The coronavirus pandemic has given the catering and hospitality industry a hard time like no other recession so far. Restaurant owners – forced by the government’s decision to close for weeks – were relying only on delivery services. For many, it turned out that their presence on applications such as Uber Eats was not enough to keep the turnover at a reasonable level.
For a business to thrive – regardless of the industry – you need to have some marketing efforts all the time. Something that most restaurants haven’t even thought about. For instance, none of the restaurants I’ve been to in the last year (and there must have been at least 100) asked me for my email address while paying the bill. Neither did they ask me to like their Facebook fan-page or Instagram profile. None of them showed me their blog. They probably don’t even know what content marketing is.
No wonder very few restaurants boast a following of raving fans they can easily tap into during a crisis. This post will show you how to change that. Here you will learn how to build a successful content marketing strategy for your restaurant.
What is content marketing and how to create a content marketing strategy for a restaurant
For starters – here are a few basic definitions 😉.
Content marketing means creating valuable content for potential customers to encourage them to get to know your brand and ultimately buy from you.
By content, I mean not only the written word – but also the visual content posted on social media, videos, Instastories, GIFs, recipes. – everything you use to communicate with your target audience. You can run content marketing campaigns for restaurants on a number of channels:
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube
- Blogs, guest blogs, entries on portals such as medium, articles in print and
- Newsletters sent directly to the email of your potential clients
So let’s discuss how you can create a content marketing strategy step by step:
First of all – you need to determine who your target customer actually is. If you run an expensive, elegant restaurant specializing in the organization of events or business dinners – you will create completely different content and place it in completely different channels than if you run a small Mexican restaurant near a university campus with cheap food for students. You will also communicate completely differently if you run a fit salad bar for people who care about their figure.
Secondly – you need to choose the best ways to reach target customers. That is, you simply determine where your target audience usually hangs out – which social media platforms have the most of them, how they behave, where they get their information and inspiration from, and where they get restaurant recommendations.
Following the previous example: an elegant restaurant targeting businessmen can focus on LinkedIn, blog and guest posts. A hipster pub for students can target Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. A fit salad bar can focus on Instagram, but also Facebook, newsletters and a blog.
Next – once you know who your customers are and what channels you can reach them by – you must think about the type of content you want to create for these channels. What topics will be of most interest to your target audience? How do you want to present them?
For example, each topic can be presented in the form of:
- A blog post with a recipe
- A short video about the preparation of a given dish – a Facebook / Instagram post
- Pictures of the food and ingredients in the form of posts on Facebook and Instagram
- A newsletter with recipes and photos of the food
Content marketing for restaurants via social media
In the food industry, marketing through images is very important. Photos of beautifully served dishes, fresh ingredients, the amazing atmosphere at the restaurant, or photos of the chef conjuring up “something out of nothing” – say more than a 1000 words.
That is why social media – allowing you to reach a wide audience with short, interactive posts – is a great promotion channel for restaurants.
But what kind of content should you create in order to be successful on social media?
To find out, I analyzed several profiles of very popular restaurants that are doing great on social media – judging by the number of followers and their engagement in various posts. For example, Lakaz Maman in Southampton – a restaurant specializing in Mauritian cuisine, founded by the winner of the British MasterChef – Shelina Permaloo.
From Lakaz Maman’s Facebook profile, you can see several tactics used by Shelina to become successful on social media:
1. Strong brand presence and personal messages
Shelina shares her photos, writes in first person, is the “face” and heart of her restaurant. The same tactic is used by other members of her team – cooks, waiters and even suppliers as well as cleaners!
2. Beautiful pictures of food
Let’s face it, we all know that “you eat with your eyes” 😉 there is no worse anti-advertising for a restaurant than ugly and unappetizing pictures of dishes. When taking photos of food, here are a few details you must take care of:
- Good light – always take photos in daylight. The brightness of photos can also be improved in the photo editor directly on your smartphone.
- Beautiful composition and surroundings – make sure that the dishes are beautifully arranged, against a nice background matching the contents of the plate, e.g. surrounded by ingredients that complement the composition. The mess in the background must go!
- Good sharpness and color saturation – while the saturation can also be improved in the photo editor directly on your smartphone, the sharpness and quality of the photo depend on the camera you use. Most modern smartphones take great photos that are suitable for social media. However, if your phone cannot cope – the investment in new, better equipment will pay off many times in a better reputation for the restaurant.
3. Build engagement
By asking questions, and tagging people in your posts – you can make your posts more interactive. Try to have a CTA (Call to Action) in most of your posts and force the reader to act; eg “Do you prefer red or green curry?” “What should we prepare for you today – Panna Cotta or Tiramisu? >> Vote in the comments! ” “Better with or without tablecloths? Let me know in the comments!”
4. You can also draw ideas for your own posts from the profiles of restaurants that have achieved success in content marketing:
- Write recipes for dishes from your restaurant
- Share a video to show how your favorite dishes are prepared
- Show what events and special events look like in your restaurant “from behind the scenes”
- Ask questions about your followers’ favorite dish at your restaurant, their preferences, the best “culinary” childhood memories and so on
- Upload photos of your most popular dishes of the week
- Add customer reviews
- Publish seasonal menus (e.g. Christmas, Spring menu)
- Tell stories about the beginning of your restaurant, your favorite dishes, your cuisine and so on
- Present festival dishes
- Show your guests (of course, after receiving permission to use the image!)
- Present new items on your menu
- Show what you can offer when it comes to vegetarian, vegan, fit and gluten-free dishes (if you do offer these dishes)
- Show the ingredients you use to cook
- Invite followers to present their own recipes and dishes
- Show off the interior of your restaurant
- Make special posts for starters, main courses and desserts
- To facilitate regular posting, make sure you equip yourself with the right tools: a social media scheduler is a must to save time and post consistently and regularly.
Not only Social Media – why a blog and a newsletter are essential for your restaurant
We’ve already covered social media, but I also mentioned blogs and newsletters in the first paragraph and that they are essential for successful content marketing for restaurants.
For two main reasons:
First, social media posts are temporary in nature and do not build a long-lasting source of traffic like blog posts, which – optimized for the keywords you intentionally choose – drive new visitors all the time. If you are just starting your adventure with marketing and have no idea what SEO, keywords and positioning are – it is worth reading a few beginner’s guides or hiring content writing experts to write your posts.
Secondly: Remember that “our” social media profiles are not really ours. This means that if, for example, Facebook and Instagram want to change the algorithm, or if they block your account for some reason – you can lose all your followers at once. Already, the average organic reach for business pages on Facebook is 3-6%. This means that out of 100 of your followers – Facebook displays your posts only to 3-6 people.
How can you fix this?
By running your own blog and collecting your own mailing list.
Newsletters (as well as messenger bots, which are the equivalent of newsletters in Facebook messenger) are a great way to reach your potential and former customers with the same content you publish on Facebook – but with much more effectiveness.
Most email marketing tools have an email deliverability of over 90%. It is only up to you (and your creativity in coming up with email topics) how many people decide to open them – as opposed to Facebook posts. Statistically, in the catering industry, almost 20% of subscribers open newsletters, and about 1.3% click on the links they contain.
Some email marketing tools even have special restaurant newsletter templates.
Newsletters are a very effective method of attracting customers to your restaurant:
First, you can easily remind your customers about your premises. Secondly, you can encourage them to celebrate special occasions (birthdays, engagements, etc.) or holidays (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve) at your restaurant. But what can a restaurant write about in its newsletters to its former and potential customers? And how do you collect their email addresses?
Let’s start with collecting emails.
Basically, you can do this in two ways:
- At the restaurant
- On the blog, through subscription forms and pop-ups
Collecting emails from customers at the restaurant
To collect emails from guests at the restaurant, you can, for example, set up a sign-up form on the table in the form of leaflets encouraging them to leave their name, email address and date of birth – so that you can send your guests a special discount coupon for their birthday. You can also encourage them to leave their emails by offering e.g. a free dessert.
If your restaurant is served by waiters, you can create the same forms in the email marketing tool and provide them to your guests on a tablet when paying the bill.
Collecting emails through pop-ups and subscription forms
Most email marketing tools offer a free option to create blog forms and popups, encouraging customers to subscribe to your newsletter.
If you have a blog on WordPress, you can integrate it with most tools (eg Mailchimp, Mailerlite) using a plugin.
What to include in the restaurant newsletter and how often to send it?
To begin with, you need to think: how often can guests realistically use the services of your restaurant? Once a month? Once in three months? Once every six months? Maybe a few times a week or even every day (catering with delivery to the office).
The frequency of sending emails should be adjusted according to the frequency at which guests can potentially visit you. If you are a luxurious place that is visited only on special occasions – a newsletter once a month is enough. If you run a more affordable restaurant where customers can have a quick lunch or a casual dinner with a friend – you should send newsletters more often – once every 1-2 weeks.
What to include in your restaurant newsletter?
The content of newsletters for restaurants may be similar to your posts on social media. You can include:
- Information about discounts and promotions
- Information about events and special events
- Recipes for favorite dishes from your restaurant
- Interesting stories about your restaurant, kitchen or dishes
- Information about new seasonal menus and new items in the card
- Information on vegan and gluten-free dishes
How to cleverly use guest posts to attract new visitors
The last tactic worth mentioning in today’s post is guest posting. Regardless of whether we are talking about social media, a subscriber list, or a list of regular visitors to your blog – collecting subscribers is difficult.
Sometimes it is worth “taking a shortcut” and “borrowing” recipients in your target group from a company or person who has already gathered a large group of readers. This is what the so-called “guest posts” are used for. The same can be done with guest newsletters or social media posts.
If you don’t know where to start, check out the offer of agencies that offer link building services and guest posts.
Although content marketing is rarely used systematically by restaurants, it is a great tool for communicating with past and potential customers and reminding them about your premises. In order for a content strategy to be complete, it is worth planning activities on your blog, on social media, as well as through newsletters and guest posts. Thanks to these channels, you will be able to build a group of loyal fans of your content (and kitchen) and in the event of another crisis, it will be much easier for you to reach them and sell to them via food delivery.