How Restaurants Can Turn Online Followers Into Sit-Down Diners


How many of your Facebook page's "likes" have actually walked through your doors?

Often many restaurants question the true value and ROI of digital marketing efforts. While there are many reasons to develop and actively maintain your brand’s presence online, most restaurant marketers are primarily focused on getting followers to put down their laptops and pick up a fork. By leveraging digital strategies properly, you can increase the amount of customers walking through the doors. Research the behaviors and needs of your customers to understand what they expect from your digital presence and leverage these restaurant-focused tactics to start turning followers into paying customers.

Make Rewards Social

Dining is, by nature, a social experience. Expand the social experience you create in your restaurant beyond your four walls with the help of personalized digital marketing campaigns. Encourage check-ins and reviews of your restaurant and reward guests with special offers or recognition. A small but thoughtful gesture can go a long way in how people view and discuss your brand online, so create moments worth talking about. By monitoring your digital activity and recognizing brand advocates with rewards and praise, your online marketing can create a snowball effect of people spreading the word about your restaurant—both on and offline.

Leverage Mobile for Moment-of-Interest Connections

Mobile marketing has become a major component in restaurant success as smartphones continue to claim larger shares of Internet authority. Ensure your brand is present and represented properly across the spread of mobile dining apps. Take advantage of mobile ordering and reward programs to incentivize users to come back. Additionally, ensure your website is optimized for a mobile experience with responsive or mobile design so users can easily access the information they are looking for such as locations, menus, and store hours. Mobile ads can also be helpful in driving targeted traffic and new, on-the-go customers to your site.

Optimize For Local

Local optimization is another key tactic in driving traffic offline. Develop your website with unique pages (and URLs) for each store location so users and search engines can easily find the right information. Unique pages help search engines crawl your website and eliminates any problems with iframes and third-party plug-ins that might otherwise occur. Once your website is optimized, focus your attention on updating local directories across the web. Optimizing local directory listings helps ensure customers always find the right information when searching for dining options in their area. Running geo-targeted advertisements can also increase your brand’s exposure within your surrounding area.

Target Users Differently

No matter what your restaurant serves, you have different segments of customers who want unique things from your brand online. Dish up some variety when speaking to your followers and address their distinct needs. For example, the fans of your Tuesday lunch promotion may not be interested in your Friday Happy Hour specials or Sunday jazz brunch. Step inside the minds of your different customer segments and personalize your approach to content and communication. Personalized ads are a great way to boost relevance to particular audience segments based on demographics, interests, location, and more.

Be Persistent

Stay in front of your target audience to keep your brand top of mind. Advertising around lunch and dinner time can help influence the decision making of potential customers. Staying active with social can play a big role in bringing back returning customers. Create a desire with engaging content such as pictures of food, personalized customer interactions, offers, and contests. Retargeting can also help remind users who expressed interest in your brand to pick your restaurant over your competitors. Retargeting works by placing a tracking cookie on a user's browser after they visit your website. Once that cookie is in place, your ads will follow the user around the web and help influence purchase decisions.

Track Results

By analyzing data from search, social, and website activity, you can understand which content was most effective at increasing brand engagement. To track engagement offline, try using unique offer codes for particular locations and promotions. Using distinct codes allows you to track real ROI from online ads to offline sales.


To turn online efforts into offline sales, develop personalized strategies that speak to your audience and stay engaged with customer interactions to build advocacy. The key to success is to understand what your different audience segments expect from your brand and then deliver it in the places they are searching. By staying active, interesting, and unique, your brand can increase online exposure that stimulates more sit-down diners.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

Thomas Stern

Thomas Stern is senior vice president of client services for ZOG Digital, a leading search and social marketing company. Stern has provided results-driven strategy for numerous digital marketing campaigns, working with brands such as Allstate, Whirlpool, Amtrak, Verifone, and National Geographic. ZOG Digital’s discovery marketing solutions include search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid advertising, and design and development. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @ZOGDigital.

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