Sign up for restaurant insights

We live in the digital age, which means professionals in all industries must get on board with technology or be left behind. That’s especially true when it comes to promoting your business — after all, customers are spending more time than ever on their phones and computers. As a restaurant owner, digital marketing is one of the most effective ways to get your brand in front of potential diners, whether they’re searching Google or scrolling on TikTok.

Digital marketing for restaurants can seem intimidating, but it’s actually easier than you might think. With the right strategies and tactics, you can build a system that expands your online reach and brings in new customers.

Restaurant digital marketing: what it is and why it’s important

Digital marketing for restaurants is the process of promoting your business using online channels. Getting your restaurant in front of more people builds brand awareness, which can increase sales and attract new customers.

Your restaurant digital marketing strategy might include:

Done well, restaurant digital marketing can also strengthen relationships with existing customers. After all, email programs, SMS platforms, review sites, and social media platforms are built for communication. They’re the perfect place to engage with diners and create a strong, lasting connection with your target audience. As a bonus, online channels enable customers to interact with your brand in a way that isn’t possible with traditional marketing media.

Here’s the best part for busy restaurant owners: Because customers are already spending time online, it takes less time and money to reach them. Once you learn how to target the right people, you can repeat the process again and again.

10 strategies for digital marketing success

Ready to start? Whether you’re a beginner or you want to refine your restaurant digital marketing strategy, these tips can set you on the right path.

1. Build a user-friendly website

Take a look at your restaurant website. Does it have a clear navigation structure? Is the text large and readable? Do the photos, colors, and text match your branding? Are the menu and opening hours up to date? If not, it might be time for a revamp.

Your goal is to create a website that’s both attractive and usable. When a customer lands on the site, they should be able to find the information they need in seconds.

2. Hire a professional to take food photos

Restaurant marketing is highly visual; a single gorgeous food photo can be enough to convince a customer to try your business. Plus, well-composed, beautifully lit images make your business look reputable and professional.

In other words, exceptional images are a must.

Unless you’re extremely skilled with a camera, consider hiring an experienced food photographer — when it comes to digital marketing for restaurants, this is one area that’s worth a larger investment. A professional will be able to create the perfect lighting and capture stunning images of the food, the restaurant, and the ambiance. You can use the images in a variety of places, including your website, online menu, and restaurant social media marketing posts.

Better yet, if you’re a Grubhub partner your business gets access to a free professional menu photoshoot. Schedule your photoshoot today or reach out to account support to learn more.

3. Create a digital loyalty program

If you’ve been using a traditional punch card-style loyalty program, it’s time to go digital. An online loyalty program enables you to capture customers’ email addresses and order data. You can use that information to beef up your mailing list, make custom meal recommendations, and personalize restaurant social media marketing campaigns.

Tech-savvy customers don’t give their email addresses willingly. To encourage participation and repeat business, make sure the rewards are meaningful and valuable.

4. Use SMS promotions

Used judiciously, SMS promotions can be an effective addition to your restaurant marketing strategy. Texts are an effective way to get your brand in front of customers at a time of your choosing. Because most people have their phones handy at all times, they’re more likely to see your message quickly.

The secret? Getting customers to opt in. To increase sign-up volume, try offering a one-time discount or an exclusive meal deal. Then, continue to provide value by sending occasional promo codes when subscribers are likely to be looking for restaurants — near the end of the workday on Friday, for example.

5. Analyze customer data

Your restaurant has access to a great deal of data about customer behavior. Put that information to work by collecting it from your website analytics, social media analytics, loyalty program, online ordering platforms, and POS system.

Once the data is flowing, analyze it regularly. Look for changes and patterns; they can help you determine the impact of each marketing campaign and identify the most effective strategies. If you see a bump in delivery orders from a Facebook ad, for example, you might invest a larger part of your restaurant social media marketing budget into future advertisements. Data analysis can also help you spot customers’ favorite dishes, social media platforms, and marketing tactics.

6. Run restaurant promotions

When you want to boost business from both existing and potential customers, consider running a limited-time promotion. Deals and discounts give diners an incentive to order from your restaurant, which can give you a leg up on the competition.

To start, publish promo codes in a variety of places online. Use a different code for each platform or ad — that way, you can see which one has the highest response rate. You can also send codes out by email. Do you use a third-party delivery app? Most platforms allow you to create promotions in the system to appeal to takeout and delivery customers.

7. Start an SEO-driven blog

A blog can be a powerful addition to your restaurant website. Adding more content increases your chances of showing up in Google searches, which brings in more visitors.

Restaurant blogs are inherently flexible. You can talk about national food holidays, share your chef’s favorite recipes, or simply write about topics that might interest local foodies. Use search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure the blog posts show up in relevant Google searches.

For better local SEO, make sure to tie some posts to your city or geographic region. Publish articles about local food specialties, for example, or introduce your restaurant’s local suppliers.

8. Fill out your Google Business Profile

This listing, which was previously known as Google My Business, is critical for restaurants — it helps you show up in Google and Google Maps searches. When a customer in your city searches for “restaurants near me,” your restaurant business is more likely to appear.

Claim your listing and fill out as much information as possible. At a minimum, you should add your address, website URL, social media handles, business hours, and updated photos of the menu, food, and restaurant.

Keep in mind that your establishment’s online reviews will also be associated with your Google Business Profile. If you don’t currently have any online reviews, ask your most loyal customers to write them. These honest assessments help new customers feel confident about trying your restaurant.

9. Start email marketing

One of the drawbacks of digital restaurant marketing? Third parties control many popular platforms, and they can revoke your access at any time. That’s why email marketing is so important — you own the mailing list. Plus, you don’t need to rely on Google and social media algorithms; the timing and the content of each email are up to you.

To make the most of your mailing list, send out emails on a regular basis. Keep them short, sweet, and focused on adding value. Topics might include:

  • New dishes
  • Special events
  • Weekly specials 
  • Promotions and sales

To save time during the week, write the emails in advance and schedule them to go out automatically.

10. Update your online menu

Chances are, many of your customers visit your website or online ordering site before they stop by the restaurant or order online. Set accurate expectations by keeping your online menu up to date at all times. Use a standard web page rather than a PDF, and remember to add menu descriptions — that way, your website is more likely to show up in Google searches. You can also use category links to help customers sort through the meal options quickly.

Achieve digital marketing excellence with Grubhub

If you’re just getting started, you don’t have to create your digital marketing plan from scratch — Grubhub for Restaurants is here to help. In addition to a cutting-edge online ordering platform, we offer restaurant industry advertising resources, built-in promotions, and social media marketing tools your restaurant can use to boost online awareness and customer engagement. And because customers can leave online reviews, you can build social proof quickly and attract a wider audience.

Access these resources and more by partnering with our team. Get started with Grubhub for Restaurants today.