Top 5 Digital Restaurant Marketing Tools You Need (2018 Update)
By on Marketing | Last updated on 2 May 2018

In today’s restaurant marketing, digital marketing is the name of the game. If you want to succeed in the restaurant industry, billboards and newspaper ads will no longer cut it. QSR Web reported that 2017 would be the year of digital marketing for restaurants. If you weren’t able to keep up with it last year, don’t worry! 2018 doesn’t look to be any different either according to Eagle Eye. The reports also noted that more restaurants are increasing their digital marketing spend.

The numbers don’t lie. If you want to be at the top of the game in the food service business, you need to be able to adjust to the times and use digital marketing tools that will help you get a leg up on the competition.

Here are 5 tools that will help your restaurant get ahead of the curve and succeed in the digital marketing space:


Website Maker / Content Management System

According to SinglePlatform and research firm Chadwick Martin, restaurants are the single most searched industry online — both on desktop and mobile browsers. That means that having a website for your restaurant is equivalent to having a good first impression in today’s digital marketplace.

In a Huffington Post article, ChowNow founder Christopher Webb broke down what an effective restaurant website looks like:

An effective website for your restaurant marketing should have 1.) A homepage with the most important information on the top half of the page, supported by enticing photography, 2.) A dedicated section for your menu and a page for regular and special promotions, 3.) An online reservation system, 4.) A regularly updated blog to boost your SEO ranking and and a dedicated section featuring reviews and other articles from your local press outlets, and 5.) Chef and staff profiles and links to social media accounts

Creating a website for your restaurant may be an intimidating task, but worry not! You don’t necessarily need to learn how to code or hire someone to design and run your website. There are numerous website makers and content management systems available that handles everything from domain name registration, down to scheduled blog posting. Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace all offer easy-to-use website management solutions.


Social Media Management Applications

Just like having your own website, having a strong social media presence is an absolute must for every restaurant who wants to up their restaurant marketing game.

According to Sprout’s Q3 2016 Social Index, three-quarters of the people surveyed “purchased a product because they saw it on social media.” What this means is if you’re not visibly active on social media, you’re missing out on a large customer base.

An excellent social media strategy for your restaurant marketing is one that involves engaging with your customers all the time.

The sky’s the limit when thinking about ways you can use social media to promote your restaurant. Kairay Media has 30 tips on social media marketing for restaurants – here are our top seven favorites and takeaways from that list:

  • Create your own and ride on trending hashtags
  • Conduct photo contests
  • Reward customer check-ins
  • Post videos — especially those of chefs preparing your restaurant’s best-selling menu items
  • Keep it fun and friendly — there’s no need to be serious
  • Post images with relevant quotes
  • Encourage customers to post reviews

A dedicated social media manager can be a valuable member of your restaurant. But you or someone else from your existing team can handle this task just as well. It’s all about scheduling posts well in advance, ensuring that your restaurant’s social media accounts have fresh content every single day.

Hootsuite is the market leader in social media management applications. It not only lets you schedule posts way in advance for multiple accounts, but it also gives you real-time customer insights.


Email Marketing Solutions

Some people might take it for granted, but email can have a huge impact on your restaurant’s digital marketing efforts.

According to a 2015 report from the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing can have a return on investment (ROI) of $38 for every $1 spent. That’s almost one entrée earned for every dollar spent.

Beyond the simple weekly newsletter, there are a lot of ways you can incorporate the use of emails in your restaurant marketing. Turnstyle has a deep-dive guide on the topic. Out of the numerous suggestions given, here are some we liked:

  • Announce new items, as well as those that you’re about to take out of the menu. Both will draw loyal customers back to your restaurant in no time
  • Send out invites for upcoming events, especially during holidays
  • Share recipes created by your chefs
  • Conduct surveys to get more insights from your customers
  • Send special email messages for customers who haven’t visited your restaurant for a long time (30 to 90 days)
  • On a customer’s birthday, make sure you send them a “happy birthday” email message

MailChimp and Campaign Monitor are the top-of-mind solutions for email marketing. Intercom can also do email marketing, as well as other customer relationship management features.


Online Table Reservations

Since the 20th century, customers have either called or walked in advance at a restaurant to place a reservation. Restaurateurs, in turn, jot their names on the reservation book and wait for their arrival on the day itself.

Who would’ve thought that taking this task to the digital age can also be an effective restaurant marketing technique? Online table reservation sites are taking the restaurant industry by storm. These companies perfectly cater to the growing millennial market by letting them reserve a table at any restaurant through the web or a mobile application. This makes the whole process quick and easy.

Other benefits of using online table reservations for restaurant reservations are:

  • Removing the old-school, paper-based reservation book with the online reservation system easily integrated with your restaurant’s PoS
  • Have a more detailed account of the upcoming forecast, giving you the ability to better manage your inventory and staff shift schedules
  • Get recognized by more people as your restaurant is listed on their site

Opentable is the company that first comes to mind when talking about online table reservations. Its Airbnb-like system makes it easy for customers to book. It also can be integrated into a restaurant’s PoS or your restaurant’s existing website with a widget.

Yelp now also has its own reservations service that is integrated within its review platform.


Online Reviews

Speaking of Yelp. Yes, it can be the bane of your restaurant, but online reviews are important in the customer’s decision-making.

According to a BrightLocal report, 84% of people surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And that same report noted that 7 out of 10 consumers will review a business if they are asked to.

Serving great food and delivering excellent table service is the key for a good reputation for your restaurant. But that has to translate to tons of reviews online.

The Toast Blog shared 4 ways to improve how your restaurant performs on online review sites:

  • Promote your restaurants beyond liking on Facebook or following on Twitter. Tell them that they can check out your restaurant on Yelp or TripAdvisor
  • Ask (or invite) your customers to review your restaurant. You can do it after they’ve settled the check, or through email
  • Create a dedicated landing page on your website just for reviews, featuring sample entries from previous customers
  • Conduct a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to sift the promoters from the detractors

In today’s world, what you and your customer say online is as good as gospel. That is why it is important for any restaurateur to invest in restaurant marketing – especially in their digital marketing. By using these online marketing tools, we guarantee that your restaurant will get more customers at any time of the day.