I started a restaurant with a partner, and I'm looking for ideas to market it online. I know about coupons, Google ads, etc. Any other ideas? I'm currently building the website. What do you guys think? I started putting it up on places like Yelp, but haven't seen improving traffic as yet.
Companies like Grubhub and Just-Eat aggregate web traffic with highly visible, heavily marketed websites that function as restaurant directories with complete menus and allow customers to place orders online. They then send the order to the restaurant and handle the credit card or paypal transaction as well. Depending on what kind of restaurant you are starting, this type of service might be worth looking into.
I know you asked for online, but I think offline is going to work best if you're already doing Yelp! and the other stuff, though I don't know your city/market. The contact is more memorable and immediate.
Get out in the streets and provide samples of your food to try. If they like it, they'll help spread the word. Ask them for feedback and listen.
Become involved with the community. Invite socially influential people for dinner. Ask if you can show up at the local community meetings with some food.
Festivals where you sell food can be a way to promote your business and make money.
Anything where you're meeting local people face-to-face is a good bet. Approach people in a way that they feel comfortable giving you an honest answer and listen.
Its off the topic though but i think this is highly useful and different in order to pick up the market.
1)Keep track of waiting list for customers and give them a timeline online so tht customers will know when to come :)
2)update your menu online and also ingredients online so tht people will know what they are eating and infact they can customize also :)
3)show videos of your kitchen and some videos about how you are preparing your dishes.
These things are very attractive because people will know what they are eating and how healthy they are and also it attracts lots and lots of customers when they know that you are very open.
Ofcourse food quality should be top notch though :)
Starting out, your key objectives are achieving visibility, and developing word-of-mouth.
Off-line takes centre stage here - and what's appropriate is going to depend a lot on a lot of details (what kind of restaurant, what cuisine, what price range, what footfall opportunities there are in your location etc).
On-line, your website clearly needs to cover the basics (menus, specials, great photography, clear contact and direction details, clear signals about the experiences you're offering, signs of life). And you need to recognise that most of the services out there (Yelp, OpenTable etc) are going to feature customer reviews. So again, to build performance (not just presence) online, you need customers through the door, thoroughly engaged and encouraged to feed back to you and to online sites.
When you're starting out, the basic conflict is that you can see the money you've invested, and you want to get to a profitable steady state. And when you look at other restaurants, and how they manage that steady state, it's tempting just to copy what they do.
You need to think differently.
Are there local businesses, groups, activities you could reach out to? What can you do (because you're building up a clientele) that established restaurants couldn't?
Think outrageous thoughts. What would happen if, next Thursday, you offered your menu for free, and customers just paid for drinks? What if every paying customer next week walked away with an invitation to a "critics' night" - $30 for a five course banquet, wine included, with the chance to try (and feed back on) everything from the upcoming Spring menu? What if you took hand-made chocolates to all the offices in the area, or hand-wrote a 'thank you for visiting' letter to everyone who left comments or their card, or... or... or...
Don't do everything you think of. But ask yourself, what are the stories I'd love people to tell their friends? What motivates me to be in this business, and how can I convey my passion to my future customers? How can I make the experience I'm offering special? And how can I (relationally, not just financially) reward people for trying what I have to offer, and for coming back?
Great in-person experiences will feed your on-line reputation.
I agree with many of the answerers - offline is the way to go. I think many people look for a restaurant online only after they know it exists. An online presence is good for displaying things like menu items, ingredients, location, hours, prices, events, etc..
I think reaching out to your target market as a group will get you the best results for the least amount of advertising dollars. Contacting only the people who will appreciate what you have to offer (instead of advertising to everyone) will save you money, and getting in front of a larger group at once will deliver more bang for your buck.
For example, a restaurant is a great place for business people to meet with clients, contact local businesses and offer to deliver some sample lunches to their office for free (along with a stack of coupons that say why your location is a great place to conduct business).
Another example: a restaurant that serves quick healthy meals may be a great candidate to advertise to triathlon race competitors. You can pay to include coupons in race goodie bags, and this can be an easy way to introduce your restaurant and menu to local health fanatics.
A cheap way to make your own professional-looking coupons is to use an online print service like VistaPrint.com or SimplePrint.com to and design your coupon on a smaller business card or postcard.
With regards to what you might do online, please, please, please understand what your customers want. For example, almost every restaurant website that I've ever visited fails to provide me with what I'm looking for.
See: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/restaurant_website for an idea.
Additionally, without fail, ensure that it is responsive to mobile devices.
your best bet is to hire a homeless man (get one with a golden voice if you can), and pay him minimum wage to stand outside wearing a costume, dancing, and holding your sign!
Google Places is another effective tool you can use.
Ultimately you can make a list of ideas but you can also be a bit more strategic rather than take a scattergun approach. If you think about who your customers are and what they value about your restaurant, you will be able to come up with some targeted strategies you can try.
For instance, if your restaurant is a fancy, high class affair and your main customers are rich business men over 50, then you could advertise in magazines that appeal to this demographic as well as appropriate sections of the local paper. You might also offer a discount for businesses lunches or implement a loyalty program.
If your restaurant is a local take away, you would be better served to drop menus in letterboxes around the area.
If you edit your question to be a bit more specific about what your business is and who your customers are, you will get more targeted and useful answers here.
After your website is ready, it would be useful to create a mobile website or a native mobile app. That will allow your clients to order food from their mobile devices and leave their feedbacks on the go. As a result, you will get more engagement and ROI. Here are some restaurant apps you may check for inspiration https://itunes.apple.com/app/id485133676?mt=8, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/yumit/id361117405?mt=8,
Get listed on Groupon (or similar sites) with really good deal. You are pretty much set to get a gust of traffic. Then it all depends on food, service, cost, quality ambiance etc.