Did you hear? Restaurant marketing using Facebook can boost your business.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You probably created a Facebook page, and nothing really changed for you. Right? But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a way to spend less than $10 a day to pack your restaurant every night using Facebook ads.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds and I’m going to show you exactly how to do it. But first …
Getting buy-in for this advanced restaurant marketing tactic
If you’re a restaurant owner or in charge of marketing for a local restaurant or chain, this tactic could be for you. It’s especially beneficial for those in heavily foot-trafficked areas, like downtown scenes and tourist spots. But it can be modified to fit any restaurant.
Chances are that before you begin, you’re going to need buy-in from your boss, your team, or your managers. So what I want you to do is send them this email:
I just read about a really effective restaurant marketing strategy that I think can increase our reservation and walk-in rate by at least 25 percent, especially on slow nights. I can run everything myself and feel comfortable keeping track of the results. I just need you to give me the go ahead on it, and I need a budget of $300 a month, which will go specifically towards Facebook ads.
I know, I know, we tried Facebook ads in the past and it didn’t work, but this strategy is so different from what we were doing that it doesn’t even compare to the campaigns of the past.
Just give me $300 and one month and let’s see if this works.
Your favorite employee
After you read the rest of this post, I want you to come back here and send that email to the boss. Now, let’s get started…
Creating timely geo-targeted Facebook ads
“Geo-targeted” is just a fancy term for “people nearby your restaurant.” And for us, “timely” just means, “when people are hungry.”
So rather than serve ads to the entire county, all day every day, and hope they book a reservation, let’s look for local foot traffic, that’s already on the go, that might be hungry, and see if we can’t get them to mosey in.
Step 0. Create your Facebook ads account.
Step 1. Set up the campaign and ad group.
Once inside your ad account, go ahead and create a new campaign and choose “Reach people near your business:”
Facebook is smart. I mean really smart. They’ve made it easier than ever to get started at the click of a button.
Setting your radius
Type in your address and set your radius between one and five miles. Here’s how you decide:
- Density of your area. If your business is downtown, then you probably only need one mile, but if you’re in a shopping center where most people live a few miles further away, go ahead and expand to include them.
- Budget. The larger your budget the more people you can reach on a daily basis, so it makes sense to expand the reach.
- Expected cost per acquisition. The further out you go, the harder it will be to convince someone to come visit you. From an advertising perspective this is called an increased CPA – cost per acquisition. If you can afford to pay $20 for a customer, than this is fine; if you want to keep your CPA low, keep your radius low, too. This comes at the expense of reach — you won’t get in front of as many people, but you will be getting in front of the most relevant people.
Depending on your restaurant you might want to set your age to 21+ to only target those who can purchase alcohol. You could also set the upper boundary at around 35, which is the typical current cutoff for the “millennial” generation — a great target audience to pull from when running local Facebook ads.
Even if your audience caters to men over women, or vice versa, I would tend to leave this setting to “all” until you’ve maybe run a month or two of tests and the data tells you otherwise.
What we’re trying to do with this strategy is target who are looking at their Facebook feed from their phone right around the time they get hungry. So let’s turn off Desktop News Feed to ensure you are targeting mobile users only.
Step 2. Budget and schedule: How to time it just right.
In order to use Facebook’s ad scheduling tool, you need to turn this from a daily budget campaign to a lifetime budget campaign (I don’t know why):
Set the campaign to run for 30 days and give it a lifetime budget of $300.
Now onto the scheduling, sometimes called “day parting.”
Change the time you advertise to be right before your lunch rush and right before your dinner rush. You know your rush better than me, so I can’t tell you exact times. You can go across all eight hours if you want, it’s not a big deal.
Important: Don’t pay for ads when you don’t need more customers. If you’re booked on a certain night, pause your ads for that day. You can even do it from your phone.
Step 3. Create a compelling ad.
While it might be tempting to show the “money shot” of your amazing dish as the ad image, I highly recommend including people in the shot. Humans react to humans and they have been proven to generally boost ad performance. Also, people go out to eat as much for the social engagement as for the food, so play equally to both aspects of their wants when choosing your image.
You can create your own images or choose from Facebook’s plethora of image options.
Are you a steakhouse? Just type “people eating steak” or “people eating dinner” and find the one that suits you.
When your campaign turns profitable, you can convince the boss to throw down on a photo shoot inside your restaurant, so that you can ditch the stock photos.
As for your ad copy, I always recommend starting off with a compelling question. Don’t overthink it. Something like:
Remember, you should always have more than one ad running at any given time, if not just for variety of the customer experience, but also for testing and finding the optimal offers that resonate with your customer. Maybe your other ads say “seafood” and “steak and seafood.” Or maybe you just swap the image and test out a picture of your signature dish.
Bonus idea: What does everyone always want to know about when it comes to your restaurant? First, what you offer, and, second, your prices. Consider linking to your menu in the ad.
You’ve really got two options here: “Call Now” or “Get Directions.”
I recommend “Call Now” so that you can get that customer on the phone and explain directions. Plus if you’re an established business in a downtown area, they probably know where you are already.
And go ahead and set up your “click destination” to link to your main site, just in case people want to browse your menu. If your site isn’t well set up or mobile friendly, then leave it set to your Facebook page.
Bonus tip: Set up call tracking with Call Fire (or any call tracking software). You can have a custom phone number set up for you in a jiffy. When people call in, it will record the conversation so that you can prove to your boss later how many phone calls came in from this campaign, and how many reservations it made.
Step 4. Monitor results.
You need to monitor this campaign weekly by keeping an eye on your cost per click, phone calls, reservations and foot traffic to better understand the value of your advertising efforts.
Remember, if you got eight clicks and no one came in, that doesn’t mean the test failed. You need statistical significance to justify success or failure, and at $10 per day or less, that could take a month or two.
With $10 spent, you’d hope to be able to drive one table into the store for a $60 meal. While that might feel like it eats at your margin a little bit, the upside is huge. You could get larger parties, they could be willing to spend more, they might come back weeks later, or they might tell a friend. So as long as you break even on this sale, I’d recommend continuing with a campaign like this.
And to go back to the start, every good campaign should have a clear budget and clear goals. Let’s say for our $300 test for one month, we’d like to get eight confirmed customers who come in after seeing our ad. This assumes another two to five customers who we weren’t able to track, and leaves us room to optimize our ads and move towards a $10 CPA — cost per acquisition — by the end of month three.
Bonus: To better track the success of the campaign, include an immediate 10-percent discount code in the ad itself. Or maybe a free dessert. Unfortunately, this is the best way to track your results, as even click and call tracking will miss a fair amount of users who view the ad and then walk in.
If you can prove it in a month or two, then maybe you can turn off the discounting option and assume it’s still working.
Advanced restaurant marketing tactic: Look up all events and conferences going on nearby throughout the year. Research the major sponsors and companies that will be coming in, and design a Facebook ad targeting them that specifically says something like “Need to make a reservation for 10 or more for a corporate event?”
You can target people based on what company they work for, plus you can target people who are in a certain area but don’t live there. This is super cheap and easy.
Restaurant marketing with Facebook: A cautionary tale
There’s no such thing as easy money. I’m not claiming this restaurant marketing strategy magically prints cash, only that you can use it to pack a restaurant when you can see that the day is going to be slow — and thus even out some of those painful fixed costs that tend to plague restaurants on off days.
If you’ve never done Facebook ads before, there are at least 10 ways this can go wrong.
Doing it yourself is fine, but remember that there are experts out there to help. It’s just not going to be worth hiring an expert at $500 per month for a campaign that runs at $300 per month. So if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself and you don’t have a big budget, you simply aren’t ready.
In fact, many restaurants aren’t ready for Facebook advertising. But with this strategy, we get to bypass using your website, and bypass having expert experience in targeting (because I told you exactly who to target already), which is kind of a shortcut to being “ready.”
Get more tips on bringing local customers in your door — check out our free checklist!
The sky’s the limit with Facebook ads
Facebook’s advertising platform is insanely powerful. You can micro-target location, ages and income levels to further refine your campaigns.
Oh, and I did I mention you can run your ads on Instagram? You know, the place where everyone goes to take pictures of food. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some extra influence online by pulling in active Instagram foodies?
Your next task is to think about how you can innovate on my idea to fit your business specifically.
What do you think? Will you try out this restaurant marketing strategy? Do you need help going through the steps? I want to make sure you succeed, so let me know in the comments below.
Also published on Medium.