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Five ways restaurateurs can use digital marketing to survive the high street turbulence

Looking at the high street restaurant scene at the moment, it is easy to feel pessimistic. Jamie’s Italian became the latest popular British restaurant chain forced to shut its doors for good when it announced the closure of 23 of its 25 restaurants.

Since 2018, Carluccio’s has closed nearly a third of its restaurants, while burger chain Byron, Italian chain Prezzo, the French-inspired bistro Café Rouge, and casual Italians Zizzi and POLPO are not faring any better. With the buffeting forces of Brexit, consumer confidence is now at worst level since 2013 according to GFK.

To thrive, businesses need to innovate and provide customers with a dining experience worth travelling for. The truth is until now, casual dining chains have not been able to adapt quickly enough to meet rising customer expectations.

While it is easy to feel gloomy in the face of these buffeting forces, it is by facing up to the new realities and learning from the disrupters that restaurant owners can fight back. Embracing an online and dynamic customer-centric marketing strategy will be the difference between success and failure.

Have a presence on the platforms your customer use

According to research from Tripadvisor 87% of UK diners are influences by online reviews, while more than 22% of diners check both a restaurant’s online menu and social media accounts before choosing to visit. Ensuring you have a digital presence on platforms like Tripadvisor, OpenTable and SquareMeal and that diners can leave a review is key.

Manage your online reputation

Reputation management is an important part of running any modern restaurant. Owners have to not only interact with diners but engage with potential guests on their website mobile app, and social media. Responding to all reviews – both positive and negative – is one of the most cost-effective ways to boost SEO and drive leads to your business, and build trust in your geographic area. You can do this as painlessly as possible with the help of online platforms. Many tech platforms will enable you to respond to multiple reviews, empowering businesses to quickly and easily respond to all reviews on one place.

Invest time, effort, and expertise in your social channels

Social media is a very effective marketing channel to drive more business. However, simply being on social media is not enough. To really make the most of this powerful medium, you will need a comprehensive content strategy, balancing organic growth alongside a plan to increase reach and engagement through paid media.
Managing your social in-house? Make sure you incorporate these simple tricks in your
strategy:

  • Make the most of your budget by targeting based on location and choosing the best
    time of the day to post.
  • Generate engagement by asking questions or pairing irresistible food photography
    with compelling calls to action. Giveaways and competitions are also great content formats to turn followers into participants.
  • Conduct research to get to know your audience. Post relevant and interesting content that attracts new customers and prompts former patrons to return.

Turn your customers into fans

To build a lasting relationship with your customers, it is key that you provide them value. For example, setting up a loyalty program is a great way to increase your restaurant’s repeat sales.

Email marketing is also a great way of keeping your customers interested in what you have to offer as it incentivises people to follow you and remain interested in what you have to offer. Sending a regular email to your subscribers is a great opportunity to not only let them know what’s new (a new seasonal menu, a new terrace opening for summer, etc.) but express your appreciation via discounts and rewards that will tempt them come back.

Have a local-first search strategy

According to the most recent ONS figures for 2017, 73% of adults accessed the Internet “on the go”, using a mobile phone or smartphone, more than double the 2011 rate of 36%. This astonishing uptake has helped create an explosion in local search, with half of us now using Google to search for local information. Ensuring you optimise your SEO and paid search advertising for local intent will ensure you can stay ahead of the pack.

Also think about the long tail of searches that can enable you to win interested local customers. What type of cuisine do you offer? What dishes and special deals do you offer? Is your menu vegan friendly? Do you have outside seating or live music?

The new market may be challenging, but embracing digital marketing is the best way to survive the
turbulence and attract diners.

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