How to Use Facebook Ads for Restaurants

Get more customers through your restaurant's front door (and spend less money doing so).

Looking to attract new customers? For many years, local print was the advertising medium of choice for restaurants. But lately, print has gotten less effective, and compared to online advertising, way more expensive. One of the most powerful channels for online advertising is Facebook, but it can be challenging to understand how to use it effectively when first starting out.

Many restaurant owners and operators "boost" their Facebook posts and target a broad audience that might have little interest in visiting their businesses. If you’ve tried using Facebook ads and feel like you’ve been badly burnt,  a lack of strong targeting is likely the cause of this.

On Facebook, you’re more likely to get better results and spend less money doing so if you target people who have already expressed interest in doing business with you.

In this post, we've put together a guide to restaurant marketing on Facebook. Read on to learn how you can save money on your advertising budget and attract more guests by using Facebook ads and taking a smart, targeted approach.

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Intro to Facebook Marketing for Restaurants

Facebook ads are powerful.

Not only is Facebook’s reach and scale massive, its users have a willingness to trust in products and services that they discover there. Businesses have the potential to reach over 2.3 billion monthly active users, and according to a 2018 study, 78% of American consumers have found products to buy on Facebook. This is largely achieved through the ads that are shown to users as they scroll through their Facebook feed. 

Facebook ads are a great tool for restaurants to use to reach target customers because they're highly customizable. When creating an ad, you're given a wide range of options when it comes to deciding who you want to see the ad, based on location, demographic, profile information, and more. You then set a budget and determine the duration of time the ad will be live for. You can also choose what type of engagement you’re looking to spur with this ad campaign — clicks, views, impressions, likes, shares — and tell Facebook to spend the allotted budget toward reaching those goals.

This video offers a step-by-step guide to creating target audiences on Facebook:

Did you know that 91% of restaurants will use Facebook to advertise this year? For more stats on restaurant social media, download the 2019 Restaurant Success Report

Now that you know the basics, take these 15 tips into consideration when planning your next Facebook marketing push.

1. Your current customers are your most interested audience.

If you want an immediate increase in business, your current customers are the ones to tap. They’ll be most interested in a promotional offer or in hearing about a new menu item. Upload your current email lists, text marketing lists, and online ordering lists to Facebook Ads Manager, which will match the information with current Facebook users.

You can then target current customers with your restaurant's ad on Facebook. Ads that target customer lists get the most interest, and they’re also the lowest-cost Facebook ads you can run.

You can also create a separate list of your customers who haven’t joined your email list, loyalty program, or provided other direct methods of contacting them, but have visited your website after coming from Facebook, by using the Facebook ad pixel. 

Installing the Facebook ad pixel on every page of your website allows Facebook to identify your website visitors so you can target them with an ad. In three to six months of tracking website clicks with the Facebook ad pixel, you will have built a large target audience of people that have shown an interest in your restaurant.

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2. Create a “warm audience” list.

You should also create an ad audience list that includes people who have interacted with either your Facebook page or with content you’ve posted on Facebook, but haven’t been to your restaurant yet. This is called a warm audience. They know who you are and what your restaurant is, so it’ll be easier to get them to visit. 

A cold prospect, by contrast, doesn’t know you, your restaurant’s brand, mission, vision, or purpose. It takes more time, energy, and money to introduce yourself and your services to these people, so the return on investment (ROI) can be harder to justify.

Using Facebook Custom Audiences groups your website visitors into an audience of “interested” customers. Target your website visitor audience and your audience built from customer lists to get great results from your Facebook ads.

3. Find out who else you should target.

As a restaurant owner, operator, or marketer, how do you decide who to target when creating your Facebook ads? You develop buyer personas based on your most loyal customers. 

To learn more about identifying your target customer and how to develop buyer personas, check out our post How to Entice Your Restaurant’s Target Customer.

Facebook provides tools that allow you to analyze your current customers and to create audiences that are similar to your current customers.

  • Facebook Audience Insights allows you to learn more about your current customers including geography, demographics, lifestyle, and purchase behavior. The more you know about your customers, the better you can tailor your message.

  • Facebook Lookalike Audiences analyzes the demographics and interests of the people in your current audience and then finds people who “look like” them. Use Lookalike Audiences when your custom audiences are representative of your current customers. For example, if your email list is an active and accurate representation of your current customer base, this would be a good custom audience to use to create a lookalike audience.

4. Advertise to “new” customers.

A “new” customer is a person in your local market that is unaware you exist. 

When creating your ad on Facebook, target the people in your local market that would most likely be interested in your restaurant using factors like demographics and interest categories. 

Say you’re a family-friendly gastro pub with an extensive craft beer menu. Within the Facebook Ads Manager, create an audience that fits one or more of your restaurant’s buyer personas, like men between the ages of 25 and 55 who have children, live within a 10 mile radius of your location, and have liked a beer-related page on Facebook. This audience can then be saved to use to target future Facebook ads.

Then, exclude the custom audiences built from your customer lists and website visitors so only new people will see your ads.

Your ad copy should include a short statement about why someone would be interested in your restaurant. You should expect less interest in your Facebook ad when targeting new customers, and you should also expect to spend more money when advertising to new customers over a longer period of time.

5. Every ad you run should be two ads.

The best approach is to split the ad into two ads. One ad targets your “interested customers,” while the other ad targets “new customers.”

The reason why lies in how Facebook displays your ads. Facebook’s goal is to get you the best ad results for your budget. If you run one ad targeting everyone in your local market, Facebook will put your ad in front of the people that would most likely be interested in the ad. Unfortunately, that will skew the ad results and end up displaying the ad to your already interested audience.

By mixing new customers with interested customers, you end up increasing your average ad costs.

You can spend less money on your ads and get better results if you run two ads. One ad targets only your interested customers (current customer audience and website visitor audience). The second ad targets your local target market and excludes the interested audience.

Designing ads this way ensures you are never spending money targeting the same people with two ads. Over time, adjust the amount of money budgeted for the two ads to get the best possible results.

6. You can target people that happen to be in your area.

Facebook targeting options allow you to target everyone in an area, including people that are visiting. This is perfect for restaurants in tourist areas or for restaurants near where people work. Facebook uses location data from a person’s mobile phone, allowing your ad to display on the mobile devices of people in your area that meet your targeting criteria.

7. Your website visitor audience lists are always fresh.

All marketing lists like email or text lists get stale over time. Customers move or lose interest in your restaurant, which is the primary reason email open rates decline over time.

Facebook, on the other hand, only tracks visitors for up to 180 days. Targeting your website visitor audience with Facebook ads ensures the audience is always fresh and most likely interested. You can also choose to shorten the number of days you consider a customer to be fresh.

8. Push harder for a sale.

Facebook ads can be a big sales driver for seasonal opportunities like the Super Bowl. When it’s Super Bowl time, many people search for a restaurant to cater their Super Bowl party. Your catering web page is one of several restaurant catering pages visited by a potential buyer. Lucky for you, you’re tracking the people that have visited your catering page with your Facebook ad pixel.

Over the next few days, your potential customer will be shown Facebook ads pushing your Super Bowl catering. This is known as remarketing, and it is commonly used by retailers targeting people with an ad for the product they just looked at.

9. Target specific interests.

The graphic below shows the different sites where you can track what a customer is interested in.

Tracking interest on your website

Tracking website visits is relatively easy with a Facebook ad pixel on each page. However, to know that a customer was specifically interested in gift cards or catering requires that there be a webpage dedicated to that service.

Similarly, splitting your menu into breakfast, lunch, and dinner web pages can help when targeting Facebook ads promoting your business for different times of day. The best audience for a Facebook ad with a lunchtime offer are the people that have clicked on your lunch menu.

Targeting customers interested in online ordering

Online ordering is typically handled by a third-party online ordering provider. You will need to ask your online ordering provider to add your Facebook ad pixel to the pages associated with your restaurant. If your online ordering is integrated in your POS, this may be less of a challenge.

When running a Facebook ad for online ordering, the best audience is the one including people you know have visited your online order site, and the hottest audience is the one that includes people that have already placed an online order through your site.

For online ordering, Facebook also provides special tracking codes that can be added to the online ordering buying process — typically on the “view,” “add to cart,” “checkout,” and “purchase” buttons. This way, you can identify customers that have completed an online order.

The targeting power of coupons

An overlooked tracking opportunity for restaurants are digital coupons. The following are some of the ways restaurants use a coupon promotion to increase revenue:. 

  • Type of transaction: catering, delivery, online ordering, dine-in, carry-out

  • Time of day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night

  • Day of the week: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun

  • Promotion focus: happy hour, kids, early bird, catering, buffet

  • Menu focus: entree, dessert, appetizer, new item

  • Location: specific location, city, metro area, state, region

If you categorize your coupon offers by the type of coupon offer and track the clicks using the Facebook ad pixel, you now have the ability to identify custom audiences based on the offer that interested them. By tracking the coupon through to redemption, you can identify the customers that stopped in to use a targeted offer.

10. Email marketing helps build your Facebook custom audiences.

Most email marketing messages include coupon offers, drive the customer to view additional website information, or start the online ordering process. With the Facebook ad pixel installed on coupons, your website, and your online ordering pages, you will be able to automatically add customers to Facebook audiences with specific interests because of your email marketing messages.

11. Your Facebook ads help grow your email marketing list.

When running a Facebook ad with a special offer, land the customer on a web page where the customer requests to have the offer emailed to them. Allow customers to opt-in to your email list after completing the form. Data from That's Biz shows that 10-30% of people that request the offer will stop in to use it. 

Adding the email opt-ins to your email marketing list allows you to target all of the people that requested the coupon with future email marketing messages.

12. Determine what works best — email marketing or Facebook ads.

Run the same promotion in both mediums and test the results. Add pixel tracking to the coupon so you can track where the customer got the coupon. Be sure to redeem the coupon offer so you can also track which marketing method, email or Facebook, drove the most customer visits.

13. Stop showing ads to people that purchased.

Facebook allows you to stop showing your ad to people that have taken the action you wanted from the ad. For example, suppose you want to drive customers in the door with a great coupon offer for a new menu item. Your ads will continue to be shown to people that have not stopped in and redeemed the coupon for the new menu item, but Facebook can be set up to look for people that have redeemed the coupon and stop showing that specific ad to them. 

14. You don’t need many fans on your page to advertise on Facebook.

As a matter of fact, you can have zero fans. You just need a Facebook page to run Facebook ads.

If you have no interest in managing your Facebook page, you can set it up so visitors to your Facebook page see a post directing them to your website. Just make sure to complete the standard information, like an About Us page, hours of operation, and a link to your online menu. Upload a logo for your profile image and a cover photo that shows a mouth watering image of your signature menu item.

Lastly, set your notifications so you are immediately notified if someone provides feedback or messages you about your restaurant.

15. Facebook ads run on more than just Facebook.

The ad you create in Facebook can be shown to people on Instagram, and you don’t even need an Instagram account.

Instagram is owned by Facebook, so you have the same targeting capabilities. If your target audience is younger than thirty years old, you will find that your ads will sometimes get more likes on Instagram than on Facebook.

Your ads can also be shown in the Facebook Audience Network. The audience network is a collection of mobile apps where you can show ads using the same targeting and measurement tools used on Facebook. Essentially, running ads in the Audience Network extends your reach beyond Facebook and into mobile apps that meet your targeting criteria.

You're Ready to Begin

Getting great advertising results boils down to targeting the right audience with the right message at the right time.

In digital advertising, Facebook has the largest available audience of active users to target your messages. At first it may seem daunting trying to learn how to advertise effectively on Facebook, but there’s no need to try and figure it out on your own. There are many affordable digital marketing providers that can assist with getting everything set up — and help you make sure that you are getting the best return on your Facebook advertising dollars.


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