The food industry is a booming sector and one that is highly competitive both on the high street and at the high end ‘fine dining’ level. As such, marketing is very important for you in order to project the right image and to grow during a very slow economic period. The difficulty that you face these day’s is that the economic downturn has squeezed your regular customers. Many restaurants are finding that their regulars are not coming in as much, and people are becoming more price conscious. Fine dining like the Fat Duck is doing well, as there are a lot of people still happy to pay for high quality food. Discount restaurants like Weatherspoons are offering cheap food deals, which can make your customers more price conscious. High street restaurants like Zizzi and Nandos are popular because they are chain restaurants. The UK has tens of thousands of restaurants that target different social groups and economic markets:
Each group caters to a different social group, fast food is cheap, quick and fast turn around with low profit margins per customer. The fine dining is more precision and higher profit per customer (at the two ends of the spectrum).
The restaurant sector has been helped in recent years by TV programs such as ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen‘, ‘MasterChef‘. TV chefs such as Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey all help to boost the catering industry and sow the seed about eating well, eating healthy and eating out. Marketing for restaurants has been helped inadvertently by these as people will want to eat out more.
There are a wide variety of marketing tools available to you. Depending on what ‘social level’ you are trying to reach some are more relevant than others. Most restaurants will opt for ‘local advertising’ so as to reach customers in the local communities and encourage customer loyalty which will boost ‘the regulars’. This is something that all restaurants share as a similar strategy. To get a group of customers that come back on a weekly basis as a habit (whether it is students to the take away or young professionals to a fine dining establishment).
Although considered expensive, advertising for restaurants is very important. There are a number of forms available to you depending on what kind of targeting you are looking for. TV advertising is popular with national chains (such as McDonalds). But is more about creating brand awareness rather than specific targeted advertising. Radio advertising is popular, as it can be low cost and localised to promote specific event days or themed functions. Visual advertising and billboard advertising is popular (again mainly with larger chains) but can (like radio advertising) be geographically targeted for smaller independents.
Websites play an important role, for brand awareness and for information purposes. Websites for restaurants work in a different way to other businesses (such as engineering companies, online shops etc.) as they are not used for lead generation or sales, but used more as a virtual shop window. Smaller catering companies (such as the local fish & chip shop) will not really require a website. But a hotel that is promoting their dining will certainly need a website to showcase their dining facilities, food, ambiance and kitchens. Websites play an important part in marketing for restaurants.
PR serves as an important tool for all, other than the local fish & chip shop/low end fast food companies. PR is all about creating brand awareness for you, and PR for restaurants can be considered as one of the most important areas of promotion to be adopted. Raising your profile in the local press, national press or promoting events are all areas that PR is helpful for and there are many PR agencies for restaurantsaround the UK that have experience in working in the food & dining industry. Much of your business comes from word of mouth, recommendations from friends to try a place on their recommendation (something PR is helpful to promote).
Brochures for restaurants are necessary for a range of reasons. They could be promotional to show the range of foods. They could be informative, giving a history of the restaurant.
For many, being found on the internet is not a major issue, as their website is primarily used as a showcasing tool. That said however, search engine optimisation for restaurants is something that does need to be considered as more people are choosing the internet to find somewhere local or good place for a meal. Smaller businesses would not really be concerned with SEO work, however SEO is a very helpful promotional tool to be considered.
Online visibility is important to all restaurants, and you are no different. You just have to do a search for someone local on a search engine and you will see that many restaurants do make use of paid advertising. Pay per click marketing for restaurants is very helpful as it can be very targeted and only bring up adverts for very specific searches. This often leads to specialist websites like Open Table that are set up just to serve restaurants with their marketing.
Selecting the right marketing agency is important. There are tens of thousands around the UK all offering ‘award winning services’ or ‘the UK’s number 1 marketing company’. Not all are the same, some are better than others, and for you, choosing the right one is essential (otherwise it will mean wasted money, wasted time and possibly a bad impact on you). Choosing an agency that has experience in working with the restaurant industry is important. If they have a track record in the food industry, this will be a major advantage. If possible, choosing someone that is local is going to be very helpful. If you can visit them and check them out (ensure that their claims can be justified), meet the team. Even have them come to you (and eat) will be helpful. This will build the relationship, which should ensure that they will work harder for you. There is a loyalty that comes with working with a ‘local supplier’ rather than one at the other side of the UK or overseas. They are more likely to go the extra mile (during times of recession, this is important) if they meet you and have that personal contact.
One thing to bear in mind when considering using a marketing agency, is that they are all profit making machines. All are privately owned and need to generate good profits to pay for houses, holidays, cars, staff, offices, advertising. In today’s world, shopping around and comparing quotes is important in order to avoid overpaying. Paying a lot for your marketing (SEO, PR etc.) will not guarantee results. Just that you are paying towards someone’s holiday. Getting the cheapest price also will not ensure a good deal, just that you are not paying as much. The results are all that matter, so asking about any guarantees, or KPI’s (key performance indicators) is wise, so you can track how successful the campaign is. Marketing is not about jumping into the unknown. It can be tracked and modified so as to measure how successful it is and how profitable it is for you. Marketing for restaurants does not have to be expensive if you choose the right agency.
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