Once you get it right on the premises, you are ready to move on to your branding master game online. A brand is not just the logo, tagline or name; it is also the communication and the experience, it is how people feel about your company. From the moment they walk to your establishment’s door or open the menu, to the moment they look your business up online or stumble across it on social media.
Your brand’s voice and engagement online are a vital part of your restaurant or bar branding. However, when we talk to our current customers and future customers we often hear that one of their struggles is not knowing how to handle social media and online presence or that they don’t have enough time to run it properly.
It goes without saying, but in today’s heavily digital world, your online presence has a huge impact on how your customers perceive and remember your brand and business. Any restaurant that wants to stay on their customer’s mind and also attract new customers needs to be present online. Besides building a better relationship with already existing customers, the internet will also help you reach new markets and attract more traffic to your door which ultimately leads to increased sales.
That is why we have decided to gather tips to guide you with your branding decisions regarding your online presence. The first thing you should ask yourself is going back to what we have covered in previous Restaurant and Bar Branding 101 (On-site) blog post. How do you want to identify yourself in today’s crowded market? Who do you want to be and what makes you unique?
Your online presence is an extension of your business happening on the site, thus you want to make sure to brand it properly. The right online presence does not happen overnight though. It is a key element of your branding which is why we have decided to compile a whole blog post to cover this topic. Without further ado, let’s dive in. You can break your branding online into 4 main categories and we will take a closer look at all of them:
- Google for business
- Online Reviews
- Social Media
Website As a Second Door To Your Business
Your website is like an online door to your restaurant. That being said, would you be comfortable if your guests came to your establishment and were not presented with the food menu and had to ask for it a couple of times before receiving it?
When the potential customers visit you online, you need to give them the information they are looking for and make it simple for them to find it. In addition to happy customers that got their questions answered, having updated information available will help you get more traffic to the door since 75% of people make a decision based on search results when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Don’t miss your opportunity to bring these hungry and thirsty customers to your door! Besides answering all the necessary information on your site, you also want to ensure your branding is just as strong online as it is offline.
Your Website’s Branding Must-haves
Consistency of your fonts, colors, and style of photos is very important. It is just like walking into your physical location. Does it look nice and gives out the feel you want the (potential) customers to experience? Is the message clear on whether you are a hipster, family-friendly business or anything else you want to be perceived as?
If you have a story, you must tell it. You can take this in the form of a video which is much more engaging and effective than text heavy pages. With attention span continuously decreasing, storytelling via video is a step in the right direction. Watch the example from Decent People Taproom below.
You are in a highly visual space, utilizing this as your strength and display your meals, signature pieces and drinks is crucial for you to allure new customers.
Call to Action
While this might not be so much of a branding per say, it is a key part of your successful website. You need to let your customers know what you want them to do – whether it is booking a table, getting directions, following you on social media or anything else. Make sure they know what action you want them to take. If taken back more into branding sphere, it might even be something like “donate” or “participate” in volunteering or other activities in the community. It all comes back to how do you want to position your business?
TIP: If you do delivery and online ordering, make sure to communicate that with an appropriate call to action too.
Social Media Icons
If you are already investing your (or your employees) time to run your social media properly, you want to include social media icons to your homepage. It will promote your social media presence in front of your site’s visitors and might lead to them learning more about your business personality through these platforms or even following you which is an ideal way to stay on top of their minds and give them a reason for a visit.
As mentioned above, having an updated information including your latest version of the food & drink menu is a key piece of your website. Just like anything else, your menu page should reflect consistent branding – think fonts, colors, images!
TIP: Don’t use PDF as your online menu as that totally kills your search ranking!
Running a bar or a restaurant is not 11 AM to midnight job. There is a lot that comes to making it right, thus if you don’t consider yourself very tech savvy, don’t try to create and run your website all by yourself. After all, your website is really meant to be your online signature piece that you should be proud of. All your branding should come together in this place, particularly if you have several locations. The website will be the key online tool to help you communicate that.
Time to Become Google’s Best Friend
Google for business is vital for your target market geo-searches and for your customer’s reviews. Claiming Ownership of your establishment on Google is free and you can do so here.
Scenario A – New Starting Business
Simply sign in and enroll with the Google for Business account.
Scenario B – Already Existing Business
As Google strives to provide people with accurate and relevant information, you will need to go through verification process to make sure that you really own the business. After you are approved as a verified business owner, you will be able to update and edit any information to make your business easily discoverable.
Even though restaurant trends are always changing and evolving, one thing stays the same. Dare to guess? People continue to google for places to dine in. Hungry coworkers, friends or families, they all do the same when they want to find a new place to grab a bite in the area, which is why your business needs to be not only easy to find online but you also want to make sure it looks alluring to your potential customers when they see the search results.
First and foremost, just like with your website, ensuring that all your business information is up to date on your Google for business account. This will help you rank higher in the search; which means you will be more likely to get noticed and visited. Google determines your local ranking based on these factors – relevance, distance, and prominence. Therefore, it is important to make sure your information on Google is up to date, you continue to add new and great looking photos and respond to your online reviews as that allows Google to match local searches with the best results. You can learn more about that here,
TIP: Start with simple quick information such as your phone number, address, website, online ordering link (if applicable), hours of operations and progress to your indoor and outdoor photos or even videos you would like people that are googling for your business to see.
As for your branding, look at the photos, description and possibly also videos of your business in a way as if you would see them for the first time. Do they attract you to come in? Do they communicate what your business offers and truly stands for?
Google my business is also where your Google reviews come into play and that is where your branding online gets a whole new spin! We will talk more about the whole online reviews’ category below.
Embrace Online Reviews
Online reviews are extremely important tool for managing your community. They can make or break your business, according to the TripAdvisor survey, 94% of US diners are influenced by online reviews. Therefore, you need to make sure your reviews are supporting your brand.
These days customers expect to be listened to and acknowledged. A simple “thank you” message for any positive review or an apology/acknowledgment about working on a solution for an issue if a review is negative, can both go a long way.
While this might not be the most pleasant activity of running your business, you should also handle the negative reviews as you probably want your brand to look as caring and always striving to improve.
TIP: Whether Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook or Google reviews, communication online must be a two-way street. You should always encourage your happy customers to leave a review of their experience and thank them for doing so. Positive reviews also provide a good opportunity to inform customers about any special or loyalty program, helping to encourage repeat visits and brand loyalty.
Let’s review some of the platforms you should set up your business account on and make sure you respond to the reviews and engage with the users.
A very powerful tool in the U.S. market. By setting up and maintaining your business Yelp profile, you can start conversations with your fans and try turning them into your brand ambassadors.
Besides providing your customers with the basic information such as hours of operation, location address, menu, price range and great looking photos (or videos) of your dishes, you can also include information about amenities which makes it more likely you are going to appear in search for potential customer who is looking for a place with an outside patio, kid or dog friendly establishment, etc.
Yelp is also a great platform for user-generated content (customers using Yelp take pictures for you). You can highlight the good-looking Yelp photos on your site or another social media platform, crediting the user which will make them feel appreciated and more likely to return (and become your brand ambassador).
TIP: You can connect to local Yelp manager in your area and offer them organizing Yelp event at your place to get more exposure in front of the audience that likes to write online reviews.
Especially powerful if you are in a touristy area. When you set up your own profile on Trip Advisor, you will significantly influence the idea of your brand the users of this platform are going to get when looking up your business. Just like with Yelp, besides providing all the basic information, you can upload your own photos to show people what you want them to see.
Google for Business
In essence very similar to other review platforms but probably the most powerful of all in terms of search as google reviews are very likely to pop up in Google queries. When customers are looking for specific keywords such as “dog-friendly”, “vegan”, “self-pour” or other trending terms. It helps with ranking higher in the search if your online reviews include these keywords.
For many, Facebook might not really fall into the category of an online review platform but as it continues to become “the tool of all”, it makes sense to encourage customers leaving Facebook reviews as it continues to be the most popular social media platform globally. Facebook is also a great place to ask your guests to be brand evangelists as you can easily build a better relationship with them through private messages. According to Bright Local survey, 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Thus, if you are dealing with a younger audience that heavily relies on online reviews, Facebook presents a great opportunity to capitalize on that.
Social Media Fun
When setting up your social media accounts, you need to stick to your branding just like with everything else. First and foremost, your username should be just like your brand’s name appears. Nevertheless, if your brand name is already existing username, choose a simple to find name which won’t be difficult to find and will make sense.
TIP: If the name for your establishment is no longer available for a handle, you can just add your town or city names to it to make it logical and easy to find.
Before diving into a few social media platforms more specifically, there are a few general rules that are good to follow and keep in mind across all of the social platform:
Create a consistent voice
If you have a team of people that manage your social media account create a basic guide that will help them use the same consistent voice online. From colors and fonts to the guidance on hashtags use or visuals you prefer to show online.
Besides using consistent voice for a text copy of your posts, you need to stick to your color scheme and show high-quality photos of what your business is about. Typically if someone started following you based on your content, it is because they like it and they are interested in getting more of it, thus you want to give it to them and your content should not be all over the place, because that is not going to position your brand clearly.
Social media allows you to communicate your potential guests how they will feel when they visit your establishment which is why you should try to capture your brand through their eyes. From seeing a photo of the happy group and a couple trying self-pour beers together to close up shot of signature dish being handed off or crafted cocktails creation.
TIP: Try avoiding out of place posts that have nothing to do with your business core values and can lead to confusion. That is what your personal social media profiles are for.
Utilize social media calendar
It will help you with the consistency of your postings and the highest engagement (posting at optimal times and days). You can utilize one of many social media scheduling platforms such as Meetedgar.com, Hootsuite or Buffer which will help you with your posts consistency.
In the social media world, consistent engagement is very meaningful as it continues to keep the brand on the top of a customer’s mind.
Reshare Positive User Generated Content
This is content about your brand created by your customers or employees and can greatly help your brand get exposure in front of new audiences
Call to actions
Make sure you social media accounts prompts the users to take the actions which will help you reach your goals, whether you want people to call and make a reservation, visit your website, order online or sign up for your event, you need to communicate that.
Show That You Are Social
Have the social icons at the top of your website so they are easily visible and you can cross-promote your social media efforts. Just like you want to drive your customers from your website to your social media, you want this to work also the other way around.
Monitor your brand’s mentions on social media as that will help you check that your brand’s is not getting any negative exposure. If it does happen, knowing about it allows you to react and try to change negative feelings into more positive. Platforms such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social can help you with these efforts.
Show your business personality
Strengthen your branding and positioning of your business on the market. Social media allows you to share anything from core values as a business (employees’ story, the business story, relevant motivational quotes) to the values of your business to the customers (contests, reviews, and testimonials). Guest like to feel connected to the place they dine-in or drink, don’t be afraid to show your business personality.
Power of Social Ads
Social media ads present a powerful tool for restaurants and bars as they are highly customizable, thus it is easier to target the right customers. If you have space in your marketing budget, start playing around to see which posts can be promoted to get your brand more exposure and bring more traffic to your door.
Now, let’s dive into two main restaurant and bars social media channels in more details:
If your target audience composes of younger crowds, Instagram presents the best channel for bar or restaurants since it so popular and heavily visual.
What is the last food post on Instagram you have run into? Whether it is pizza, burger or donuts, food is very visually appealing, also referred to as Instagramable in today’s social media world. This visual appeal is behind why not only restaurants love to brag with their creation. Food presents a great sphere for user-generated content (when customers are taking pictures and tagging your business on their social media) and you always want to encourage that!
TIP: Have your Instagram handle or hashtag on your menus, table tens or elsewhere around your space to encourage the idea of tagging your business on their social accounts.
Tips on How to Make Your Insta Pictures AWESOME
This is the key element of any photo! The light should be coming from the side, so there is not too much shadow (ideally none).
TIP: If you don’t have a professional camera, don’t worry. Just like many others, simply use your smartphone but make sure you take advantage of its help with the lighting by simply tapping the darkest spot of your screen to get lighter shot when needed.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FILTERS
Filters are especially helpful when your picture is too dark or has some funky looking light in it. However, be cautious about not using filters which would make your pictures look unnatural
TIP: As mentioned above, consistency is crucial for your branding and using different filters all over the place would end up looking distractive and odd. Thus, if you do use filters, make sure to use the similar or the same type.
3. FRAMING AND CROPPING
Lead the photo to perfection by utilizing framing and cropping.
4. MAKE THE POINT
Make your design more professional looking by adding relevant text or imaginary. Utilize tools like Canva or any other social media posts building platform.
Instagram Branding Tips:
Have a highlight album of your signature dishes, beers or signature cocktails you want to drag more attention to. Simply anything that makes up for the core of your restaurant brand should have its highlighted category at the top so you can get them even more visibility. The name of your highlights’ categories should be shorter as they don’t display completely if the name is too long.
TIP: We recommend also highlighting behind the scenes, signature dish or cocktail preparation or your employees as that will further help to show what your brand is all about.
Utilize foodies influencers. It helps with creating brand awareness and driving sales as influencers commonly serve as a role model or inspiration for many others.
Back in the days, this used to be celebrity endorsement but now with the world being so heavily digital, the influencer marketing has definitely been raising on its popularity. Who is social media influencer? It can be anyone that has an influence on other people’s decision, particularly buying decisions. Instagram is the most commonly used and trending platform for influencers, particularly Insta stories.
The main thing you will need to consider is if the influencer is relevant to your business, meaning does he or she has followers base that consists primarily of your target market which you are trying to get more exposure in front of?
And remember it is a number game. In influencer marketing, this is referred to as reach, which is the number of users that you can potentially reach. And finally, it is important to take in consideration that it is not just about the number of followers, you need to take in consideration of what is the potential level of engagement the influencer could create with your audience.
Become a hashtag king. By creating your own hashtag you will be able to even better communicate branding to your community. If done well, your hashtags will start being used by your loyal customers and really take off from there.
Don’t just stick to regular stiff pictures, get more exposure by sharing stories (which can take the form of pictures or videos), utilize boomerang and mix them up as needed. Don’t be vanilla!
SHOW APPRECIATION OF YOUR TEAM
Share your team members stories. Showing behind your scenes or sharing a story of some of your employees can be super powerful, they are local which means they got friends and family and that is a great start to get more exposure in front of other potential customers around your area. This also helps in making your business more personal and setting you apart from others.
TIP: you can give a shout out to your employee that has been with your organization for years or has done something extraordinary. If interested, you can also share their story of career development or you can celebrate their work anniversary and show your business as a great and fair employer by throwing them a little appreciation party with other staff (and of course documenting this for Facebook or other social media accounts).
Utilize Call to Actions
Your customers might laugh and enjoy your posting, but that might not help to increase your sales, get more followers or get more sign-ups for the event if you don’t incorporate relevant CTAs where appropriate. Promoting new food item, event or new beer release? Call the users out on what action you want them to take. Whether it is to make a reservation, visit the website for more info or get directions to come and visit, CTA will help you get the users to execute on what you want them to do.
Text post or images help with engagement “What is your favorite dish in the summer?”, “What is your favorite beer?” – This helps with making your customers talking and getting them engaged online, but remember to engage back (ideally with something relevant from your menu) as the online world is always two ways communication street. If done well, asking engaging questions will help you steer waters of powerful word of mouth.
Focus on reviews
As covered in the previous category of this blog posts, Facebook reviews are becoming more relevant so make sure you not only encourage them but also share them to get more exposure and thank the customer who took their time to leave you with their feedback.
Organize a contest
It will help you allure more positive reviews. Since they are following you on Facebook, very likely, they are already your brand’s fans. You can encourage them to write a review by doing a special giveaway or giving a freebie in exchange for a little bit of their time.
MAKE IT SHAREABLE
When creating a Facebook post, always think in a way what would make your audience like it enough to share it with their network.
Emails Is Not Dead!
On the contrary, email can still help you communicate who you are online and depending on the size of your subscriber list, it can have a great impact on your foot traffic if you are promoting weekly specials or upcoming events. From giveaways to special discounts, email updates can help increase your restaurant’s sales while keeping your brand on top of your customer’s mind.
Nevertheless, an email marketing can only be beneficial if you have a high-quality email list to send your online letters to.
TIP: Instead of giving your guests access to the Wi-Fi by sharing a password with them, we recommend implementing Wi-Fi which will ask your customers for their email address in order to get access to Wi-Fi.
Now, it is time to embrace the power of the internet to brand your establishment digitally. The platforms and tools covered above are very powerful mediums to help you communicate the message which you want your customers (or potential customers) to remember. It will help the market to better understand what your brand stands for and what are its core values.
However, just like with anything else, your business is unique in its own unique way, thus take into consideration which of the tools above really make sense for your operation and in which way they should be used.
As always, if you have any questions or feedback, we would love to hear back from you!