In India, challenges such as taxation, oversupply, consumer discretion on service charges, and others have lead to many restaurants shut down. The fixed costs and the expected rate of returns often don’t match up, which makes running a restaurant a tough ask for anyone.
What can restaurant owners do to overcome these challenges? Get online so that you can take your restaurant to people in the neighbourhood and those across the city instead of waiting for customers every day.
It’s well known that the new work-from-home habit, hectic work schedules, and rising disposable incomes have popularised food delivery and eating out in metros as well as Tier II, III, and IV India.
Here’s why you need an online presence and how you can achieve it?
1. Create an appealing website
Your restaurant may have been your place of business till now, but it will now share that with your digital presence. When over 85% of consumers go online to research products or services, the website plays an important role in helping them gauge credibility.
Your website must be aesthetic and professional, but user-friendly and functional. Make sure navigation is simple and it is optimised for mobile devices. Professional-style photos are a must for appetising photos that reflect how delicious your food is and how attractive your interiors are.
2. Know your audience
Every restaurant has a different type of customer in mind. Youngsters spend more in coffee shops, working professionals are likely to favour quick-service restaurants, teens may like street food, and couples may opt for romantic restaurants.
That’s why it’s important to know your clientele so you can create a targeted digital advertising strategy that’s sure to attract your potential clients.
3. Put your menu on search engines
A beautiful website is the beginning. But you need to make it seen by potential customers.
Instead of heading to their kitchens, hungry people these days go in for online searches on search engines to find somewhere to eat.
It’s essential that your menu is available online on search engines and sites that people use regularly, including Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato, and others. If people don’t know what you have on offer, chances are they’ll skip your restaurant.
4. Optimise your search engine rankings
Going online is of no use if you can’t be found. Search Engine Optimisation is mandatory to be easily discovered in local searches when people key in “Italian (or Chinese/Gujarati Thali restaurants) near me”.
Your SEO rating is what decides how quickly they find you and you need to work consistently to improve it. How can you do that?
Create interesting and engaging blog/video posts (these could be about the food, recipes, hacks etc), use internal links (to other pages of your site) and external links (to affiliate websites, sources of data, etc.)
You should ensure that every page of your website has local keywords and other forms of SEO coding (metadata embedded in pictures, videos, headings, etc.), and ensure that all contact information is listed multiple times and is easy to find.
5. Cultivate a social media presence
Social media plays an extremely important role in creating a buzz about your restaurant and your most popular offerings. A survey on Indians’ social media usage patterns has revealed that most people spend over five hours a week, signing in at least three times every day on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
This means a large percentage of your potential customers can be found in one location. A social media strategy can help you gather a large following, and you can grow this number with free and paid advertising campaigns. Creating a community is the best way to grow your client base.
6. Work with influencers
The last few years have seen the rise of influencer marketing, a social media marketing technique that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers (people with a dedicated social following and seen viewed as experts in their niche).
Reach out to food influencers in your city/location, and invite them to eat at your restaurant for free. An influencer marketing contract can be worked out for a fee or a certain number of free meals.
7. Connect with customers
Creating a loyal community, one that thinks of your restaurant when it’s time to eat out or order in, is everything. But an ad in the paper once in the festive season won’t work. Keep the channels of communication with customers and potential clients open – encourage them to sign up for a weekly newsletter, post new content every other day on social media, invite their opinion and advice on new recipes, and encourage people to like, comment, and share posts.
Advertise new specials online, run contests and giveaways, and offer free meals and gift cards. Your restaurant will be talked about, which will attract more new customers. A customer loyalty programme can also work well for you.
8. Try email marketing
Social media may have pushed email marketing aside, but this digital marketing strategy has its takers. Build an email list of all recipients who have subscribed to your email through your website, social media, affiliate websites, and landing page.
Set up automated emails that go out once or twice a week. The idea is simple: to send smartly worded emails that thank customers for choosing your restaurant, seeking reviews, and subtly push them to return. To this end, offer a discount/promotion – this is likely to grow your repeat customers.
9. Work on online reviews and ratings
Most people aren’t just looking for products/services anymore; they want an experience. This is why most people researching a new restaurant are likely to check what other customers had to say about you.
Reviews and ratings can make or break your eatery, so encourage every paying customer to post a review – it could be on your website, your social media profile, Google, or a foodtech delivery site. Reviews and ratings by satisfied customers are more likely to draw customers to your restaurant than a jingle on the radio.
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