Lean manufacturing principles apply to all types of small businesses including restaurants. Food services not only provide food and beverages but also deliver satisfying social experiences. Digital tools can improve internal operations, attract customers, strengthen online sales and strengthen customer loyalty. Digital marketing tools include restaurant websites, customer and business apps, loyalty programs, online and mobile ordering and social media engagement.

Responsive Websites with Better User Experiences

Digital marketing begins with website design. Optimizing sites for online searches and connecting with social media require time. Making sure that sites work properly and providing a good user-experience increasingly benefits from third-party management. Professional consultants help restaurants interact with customers and ensure that apps, widgets and content appear consistent on all types of computing devices.

Find the Right Online Platforms and Apps

Marketing platforms that allow restaurants to publish and update menus on the Internet include delivery services, restaurant-review sites, website consultants, delivery services and other digital-service providers. Mobile apps enable people to order from their phones while on-the-go or seated at their favorite restaurant. Increasingly important for busy people, Millennials and even leisurely diners, mobile ordering has become almost mandatory for restaurants.

Digital apps offer better control of restaurant functions such as accounting, inventory control and reservation management. Consumer apps connect with loyalty programs, social media networks, review platforms and Instagram photos of food, people and restaurants.

Loyalty Programs and Other Digital Tools

Loyalty and rewards programs allow restaurants to offer coupons online, reward loyalty, obtain information about consumer dining behavior and track customers’ preferences. Popular programs include Foursquare, BuzzTable, OpenTable, Venga and many others.

Restaurateurs face a dizzying array of digital services that convince many owners to stick with traditional techniques. Unfortunately, restaurants stand to lose their loyal diners to attrition and competitors unless they adopt digital tools. Types of digital marketing programs include:

  • Loyalty programs that allow restaurateurs to offer incentives and accept reservations
  • Delivery services that post menus online and take orders for delivery
  • Review sites that offer various marketing services
  • Mobile and text-marketing services
  • Reservations and seating-management services

Online and Mobile Ordering

The growing market for mobile and online ordering taps into an immense market of more than four billion people who carry smartphones. Diners want to check the daily specials, connect with their friends, speed ordering and find out if tables are available. Regardless of whether restaurants use a service or handle mobile ordering in-house, digital tools supply part of the labor for leaner costs and better service.

  • Restaurants in medium and large cities often have local ordering and delivery options based on digital connections or custom computer apps.
  • Implementing any system for online ordering costs money for service fees, commissions or providing internal solutions.
  • Successful restaurant websites use digital tools to integrate with online-ordering services, vendors and social media outlets.

Social Media Integration

Integrating social media accounts allows restaurants to send customers content and updates directly instead of through secondary links to social media profiles. Integrating with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook expands a restaurant’s reach, audience and feedback from diners.

  • Twitter offers a great way to post specials, send friendly reminders to customers and generate real-time marketing results.
  • Instagram allows customers to post real-time photos of dining experiences.
  • Restaurants can display their social media pages on digital signs for cross-promotional benefits.
  • Restaurant reviews are increasingly available to diners through social media.
  • Social sites allow members to find out where their friends are dining in real-time.

Automated Marketing Tools

Automated digital marketing enables restaurants to connect with suppliers, customers, media outlets, prospects and authoritative Internet links. These tools include applications for connecting with people, researching customer prospects and analyzing marketing efforts. Restaurants can track dining trends, wholesale prices and external suppliers. Benefits of digital automation include:

  • Sending newsletters and emails about upcoming events or menu changes
  • Providing timely reminders of customer birthdays, anniversaries and holidays
  • Informing managers and servers of diner ordering, seating and server preferences
  • Testing website features, blog posts and restaurant initiatives
  • Triggering automatic marketing based on the calendar, time of day, daily specials and other criteria

Restaurants face tremendous competition from supermarkets, food trucks, other restaurants and online marketers from other industries. Digital tools for managing internal processes, attracting new customers and managing mobile and social media marketing offer enormous benefits in the age of instant communications. Restaurateurs understand that these challenges are becoming increasingly complex and connected. Getting expert advice and help for digital marketing allows restaurant staffs to concentrate on their core goals of providing great food, service and ambiance while digital tools take care of the marketing details.