to get those emails legitimately.

Sending Too Many Promotional Emails

Be very careful with the frequency of sending emails to your subscribers. Data shows that most people are open to receiving emails 1-2 times per month. If you bombard them with a ton of messages in a short period of time, this will lead to email fatigue, decreased engagement and damage to your brand reputation.

Experiment with sending weekly discount codes, monthly newsletters or useful articles from your blog. Don’t forget to always include the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email, so that users have the option to stop receiving your promotional material or include a manage email preferences option, allowing them to switch to a different cadence.

No Database Segmentation

If you have even the slightest marketing experience, you already know that not all customers are equal. That’s why you can’t send that same promotional email to all the people in your list. Segment them based on age, demographics, what pages they visited on your site, etc.

Wrapping it Up

In conclusion, the restaurant industry presents formidable challenges, including intense competition and constantly evolving consumer preferences. To thrive in this environment, a well-defined marketing strategy is no longer optional but an absolute necessity. In this blog post, we discussed some of the most common marketing pitfalls faced by restaurant owners and offered valuable insights on how to handle them. To learn more on hot advertising topics, check out our blog here.





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