The Potential of Voice-enabled Devices for Restaurant Marketers

Communication with voice assistant in a smart home

How devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo are changing the game for marketers.

Burger King has been getting a lot of press recently for their newest ad attempting to hijack Google Home devices. Now, as with anything buzzworthy there are those that liked it and those that hated it.

What I want to highlight instead is that this showed a new level of understanding of the current technology and consumer behavior climate. While it didn’t please all consumers, it definitely triggered a discussion of how brands can better integrate themselves into the Internet of Things (AKA IoT), specifically, voice-controlled devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.

According to an eMarketer report from February 2017, while the U.S. consumer ownership of voice-enabled devices is still only about 10% between Amazon and Google Home – there is a 63% awareness of both products.

Additionally, we know from Amazon Echo’s huge holiday sales surge that there is increasing demand for these devices – in fact, eMarketer forecasts that by 2020 there will be 7 million Echoes shipped alone. I think it’s safe to say that you could easily double that to account for Google Home devices to get to 14 million voice-enabled devices sold and activated within the next three years. While still a relatively small percentage of the population, the growth rate is not to be ignored.

But how does that tie back to restaurant marketing? Well, just like how the advent of the smartphone changed how marketers needed to engage with their consumers in a mobile-first environment; Google Home and Amazon Echo require marketers to adapt again and start to think about how to engage through listening and responding with contextually relevant information.

Specifically, restaurants should take a page from Burger King and start to think about how they can better leverage this shift in consumer behavior – albeit with less of a controversial splash.

For starters, getting your online ordering ecosystem integrated with simple voice commands seems like a no-brainer. When you think about it, it is a behavior that is not so far-fetched from how we used to order food over the phone. And it also leans nicely into the convenience factor that typically drives online ordering in the first place. Being a first-mover restaurant brand in this area will certainly help to attract that younger Millennial audience that all restauranteurs are looking to hook, as well as provide another reason for your loyalists to ‘call’ on your restaurant again.

You may also want to move toward ‘quick menus’ – something that is easy for an Alexa or Google to read and tell a consumer as to what the top items are, so they don’t have to feel like they need to open up their computer or mobile phone to check. Thinking forward a bit, these types of integrations will also become critical as systems like Alexa become integrated into the cars themselves, and consumers want to order some dinner on their way home from work.

Ultimately, the potential of voice-enabled devices for restaurant marketers really is boundless at this point, and the door is open for brands to get in there and start doing it right.

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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How Restaurant Marketing Can Suppress Negative Google Results

feedback conceptSearch engine optimization tactics will help restaurant owners escape negative reviews.

PR nightmares can happen to any business, at any time, but their negative effects don’t have to last forever. If someone Googles your brand, there’s no reason why a negative story needs to become a permanent mantelpiece on the first page of Google. While consistently terrible PR might be a symptom of bad business practices, a few errant gaffes can certainly be mitigated with great search engine optimization (SEO).

  1. Utilize an always-on approach for any branded terms related to your restaurant. This is a surefire tactic to always showing up first in result pages. Additionally, owning the paid search section of Google’s results page ensures other brands can’t conquest potential customers.
  1. Wikipedia articles typically always rank on the first page for a brand. There are even firms that specialize solely in developing Wikipedia articles, getting them approved and keeping them approved. With a domain authority of 100, it’s not likely Wikipedia articles will fall out of Google’s good graces any time soon. Please note that for restaurants that opt out of a specialized Wikipedia firm and write and submit an article in-house, it’s important to become familiar with Wikipedia’s stringent article guidelines and acceptance policies.
  1. Interlink all social accounts (Facebook should have links to Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, etc. and vice versa). Companies that utilize this strategy have success showing actual tweets in search result pages, rather than a Twitter profile alone.
  1. Feature well-optimized menus on partner websites like or, in order for Google to add individual menu items to the search engine result page within their knowledge graph.
  1. Key executives should have personal websites that mention and link to the brand website. Not only will this strategy rank executive websites for brand-related search terms, it’s also a good way to earn additional links and increase domain authority. This tactic is high-effort, but the payoff is worthwhile. Also, ensure these websites are developed on separate servers to avoid link-network penalties from Google.
  1. Set your restaurant up with Yext or another local listing management platform. For a company with just a few locations, the prices are pretty reasonable. This strategy will earn long-tail rankings on sites like Foursquare, Yelp, etc.
  1. Execute duplicate suppression across social and review accounts. For example, a company may have two Glassdoor accounts with negative reviews on both accounts. By combining these duplicate accounts, you limit the amount of times this result can show up in a search engine.

Of course, restaurants should do everything they can to limit the source of negative press. But for unintended blunders, the above tactics will act as defensive measures to suppress negative Google search results.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Consumer Reviews Influence Your Restaurant Marketing Efforts

Businessman hand giving five star rating, Feedback concept

Unique customer reviews are the best way to the top of positive search results.

No one wants to display a review from the jerk who says your water sucks. But Google’s new review guidelines are asking you to do just that: display both positive and negative reviews. And that’s not the worst thing. There’s also an entirely new set of review guidelines restaurants need to follow if they want to maintain their rankings.

By now restaurant industry experts understand the importance of reviews. They increase traffic, online orders and overall loyalty to a brand. It’s no surprise review aggregators – scrapers that collect reviews across the web – are a desirable solution to add reviews to your website.

That’s why nearly half of Fortune 500 companies work with partners like BazaarVoice who, in part, help curate customer reviews for businesses. But until recently, the way reviews affect Google rankings haven’t been clear (outside of the mantra of “reviews + website = good”). But that’s changed.

Here’s the best way to utilize reviews without compromising rankings, according to Google’s updated review guidelines. All of these steps should be understood through the “Google lens,” the basic SEO philosophy that everything an SEO expert does should provide a better experience for users.

Consider what you’re about to read Google’s three commandments (for reviews). Do it or therefore spend eternity in page-two SERP ranking hell.

1.  Thou shalt not use third party reviews. Reviews drive sales because users think they’re getting content that’s unique and truthful, not something cherry-picked from another website by your marketing intern. Google recommends only using reviews that come directly from your site. That means you can’t scrape other sites like Yelp or OpenTable for reviews. They need to come directly from your site.

2. This one’s tough, but Google says it’s important to facilitate an environment where positive and negative reviews are possible. And it makes sense, right? There’s something untrustworthy about anything with unanimous approval.

3. If a local franchise has great service, that service doesn’t apply to every restaurant this company owns. As a result, reviews from multiple-location restaurants only count for the specific location they were written about. So in my case, thank you Chick-fil-A of Longmont, CO for always having chicken sandwiches that are unstoppable.

These new rules from Google are key to their philosophy and my philosophy.

When it comes to restaurant marketing and SEO, always operate under the Google lens: what’s good for the user brings positive search results.

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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Big Data’s Role in Restaurant Marketing


Leverage big data and analytics to help increase your revenue.

Big data. Analytics. These are terms that nearly everyone in business has heard of, yet most have only a vague understanding of their power and value.

Restaurants that adopt better data practices will be surprised at how much there is to learn about their consumers, operational processes, pricing and more. This is a meaty concept, so today I’ll cover what big data is and some examples of how other restaurants have successfully leveraged it.

You already have big data

Google defines big data as “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.” This sounds complicated, and it is, but the good news is that restaurants actually generate a ton of data every single day.

The most obvious place to look is your POS system, which houses information on what menu items you’re selling, what they cost, promotion redemptions and who is visiting your restaurant. Your CRM tool has detailed personal information on members. Your accounting department has financial data such as costs, revenue and profit. Your supply inventory and supply prices are data, too. So are employee schedules, wages and tips. If you’re not storing information like this yet, now is the time to start!

How can all of that help restaurants drive revenue?

The possibilities for driving ROI through an investment in big data and analytics are truly endless, so let’s focus on two interesting examples that may give you some ideas for your own business.

One QSR monitors its drive-thru line in real time and leverages the data to change what menu items are featured on the digital menu. This allows them to maximize drive-thru revenue. If the line is long, the menu shows items that are easy and quick to prepare. If the line is short, the menu highlights more expensive items that aren’t as quick to prepare but boost revenue and profit.

Another restaurant analyzed the demographics and psychographics of their high-value customers, and use that data to choose the location for a new restaurant. They found a location with a high density of people who were similar to their best customers. The revenue impact of the decision outweighed the cost of the analytics investment by 10x.

These examples only scratch the surface, but they should give you an idea of the doors big data can open for your restaurant!

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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