Supporting Restaurant Expansion Through Smart, Local Marketing Efforts

Senior Friends Happy HourFour ways to build your customer base in new markets

When a restaurant brand starts expanding outside of its home territory, it’s tough to gain traction. Your business was initially built around your location, suppliers and consumer base. When you expand beyond those, everything changes.

Today I’m going to focus on consumer base. How do you convince a whole new set of consumers to visit your restaurant – ideally often, especially if there’s low awareness of your brand in that area? Whether you’re a regional chain entering a new market or just a single restaurant embarking on your second restaurant in a new location, I have four marketing tips to help make the transition as successful as possible.

  1. Reflect local tastes on your menu

Okay, so this one touches several aspects of your business, not just marketing. Do your research on local tastes. I’m not suggesting you overhaul your menu – rather, I’m recommending that you incorporate flavors that are reflective of the area while staying true to your core offerings.

Smashburger does a great job of this, usually offering at least one menu item that is unique to a particular region, such as the Carolina Chili burger in their South and North Carolina locations.

  1. Engage your existing fans to generate grand opening buzz

We’ve covered grand openings before, but I can’t overstate the importance of generating as much buzz as possible ahead of time around your restaurant’s big day.

You might be surprised to find that even in areas where your restaurant isn’t very well-known, there are often at least a few people who know and love your brand. Do your homework. Find these people and engage them via social media a few weeks before you open. Offer them coupons or invitations in exchange for helping you champion your brand on social channels. If you can find a fan who is a local influencer, such as a blogger or reporter, even better!

  1. Ingrain your restaurant in the local culture

If you are an established regional chain moving outside of your territory, this one can be difficult.

Let’s say you’re a well-known Pennsylvania classic – how do you make people in Indiana feel like your restaurant has a place in their daily lives? The answer is to get local. Find out what matters to the local community, and make your restaurant a part of that. Sponsor little league teams. Host fundraising events. Cheer on your new state’s premier sports teams. It won’t happen overnight, but in time your restaurant will feel like it was part of the community all along.

  1. Pump extra marketing funds into the new location 8-12 weeks post-opening

Even for restaurants who have a successful grand opening, it’s common to see the honeymoon period end 2-3 months later. At this point, many restaurants experience a dip in sales. This is a good time to pump a few extra dollars into that market. Radio sponsorships, social promotions or traffic-driving display advertising on Waze are all great ways to continue raising awareness levels in the new area.

Now, there are certainly no guarantees when a restaurant expands outside of its original territory, but these four tips will help put you on the path to success.

About Gina Lee De Freitas 

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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The Importance of Search in Restaurant Marketing


How to make the best of your overall search strategy

Google processes over 3.5 billion search queries worldwide every day. These range anywhere from questions about health and history to searches for the latest viral cat video. In large part due to expanding technology, we now live in a world where we constantly “need to know,” “want to go to,” and “want to buy” – and have the ability to do so from our fingertips.

It’s important to have a strong grasp on both your organic and paid search strategy to ensure you are helping your customers find the information they need then ultimately getting them into your restaurant.

Keep Your Local Listings Up To Date

With the growing usage of mobile devices and the ease with which users can search on smartphones, local listings play a critical role for restaurants. Nearly 20% of all searches come from a mobile device and have location intent. It can be assumed that this figure is even higher for the restaurant industry. Users need to know your hours, address, phone number and other information before they can even make their way to your restaurant.

Another local listing factor that can often be overlooked is your restaurant’s reviews. A staggering 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and your online reviews have an impact on your restaurant’s organic search rankings.

Luckily, there are a number of tools out there to help you wrangle all of the information about your restaurant(s) across a variety of search engines and websites. If you’re strapped for time, Google My Business is a great resource that will allow you to get pertinent information correctly conveyed to consumers searching specifically in Google.

Be There for Hand Raisers

If someone is searching for your restaurant, they likely have intent to visit and should be at the top of the list of people you want to be speaking to. Search ads give you the opportunity to not only speak to that consumer but also drive them to the site content you’ve designated to be most important.

You can also reach consumers looking for generic terms like “restaurants near me” in an effort to gain market share from your competitors by appearing at the top of the search listings (and by spending some money to get there).

The “Need it Now” Phenomenon

As I mentioned before, we live in a world where we need to know everything right this minute. Half of local smartphone searchers will visit a store within a day of making that search. In the restaurant industry, Google sees nearly 50% of restaurant searches happening within an hour of the user going there.

The search process doesn’t stop once a decision has been made, as Millennials especially are known for looking up information about their food while they are in the restaurant.

All of these facts should be making you think more about your search presence in the restaurant vertical, and if you’re really providing the value that consumers are looking for and could be getting from your competitors.

About Gina Lee De Freitas 

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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Use Your Restaurant Marketing to Drive Online Orders

online orders.jpgHow restaurants can drive additional transactions without actually getting butts in seats

While getting butts in seats is a goal of every restaurant, not all consumers are looking for a sit-down dining experience. Luckily, many restaurants now offer online ordering (OLO) as a dining option. Having a great OLO program can not only drive more transactions for your restaurant, but it can also tailor them to changing consumer needs and bring in new customers. Here are a few ways you can improve your restaurant’s OLO program.

Get the Word Out

Many restaurants don’t make it well known that you can order their food online. With the change of consumer habits, digitally advertising this offering can provide major benefits. There are two approaches you can take here: increase awareness and drive online sales.

First, make sure people know that you offer online ordering – use search link extensions to talk about online ordering, use standard banner ads, find influencers to blog about their OLO experience with your restaurant and more. The options are pretty endless, but the point is that you need to get the word out that you offer online ordering before people will start ordering online.

Once there is some awareness around your offering, use strategic advertising tactics to drive orders. One of the hardest parts of restaurant marketing is proving that it is working and that your efforts are getting butts in seats. OLO changes that because you can attribute orders to the creative, advertising channel and targeting strategy that helped drive that order.

Set Yourself Up for Success

It is important that consumers can easily order online or else you risk turning people away from your OLO program. Your website should mimic the in-store ordering experience and be easy for everyone to use whether they are digitally savvy or not.

Many restaurants are also turning to mobile apps to improve their OLO experience. In an increasingly mobile world, consumers are already well-versed in using apps. It’s important to remember that your mobile app should provide added value to the consumer (save their order for next time they want to make an order, for example) and not exist just because you think your restaurant needs an app.

Offer Delivery

Even though online ordering provides convenience to consumers, there are some people who are going to be looking for an even higher level of convenience through delivery. Currently, most OLO programs still require the consumer to pick up their order in the restaurant. Offering delivery can set you apart from your competitors, but keep in mind that it’s not a profitable option for all restaurants.

Recently, mobile ordering app developers OLO launched Dispatch, an offering that allows restaurants to take advantage of delivery service without taking on the burden of funding a delivery driver.

With Dispatch, restaurants can run their online ordering program exactly as it is today with the simple addition of a checkbox for delivery at checkout. The user then pays ahead, enters their delivery address, and is shown local delivery service providers. The restaurant wins because they can easily take advantage of delivery service through their current OLO site and the consumer wins because they can take advantage of delivery service from more of their favorite restaurants.

So, if you’re thinking about beginning an online ordering effort, or if you already have a program in place, there’s always room for optimization and improvement. Because, after all, butts in seats still count even if they’re at home.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Four Ways To Utilize Location-Based Restaurant Marketing More Effectively

Stores and Restaurants Building ExteriorsTaking advantage of location data to reach consumers and drive restaurant visits.

In today’s technology-driven world, more American adults than ever report owning a smartphone device (68% according to a recent Pew survey) and, depending on the settings of that device, technology companies around the world are collecting location data like it’s going out of style.

Marketers across multiple verticals are using that data to reach consumers more efficiently and more effectively. So the question is: how do restaurants take advantage of location data?

Reach “Near Me” Searchers

Today it is easier than ever to find nearby restaurants, gas stations, and retailers through searches performed on smartphones. According to Google, the restaurant industry is the most searched for industry on mobile browsers in part due to more consumers searching for keywords like “restaurants near me” and “restaurants nearby.”

Make it easy for your consumer to get important information such as your location and hours simply by showing up in their search results when they are within 5-10 miles of your restaurant.

Message Consumers Near Your Restaurant

On a typical day, how far are you willing to drive to get dinner? According to eMarketer, most diners are only willing to drive 5-10 miles to visit a QSR. Additionally, location-based ads have proven to lift casual dining visits by 10.4x.

Utilize your marketing dollars more efficiently by focusing your media on those consumers who are close to your restaurant to help influence their dining decisions. Don’t waste your time and media budget targeting someone who would have to spend an hour in the car just to get to your restaurant.

Take Advantage of the Rise of Mapping Apps

When was the last time you pulled out a map or atlas to figure out how to get somewhere? With smartphones such a major part of our daily lives, the same information is now available at your fingertips – and it’s more dynamic than ever! If there’s an accident on your normal route home from work, any mapping tool is going to give you a quicker way to get home. Over the last few years, these apps have been looking for ways to monetize their offering.

Waze is probably the best example of a company doing this well with their use of “mobile billboards” – so well in fact that Google Maps is working on launching its own version of a similar advertising platform. This is a great way to reach consumers when they are on-the-go and possibly looking for a lunch or dinner option.

Don’t Completely Ignore Diners Further Away from Your Restaurant

Those consumers who live further away from your restaurant shouldn’t be ignored but rather reached strategically. For example, if someone searches for your restaurant, make sure your information shows up regardless of their location. These consumers are obviously interested in your brand and could be more likely to drive further to visit your restaurant.

Set up your website to make it convenient for these users to get the information they’re looking for. Provide a location finder that shows exactly how far away the restaurant is located and if your menu differs across locations make sure you use the user’s current location to determine which menu should be shown.

With so many location-based targeting options available to restaurant marketers, now is the time to help bring your customers to your door a whole lot easier. Get on board now before they pass you by for the next restaurant down the street.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Restaurant Marketing Means Going Beyond the Menu

menu.jpgFood is not the only thing that restaurants should be focusing on to make their establishment successful.

Typically, a restaurant concept revolves around a type of food that the creator thinks is innovative and missing from the plethora of dining options we have available today.  While food is, clearly, a key ingredient in the success of a restaurant, it is not the only thing that restauranteurs should be focused on.

Enticing guests to get their butts in your seats requires more than a stellar menu, you have to understand what drives that visit and what your strategy and focus will be in terms of differentiating yourself in the market.  And while you can’t be all things to all taste buds, you should consider each of these categories and then prioritize the top three that you want to focus on and really strive to stand out in those key areas.

Food & Beverage

Does your food taste good? (hopefully you think so)  Assuming yes, do you have a signature food and/or cocktail item?  If not, you should consider creating one.  I can’t tell you how many times I ‘crave’ a food item and will actually go out of my way to visit a restaurant just to scratch that itch.  That item should have some ‘secret sauce’ ingredient or process that is not easily replicated so that guests know that they can only come to you if they want it.

Not only does this approach differentiate you in the market, but it also drives that repeat purchase which is so critical to lasting success in this industry.


This refers to both the guests that you attract as well as the staff you have on site.

Part of your guests experience is who they are sharing tables with.  If you are going for the ever-popular millennial crowd then you need to seed your restaurant with things that attract that audience – outside of the food.

Part of this is the staff that you hire in, their friends will visit them while they are working, and they will then bring their friends with.  The staff are who set the tone for your valuable repeat visitors as well, so creating the employee culture that spills in to customer service is an invaluable strategy.


Related to the above category, the type of ambience that you create at your location will drive the types of guests that you attract.  If you are interested in the sports crowd, then ensure that you have the channels and screens that you know sports fans like.  Conversely, if you know that you want to go after the families with children, then perhaps restricting or removing screens from your restaurant is the better option.

Also, consider commissioning local artists for your wall art – this gives a local flair to your location as well as ties you closer to the community, encouraging trial from guests that you might not normally be able to reach depending on your location or food style.


If you’re new to the block, that’s a pretty easy sell for folks to want to check you out.  But remember, first impressions are critical – this is the point where you could be gaining a lifetime guest, so don’t mess it up.  Because this is a vital time period in a restaurant’s life, be strategic with your approach.  Do soft openings, give out VIP passes – make a splash in your new hood so that the novelty effect lasts as long as possible.


Location, location, location – not much to say here that you don’t already know.  But when you are picking where to put your restaurant roots down, consider traffic patterns and what types of guests are likely to find your location convenient.  Additionally, if you’re in an urban area with limited space – parking is a true consideration for those that want to eat out.  I have definitely moved away from a location because our party was too big and we did not want to ‘deal’ with parking – that’s money lost.


Finally, put your economist hat on and review the price and value of your food offerings.  If there are fun and different ways to surprise and delight by adding value for your guests (free bread, bottomless soda, free chips and queso), then do it!  But buyers beware, if you don’t want to only be a price/promotion-driven restaurant, then this should probably not be your primary focus as there is always someone out there with a cheaper and faster way to do, what you do.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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