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3 ways to market your small business restaurant

With more than one million restaurants in the United States, it can be hard to stand out. If you’re one of the seven in 10 restaurants that are single-location small businesses, finding time and money to focus on marketing can be a challenge.1,2 But it’s essential to attracting and retaining customers. Below are tips on marketing your small business restaurant to compete in today’s competitive landscape without a lot of time and money.

Go digital

Marketing is about connecting with your audience at the right time. Today, people spend on average more than six hours of their day online.3 So you must use digital channels for marketing or risk losing business.

Build a website
Having a web presence is imperative these days. More than 90% of guests research a restaurant online before dining out.4 To ensure you reach them, your website should reflect your brand and include the information necessary for guests to visit you – where you are and when you’re open. Make your site easy to navigate with a responsive design for scaling on different screen sizes, including smartphones, so users don’t become frustrated.

Use your digital presence to engage your guests with more than just the basics. Your website tells guests you offer traditional American cuisine, but sharing that you offer half-price burgers on Tuesday nights can draw in more guests. So start a blog. Share information about menu changes, events, specials and more. And keep your website refreshed with current content to help it appear at the top of online search results.

Allowing guests to make reservations on your website can drive more restaurant traffic. Online reservations, or the option to sign up online for the waiting list, can help simplify guests’ lives – and get more customers in the door.

And not all want to dine in. Thirty-eight percent of consumers indicate they’re more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago.2 Consider offering online ordering for pickup and delivery. Not only will it make your guests happy, it can also be an additional revenue stream. You can offer online ordering through your website or a third-party service like Uber Eats®. Do the math because these services can have high fees, but they also have loyal customers that keep returning.
Engage on social media
Your website isn’t the only place guests look for you online. In 2019, 79% of the U.S. population had a social media presence.4 They turn to Facebook and Instagram to learn about you. Engage with your guests and potential guests there. Include high-resolution, mouth-watering photographs of your offerings. Show the human side of your business with photos of your employees at work. And encourage your customers to post their photos and tag your restaurant.

Consider running a social media contest or offering freebies to those who post a picture of your restaurant or food on Instagram. Celebrate your guest of the month, engage guests to help you choose a new look for your menu or post a video of your chef cooking on YouTube. The possibilities are endless. You can also advertise on social media. The bonus of paid advertising is you can target prospective guests in your area.
Monitor and address online reviews
Online reviews are another tool in your digital arsenal. They can help – or hurt – your business. According to our recent Small Business Payments Spotlight, half of consumers won’t visit if you have negative online reviews.5 And unfortunately, people typically post reviews about bad experiences, not good ones. Ask your customers if they’re happy, and if not, address their concerns immediately while they’re dining. Solicit feedback and post positive reviews on your website and be sure to monitor your reviews. Listen to – and address – the feedback you receive. Especially negative feedback. Acknowledging a bad customer experience can add to your credibility.
Invest in a smart POS to help with your digital presence
A smart point of sale (POS) system can be an invaluable tool to help a small business restaurant handle many of these digital functions, like integrating with third-party delivery services and online reservation portals. You can also use it to help monitor online reviews.

Reward loyalty and help customers spread the word with gift cards

Do you have regular customers who enjoy your happy hour specials? Reward them and keep them coming back using your POS. Loyalty programs are a great way to keep guests happy, and your POS can help you collect and use customer data, email customers about new menu items and special events or give them birthday discounts. But consider whether the value of likely increased business outweighs the cost of administering such a program.

Don’t offer gift cards? Consider this:

  • 67% of small businesses restaurants feel gift cards help attract new customers.5
  • 53% of restaurants believe gift cards help increase customer loyalty.5
  • 41% of people receiving a gift card will visit a restaurant/store they otherwise wouldn’t have.6
  • 74% of customes spend more than the amount on the card.6

So get your loyal guests to spread the word to prospective customers with gift cards. It’ll give you another way to attract new customers and improve sales. And with a smart POS, you can launch a gift card program in minutes.

Engage in your community

Creating interactions with the right people and showcasing those interactions can help your restaurant get attention. Invite influencers and local media to your restaurant for free food in exchange for a story. This will help build buzz and provide unique content you can use on social media and your blog.

Look at businesses around you. If there’s an art gallery nearby, offer to show their work in your restaurant. In return, the gallery can make coupons for a free appetizer available to their patrons. If you’re in an area close to hotels, ask them to keep copies of your menu in the lobby. Reciprocate by including the hotel’s brochure in your entryway.

Does your community offer a lot of events? Perhaps the route of the local 5K passes your restaurant. Set up a water station outside and use the opportunity to market your business. Give participants coupons or water bottles with your name and logo. Or sponsor the 5K. You’ll get exposure for your restaurant and help the charity – a win-win!

Next steps

Today’s restaurant POS systems can be used for more than payments. You can choose from a wide range of apps built to help restaurant owners run their business. There are apps to help you manage gift card and loyalty programs. Your POS can provide insights to target potential customers and keep existing customers coming back. Take advantage of your POS to help increase your engagement with guests and prospective customers.

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