Your site is selected. Your team is in place. You've got a killer concept and a menu to match. All of that matters, and yet none of it counts unless you have a plan for helping customers find your restaurant.
So how will you get your restaurant on your community's radar? This guide will help you strategize.
How can I get the word out?
One of the best ways to help your customers find your restaurant is to promote it on websites your audience is already using. Here are four websites you should certainly look into:
Google My Business
Use Google to create a free business profile that literally puts your business on the map—and ensures you show up in Google searches, too.
When your restaurant shows up on the map, customers will see it anytime they use the maps tool to explore your area or set their navigation to nearby businesses. And, by being set up in maps, customers will have a much easier time routing to your business when they're ready to give it a try.
It's great to be set up for Google searches, too. Many diners turn to Google to find new restaurants in their area, and travelers often do the same.
The signup process is simple. Start by visiting Google's business page and click the blue button that reads “Manage Now.”
Google will coach you through entering your business's name, adding its location(s), and pinpointing the areas you serve. It'll also walk you through the steps of setting up a description of your business, adding photos, and selecting your hours of operation.
When you work through these steps, you'll also set up your business to advertise on Google. Google sometimes offers a credit you can use toward advertising, but you can also set your own budget to set up ads within Google's web searches.
Advertising is a great idea, but of course, it comes at a cost. You may want to work with a digital marketer to ensure you're making the best use of your advertising spend. We know a few who love working with new restaurants. You can check them here:
But even without ad spend, getting your business set up on Google My Business is a great move.
Make sure your business is showing up on Yelp, too. Love it or hate it (many do for the overwhelmingly negative customer reviews of small businesses), having your restaurant listed here is a great way to be found by diners browsing the app.
Here's another reason to list on Yelp: Your listing here can help you rank higher (closer to the top) in Google searches. Google factors Yelp in as a good, credible backlink, and the reviews, comments, and ratings you receive on Yelp can be significant in boosting your findability.
Finally, it's free to list your restaurant and set it up to be discovered by countless customers.
If you're ready to list your restaurant on Yelp, here's what you need to do. First, go to Yelp for Business and click “verify my free listing.” You can enter your business name to see if a listing was automatically created for you. If so, you can walk through a few steps to make sure your information is correct. Otherwise, Yelp will help you register your business by asking for its name, phone number, website, address, and a few other essentials. Your free listing can be completed and posted in as little as five minutes.
|For a limited time, Yelp is offering a $300 credit for ads. Restrictions may apply. Follow this link to learn more.|
If you plan to accept reservations, listing your business on OpenTable is a must. At least, that's the opinion of more than 60,000 restaurant owners who have set their restaurants up on this service. Many report seeing a spike in interest—and in sales—after signing up for the service, but unlike the other options, listing here comes at a cost.
The entry-level plan, called the “Basic” plan, starts at just under $50/month. This plan lacks many of the robust features busy restaurants need (but can certainly access through other tools like Toast or TouchBistro), but it does give you the opportunity to create a custom listing for your restaurant, market, and accept reservations and takeout orders. Additional fees for these services may apply.
OpenTable often runs a promo that allows you to try the service free for 30 days, so it's worth checking out. To get started, follow this link to OpenTable to check out their plans and connect with their sales team.
TripAdvisor is another great place to list your business, especially to catch the attention of tourists or people passing through your town. The site is hugely popular with billions of site views each year, so getting your restaurant listed on this platform is a must.
To get started, follow this link to TripAdvisor. You can enter the name of your restaurant to see if it's already listed. This sometimes happens when a customer posts a review of your establishment. If a listing already exists, use this link to go to the owner page, claim the restaurant, and update the posting with better details, your hours of operation, and photos and videos. Otherwise, complete the online form to register your business. You can expect your posting to go live on the site within a few business days.
Are there other ways to help customers find my restaurant?
Yes, let's cover a few other strategies.
Social media is certainly a great way to generate interest. You can create great, compelling posts to attract your audience and get page visitors to like or follow your page. You can also build a bigger audience by creating contests or giveaways that require entrants to like and share your page with friends.
Check out this resource for improving your business's social media profile:
But advertising on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms can be a much more effective way to reach your audience. You can learn more about social media advertising here:
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Advertising on social media is a great strategy. Look into advertising on search engines, too. We mentioned this earlier with Google My Business, but you can set a budget to promote your business with certain keywords. For instance, if you wanted to get your restaurant in front of people searching for “Italian restaurant Cincinnati,” you could set up a plan that would bring your business toward the top of the search results page as an ad listing, and then you pay a specific rate per person who clicks on that ad.
It can be tricky to determine which words you should be bidding on. Semrush is one site that can help you determine what various search terms will cost you, and they'll help you see how many people are searching for that particular string of words. But even with this tool, it can be a great idea to work with an SEO firm that specializes in helping businesses boost their visibility. Here are a few we really like:
Search engine optimization
Some of your customers will look for restaurants like yours through their favorite search engine. It's important to make sure you show up, and not just on the first page. Your restaurant needs to appear within the first three results, which get the bulk of the clicks (as much as 73%, according to some analyses), and importantly, in the map package of the search results.
There are lots of strategies for rising through the ranks of Bing and Google, including keyword optimization and creating backlinks by listing your business on various directories. Still, it isn't an easy task to get to the top of the list. Many restaurant owners depend on SEO firms to help them with search engine marketing, as we mentioned above, but also improve how they rank on organic web searches.
Refer back to the chart above to connect with some owner-favorite firms.
Don't underestimate the power of great signage to help customers find your restaurant, too. So many diners new to a restaurant first discover it by driving by. With this in mind, make sure you have clear signage that's visible from the road.
Need help with signage? Check out this article for ideas:
Check out our resource on starting and growing your restaurant business. Then, log into your owner's portal for a checklist curated just for your business.