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digital marketing for restaurants

In the culinary world, where aromas and flavors reign supreme, digital marketing emerges as the secret sauce for restaurants looking to expand their customer base.

Gone are the days when a simple sign on the door and word-of-mouth were enough to fill tables. Today, the digital realm offers a smorgasbord of opportunities to connect with food lovers near and far.

But let’s face it, not every restaurateur is a tech wizard with deep pockets.

The good news? You don’t have to be! The digital marketing landscape is brimming with cost-effective, easy-to-implement strategies that even those less tech-savvy can master.

From the power of a well-crafted Instagram post to the community-building prowess of email newsletters, the tools to enhance your restaurant’s online presence are both accessible and affordable.

In this guide, we’ll whisk you through the essentials of digital marketing tailored for the culinary industry.

RELATED: Smart Marketing for Restaurants

Whether you’re a cozy café in a quaint neighborhood or a bustling eatery in the heart of the city, these strategies are designed to be your digital sous-chefs, helping you cook up a storm of online engagement without breaking the bank.

So, tie on your apron and get ready to serve up your restaurant’s story in the digital dining room where everyone’s invited!

1. Social Media Marketing: The Heartbeat Of Your Restaurant’s Online Presence

In the digital era, social media marketing for restaurants is like the perfect seasoning blend – it enhances flavor and brings out the best in your dishes.

It’s where your restaurant’s personality comes to life, engaging with a community of food lovers and potential customers.

Let’s dive into how you can spice up your social media strategy.


Choose Your Platform Wisely
Like selecting the right ingredients for a recipe, choose the social media platform that resonates most with your target audience. Instagram, with its visual appeal, is a hit among the younger crowd, perfect for showcasing your culinary creations in all their glory.

Serve Up Engaging Content
Keep your audience hungry for more with a regular serving of engaging content. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your kitchen, highlight daily specials, and feature glowing customer reviews. It’s about creating a narrative that not only showcases your menu but also tells your restaurant’s unique story.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Consistency is Key
An inconsistent posting schedule is like an undercooked meal – it just doesn’t satisfy. Maintain a regular rhythm in your posts to keep your audience engaged and your restaurant top of mind.

Engagement is a Two-Way Street
When customers take the time to comment or message, they’re stepping into your virtual restaurant. Ignoring these interactions is like overlooking a guest in your dining room. Always engage with your audience, whether it’s a simple ‘thank you’ or answering a query.

Maximizing Value:

Embrace Scheduling Tools
Just as a well-organized kitchen runs more smoothly, using free scheduling tools like Metricool can streamline your social media efforts. Plan and schedule your posts in advance, ensuring a consistent flow of content. It’s like having a digital sous-chef, helping you manage the bustling kitchen that is your social media platform.

In the world of restaurant marketing, social media is your digital dining table – a place to gather, share, and connect with your patrons. By following these tips and avoiding common pitfalls, you can create a social media presence that not only attracts new customers but also delights and retains your existing clientele. Bon appétit!

Social Media marketing Guide | Torie Mathis

2. Email Marketing: Your Restaurant’s Recipe For Direct Connection

With restaurant marketing, email stands out as a classic ingredient, much like the timeless appeal of a well-loved family recipe. It’s a direct line to your customers, a way to whisper into their inboxes with updates and offers that entice them back to your tables.

Let’s explore how to make the most of email marketing for your restaurant.


Harvesting Email Addresses
Start by planting the seeds for a robust email list. Set up a simple sign-up form on your website or have a guestbook in your restaurant where diners can leave their email addresses. Think of it as inviting them to join your restaurant’s family.

Delicious Newsletters
Once you have your list, it’s time to serve up some tantalizing newsletters. Mix in special offers, sprinkle in updates about upcoming events, and garnish with the latest menu additions. Your newsletter should be a tempting platter of what’s cooking in your restaurant.

Mistakes to Avoid:

The Perils of Overmailing
Flooding inboxes is akin to over-seasoning a dish – it can be overwhelming. Be mindful of how often you send emails. Too many, and you risk customers unsubscribing.

A Feast for the Eyes
The presentation is just as important in your emails as it is on the plate. Lackluster design can make even the most exciting content fall flat. Ensure your emails are visually appealing, reflecting the ambiance and style of your restaurant.

Maximizing Value:

Savvy Tools for Savvy Marketers
Embrace the power of email marketing tools like Constant Contact or Kartra. These platforms offer user-friendly interfaces and templates, making it easy to create attractive emails.

Plus, they often come with analytics tools, so you can see which dishes – I mean, emails – are delighting your customers’ palates.

In the digital dining experience, email marketing is your direct line to your customers’ hearts and appetites. By collecting emails thoughtfully, crafting engaging newsletters, and using the right tools, you can turn a simple email list into a bustling crowd of regulars, eagerly awaiting their next meal at your restaurant.

Email marketing guide | Torie Mathis

3. Local SEO And Google My Business: Navigating Your Restaurant To The Top Of Search Results

In the digital age, where the quest for the perfect dining spot often begins with a search engine query, mastering Local SEO and Google My Business (GMB) is akin to having the best street-side location in town. It’s about making your restaurant visible and inviting in the digital neighborhood.

Let’s dive into how you can optimize these tools to bring more patrons to your tables.


Claim Your Digital Real Estate
Start by claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing. This is your restaurant’s profile on Google, and it’s crucial. Ensure that all information is accurate and appetizing – from the address and phone number to your operating hours.

Add mouth-watering photos of your dishes and the ambiance of your restaurant to give potential customers a taste of what to expect.

Harvesting Reviews
Encourage your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Google. These reviews are like personal recommendations to potential diners who discover your restaurant online. A glowing review can be the nudge they need to choose your restaurant over another.

Review Bootcamp with TOrie Mathis

Mistakes to Avoid:

Keep Information Fresh
Just like your ingredients, your business information needs to be fresh and up-to-date. Neglecting to update your GMB listing with current hours, menu changes, or contact details can lead to customer frustration and missed opportunities.

Embrace All Feedback
While it’s great to receive positive reviews, negative feedback is inevitable. Ignoring negative reviews is a missed opportunity for improvement and can damage your online reputation. Always respond professionally and constructively to negative reviews, showing potential customers that you value feedback and strive to provide the best experience.

Maximizing Value:

Stay Active and Engaging
Regularly update your GMB listing with new photos, posts about specials, or upcoming events. This activity not only keeps your profile fresh but also signals to Google that your business is active, which can help improve your search ranking.

Think of your GMB listing as a dynamic showcase of your restaurant – the more engaging and updated it is, the more it will attract potential customers.

In the world of digital dining discovery, Local SEO and Google My Business are your beacons, guiding hungry customers to your doorstep. By effectively managing these tools, you ensure that when someone in your area searches for a great place to eat, your restaurant not only appears but stands out. Bon appétit, digital style!

SEO Guide | Torie Mathis

4. Influencer Partnerships: Spicing Up Your Restaurant’s Marketing With Local Flavors

In restaurant marketing, partnering with influencers and food bloggers is like adding a secret ingredient to your recipe – it can significantly enhance your reach and appeal. In a landscape where social proof reigns supreme, these modern-day tastemakers can be your allies in attracting a wider audience.

Let’s explore how to cook up successful influencer partnerships.


Forge Local Connections
Start by scouting for local food bloggers or influencers who resonate with your restaurant’s vibe and cuisine. These partnerships are like culinary collaborations, where their endorsement serves as a seal of approval to their followers.

A Taste of Your World
Offer these influencers a free meal or a unique dining experience in exchange for an honest review or social media posts. This exchange isn’t just about free food; it’s about creating an authentic narrative around your restaurant’s offerings and ambiance.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Brand Alignment is Key
The influencer’s audience should mirror your target demographic. Partnering with influencers who don’t align with your restaurant’s brand or audience is like serving a mismatched meal – it won’t satisfy.

Clear Expectations
To avoid a recipe for misunderstanding, set clear expectations for the partnership. Discuss the scope of the content, the messaging, and the expected outcomes. It’s important that both parties are on the same page to ensure a fruitful collaboration.

Maximizing Value:

The Power of Micro-Influencers
Don’t just focus on influencers with massive followings. Micro-influencers, though they may have smaller audiences, often boast higher engagement rates and a more dedicated local following. Their recommendations can be more personal and trusted, akin to a friend’s suggestion rather than a broad broadcast.

In the digital age, influencer partnerships offer a unique opportunity to amplify your restaurant’s presence and charm. By carefully selecting influencers who align with your brand and setting clear partnership terms, you can turn their social media posts into a powerful tool for attracting new customers.

It’s about creating a buzz around your restaurant that resonates with the local community and beyond.

5. User-Generated Content: Stirring Up Authentic Engagement

There’s a special ingredient that often goes underutilized in restaurant marketing – user-generated content (UGC). This is the content created by your customers, capturing their experiences at your restaurant. It’s authentic, relatable, and can be incredibly persuasive. Let’s delve into how you can whip up a successful UGC strategy.


Encourage Sharing
Inspire your customers to become storytellers of their dining experiences. Gently nudge them to share their moments on social media and tag your restaurant. It could be a picture of their favorite dish, a selfie with your restaurant’s decor in the background, or a short video of their dining experience.

Spark Creativity with Contests
Ignite engagement by running contests or offering incentives for sharing content. For instance, a monthly contest where the best customer photo wins a free meal or a discount. This not only encourages content creation but also adds an element of fun and community to your brand.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Don’t Let It Simmer Quietly
Simply having a UGC strategy isn’t enough; you need to actively promote it. Whether it’s through in-restaurant signage, social media prompts, or verbal encouragement from your staff, make sure your customers are aware and excited about sharing their experiences.

Recognition is Key
When customers take the time to create and share content, it’s crucial to acknowledge their efforts. Failing to repost, comment, or thank them can be a missed opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. Show appreciation for their content – it’s the digital equivalent of thanking a guest for dining at your restaurant.

Maximizing Value:

Blend UGC into Your Marketing Mix
With permission, use customer-generated content in your marketing materials. This could be featuring customer photos on your social media, in email newsletters, or even in promotional materials. UGC adds a layer of authenticity and relatability to your marketing efforts, showcasing real people enjoying what you have to offer.

User-generated content is like the word-of-mouth of the digital age. It’s powerful, persuasive, and personal. By encouraging and leveraging UGC, you not only enhance your online presence but also build a community around your restaurant. It’s about turning your customers into your most passionate marketers and their experiences into your most compelling advertisements.

6. Online Advertising: Serving Up Your Restaurant To The Right Audience

In the digital feast of restaurant marketing, online advertising is like a well-placed billboard on the information highway. It’s a way to catch the eye of potential diners as they navigate the online world. But in the vast landscape of the internet, how do you ensure your ads reach the right people?

Let’s explore the recipe for successful online advertising for your restaurant.


Start Small and Targeted
Dip your toes into the waters of online advertising with small, focused campaigns. Platforms like Facebook and Google offer a smorgasbord of targeting options. You can tailor your ads to reach a specific demographic or focus on local targeting, ensuring your ads are seen by potential customers in your area.

Cater to Your Audience
Understanding your audience is key. Are you a family-friendly diner, or do you offer a fine dining experience? Tailor your ads to resonate with the specific group of people most likely to be interested in your restaurant. This targeted approach ensures that your advertising budget is spent effectively, reaching those most likely to walk through your doors.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Avoid a Scattergun Approach
One common pitfall in online advertising is spending too much money without testing different ad sets. Start with a modest budget and experiment with various ad formats and messages. This approach allows you to see what works best before increasing your spend.

Track Your Success (or Lack Thereof)
Not tracking the performance of your ads is like cooking without tasting. Use tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to monitor how your ads are performing. This data is invaluable; it tells you what’s resonating with your audience and what’s not, allowing you to tweak your campaigns for better results.

Maximizing Value:

Leverage Free Analytics Tools
Both Facebook Insights and Google Analytics offer powerful insights into ad performance and don’t cost a dime. These tools can help you understand who is engaging with your ads, how they’re interacting with them, and what actions they’re taking afterward. By regularly reviewing this data, you can refine your advertising strategy, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.

Online advertising in the restaurant industry is about more than just getting your name out there; it’s about strategically placing your brand in front of the right people at the right time. With careful planning, targeted campaigns, and a keen eye on performance data, your online ads can become a significant driver of new customers to your restaurant.

RELATED: 45 Restaurant Marketing Ideas

The Final Garnish to Your Digital Marketing Feast

As we wrap up our culinary journey through the world of digital marketing for restaurants, let’s take a moment to savor the key takeaways. In the bustling digital marketplace, standing out without breaking the bank is much like crafting a memorable dish from simple, quality ingredients. The essence lies in using cost-effective digital marketing strategies that are as flavorful as they are financially savvy.

Remember, the secret to a successful digital marketing strategy is akin to perfecting a signature recipe – start small, taste-test (monitor results), and then gradually add more ingredients (expand efforts).

Whether it’s engaging with customers on social media, sending mouth-watering emails, optimizing your Google My Business listing, collaborating with local influencers, encouraging user-generated content, or running targeted online ads, each strategy offers its unique flavor to your overall marketing mix.

Don’t be daunted by the vastness of the digital marketing landscape. Like any good chef, trust your instincts, be willing to experiment, and adjust your strategies based on what resonates with your audience. The digital world is your oyster, and with the right approach, you can turn it into a pearl.

Additional Resources

To further spice up your digital marketing skills, consider exploring these resources:

Low Cost Marketing Course: Low Cost Marketing Course is a treasure trove for those looking to dive deeper into cost-effective marketing strategies. It’s designed to help you market your restaurant without draining your resources.

Smart Marketing Quiz: Not sure where to start? Take the Smart Marketing Quiz It’s a great way to assess your current marketing strategies and discover areas for improvement.

Embarking on your digital marketing journey can be as exciting as experimenting with a new recipe.

With these tools and tips, you’re well-equipped to cook up a storm in the digital world, attracting new customers and delighting regulars.

Here’s to your restaurant’s success – may your tables always be full, and your reviews glowing. Bon appétit!

About Digital Marketing Expert Torie Mathis

Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, like you, use digital marketing to grow your business without wasting time, money, or your sanity.  She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and your digital marketing coach. You don't need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. In fact, you don't even need a lot of time. What you need is to be SMART.

Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, with her husband Sean and is the creator of SMART AF Magazine. Learn from Torie at the Smart Arsenal and on her channel.

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hi im torie
I help entrepreneurs  learn digital marketing.
And I make it easy! 

You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.

What you need is to be SMART.

Is YOUR marketing SMART?

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Hi! I'm Torie!

Torie Mathis HeadshotI help entrepreneurs (like you) use digital marketing to get more clients + make more money. And I make it easy!

You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.

What you need is to be SMART.

Get Smart AF

from your Digital Marketing Coach Torie Mathis!

Let's get SMART!

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