Below are 7 incredibly powerful tips, to help you make the most of your restaurant marketing efforts online.
As a professional photographer, video producer, web designer and graphics artist, I have seen these tips help many people increase their customer flow and revenue: Some by as much as 300%.
Everyone eats with their eyes first. And with so many people using apps and web sites to locate new places to eat, it’s absolutely important that you grab their attention with food photos that make them want to try your food instead of your competitors.
Almost every restaurant and food product manufacturer has at least a Web site and Facebook page.
If your competitors are using professionally taken photos of their food, but you’re still using photos you took yourself with your smart phone – you’re literally pushing new customers into your competitor’s hands.
The reality of the world we live in today is that, the younger generations of consumers are becoming pickier about what they eat and where they eat.
And these younger consumers are also very resourceful when it comes to finding new places to eat.
Today, all anyone has to do is pull out their smart phones, do a quick search on Google or apps like YELP, and hundreds of options become available to them within one click.
But the big difference now between those who succeed in getting new customers and those who struggle to stay in business, is how they present themselves on these apps and Web sites.
When someone is searching for a new restaurant or specialty food product on Google, YELP or Facebook, the first thing they see is usually what determines if they are going to take a second look or go on to the next restaurant or food product.
And the best way to get anyone to stop searching and want to try your food, is to give them photos that literally make them drool over what they are seeing.
Any honest business person will admit that their self-taken photos can never give the same visual impact as professionally taken photos.
Too often, people are too lazy or just too cheap to hire a professional. And instead, they upload photos they take of their food, looking dark, yellow and brown.
But one thing to consider when looking for a food photographer – is how well does their photography make your food scream “try me” – and be completely different compared to everyone else that has photos of their food?
Do the photos you see just show food on a white plate with nothing else to help compel a person to see your food as something spectacular?
Or do the photos build some kind of deeper, more powerful image that makes the food on the plate jump out and scream “you have to try this dish now”?
You can find many photographers who use special lenses to give food that blurred background look.
But very few photographers know how to surround a plate of food with a story that makes your food look way more appealing to the eye than your competitors’ food.
And let’s face it: you’re probably not the only restaurant or food product business, selling your type of food. Chances are, if you sell Burgers, Steaks, Chinese, Thai, Italian or Greek food, there are other businesses in your area serving the same thing.
But it doesn’t matter if your food is better than the next place – if people see better images of food from your competitor – when they use apps or Web sites to find new places to try.
You might have the best steak or pasta in town. But the business that has the better photos is probably going to get the new customers, because what the eye sees as delicious, the taste buds want more.
I have been helping many businesses create online tools to help them get more customers in the door for over 20 years.
And I’ve learned one thing more than anything else in that time: people are attracted to what they see online first, not what they hope to see in front of them at the table later on.
With so many people sharing photos and links on social pages like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s crucial to your growing success to make sure everyone sees amazing photos of your food, so they decide to come try yours before they try someone else’s.
Which of the three photos below, do you think will excite people to come try your food?:
Let me ask you a simple question:
If you sat down in a new restaurant and saw only titles on the menu for each dish, how easy would it be for you to decide what you want to order?
Most menus have descriptions of what each dish contains.
For example: if you see “Marsala Chicken” on the menu at an Italian restaurant, you would also probably see a description that read something like this: “Chicken breasts with mushrooms in an herb sauce”.
That definitely helps you to understand what’s in the dish, if you’ve never tried it before.
But let’s look at how we can use those ingredients to make your mouth water – when posting photos online – instead of leaving you feeling like you just looked at someone’s grocery list.
Let’s add a little more “flavor” to the description and see how much more appetizing this same dish can appear with just words:
Marsala Chicken – We prepare this mouth-watering dish with butter-sautéed breasts of chicken, cooked in a special creamy herb sauce, sprinkled with freshly cracked black pepper.
Lastly, we slice and add in fresh, tender mushrooms and serve it with our own flaky and chewy garlic bread, which we make fresh twice every day.
In this example, not only do we understand what ingredients come with this dish, but we can literally anticipate how it must taste, while reading the description.
And this is what you should be doing with all of the food photos you post online, to your Web site, Facebook, Instagram, YELP page or Twitter.
It’s not enough to grab someone’s attention with amazing photos. Add in the extra touch of a carefully-worded description, and it will be very hard for people to ignore what you have to offer.
Remember, more and more businesses are becoming savvier to what people want to see when using apps and social media.
Make your food and products stand out more than your competitor, by adding in colorful descriptions of your food. This will help the visual aspects of your photos really come to life!
It might be shocking or new news for you to know, but the reality is:
You Tube is the second most powerful source when people are searching for something.
But it really shouldn’t be surprising if you think about how the Internet has evolved. And how people prefer to get information online and with apps.
Before the Internet we had two basic sources for visual information: TV and printed publications.
When the Internet started, we had to wait years to view video, because of download speeds.
But once videos were easy to stream, people still wanted that quick access to easy information like they had offline.
And just like TV, video is the preference for most people online.
If you want to learn how to hang wallpaper, would you rather do a search on Google and then read pages of blogs that only have photos of each step?
Or would you rather just watch a video, so you can see exactly how to hang wallpaper the correct way?
Most people are not going to just drive around looking for new restaurants to try. Today, people are using their phones to find new palaces to eat at.
But with so many apps to choose from, and so many choices to make from search results; how can you stand out more than someone who has professional photos of their food?
By having a promotional video that actually shows people what it’s like to eat at your restaurant.
Not only do we have the best visual experience with video, but we have the added benefit of audio, verses reading and photos only.
The only way to really experience a new restaurant, is by walking in the door, meeting the staff, eating the food and getting an overall feel for what it’s like being there.
What better way to give potential new customers that “virtual” experience of visiting your restaurant, when they haven’t even walked in the door yet?
You just can’t use a more powerful tool online than video, when marketing with your social media and Web site.
And the most powerful part of video is showing new customers live testimonials of happy customers that already love your food!
With so many businesses faking written customer reviews to get higher rankings on Web pages and apps, how can new customers be sure that people really love your food and your restaurant?
Put your customers on video and let them tell the world how much they love you!
I’ve created a short clip below, from some of my client’s customer testimonials, so you can see the impact these testimonials can have.
Just look at how excited this one young woman was to rave about her favorite place to eat!
You’d be surprised how easy it is to get customers who are willing to talk on video. Some will be shy and say “no thank you”.
But others will jump at the chance, especially if there is a professional video producer already in your restaurant. It gives them the feeling of doing something exciting, while supporting places they love.
And you might even offer them a free meal or dessert for being on video.
Video can have a very big impact on how you reach and attract new customers, in multiple ways:
You can post a full-length video that shows your restaurant, staff, food and services on your Web site, Facebook, YELP and Instagram.
But you can also use shorter footage to run ads on Facebook or Instagram, for people who are actually searching for new restaurants to try in your area.
Most of the menus I see in restaurants, are either the multiple page styles that are inserted into clear plastic sleeves (fold-able books) or 1-2 pages that are laminated.
In either case, one thing that never seems to surprise me is the lack of photos people use, to help customers get a visual feel for what is offered in the dishes restaurants serve.
Although I do suggest all restaurants have multiple photos for items on their menus, I also suggest you at least consider redesigning your menu covers to use a full-page photo of your food (photo examples below).
The first thing any new customer sees when they enter a restaurant, other than the hostess/host, is your menu.
And there is nothing more powerful than seeing one of your best dishes before they even open your menu.
I’ve watched the impact this has on customers, as people look at each other’s menu cover, before even opening their menus to the first page.
It literally gets them talking and even asking the waiters and waitress: “What is this? This looks really delicious!”
Many restaurants have large TV screens somewhere in view of their customers.
I’ve seen the typical use of these TV screens range from showing sports games to playing music videos of traditional dancers or singers from countries that are specific to the owner’s of those restaurants.
Knowing that most menus do not have many photos of food in them, to help people get a better idea of what a dish might look like – I have suggested that restaurant owners use at least one TV screen to showcase their food with professionally taken photos.
I had been a customer of a local Thai restaurant for years. And each time I went to eat at this particular restaurant, they had a very large TV playing videos of traditional Thai women dancers.
Although it was nice to see these videos of Thai women doing traditional dances and wearing traditional clothing – after seeing a few times – it became something I didn’t pay attention to.
But after the owner realized I was a multi-media producer and hired me to do photography for his menu, I suggested he make better use of that big TV screen and try running a slide show of his new food photos, all day long.
They decided to give my idea a try. So they used the same laptop they were playing their traditional Thai dance videos, to run a slide show of my food photography.
I told the owners wife to expect many people to be asking about those photos, because their current menu didn’t use good photos that showed what each dish really looked like.
Two days later I stopped in to say hello. And as soon as I walked in the door, the owner’s wife ran up to me and said “You won’t believe what has been happening!
From the moment we opened the next day, and started to play the slide show of our new food photos – customers kept asking me and our other servers about what they were seeing on the TV.
They just kept asking “What is that?” “Oh, that looks amazing! I want to try that one. Where is it on the menu?””
The impact of people trying new dishes that this particular restaurant wasn’t selling much of, convinced the owner to never play anything on his TV screen again, other than his food photos.
And the real impact has been super growth for that restaurant, as people start to warm up to different dishes to try, instead of opting for what seemed “safe” on the menu.
I’m confident that, if you add in at least one large TV, somewhere that most customers can view a slide show of your food – you will see an increase in dishes ordered that maybe people were too afraid to try, because they just never had a way of knowing what they might get.
YELP is definitely the most popular app and Web site that people use for finding restaurants and many other services, these days.
And many restaurants have a YELP page already. But there are many of them that do not have full control over their YELP pages, because someone else started the page for them.
You see, anyone can make a YELP page. If you don’t make one for your restaurant, a customer of yours can.
But the real power in having a YELP page is having full control over it and using its various features to help you attract more customers.
If you don’t already have control over your YELP page, just click on the link at the top of your YELP page that says “Claim this page”. It is usually by the name of the restaurant at the top left corner of the page.
They will ask you for some business info to verify that you are the owner.
And once you have shown these things to YELP, they will give you full access to control the great features that come with using your YELP page.
One of the most powerful things you can do with your YELP page is run sponsored advertising for your restaurant at very reasonable rates, compared to anything else you would have to spend thousands to advertise with.
The last time I helped one of my restaurant clients set up their YELP advertising, it was $150 for a month.
This allowed them to have their restaurant page show up in searches on YELP, above search results for competing restaurants in their area.
There is nothing more powerful than having your restaurant show up at the top of a YELP search.
And by using the YELP advertising features, your restaurant will also show up as suggestions, as people scroll down the comments page of other restaurants.
I have watched my clients increase their search traffic and people walking in their door for the first time by as much as 300%.
And better yet, when you have control over your YELP page, you can see where people are searching you from and when they looked at your YELP page.
I had one restaurant client of mine tell me that she saw someone in Texas clicked on her ad. And then 3 days later, that same person came into her restaurant, which is in Ogden, Utah.
It surprised her when the customers said he found her restaurant, while doing a search back in Texas.
It’s not enough to just have control over your YELP page and use YELP’s advertising features.
You need to make sure the photos that people see in your YELP photo gallery, are the best representatives of your food and restaurant.
What most people might not know about YELP is, any customer can upload a photo of your food to your YELP food gallery.
And because most customers are taking photos of your food while sitting in your restaurant, the last thing you want potential customers to see, is dark, poorly lit, yellow and brown looking photos of your food!
Just do a search for any restaurant on YELP right now and look at the terrible looking photos that most people have showing up in their YELP gallery.
And it’s all because customers are uploading poor looking photos – and worse yet – photos of food that have been half way eaten by customers!
When you take control over you YELP page, you have the option to pay a little fee each month, to take full control over the photos that people see on in you YELP gallery.
In other words, if you have professionally taken photos of your food, you can make sure they show up in your gallery, before any photos that your customers take of your food.
(see examples below)
It’s a wonderful thing to have customers love your food so much that they want to take photos and share them on YELP for you.
But even though their kind gesture is a lovely thing to see, you do not want potential new customers to see your food in the worst light.
So make sure you opt in and try at least one month of having full control over what photos are shown to people when they see your YELP photo gallery.
Some of the most successful restaurants on YELP have the most amazing looking photos in their galleries.
And unless someone scrolls down to read the comments that customers leave on their YELP pages, no one is going to see unprofessional, yellow and brown looking photos of their food.
Below are examples of two restaurants on YELP:
One has control over their photo gallery and the other one does not.
Which version do you want people to see when they find your YELP page?