Ah, one of my favorite industries to write about! I love food, and I love eating at restaurants. That’s why the restaurant industry is such a fun one to write about, because I get to think about two of my favorite subjects: food and marketing.
There are many pros and cons to being a marketer in a popular vertical like the restaurant industry. Yes, it is “easy” to market an industry that people are naturally drawn to, but the biggest challenge restaurant marketers face is the insane level of competition. Everyone needs to eat, so why should someone choose your restaurant over the one down the street, or the other one in a more scenic location, or that other one in a more affordable price range? Standing out against so much competition is definitely the biggest challenge for marketers.
Long gone are the days where restaurant marketers could take out an ad in the local paper, post some mouth-watering food flyers around town, and assume that word-of-mouth would be enough to recruit hungry customers. Now, restaurant marketers need to have a robust social strategy in order to keep the orders firing in. Here, I’m going to share 11 tips to get the most reservations and revenue out of Facebook ads for restaurants:
- Use location targeting
- Target people most likely to dine with you
- Expand your reach with lookalike audiences
- Intrigue customers with atmosphere
- Promote your positive press
- Entice new customers with fun free events
- Show off your staff
- Plan for seasonal boosts
- Take advantage of ad scheduling
- Speak to your unique dining experience
- Show off your happy diners
But first, why Facebook?
So why is Facebook the place to be for restaurant marketers? Facebook is a popular place for people to discover new things, like restaurants! In fact, 49% of people actually search Facebook to find new restaurants.
The fact that people are now using Facebook for restaurant discovery, much like Yelp, is pretty astounding. On top of those people, you also have Facebook users just going about their business who also happen to need to make a reservation for their friends coming to town on Saturday. And then there your ad is, showing off your sizzling fajita special, your juicy hand-packed burgers, or your unforgettable homemade brownie sundae. Oh, and there just happens to be a CTA enticing this individual to make an easy online reservation. Who could resist that?
If you are new to the Facebook advertising world or looking to take your restaurant marketing to the next level, do not worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are 11 tips to get more patrons into your restaurant with Facebook ads.
1. Use location targeting
Before even getting into the ad creative of your restaurant marketing strategy, you need to configure your targeting options to ensure your ads are showing to the right people. For instance, you don’t want to pay to show ads of your New York City restaurant to people living in Portland, Oregon.
This is why the first thing you need to do is configure location targeting. Luckily, Facebook makes this quite easy. You can do this by entering the specific zip code of your restaurant location in Facebook’s Ad Manager platform. You may want to add some neighboring zip codes to ensure you are covering areas where people would be likely to travel in from to dine at your delicious location!
2. Target people most likely to dine with you
Location targeting is a great start to your ad campaign strategy, but don’t stop there! One of the main benefits of using Facebook as a platform for advertising your restaurant is the ridiculously specific level of detailed targeting options available. Under “Detailed Targeting,” you’ll find three categories: Demographics, Interests, and Behaviors, under which are several sub-categories. I recommend reflecting on your target diner and exploring the options available.
Let’s say you run a barbecue joint in Nashville targeted towards local college students. Under “Interests,” there is a “Food and Drink” category where you can target those interested in “Fast casual restaurants” and “Barbecue.” You can then layer that with demographic targeting of those currently enrolled in undergraduate school between the years of 2019 and 2023. Pretty neat, right?
3. Expand your reach with lookalike audiences
Have you already configured a Facebook audience that has performed quite well? Or perhaps you have a loyal audience from your website? Facebook has a great option to expand your reach even further called “Lookalike Audience.”
“If you have an email list of 1,000 or more from your existing customer base, you can also upload that list into Facebook to target them directly and/or create what’s called a lookalike audience of them,” says LYFE Marketing. “A lookalike audience is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an audience that looks like the original audience. So if you upload 1,000 or more emails and tell Facebook ‘This is what my customer base looks like. Find more people who look like my customers,’ that’s exactly what a Facebook lookalike audience will do.”
4. Intrigue customers with atmosphere
Did you know that 25% of new restaurants don’t make it past their first year? According to a study by Coyle Hospitality Group, atmosphere is one of the top considerations when choosing where to dine.
“The results of the study show that diners value atmosphere, so much so that a negative atmosphere would make them less likely to recommend the restaurant as a whole, no matter how positively they reacted to the food, staff, and service,” says ShopKeep.
So what does this tell you as the restaurant marketer? Not only does it inform you of how important it is to build a fabulous atmosphere, but also the importance of flaunting your atmosphere to intrigue new diners. Take the example below from Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar. Rather than focusing on the food in every post, Lolita shows off its sexy space with some tempting copy in this Facebook ad.
5. Promote your positive press
Press is such a critical aspect of restaurant marketing. In fact, getting positive press can often make or break a restaurant. As a frequent listener of the Bon Appetit podcast, I have heard many anecdotes from restaurant owners on how game-changing good press can be. Those who get features in Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant List instantly see a huge boost in business.
If you are one the lucky restaurants to pick up some hot press, then you need to keep that momentum going for as long as humanly possible! What better way to do this than with Facebook ads? When your target audience sees that some legitimate publications have thoroughly enjoyed dining at your establishment, they are going to want to hop on the trend wagon—and nail down their reservation ASAP.
6. Entice new customers with fun free events
Who doesn’t love free stuff, parties, and food? I would estimate 99.9% of the population love all of those things whole heartedly. I know I do! Facebook ads and event marketing make a pretty sweet combo, so why not come up with a fun event, perhaps themed around a season or holiday, and promote it on the social platform? It is called a “social” platform for a reason—this is a perfect way for new people and new customers to get to know your restaurant.
Take the great example from Row 34, one of my favorite seafood establishments in Boston’s Seaport area. This restaurant promoted an event around Pride to bring in new and old customers through the doors. Their strategy was simple: Take some fun Pride-themed photographs, create some colorful text, create an event ad on Facebook flaunting the “Free” entrance guarantee, and bring more money through the doors!
7. Show off your staff
One of the top things restaurant diners look for is good service. This means having a professional, friendly, and respectful staff. If your employees also happen to be full of personality, then why not show this off? Friendly personalities and smiling human faces are a great way to intrigue new customers on Facebook.
Take the example from the restaurant Little Donkey below. Rather than just posting a million pictures of their delicious food (which is also appreciated!), the restaurant also shows some staff love from time to time. I love the post below acknowledging the staff member’s birthday in such an emotional and personable way.
8. Plan for seasonal boosts
Depending on the location of your restaurant, there might be specific times of the years, months, weeks, or days of the week where you see a spike in dining traffic. For instance, if you are a Mexican joint, Cinco De Mayo is going to be a big day for business. If you are located on Cape Cod, you are likely to see a bigger spike in business during the summer months.
Okay, yes, I am aware that I am stating the obvious—but the point is that you need to plan for these seasonal peaks far ahead of time! If this planning component is ignored, then you likely won’t have time to get your maximum return from your Facebook ad strategy.
9. Take advantage of ad scheduling
Speaking of planning, Facebook makes it extremely easy to schedule your posts ahead of time with their ad scheduling tool. This will ensure you can complete tip #7 before things get truly crazy. Whether there are peak weekday deals to bring diners in with (Taco Tuesday? Thirsty Thursday?) or just specific weeks or hours of the day when you want your ads to show, you can specify all of this with Facebook’s ad scheduling tool.
But what if you are unsure of what time are best to show your ads to future diners? According to HubSpot, the best time to post content on Facebook is 3:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, between 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. This could be a starting point, but think about your unique dining audience to determine an appropriate schedule, and if you are unsure run your ads on all hours and look at the statistics to see when your audience is most active.
10. Speak to your unique dining experience
What makes your restaurant stand out? If you are in the restaurant world, it is important to have something that sets you apart! Is it your James Beard Award-winning chef that greets every table? Perhaps it’s the fun family style of your dining room that makes everyone feel at home? Whatever it is, flaunt it in your Facebook ads!
Take the example below for Nina June in Rockport, Maine. The gorgeous harbor front deck clearly sets this restaurant apart from other local establishments, this is front and center in Facebook ads to intrigue potential diners. It worked wonders for me—as I dined their last summer!
11. Show off your happy diners
Hopefully your diners are happy folks! If they are, you should use this to your benefit. After all, customer reviews are not just for Yelp! If you can snap some photos of your happy diners (with their permission, of course) enjoying your food and having a good time, it is going to make others want to do the same.
I love the fun example below from Island Creek Oysters. These happy customers are really digging right into their mouthwatering seafood snacks.
Bottom line: Facebook ads for restaurants work
While being a restaurant marketer can be extremely challenging due to the high level of competition, it can also be extremely creative and fun! So let your creative juices flow right into Facebook, and you’ll be intriguing more and more diners to come grab a spot at your table.
For help with marketing your restaurant during COVID-19, check out these posts:
- 5 Ways Restaurants Can Use Facebook Ads During COVID-19.
- 5 Clever Strategies for Restaurant Marketing During COVID-19.