This is the first post in our series on taking control of the restaurant customer journey. If you haven't already, subscribe to The Toast Restaurant Management Blog to get the next installment in the series.
First impressions matter.
Your potential guests have thousands of restaurant options – approximately 660,000 to be precise – to choose from when deciding what and where they want to eat. It goes without saying, but finding a way to stand out and entice guests with your mission, vision, and dishes is imperative to the survival of your concept.
A huge part of your restaurant's marketing strategy is how you plan to acquire and entice customers.
In this post, we'll be talking about identifying, understanding, and marketing to your restaurant's target customer.
How to Target the Guests You Want to Visit Your Restaurant
Your restaurant will not always be everyone's cup of tea.
The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll find success by attracting the people who believe in your restaurant's brand, mission, and vision. This group of people is also known as your target market, or target customer: the group of potential customers whose behaviors, preferences, and values align with yours.
By being more diligent with who you target through your restaurant marketing, you increase your likelihood of creating a repeat customer out of every guest.
1) Know Everything About Your Target Customer
Before you get to the actual marketing of your restaurant, you need to sit and think about who exactly you're marketing to.
The process of understanding who your customers are (or, if you haven't opened yet, who you'd like them to be) takes some time, careful observation, and a little analysis. Develop your restaurant's buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a model of who you think your most common customer is; businesses often have more than one buyer persona.
Come up with an outline of your most frequent clusters of guests. Are they families with kids under 10? Are they college students? Are they the corporate lunch crowd? A helpful exercise is to have the manager-on-duty record a daily summary of the types of guests they saw come in during their shift; do this each day for a month in your manager logbook.
To get better insight into the demographics of your customer base, try sending out a survey to customers on your restaurant's loyalty/rewards program via your restaurant's CRM solution. Offer a promotional discount to everyone who participates as well as the chance to win a gift card to your restaurant.
Using these insights, develop your restaurant's buyer personas; it helps to give each persona a name. Here's an example:
Restaurant Concept: Southern-inspired tapas and cocktail bar in the city.
Persona A: Penny Professional
Profession: Manager level professional
Buying Behavior: Typically comes in with her co-workers or meets up with friends after work for a round of drinks. Visits for large group birthdays, engagements, going-away parties, and other special occasions. Spends $30 or less.
What They Read: Bustle, Refinery29, Brit + Co
What They Watch: Netflix, Hulu, E!, Bachelorette, Shonda Rhimes programming.
Social Media: Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, VSCO, Facebook just for school friends & family.
Buyer personas aren't just helpful for marketing your business, they're also an incredibly useful sales tool for your restaurant staff. Train your front of house staff how to recognize and sell to each individual buyer persona you identify. For example, Penny Professional would likely not be too interested in your top-shelf bourbon, but she'd definitely be interested in a sweet, very Instagrammable cocktail.
2) Get Started With Ads
Once you have an idea of who your customers are, you need to figure out where they are and what they like in order to target them the most effectively with your marketing.
If you're trying to appeal to families, maybe Facebook ads aimed at parents is wise, while college students might be more receptive to on-campus ads, Instagram marketing, or promotions that involve free cover charges or discounted drinks.
For example, if you own a sports bar who wants to attract the younger game-day crowd, your target demographic is likely men between the ages of 25 and 45, who follow blogs (and social media accounts) like Barstool and Bleacher Report, participate in Fantasy leagues, send their friends funny memes on Instagram, and love beer – both craft and domestic.
Connect with your distributor and run a Sunday game-day promotion with a well-known beer brand – like Bud Light or Coors Light – where guests are given freebies and swag. Advertise this promotion on your Instagram account, as well as via Instagram ads using the logo and beer's branding.
3) Invest in SEO
Attracting passersby to your business is no longer a sustainable customer acquisition channel, though you should invest in making your restaurant's outward appearance pop to win yourself some business via foot traffic.
Discovering new restaurants now happens digitally, across a number of websites, the king of which being Google.
It is estimated that Google processes over 40,000 searches per second, 3.5 billion every day, and 1.2 trillion every year. Google users are now looking for activities and dining options on the go: 50% of searches on Google are made on a mobile device; between 2015 and 2016 "[insert business type] near me" searches grew 136%.
Its a very smart business decision to not only get your restaurant listed on popular search engines like Google, but also to optimize your restaurant's website in order to appear as a listing when a Google user types in a search related to your business, like "Italian restaurants near me," "restaurants with happy hour near me," or "cheap-eats near me."
4) Use Digital Marketing and Reservations Apps
Digital restaurant marketing can be intricate and time-consuming, ultimately taking your focus away from what matters most: creating a memorable dining experience for every guest. It also likely isn't your expertise, or else you'd be a full-time marketer, not a full-time restaurateur.
To fit this need, companies like OpenTable, Resy, GrubHub, UberEATs, and LevelUp include a baked-in marketing solution for the restaurants who sign up to use their platforms. When a consumer uses one of the above mentioned sites (or their apps) to search for dining options, your restaurant will show as one of the results.
The nice thing about these sites is that they serve a dual purpose, whether that be to facilitate your restaurant's online ordering arm, manage reservations, or to manage your restaurant's loyalty/rewards program, along with marketing your business and making it discoverable to their huge audience: OpenTable books approximately 26 million diners booked per month while GrubHub has 15.6 million quarterly active users.
Besides signing up for one of these restaurant aggregate sites, you need to get your business listed on TripAdvisor and Yelp. They're immensely popular – TripAdvisor has over 455 million visitors, while Yelp sees 175+ million visitors a month. 85% of consumers say they trust the advice provided in online reviews as though it came from a close friend.
What Are Your Restaurant Targeting Tips?
Is your restaurant creatively targeting new customers? What types of ads are you running, and how do you target new or repeat customers?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Plus, stay tuned for our next installment in the customer journey series. Subscribe to the blog today!