At a business seminar held by online reservations company Livebookings, restaurateurs were told how the effective use of social media and mobile phone apps combined with special offers and promotions can be the perfect way to increase popularity.
“Online marketing is becoming more and more important," said Olivia FitzGerald, Livebookings UK and Ireland general manager. "There are lots of different platforms out there and it’s crucial for restaurants to reach customers from all angles.
“At the beginning of this year, only about five per cent of Livebookings customers had accessed the website with mobile devices. We’re now up to between 15 and 20 per cent, and by the end of next year it might be more like 50 per cent.”
Zeren Wilson, a former sommelier who now writes his own food blog, added: “Another way of increasing your restaurant’s popularity is through social media. Twitter, in particular, seems tailor-made for it.
“Bob Bob Ricard restaurant in London recently tweeted a caviar lunch for £19 and they filled the restaurant up in 40 minutes - that’s just one example of Twitter’s immediacy.”
The use of smartphones and other handheld devices is also becoming ever more important for restaurants, with 72 per cent more smartphones sold in 2010 compared to 2009.
“An app can keep people informed about your restaurant, running perfectly alongside Twitter and Facebook,” said Matthew Shepherd, who created The Lost Friends restaurant app.
“We launched a blind tasting menu at The Blind Tiger restaurant. After putting a notification out on our app, the restaurant was fully booked within two hours.
“Online marketing is the next voyage in growing a restaurant's community.”
With many restaurants already gearing up their marketing plans for the Christmas period, Patrick Tunmore, promotions manager for Livebookings, believes advertising set menus through booking partners is one of the best ways to attract more customers.
“The most popular promotion I’ve seen is set menus with set prices,” said Tunmore. “It’s a very good idea for restaurants that don’t want to show an obvious discount and look discounted. You can create a set menu and give real value for money.
“If you're running Christmas menus, do think about what’s out there online. If it's something you would like more people to see, you should promote them through partners."
Top five online marketing tips for restaurants:
- Work with booking partners- These can massively boost a restaurant’s bookings. One restaurant recently received over 400 covers from just one email sent out by the Afternoon Tea booking website.
- Use Google-With Google, a restaurant can advertise their site, put up a place page (which is free) and analyse online traffic with Google Analytics.
- Don’t bombard customers with email marketing - While it is effective to send out emails, sending too many can put customers off.
- Respond to customer feedback - Restaurants should not be afraid of online customer feedback. Whether positive or negative, responding to customers shows that the restaurant cares for their opinion.
- Stay up to date - With everything in the online world, particularly social media, it is important for restaurants to always keep customers in the know about the latest changes and offers.
BigHospitality's Guide to Online Marketing
As the world moves online, so too must the hospitality industry. But how do you ensure you use the web to your advantage? From the use of external websites, to social networking, e-newsletters and mobile phone applications, BigHospitality's four-part Guide to Online Marketing examines the different options for promoting your company online.