How to keep the fire burning when you’re not a new restaurant
As an owner of a PR agency specialising in the hospitality industry, I am regularly asked by restaurants about how they can keep their customers engaged once the ‘open now’ honeymoon period comes to an end. This is particularly relevant in Sydney — a city obsessed with the next hot restaurant opening.
It can be difficult to recreate the level of attention and hype you get from opening a brand-new venue, however there are a few strategies you can engage to help reach that pot at the end of the rainbow — customer loyalty.
Engage with your customers
Interacting regularly with customers is essential in building loyal a base, whether it be through eDM, social media or even text message. In particular, social media gives us the opportunity to celebrate successes, offer incentives and inform your customers of new menu items.
For food brands, Instagram is an incredibly visual showcase and a fantastic tool to update and engage with current and potential customers. Some key things to remember when creating and maintaining an effective Instagram channel for your brand:
– Use smart and brand relevant hashtags as a tool to help users find and interact with your brand;
– Interact with your customers who interact with you — respond to comments, like their posts and comment on their photos, etc;
– Promote user-generated content to encourage further interaction and provide incentive for others to share their own brand relevant content — i.e, regram;
– Post regularly! There are many great social media management tools including Hootsuite and Schedugram to ease the pain of posting most days;
– Consider professional photography to create light, bright and crispy imagery. Remember, Instagram is a visual platform. Two examples of restaurants doing this on their Instagram accounts are Nour Restaurant and Nel Restaurant.
Facebook is a great tool to reach current and new audiences, create leads and generate bookings. In saying this, the algorithm is changing constantly, which means a large portion of what we see on our feeds is paid content. An average of only 2 percent of your current audience will be seeing your posts organically. Consider hiring an expert to help you reach your brand-relevant audience through a targeted advertising campaign.
Remember, people are now more likely to visit your social channels before checking out your website, so make sure you are investing time in getting your Facebook and Instagram channels up to scratch.
Improve your online blueprint
In addition to social media, ensure your digital presence is up to date. Update your website, TripAdvisor, Zomato and Eatability accounts with new menus and imagery regularly. Set up your business Google+ page, link in with an online booking system (such as Opentable or Dimmi), and partner with a delivery service where relevant. This improves your business searchability and is an easy way to maximise search engine optimisation. Finally, set up a Google alert for your venue to monitor any press that might be coming your way.
Encourage customer feedback
The easiest way to please your customers is to listen to what they say. Develop in-house strategies to get feedback including customer surveys given at the end of a meal incentivised with a prize — this is also a great way to gather customer data. Finally, respond to customer comments on third-party websites — both the good and the bad.
Launch something new
Are things getting a bit stale? Your customers will be the first to feel this. Collaborate with another brand to create something new, generate a newsworthy (and Instagrammable) dish or get creative around relevant calendar dates. Consider inviting a group of targeted bloggers or influencers to try your new creation, or if you are looking for a serious boost, speak to a PR agency about a relaunch campaign. Cuckoo Callay’s Bacon Festival is a fantastic case study on second-stage creative marketing.
PR practitioners are good at what they do because they have strong contacts within the industry — particularly in the media space. Being engaged in the hospitality community and attending industry-relevant events is a great way to meet media, bloggers and influencers, along with other likeminded business owners.
George Redmond is among more than 30 speakers who will attend this year’s Restaurant Leader’s Summit. Redmond will speak alongside other PR and marketing experts on a panel designed to help established hospitality operators make the most of social media, website development, events and PR.
George Redmond is the co-owner of hospitality marketing, PR and social media agency WASAMEDIA.