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You’ve got a great restaurant concept. You’re in the trendiest neighborhood in the city and you have a variety of delicious menu items.

Although you’ve worked hard to create what should be a restaurant hit, you’re struggling to get customers through your doors.

Whether you have one location business or a 300 location business with restaurants all over the country, you’ve got to make your restaurant feel local to acquire new customers and keep customers coming back. 

Here are six ways to market a local restaurant. 

Leverage Online Reviews

Customers will find your business online. Even loyal customers who already know you. 

What customers see greatly depends on how well you manage your online reviews. When consumers go to Google and search “restaurants in Chicago,” for example, they’ll see star ratings and reviews.

According to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, the average star rating for restaurants is 4.14. Restaurants who get their star ratings above average will see an increase in foot traffic. In addition, the consistent influx of reviews helps increase where your restaurant shows up in search engine rankings, which leads to more consumers knowing about your restaurant.

Maintain a Local Feel as a Franchise

Kevin Tash, CEO of full service marketing agency Tack Media, says that for franchises, it’s good to segment audiences. Here are his tips:

  • Make sure that you geo segment your customers so that each city has a tailored feel and vibe. So, if you’re in Burbank, let people know what’s going on in Burbank with news and events and promotions specific to Burbank.
  • Get involved in the community, sponsor local events that pertain to local markets.
  • Use social media to address different markets, including sharing news and events that are relevant.
  • Use SMS, and email messaging that pertains to that geo-targeted audience. They will feel like you are speaking to them directly.

Focus on Instagram

Eric Johnson, content and video specialist for FeedbackWrench, says Instagram is a great way to get consumers excited about your restaurant.

“In many industries, the benefits of influencer marketing are over-hyped. In the restaurant industry, however, it pays to have a few friends with large followings. These days, foodies aren’t just looking in magazines and newspapers for ideas – they’re turning to Instagram as well.”

“A surprising amount of Instagram influencers will trade a feature of your restaurant on their feed for a free meal or a few bucks. The key is identifying the most influential figures in your market and getting them interested in what you have. In most markets, there is a very small community of food influencers that have the capability to generate all sorts of buzz for you and your restaurant.”

Keep Local Customers Loyal in an ‘Old-Fashioned’ Way

Colleen Troy of Touchpoint Communications in Charleston, South Carolina says she tells clients to love the locals.

“While we embrace all of the out of towners who come here to dine, we want our clients to remember that it’s the locals who will love them back come January, when there are no tourists in town,” she says.

“Love locals in old-fashioned ways: remember them by name or at least by site; train bar staff to remember what people drink or enjoy eating. Give them a little gift from the kitchen now and again. Do some locals-focused events that offer favorable pricing. Support a beloved local non profit to help demonstrate what your core values are.”

More Than Just Social Media

Kyle Golding, CEO and chief strategist at The Golding Group, won the Award of Excellence in Social Media Tactics  from the American Marketing Association for his company’s social media strategy for a restaurant client.

“The best thing I did for my restaurant client was focus attention on the one food dish they are most well known for. This includes personification of this particular appetizer with social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) that allow the food to ‘speak’ for the restaurant. This is a way to remind the audience what they like most and set the restaurant apart from their competitors. This keeps the conversation on ‘you have the best in town.’”

“We did a social media promotion leading up to the annual anniversary party for this client’s second location. The prize was the flagship dish free (one a week) for a year for guessing how many we have sold up to that date. We get hundreds of entries on social media using a special hashtag with a total number guess.”

Keep Up With Food Trends

It’s essential keep up food trends each year. It’s how you deliver a customer experience that meets customer expectations. 

One food trend involves specific food items themselves. According to research by restaurant POS and management company Upserve, jackfruit, coconut, brisket, and charcoal are among the top-selling menu items of the year. The company suggests adding these items to your menu. 

Eater has stacked up a list of the top food trends of 2018. According to Restaurant Business, Asian island cuisine and restaurants that are designed for delivery and takeout are among some of the top food trends. According to Buzzfeed, vegan desserts is another major food trend. 

Megan Wenzl

Megan is the Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers. She's a writer who is committed to finding useful information to help your business succeed. Megan holds an M.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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