There’s a line out the door on a Saturday night, everyone front-of-house is in the weeds, and your kitchen is struggling to keep up with orders from both the dining room and GrubHub customers.
Any restaurateur would be so lucky to have these problems.
To get there, though, you need more than just great service and word-of-mouth. You need the know-how, the customer experience, and the online visibility to keep a stream of people coming through your door.
Here are 17 ways you can leverage technology to do just that.
The Basics: Be Where Customers Look For You
Partner With On-Demand Delivery Apps
In fact, it’s becoming such a popular habit among many American consumers that companies such as Amazon, Uber and Yelp are getting into the business. “The major players nationally are currently in a major expansion phase, and many national delivery services are merging,” Matthew Sonnenshein notes at Gourmet Marketing. “You can choose from these major providers or local services that might offer better terms and more personalized service.”
If your restaurant has the kitchen capacity to handle delivery orders, this channel is a great way to get in front of new customers and boost revenues.
Check Your Google Maps Listing
When people are thinking about eating at your restaurant, they’ll probably Google it. If they see conflicting hours or a lack of address, though, they might go eat somewhere else instead. Design company Restaurant Den explains how to get your restaurant properly listed on Google Maps. In most cases, you just have to make a Google+ page for the restaurant and then reply to Google’s request for verification.
Use Tech Tools to Enhance the Guest’s Experience
Start a Loyalty Program
Megan Marrs at WordStream suggests that you venture into the world of apps and start your own loyalty program as a marketing tactic. People will want to come back and invite others with them when they receive freebies and discounts just for dining.
Let Customers Reserve a Table from Their Phones
The days of calling ahead for a reservation are just about over. Laura DiBenedetto at Vision Advertising recommends using online services that let customers grab a seat at your restaurant from their smartphone, tablet or computer.
The Right Ways to Use Social Media
You Don’t Need to be Everywhere
“Creating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are a quick and cost-effective way to expand your restaurant’s online real estate, and engage diners directly with promotions, contests and news,” the GrubHub team writes on the company’s blog. “But new restaurants shouldn’t feel pressured to master every social media channel simultaneously. Start by developing content and an audience base on a core profile before diversifying your strategy.”
Reply to Most (but Not All) Reviews
Whether it’s on Foursquare, Yelp or Facebook, people who dine at your restaurant will make their voices heard online. Kristen Hawley at Open for Business by OpenTable writes that there’s no need to respond to every last comment you receive. Don’t ignore negative feedback; try to address it in equal measure to the good comments. Also, keep your reply tailored to the length of the original comment so that a longer comment gets a longer reply.
Don’t Just Fill Your Restaurant’s Instagram with Pictures of Food
Instagram users are known for posting picture after picture of delicious food, so you would expect a restaurant owner to do the same, right? While you should promote new dishes and best-sellers, social media marketing company Wishpond recommends that you humanize your account by posting pictures of employees who do stellar work. On-the-job images give your restaurant personality that goes beyond the food.
Bookmark These Resources
National Restaurant Association
The National Restaurant Association is a one-stop destination for career opportunities in hospitality, reports on long-term industry trends, advocacy issues and events that restaurant owners may want to attend. First-time restaurant owners can learn more about regulatory back-of-house and front-of-house operations, food safety, nutritional information, workforce engagement and better sales and marketing tactics.
The Restaurant Expert
David Scott Peters calls himself The Restaurant Expert. You can work with Peters one-on-one and ask for a free consultation, and if you’re in the Phoenix area, you can also sign up for any of his workshops. Otherwise, Peters’ site goes in-depth on useful topics such as labor cost management, food cost management, restaurant management and more.
Grits + Grids
Branding is so crucial to the success of any company, including restaurants. Learn more about packaging, beverage branding, restaurant branding and marketing when reading Grits + Grids. With industry news, articles and interviews with food photographers and branding gurus, there’s a lot of information.
Restaurant Business Magazine
The online version of Restaurant Business Magazine is jam-packed with expert opinions from top chefs and restaurateurs, news about franchises and smaller restaurants across the country, and advice on all aspects of business operations. If you’re still in the planning stages, don’t miss the site’s ranking of cities in the United States where restaurants do worst and best.
AmTrust North America
For smaller restaurants, AmTrust North America offers commercial package insurance coverage and workers’ compensation. The company has a dedicated page full of useful resources for learning about workers’ compensation in the restaurant industry. There are also links on how to prevent injuries in the workplace.
Gluten Intolerance Group
Gluten-free is a big trend these days. To learn more about the effects of gluten or to get your meals officially certified as gluten-free, check out the Gluten Intolerance Group. Founded in 1974, this nonprofit is based in Auburn, Washington, and has a Chef to Plate program where restaurants prepare gluten-free meals for Celiac Awareness Month in May.
An analytics and trends service, Sandelman has a quarterly newsletter called Tracks… that includes information on the evolving food market. The data is broken down into two programs, the Casual-Track and the Quick-Track. There are also yearly reports dating back to 2013.
American Customer Satisfaction Index
Measuring customer approval across various industries, the American Customer Satisfaction Index publishes annual reports. The ASCI Restaurant Report 2015 details the success of full-service restaurants, fast casual chains, quick-service establishments and more. You can also check out reports back to 2010.
If you do own a quick-service restaurant, QSR Magazine is an engaging read. You can browse news about big restaurant chains, consumer trends, overall industry news, restaurant software, food safety, financing and more. There are also guest posts offering insights into all aspects of the restaurant business.
MarketPlace’s Trending Blog
Marketing company MarketPlace has an excellent food marketing trends blog that will help you create a stronger brand and make stronger connections with your business’ audience in general.