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Digital Marketing 101 for Bars & Restaurants

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

By Nick Sieben, President

There is no doubt about it, restaurants are going through a tough time right now. COVID has created yet another obstacle for an industry that already has to overcome too many of them. Unfortunately, we are going to see many restaurants have to close their doors for good over the next few months. Restaurants that are able to weather this storm are going to face less competition and a rejuvenated client base. Now is the time to get creative in finding ways to save your business.

taking picture of food

Restaurants are becoming a larger part of American culture. According to the Restaurant Industry Factbook, Americans spent $863 BILLION DOLLARS at restaurants in 2019. That is more than double of what they spent in 2000. So, the spending is there. The question we hear most is how do we entice Millennials and Generation Z to not only be consumers, but also ambassadors? The answer is simple...Digital Marketing!

It shouldn’t be a surprise to most restaurant owners to hear that word of mouth still has the biggest impact on the restaurant industry. Studies have shown that up to 91% of diners visited a restaurant for the first time purely based on a friend’s recommendation. Right behind that? Reviews. One restaurant owner I have met with referred to reviews as “The Holy Grail of the Restaurant Industry.” 68% of consumers are more inclined to visit a local bar, hotel, or restaurant if it had positive reviews, with 1 in 2 customers saying they won’t even go to a hospitality business with less than a 4-star rating. Think about that. Think of the power the internet has on the industry. Love it or hate it, it doesn’t change the fact that it is completely necessary to embrace entities like Yelp and Google Reviews. Even one bad review can cost up to 30 customers per day.

Another important step is to say active on social media. 77% of the US population is active on social media every day. There is no better place to reach not only your existing clientele, but potential new demographics. Allowing your business to showcase its personality and voice. But how do we grow our social media presence?

We feel there are 7 important rules to grow your social media following:

Consistency – The number one thing we see with social media presence in the restaurant industry is a concentrated effort on social media the following week, and then back to the norm of what they were doing before.

Collaboration – Combining audiences is always a great way to build your audience and is beneficial for both parties. You get to access their followers; they get to access yours. This allows you to promote to people you might not otherwise get the chance to promote to.

Go Live – Streaming parties or game day events or even a live video talking about new promotions is a great way to drive new traffic. Set up a Q&A with a chef or bartender/mixologist to show how to make some of your signature dishes/cocktails are also great ways to create unique content.

Create Spaces Encouraging Social Media Posts - No matter how small your space is, creating a space specifically for Social Media is a FANTASTIC way to create organic promotion from your clientele. Creating a “photo destination” is a great way to create organic growth as well as drive traffic.

Branded & The Use of Hashtags – It’s important to understand and use hashtags. What are you trying to accomplish with your hashtag? Are you trying to promote to the world or your community? Using #foodies will get you a much broader audience then using #minneapolisfoodies, but in your industry, which audience would you prefer?

Featuring “Influencers” – Offer influencers in your community exclusive meals or special curated experiences. Embrace these influencers. Some have tens of thousands of people in your community they could attract to your business, isn’t that worth a free meal?

Show "Behind The Scenes" & Highlight Staff - Profiling your staff and things people don't ordinarily see humanizes the experience for your customers and staff alike. Highlighting funny anecdotes or sharing a funny story creates a stronger connection to your business and makes your clientele feel like they are part of the family.

Does this seem like a lot? That’s because it is. There is a reason why the large chains of the world do a significantly better job than the ma and pa restaurant down the road. They hire teams specifically focused on these things. Smaller businesses try to pass these duties onto their managers that already have more than enough tasks to complete on a day-to-day basis. In Minnesota, the statistics say that the average person would spend about 60-80 hours a month just to create a foundational social media presence. Want to bring someone in to take care of all these duties? That would be ideal, but keep in mind that the average digital marketing salary in Minnesota is $63,000. It is for all of these reasons that Minnesota Social exists.

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