Many of my clients are restaurant owners.  Restaurant owners are a unique group of professionals, many of whom are hesitant to enter the social media space.  However, along with being a restaurant owner comes a whole new set of social media challenges. recently reported that an estimated 87% of travelers look to the web and read reviews when planning their next trip.  Similarly, a growing number of people are using social media and other websites to decide where to dine locally. 

The point I try hardest to drive home with these owners is, word of mouth marketing isn’t enough in today’s digital age.  As with any other business, if restaurant owners want to attract new patrons, they need to penetrate the areas where these patrons are spending their time…on the web utilizing social media.

restaurant industry and social media

How should restaurants be using Social Media?

Most restaurant owners understand that having a website is an absolute necessity, an idea that was completely foreign to the generation of restaurant owners before them.  And so they take the leap and invest a significant amount of hard-earned capital into having a beautiful website designed.  They pick out and purchase a domain name, probably the name of their restaurant.  They launch the site and guess what, nothing happens for them.  Many have no idea how to drive traffic to this beautiful new website.  Having the website designed and launched isn’t even half the battle.  The real issue is getting diners to find their beautiful new websites, click on their carefully chosen domain names and eventually walk through their doors.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a restaurant owner say, “I am ranked #1 in google when you type in the name of my restaurant”.  That’s wonderful, but what if diners don’t know the name of your restaurant?  What if patrons aren’t even sure what type of restaurant for which they’re looking?  Diners search for restaurants and bars by typing keywords into a google, yahoo, bing, etc. search.  Diners read reviews that patrons before them have typed into online restaurant directories.  Diners look for restaurants that their Facebook friends recommend.  Diners choose restaurants because someone they know has tweeted about the great service they received.

The single most important branding concept that restaurant owners need to understand is that they simply must have a presence in a variety of digital spaces.  I advise them to secure their google local listing and update the listing with beautiful food photos and a video tour.  I advise them to quickly and easily develop a Facebook fanpage.  I advise them to establish a presence on twitter, and perhaps most importantly, I advise them to blog.  Because the key to ranking well in search engines is content, content, content, all of these initiatives plays an important role in getting those new patrons through a restaurant owner’s door.

Another key reason it is so important for these owners to be present in the social media space is so that they can closely monitor what customers are saying about their restaurants.   A shift is taking place whereby consumers are becoming “prosumers”, driving their own initiatives.  Restaurant owners need not only be cognizant of this shift, but also need to be reactionary.  A group of angry diners can quickly ruin a restaurant’s reputation through social media outlets.  If these owners are present and quick to react to a negative review, they can often save the reputation of their restaurants before the angry diner starts a movement against them.

I also encourage restaurant owners to allow the consumers to drive their brand image.  Be present where the customers are and listen closely to what they want and any restaurant can launch and maintain a successful internet marketing campaign.  It’s not as complex and overwhelming as most restaurant owners think…it’s all about adjusting the way you think about marketing and branding to suit the need and wants of the consumers.  It really is that simple and it really applies to any industry.

For more tips on internet marketing, branding and social media strategy, visit the ebootcamp website and stay tuned to our blog and follow us on Facebook for more articles like this one.