Article contributed by Markii
The opening date for your restaurant is fast approaching and you are diligently working your way through the accumulation of obligations that come with opening a business.
You’ve meticulously selected your kitchen equipment, fought through endless licensing and permitting red tape, and assembled a menu that’s a true work of culinary art. Yet your to-do list seems endless; to say you have your hands full is an understatement. While it’s tempting to think that marketing can wait until after you open, some marketing efforts are time-sensitive and can’t wait until the last minute. Here are four important online marketing actions you should take at least 30 days before your restaurant opens.
Claim and verify your Google Business Profile
Customers looking for inspiration for nearby restaurants will likely depend on Google to meet their needs. Due to its ubiquity, Google is the biggest search referrer for local businesses. You can’t ignore the power of a comprehensive Google (GBP) Business Profile in your restaurant opening strategy: having a GBP means customers are 2.7 times more likely to see your restaurant as reputable and 70% more likely to visit you!
Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is a free online business listing provided by Google. This listing lets you upload and edit important restaurant details, including your location, hours, photos, and menu. Creating GBP for your restaurant is a great (and free!) way to improve your visibility on Google services, such as Google Search and Google Maps.
Verifying your Google Business Profile requires you to request, receive, and follow instructions printed on a physical postcard that Google will send to your business address. Postcards generally arrive within 14 days of your request, but you may need to allow extra time to account for potential delays. Because checking your GBP depends on completing this verification process, the sooner you request your postcard, the better!
Organize all your ads online
Even though Google is the leader in search, there are many other places online where potential customers will search for dining options. And there are few things as frustrating for customers as finding contrasting information on the internet, especially when starving. Hungry consumers can be quickly dissuaded from dining at your restaurant when they have to research what information is correct. When you’re straddling that line between human functioning and hunger, even needing to phone a restaurant to confirm their hours can be overwhelming enough to send you looking for another dining experience.
Conflicting information can also give the impression that you don’t take your business seriously enough to normalize your online presence. Don’t let customers interpret a confusing, poorly managed presence for how you approach other aspects of your customer experience.
As soon as you can access the listings, make sure that Facebook, Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Apple Maps, Bing, Foursquare, etc., all have opening hours, contact details, location, and menu links in correct line from your restaurant. Double-check for accuracy, then schedule ads to go live the day you open. If you wait to be already open, you are late!
Invest some money in Facebook and Instagram ads for the opening week
Social media advertising is a great way to make sure your restaurant opens with a bang. Like you, your contributors are probably active on social media, checking their feeds several times a day. Social media ads are a low-key, low-cost way to get your restaurant in front of many eyes while spending little. Bonus: it’s also a great way to get your mouth watering by showcasing photos of your delicious cooking!
Social media advertising is significantly cheaper (and arguably more effective) than traditional advertising efforts. It doesn’t require cutting big chunks of your marketing budget, and with an abundance of online tutorials on how to handle social ads, there’s a low barrier to entry. A little expense goes a long way with social ads, especially if you’re targeting consumers within a 5-10 mile radius of your restaurant.
Prepare your review management plan
Online reviews are too influential to the success of your business to be ignored as part of your restaurant opening strategy. According to a 2022 consumer survey, 92% of consumers read online reviews and 80% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, strategizing around your review management is key to attracting new customers and maximizing return visits.
Decide in advance how you will encourage customers to leave reviews and how you will react when they leave one. Keep in mind that customers expect quick and thoughtful responses from business owners when submitting reviews. If you neglect to respond, the reviewer feels ignored and looks frowned upon by potential customers who read your reviews. Plan to respond to all reviews – good or bad – within a day or two.