Nearly every restaurant owner spends money on digital marketing and advertising. However, it is shocking at how much money these restaurants waste on digital marketing on a daily basis. Hearing horror stories of money spent on digital channels with no return on the investment leaves some restaurant owners steering clear of non-traditional channels altogether. That isn’t the right move either.

When done correctly, there are a lot of opportunities to bring in new customers through digital advertising. Every year, marketers report more and more budget being sent on digital marketing channels. That’s because there is a lot of money to be made through digital marketing – as long as it isn’t all lost first.

Here are 9 common mistakes restaurants make when setting up marketing campaigns and how to keep from making them:

They put themselves first.

Too many businesses think advertising is all about telling. Telling potential customers why they are great, what they have to offer, and why they should visit. While that is an important message to get across, advertising and marketing shouldn’t be all about the business. The truth is, people, don’t “care” about your business. They don’t care who you are, and they are getting by just fine in life without visiting your restaurant.

Sounds a bit hopeless, right? But it isn’t. Instead of “telling” about your business – show them how great it is. Let them know what specific challenge you’re going to solve for them, that you understand what they’re dealing with, and that you’re absolutely the right business to fill that need.

What challenges do you solve for your customers? They’re hungry. They’re hungry and not only are you going to give them some food, but you are going to give them the only all-vegan menu in town. Not only is it vegan, but it is also delicious and healthy. On top of all that, you’re going to make them feel at home, and relaxed, and treat them like family.

If you focus instead on showing your customers why you’re great instead of telling them, you’re significantly more likely to draw business in.

They don’t track results.

With digital marketing strategies, it is easier than ever to track the success of marketing campaigns. Yet, some restaurant owners do not see the point in tracking the success (or failure) of channels and campaigns individually.
Restaurant owners are busy folks – we get it. But that still doesn’t mean that throwing a bunch of spaghetti out there and hoping something will stick is a good approach to marketing.

You have to know which channels and campaigns are bringing people in and which ones aren’t so that you can optimize your overall strategy toward success. If you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll end up spending a lot of money with not much to show for it.

When you set up tracking, you want to be sure to track each channel, each individual ad, and each audience or demographic as specifically as you can. If one ad isn’t working after a week or two, turn it off and invest that money in one of the more successful ads. If one audience is outperforming another, consider if your messaging is right or if that is even an audience you should be marketing to.

The only way you can optimize your approach towards success is to understand exactly where you are and how to make adjustments towards more success.

They don’t understand the value of a customer.

How much is your customer worth? What is the lifetime value of a customer for your restaurant?

If you don’t understand generally how much your average customer is worth, then you don’t understand how much money you can realistically spend to bring them in.

Many restaurant owners launch new campaigns giving away food. This is a great strategy to spark interest and build a business, but it is a costly one. Say, for example, you end up paying $10 per acquisition on a digital marketing channel. You’re offering a free entrée in this promotion, so you’re out the cost of the food plus the cost you paid for the ad – and you haven’t yet made anything.

Now let’s consider that that individual does come back, but you only make $20 per customer per visit. So they’ve returned, and you’ve made $20… but you’re still out the $10 you paid for the ad plus the cost of the food you comped the first time.

So in this scenario, you aren’t really making much money until they visit a third time. But you know what you probably have to do in order to get them to visit a third time? You probably need to do some remarketing.

And guess what? Remarketing advertising also costs money.

In this scenario, the restaurant owner should explore other channels where the cost per acquisition is significantly lower.

They don’t remarket.

Remarketing is advertising to those who have already engaged with your brand digitally. Some restaurant owners feel that once a customer has been to their site or their social media channel, they are in that consumer’s mind and it is just a matter of time until they come in.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Study after study has shown that consumers must be repeatedly exposed to a brand before they commit it to memory or take action.

This is where remarketing can be especially powerful. In case you aren’t sure what remarketing advertising looks like – consider when you go to Amazon and look at a pair of shoes you really like, but don’t buy. Then as you go to other websites, Amazon continues to show you ads for those same shoes or similar ones.

You can do this with your brand, too. After a potential customer interacts with your social media channel or visits your website, you can throw them into a remarketing campaign to keep your brand front and center as they peruse the web. This increases the likelihood that they’ll come into your restaurant.

The other good news is that remarketing campaigns are typically much cheaper per action than other types of campaigns. So these types of campaigns really are a powerful tool for your restaurant.

They don’t tell the customers what to do.

So many restaurant ads focus on the benefits of the business and do not tell customers what to do. While it seems obvious – come to our restaurant – it isn’t so simple.

People often need to be told exactly what to do. So as a marketer and advertiser, you have to tell them what the next step is very clear.

“Come in to try our special tacos today.” “Call us to make a reservation for your special occasion.”

You must conclude every marketing advertisement with some sort of call-to-action that tells the customer exactly what to do next.

They don’t target specifically enough.

Too many restaurant owners think their target audience is everyone.

“Everyone has to eat, right?” Yes – right – but also wrong. Very wrong.
Your restaurant is great. But it isn’t great for everyone. The sooner you accept that not everyone will love you, the sooner you can start focusing on those who will and who you can actually make money off of.

Really dig in deep and figure out who your ideal customer or customers are. You might have more than one target and that’s OK – but you really shouldn’t target everyone under the sun.

The targeting options on digital advertising platforms are limitless. Some will let you find people based on their interests – so you can find people who are interested in the type of food you serve. You can target people who like a chef who cooks the type of food served in your restaurant. Then you can limit those targets even more by specifying that they have to live in your city. Now you know your ad is being seen by the people who are most likely to come into your restaurant to eat.

If you do not get as specific as you can with your targeting, you will be wasting money.

People will click your ads, which you pay for, and then they will dismiss your business because it isn’t a fit for them – and poof, that money you’ve spent is gone and you have no customer to show for it.

No matter how specific you get, will there be people who just aren’t right for your restaurant? Of course. But by making your targeting as granular as you can, you eliminate a lot of this risk.

Another benefit to targeting so specifically, in addition to not wasting money, is that you can then create ads that are hyper-specific to that tiny audience. This will make your ads stand out more and increase engagement with them.

They don’t test anything.

A lot of restaurant owners develop the logo, tagline, and description and then that’s it. That’s the ad. It perfectly describes the business so we must use it in every instance, right?

Not exactly. Just because you think it is the right way to communicate all about your restaurant doesn’t mean that your customers perceive it that way. Even something as small as changing the call to action from “Stop by to enjoy a juicy steak” and “Come into our restaurant” can make a world of difference. This is why it is important to test everything.

If you aren’t testing, you’re automatically wasting money. There will always be a better way to do your marketing, and if you aren’t optimizing it, you are not optimizing your spend.

The same mindset should be used when you think about your website or landing pages as well. Conversion rate optimization is crazy important and makes a huge difference. It can mean the difference between success and failure in a lot of cases.

If you aren’t sure what to test, consider calls-to-action or description words first. Once you find something that really resonates with your audience, you can start using that in other channels, too.

They don’t use professional creative.

For your restaurant, you can probably do most things yourself and it will be sufficient enough, at least to start out. But if there is one area that you absolutely should not DIY (unless you’re a professional) is your creative.

Specifically, we’re referring to the photos of your food and restaurant. These promotional photographs need to present your restaurant in the best light possible. They need to look professional and enticing. And frankly, food photography is one of the hardest things to get right if you don’t have a lot of experience and know exactly what you’re doing.

As you open your restaurant, prep for your grand re-opening, or simply prepare for a bigger investment in marketing, hire someone to take care of your photography for you. Prepare every item on your menu (or as much of it as you reasonably can) and have them take pictures of the inside and outside of your restaurant.

Even if you don’t have plans for a photo right away, these types of pictures can be used for social media or other advertisements later on. It is best to go ahead and get everything taken care of upfront so you aren’t scrambling for a picture later when you need one.

Restaurants who use photos that aren’t polished and professional end up looking like poor quality, local dive.

Guests will not pay your prices if they think your food and menu look like it belongs in a truck stop as opposed to a sit-down restaurant. You want to portray your food as elegant and refined, and the best way to start is with your photography and creative.

They don’t get help when they need it.

It can be hard to admit when you are in over your head, and even harder to mentally justify another expense when you’re already flailing. However, restaurants who do get help with their marketing and branding when they start to see less-than-stellar results are often the ones who end up getting through that difficult period and go on to have significant success.

As you start marketing efforts, be sure to keep your target audience in mind. Be as specific as possible, and use the most beautiful creative you can get your hands on. Test everything and track everything so that you can always head towards optimizations. Give your customers a clear next step, and be sure to remarket to them to keep them coming back for more. When in doubt, or if you just can’t seem to get a return on the spend you’re putting in, consider asking for help from a restaurant marketing agency.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on how to ensure success for your restaurant marketing campaigns.