If these three major restaurant marketing trends don’t get your attention and find themselves reflected in your restaurant marketing strategies, you may find your restaurant getting served – by the competition.

Three Trends Impacting Restaurant Success Right Now

Once upon a time restaurant marketing was simple and straightforward. A yellow page listing and occasional newspaper ad or coupon was all that it took to bring new restaurant customers in the door, along with personal referrals from your most loyal restaurant patrons, of course. Restaurant marketing isn’t so simple anymore!

Now, a restaurant marketing strategy must include significant investment of time and resources in digital marketing including development and constant updating of a restaurant’s:

  • Website (search and user friendly, regardless of device)
  • Distribution of digital ads, coupons and offers
  • Social networks
  • Email marketing
  • Review and rating sites

In addition, your restaurant marketing strategy still needs to include offline restaurant marketing activities including networking, community involvement, customer relations and reputation management. We want to draw your attention to three important restaurant marketing trends, in particular, as noted in a consumer review survey.

3 Restaurant Marketing Trends and Strategic Takeaways

1. A 100% year-over-year increase in the number of people who used the internet to search for local businesses every day

27% of consumers looked online daily for a local business in 2018 – more than double the proportion in 2017. And if your ideal customer type is younger, this becomes even more important. 54% of shoppers aged 18-34 used the internet to search for a local business every day, and 81% of younger consumers did so at least once a week.

  • Your restaurant marketing strategy must feature at its core an omni-device-friendly website optimized for local search. Older consumers largely use bigger devices (PC/MAC) to search for local businesses online while younger shoppers tend to search on mobile devices.
Restaurant marketing trends - omni-device websites

Source: BrightLocal

  • Your website can’t just be a place-holder. Get ahead by adopting a content marketing strategy that incorporates best practices for SEO (search engine optimization) as well as publishing quality content for site visitors on a regular basis – at least weekly.

2.  86% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses and 40% ONLY consider reviews written within the past 2 weeks

One great write up or review can bring new customers in, but the effectiveness of a great review diminishes over time. Consumers know that over time, standards can slip, menus can grow stale, management can become complacent, and so on. Especially in the restaurant industry, where many shoppers are looking for something new to try.

  • Restaurants must monitor online review and rating sites or risk inaccurate or dishonest reviews living a long life – and impacting their ability to attract new customers – on online review and rating cites (like Google, Facebook and yelp).
  • Restaurants should solicit and post customer reviews and ratings on their own websites, social networks, blog and use them in email marketing.
  • You can’t rest on your laurels. Getting testimonials, reviews and ratings must be an on-going initiative for restaurateurs.

3. Year-over-year increase in the number of consumers who read online reviews for restaurants

This goes beyond reviews and ratings, although it includes them. Year over year, more and more consumers rely on restaurant reviews when choosing which local eateries to favor. In fact, it’s not even close! For no other industry do consumers read more reviews than restaurants.

do restaurant reviews matter - restaurant marketing trends

Source: BrightLocal

  • Add reputation management to your restaurant marketing strategy – immediately! Although your restaurant’s reputation is certainly affected by reviews and ratings, it goes far beyond the quality of the food you serve or how fast you get it to the table.
  • Today’s consumers expect businesses to respond to concerns and complaints within 24 hours or less, regardless of channel. 30% expect a response on social media within 30 minutes! Make sure you are continually monitoring not only review sites but your restaurant’s social media channels as well.

The reputation of your restaurant could also be affected by any number of other factors:

  • Whether your staff members are pleasant or likeable, and their ability to deliver good service, consistently
  • The cleanliness of your restaurant
  • Your décor and the type of atmosphere and ambiance in your restaurant (and whether it resonates with members of your target markets)
  • How your staff responds to the occasional problem or unusual patron requests
  • Community involvement and charitable contributions
  • Press coverage and PR

It may sound like a lot of work – and in truth, it is – but in a day and age when one bad customer review can be recorded and go viral immediately, the stakes have never been higher! Make sure that your restaurant marketing strategies are in line with what consumers say is most influential for them – or you risk getting served by the competition!

You might also like: How to Respond to a Bad Restaurant Review without Biting Back


Consumers find new restaurants to visit via online search and word of mouth, but this isn’t what brings first-timers back. These five restaurant first impressions can leave new patrons with positive perceptions that can bring them back for more.

The Power of Positive Restaurant First Impressions: Make It and They Will Come

As a restaurateur you might assume that your food is the beginning and end of what brings customers back; but that simply isn’t so.

The expectations a first time customer has when they visit your restaurant may vary widely and cover everything from quality of service to how soft the toilet paper is in your restrooms. Depending on where they heard about your restaurant, how it was described and what is most important to them personally, the food your restaurant serves is only one of many aspects that might produce the positive restaurant first impressions needed to bring first-time guests back.

Five Restaurant First Impressions that Create Positive Customer Perceptions

1. Marketing Presence

Can a customer easily find your business online through search results, social media outlets, directories or by typing in your business name as a website? Today consumers look for local restaurants online. Your restaurant first impression is non-existent if your website can’t be easily discovered in online search.

Customers are searching online for quick and easy answers and a reported 57% of consumers view a restaurants website before dining there ( When they do so, hours of operations, current reviews, and menu selections are among the most common questions. Before walking into a restaurant the customer uses the restaurant’s online marketing presence to validate their decision to visit. In addition, word of mouth through friends, colleagues and online may also decide whether a customer will visit or look elsewhere.

2. Cleanliness

For most restaurant-goers, there is an unwritten expectation that any establishment they visit in order to eat will be organized and sanitized from the front of house to the back where food is prepared in the kitchen. Customers expect to see clean surfaces from top to bottom: table tops, wall molding, fans, floors, and windows – everything should be dust and stain free and properly sanitized. Lack of cleanliness in the front of the house will lead to similar perceptions about how clean and sanitary food preparation and serving areas are.

A second unwritten rule customers expect is the restaurant to be handling food preparation with extreme care. One need only consider the 2015 E. coli outbreak that caused Chipotle’s business – and stock – to tumble or the most famous (infamous?) outbreak which occurred in Jack in the Box restaurants in 1992. Jack in the Box stock took a full five years to recover to pre-outbreak levels and its brand name became synonymous with the problem.

The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick each year from foodborne illnesses. More than 100k are hospitalized and 3,000 die as a result. In Washington State alone, where our headquarters are located, up to 60 foodborne illness outbreaks occur affecting as many as 700 people each year (Washington State Department of Health). A customer is dining with the reassurance the food served to them is prepped, cooked, and plated following the State Department Health procedures.

If a first-time customer perceives any area of a restaurant to be less than clean or sanitary, from the hostess station to the table to the restroom, they may make assumptions about the kitchen and serving areas that preclude a second visit, make them hesitate before recommending your restaurant to their friends or colleagues, or may even make them walk out before they give your business a chance.

3. Menu

As restaurant first impressions go, your menu might well have been seen online before a new customer ever arrives. Having a menu that entails a variety of food price points, healthy eating, and options for those with food allergies provides the breadth of choices capable of creating a consistent stream of customers. For restaurants that specialize in certain types of foods that might not be familiar to first-time customers, accurately describing menu items in a way can also be key in helping them make a selection on their first visit that makes them want to come back a second time.

4. Pricing

Most first-time restaurant goers will be looking for menu choices paired with a reasonable price structure (which might be low or high, depending on their perceptions and expectations). In 2013, 45% of respondents stated good prices were very important to them when choosing a restaurant ( Many customers also want to be able to estimate how much they will be spending before visiting a restaurant for the first time.

When paying the bill, it’s common for guests to go through a metal check list and evaluate whether they feel they received food in proportion to the price charged and whether the presentation of the food was up to par, whether they enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant, etc. The more questions they answer with a “yes,” the more likely it is a first-time customer will come back, leave a positive review online, tag your business or check in on social networks, or even recommend your business to their own friends, co-workers and loved ones.

5. Service

Customers are looking for friendly and helpful customer service the moment they walk in the door, regardless of the type or price point of a restaurant. There should be adequate restaurant staff to be present wherever a customer is likely to need assistance – front of house hosts, wait staff, servers, bussers, bar tenders, shift or restaurant managers – each has a role to play in ensuring the customer feels cared for.

From the hostess to the busser, staff need to be an extension of the restaurants mission. A customer is coming to your restaurant to enjoy the food and overall experience.  The team of wait staff needs to be attentive yet not an inconvenience to the guest, and they need to possess the discretion to understand that their level of involvement might vary for different guests and different size and types of parties.

If a first-time customer is likely to respond that their server came by the right number of times and was pleasant, friendly and helpful, they are much more likely to leave with a positive first impression of your restaurant.  A customer is counting on paying for great food and quality service. Even if your restaurant’s food is good, if the service is poor, a first-time customer might not return.


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