Be a content king
Do you have a comprehensive content marketing strategy – or is posting photos, sending emails or tweeting content about your restaurant a bit of an afterthought? A study by the marketing research firm Demand Metric found that content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads, so a sound strategy can pay off. To build one, Restaurant Engine recommends you identify your target audience and find ways to be a resource for them. Then build a calendar that plots out content around holidays, special events and seasons and cross-promotes that content on your blog, website, email list and social media networks. Create a branded, unified look that includes your restaurant logo and is easily identifiable by your guests. Using a combination of text, images and video will help keep your content interesting. Use consistent key words on your website and blog, optimize your content with tags on images and titles, and reduce your image file sizes for faster loading. Finally, you’ll want to monitor and measure your progress, so give your plan some time but ensure you have tactics in place to track how people are responding so you can adjust as needed. If you need a cheat sheet to help you stay on top of the tools and terms that are part of your content marketing strategy, check out this infographic from Curata, which tracks 29 content marketing metrics. Need help cranking out content? Consider launching a blog on your restaurant website that covers topics of interest – from gluten-free eating to wine pairings to seasonal recipes. Feature a monthly video of chef’s tips. Showcase your employees and their unexpected talents or interests. Select one day each week or month and do the same type of post – having the format in place and ready to go can help you stay on track.
Tune up your down time
Even restaurants at the very top of their game have a bit of down time now and then. Those minutes are valuable. Are you using them to improve how your operation runs? Foodable suggests you first take a look at your scheduling to ensure you don’t have a lot of extra waitstaff standing around during slow periods. Or if you do, prepare detailed lists of jobs they can do so business can run without hiccups during busier parts of the day – have them stock beverages, fill salt and pepper shakers, roll flatware and clean up in advance of the next rush. Down times are also ideal for keeping tabs on inventory and ordering. While this responsibility lies with you, apps and point-of-sale programs are making it possible to get other staff involved too. Do you have a monthly or quarterly advertising and marketing plan in place? Review it each week to monitor results, check online reviews and prepare a summary to share with your staff, and to review your social media accounts. Review your point-of-sale reports to get a handle on revenue, guest counts, labor costs, and food and beverage costs and identify areas where tweaks are needed. Have new menu items, tech tools or kitchen processes? Use down time to train employees, have taste tests, discuss new ingredients or role play new service processes. Walk through your operation to conduct preventive maintenance in order to avoid interruptions later. Do filters need cleaning or replacement? Is your equipment using more energy than it needs to? Finally, use down time for meetings, whether as a team or one-on-one, to review personal or operational goals.
Build a social media army
Partnering with your employees can extend your social media reach exponentially if you have a coordinated plan in place – just ask brands like Starbucks and Southwest, which do a top job of engaging their teams to spread their brand message. Social Media Examiner recommends a range of tools to help. Slack is a good one to support centralized communication. You can easily create different channels to address different groups. DrumUp is another that lets you import the RSS feed of your blog so employees can share it across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It isn’t always convenient to schedule group meetings, so to capture ideas between sessions, Trello lets employees make suggestions and tag the topic of their feedback. You can also build engagement with employees by posting their social shares on your blog. Try creating a unique hashtag and encouraging employees to use it when tweeting about your restaurant. You can do the same with Instagram with Yotpo, which allows you to identify the best posts and publish them to your page.
Ready to go cashless?
Are cash payments on the way out? Visa hopes so. The credit card giant recently announced the Visa Cashless Challenge, whereby it would offer up to 50 restaurants and food vendors $10,000 apiece for upgrading their technology and marketing costs. In exchange, these businesses must pledge to begin a “journey to cashless” by allowing customer payments via debit card, credit card or cellphone app. A 2016 Gallup poll found that just 24 percent of Americans report making all or most of their purchases with cash, as compared to 36 percent five years ago. If you’re ready to get on board and take part in the cashless challenge, watch the Visa website for more information coming soon.
TripAdvisor tool promises restaurant marketing power
If your restaurant relies on TripAdvisor comments and ratings and doesn’t have substantial resources to manage a comprehensive website or several social media networks, a subscription-based tool from the site may help you harness TripAdvisor feedback into actionable steps to help your business. TripAdvisor Premium, offered by a monthly or annual fee, can help you customize your TripAdvisor Page to receive data and analytics, Skift reports. TripAdvisor’s senior vice president of restaurants says while the service can’t measure how many people are going to a restaurant, it can increase engagement in a restaurant’s page by 25 to 30 percent by monitoring clicks to a restaurant’s website, reservations or phone number.
Clean and green
Aqueous ozone has long been used to disinfect water, preserve meats and prevent the growth of mold and yeast in fruit, according to Food Safety Magazine. Now it is gaining momentum as a green alternative to chemically based cleaning solutions – and as a means of demonstrating your commitment to sustainability. Green Seal, a green certification organization for products and services in a range of industries, including hospitality, recently certified aqueous ozone as safer for users and the environment than traditional cleaning products. One key selling point is that it is generated on site when needed, so there’s no need to walk to and from a supply closet to collect cleaning products. It also cuts back on the number of plastic bottles, cartons and other containers used to ship cleaning materials. Look for more businesses to offer the technology to keep hospitality facilities clean and healthy.
How healthy is that beverage?
Consumers have high expectations when it comes to beverages right now: They expect them to serve as healthy snacks and meal replacements, all while delivering a low-sugar nutrient boost. If you have added “healthy” beverages to your menu to stay on trend, make sure your team can capably walk the line between overpromising their benefits and under-delivering on them. According to Harvard Health Publications, cold-pressed juices made from a combination of fruits and vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals than regular juice – and a wider array of them – but have a higher glycemic index than whole fruits. They also tend to be less satiating. Smoothies tend to contain more fiber and be more filling than regular juice but they can pack in the calories (and sugar, if you’re not careful). If you’re adding almond milk or yogurt to boost protein, make sure they don’t contain excess sugars. For customers looking for a beverage that keeps calories in check, consider offering sparkling or still water flavored with fruit, vegetables and herbs.
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