Strategy A La Carte: The Dish on Digital Marketing Trends for Restaurant Brands

Strategy A La Carte: The Dish on Digital Marketing Trends for Restaurant Brands
The future is digital.

Restaurant brands around the world are finding that their audience is craving something more than pretty pictures of delectable dishes, but rather a need for community and discussion. They want engaging content that keeps them entertained. Effective full-funnel marketing strategies are vital for the success of any business, but are definitely the garnish on top for those in the food and beverage industry. 

The landscape of digital marketing is constantly evolving, presenting both challenges and opportunities for restaurant operators. But there are a few things to consider that can make a difference in driving impact for your business. And there are a few reasons that having a thorough, structured digital marketing strategy is imperative to the overall success of your restaurant or franchise.

Digital Marketing Should Be On Your Mind

If it isn’t already, digital marketing needs to be the foundation in which you build your overall marketing strategy. of Americans prefer ordering takeout to physically going to a restaurant. If you’re not marketing yourself online or devising a powerful local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, how are they going to find you? 

Invest in an Online Presence

Social media platforms provide an unparalleled opportunity to get in front of the right audience at the right time. It allows businesses to engage with current customers and help build organic brand ambassadors while also serving up content in front of new customers. By creating a strong online presence through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and more, restaurants can leverage entertaining content that resonates with the people they want to patron their establishments. It also allows businesses to humanize their brand, leverage creativity and create a sense of community among their supporters. All of these tactics boost brand awareness and allow restaurants to thrive in the highly competitive food and beverage industry.

Prioritize Building and Managing Your Website

There’s a new trend where restaurants are opening locations without creating a website. In many cases, trends are a good thing. This isn’t one of those cases. Having a social media page is important, and claiming your property across all social platforms is recommended. But solely relying on social media won’t bring you the sales results you’re looking for. It’s great for brand awareness, but when we’re focused on sales and getting foot traffic in the door, Google Search matters most. 

Restaurant owners should strongly consider developing a website and linking that website to an optimized Google My Business listing to improve the chances of being found in local search. Paired with a strong local SEO strategy, developed menu, events calendar (as applicable), and online ordering options, restaurants who invest in their website are going to see more traffic in-store and online.

Effective Messaging for Food & Beverage Brands

Now that you have a digital map of where to be, who is your brand going to be? Your brand voice is how people are going to resonate with your business. It shapes how your audience will perceive you and gives your brand a personality. A well-crafted brand and consistent brand voice can set your restaurant apart, making it instantly recognizable and relatable to your target audience. The way you speak and engage with your followers, and your overall brand messaging helps establish an emotional connection. Everyone wants to engage with brands they deeply care for. The next hurdle is determining where to share that message. 

How to Assess Which Social Platform Is for You

It’s easy to develop a voice that is based on your brand’s values, but how do you speak to each audience? Social media is a collection of various platforms, all of which have attracted different types of users looking for a different experience. To find your audience and keep your messaging in front of them is much easier when you understand each platform. 

However, the inherent volatility and rapidly changing nature of social media platforms can make it challenging for restaurant operators to maintain a consistent and effective messaging strategy. The introduction of features like Threads or X (Twitter) underscores the need for a well-crafted and adaptable messaging approach. Restaurant operators should focus on real-time engagement, staying informed about platform updates, and leveraging these tools to enhance their brand messaging and customer engagement.

Here’s a list of platforms and how audiences use them to help inform the type of content you may want to consider on each: 

  • Facebook: The socializing and networking giant. Facebook is a great place to reach all ages of your target audience, knowing they’re sharing memories and experiences with friends and family. Nearly  three billion people have a Facebook profile, so your audience is definitely here! Facebook is also a good place to showcase events or exciting promotions. 
  • Instagram: Sharing elegant imagery and engaging video with friends and followers. Instagram is a visual platform that restaurants can use to leverage their food and beverage, but also their atmosphere. It’s helpful for people to see the environment and get a vibe for the location. It’s also a great place to engage and share user-generated content (UGC) from followers, engage and collaborate with influencers, and share daily promotions. More than 2.5 billion people use Instagram and have access to various elements such as Instagram Stories (24-hour snippets of content), Instagram Reels (short-form video) and in-feed posts. 
  • Threads: As an extension of Instagram, this platform is new to the realm. With a similar concept and layout to X (Twitter), users are able to share text-based content with both images and videos in feeds. You can post up to 500 characters in one thread. Lots of brands are using this platform the same way they would X (Twitter) but with more light-hearted messaging geared toward customers and less toward real-time news or business updates.
  • X (Twitter): X (Twitter) has made news for its recent volatility and changes under new ownership. The platform is still a great place to share real-time news updates, promotions and thoughts, while engaging in conversations. This platform is not the first choice for businesses, but can still be a great way to engage from a public relations perspective. If you’re going to use X (Twitter) as part of your marketing strategy, paying the extra $8.99 per month for the Twitter Blue membership really helps increase visibility. Most restaurants and businesses may not thrive here and could be lost in the noise of bigger brands, but if you have a dedicated following, it’s always nice to claim your handle and consider housing some content here too. 
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a traditionally professional social media platform great for networking and finding a new career, so how can a restaurant leverage that environment to drive customers? Easy. LinkedIn provides an opportunity for partnering with the local community and driving local visitors to your location. Think of LinkedIn as a great tool for business development and community engagement. Not only can your team leverage groups to drive brand awareness, you can find excellent customer reviews and use the platform for thought leadership for your executives. 

Respected Voices in the Restaurant Business

What a great segue into this next section, where we touch on how restaurant business leaders can position themselves as thought leaders in the industry. LinkedIn is a great platform to do this. By sharing content that showcases expertise in the culinary world, the franchise world and beyond, executives can become trusted leaders for others in the industry. Whether sharing content from their own personal LinkedIn page or elsewhere (think blogs, podcast appearances, collaborative PR efforts, etc.), that content can then be shared across the company’s page and beyond. 

By consistently offering valuable content that is relevant to the industry and starting thought-provoking, engaging conversations with your target audience, you can position yourself a restaurant thought leader and establish credibility for yourself and your brand. Thought leadership not only sets a restaurant apart, but also attracts a dedicated following, which lends to brand awareness and at the end of the day, patronage. And that’s what we’re all here for – to drive ROI and foot traffic to continue to grow the business at large. 

It’s A Lot, We Know

As a business owner, you’ve already got your hands full – so how are you going to run the operations of your restaurant and be able to manage creating and executing a powerful marketing strategy on top of it? There are a ton of solutions for you, from hiring support staff who lend to creative ideas, to leaning on a third-party agency who cares deeply for your brand and does the heavy lifting for you. 

At the end of the day, the important piece to consider is that using multiple channels to drive brand awareness is always impactful and marketing online is one of the easiest ways to reach the most amount of people. Taking the time to learn basic digital marketing techniques and implement subtle changes can drive a huge ROI and catapult the success of your business. 

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