5 Essentials for Your 2018 Restaurant Marketing Plan

This time of year means a few things: Food. Family. Free gifts. Frantically planning for 2018. As the number of restaurants competing for market share rises, you need to take your restaurant marketing plan to the next level.

In this post, we'll cover the biggest marketing trends in the restaurant industry and how they should factor into your 2018 restaurant marketing plan.

1. Social Media Ads

The amount of restaurants using social media ads in 2017 increased by 20% from previous years. All restaurants – from international franchises to single-location shops – engage in and benefit from social media ads.

2018 is the year to seriously consider paid social ads if you haven't already. Why? Because organic social media posts only reach about 4% of your fan base. If you want to see return on time invested in social media, you'll have to invest some money, too.

For example, nationwide restaurant chain Arby's advertises their smokehouse brisket sandwich in a simple, 15-second video. The post has been reacted to, shared, commented on, and viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Don't have the budget or digital marketing prowess of Arby's? Not to worry. Facebook has a page dedicated to helping your restaurant's Facebook business page get started with ads, including how to make an ad, how to choose an audience, and how to select a budget. Start making noise with your social media posts – a little bit of ad spend can go a long way on the Internet.

2. Google & Search Engine Ads

Google is there to help us answer deep burning questions, like where to eat tonight or who won Best Picture in 1992 (it was The Silence of the Lambs, by the way).

Google sees 3.5 billion searches per day, and you better believe your potential patrons are searching phrases like "food near me" and "local restaurants." Filling out your restaurant's Google My Business page and, when appropriate, paying for placement helps your restaurant be front and center when people search for nearby dining options.

According to Statista, worldwide smartphone usage is only on the rise. This means the number of people searching for restaurants on the go will only continue to grow. Ensuring your restaurant Google My Business listing is ready to go when people search for food near them is a key to restaurant success in 2018.

3. Restaurant Sponsorship & Events Support

No restaurant marketing approach is more universal than charitable giving, event sponsorship, and community involvement. Unlike social media accounts – which not everyone has – everyone lives in a town or city and is part of at least one community, whether it be their town, their local school district, their office, a group with a common interest, or a combination of these.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that 68% of restaurants engaged in some sort of charitable giving or event sponsorship in 2017, making it the second-most popular advertising method for restaurateurs this year. One example is working with local schools and organizations for a give back night. Give back nights occur when your restaurant agrees to sponsor a group in exchange for increased business.

For example, Chili's worked with a local high school sports team. Members of the team distribute the flyers in school and around town, encouraging community members to visit Chili's. Chili's, in turn, donated 10% of the sales directly driven by the event back to the team. Both groups won – the team earned funds and the restaurant saw increased business.

Sponsorship can earn your brand placement at sports games and concerts and can even gain media attention. The spectrum of restaurant sponsorship is so vast that almost everywhere you look there's an opportunity to take.

4. Video Ads

Video is an important element of restaurant marketing – and it's not just for TV. In fact, the amount of restaurants marketing on television is declining, so your video ads should tie in directly with your social media strategy.

Granted, you'll mostly see larger chains like Domino's and Taco Bell. Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg increased the chain's video ad spend in 2017, saying "TV's important to us. TV still works for us."

Domino's can also be seen in nationwide commercials and digital videos, such as this one riffing on a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to promote their online order tracking feature.

The ROI on video advertising can be difficult to justify for smaller restaurants. Instead of filming big budget commercials or spending thousands on YouTube ads, consider using your smartphone to shoot alluring footage of your food and post it on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram for free.

If you're sure video isn't your forte, ask your customers to post some video at your restaurant and then re-purpose it on your social channels with their permission. User-generated content can be a huge asset for your online branding and reputation.

5. Direct Mail

Direct mail advertising is not dead, so it should definitely be in your 2018 restaurant marketing plan.

Nearly half of millennials in the U.S. look forward to checking their mail every day. The response rate to household direct mail ads is 4.4% – compare that to the 0.6% (or less) response rate for digital ads and direct mail doesn't seem six feet under anymore, does it? What's even better is that $167 of direct mail budget can lead to $2,095 in sales.

Scheduling regular menu sends to local universities and office complexes or acquiring mailing lists from sources like Valpak for semi-annual mailings can still be effective. Give direct mail another chance in 2018 if you thought it was dead – you might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Other Restaurant Marketing Ideas
Keep in mind, this is not a definitive list of restaurant marketing platforms.

If your community's age demographic skews older, maybe newspaper ads are still a wise choice to produce ROI on your marketing activities. Have magazine ads proven effective in the past? Keep at it. Just make sure you document these activities, your projected budget, and your timeline in your 2018 restaurant marketing plan.

Article sourced from Toast