The Secrets of Online Marketing for Restaurants

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by Nicholas Gagne

In late March this year a billboard in North Carolina caught the attention of the Internet. The billboard followed the familiar structure of MasterCard adverts, where the prices of various items are listed, and the experience related to the purchases is deemed priceless.

Viral Marketing


GPS Tracker – $250, Nikon Camera with zoom lens – $1600, Catching my lying husband and buying this billboard with our investment account, – Priceless.

Tell Jessica you’re moving in!

– Jennifer.

A short time passed and then the advert was updated. This time Jennifer, the wife, was inviting her husband’s mistress for some wine therapy at Yodaddy’s. “Jessica,” writes Jennifer, “Meet me at Yodaddy’s at 7:00pm for some wine therapy.”

It turns out that the advert was part of an elaborate marketing campaign to raise awareness of Yodaddy’s, the restaurant mentioned in the advert. Simply telling people what you do, and nothing more, can only get you so far.

The Internet makes us more connected, and marketers find themselves under increasing pressure to come up with ideas that can spread virally. With the right strategy, an inexpensive billboard advert can get you national media attention and floods of new customers. The Internet has democratized marketing, and made it possible for small businesses to outthink and outmaneuver larger brands.

The Internet has also made companies like YP United increasingly relevant to how people select restaurants. Online Yellow Page listings often appear near the top of search engine results pages, and include detailed reviews from customers that have eaten at the restaurant before. Many business owners forget that Yellow Pages listings are still found through search engines, and that they have become more important than ever.

Yellow Pages listings also drive Google’s local search algorithms. If you search on Google for a “Chicago French restaurant”, you will see detailed restaurant information directly inserted into the search results, and the locations of the restaurants overlaid onto a map. Google crawls Yellow Pages and local directory listings to get this information, which is one reason why Yellow Pages websites are becoming increasingly relevant to online marketing.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Wiley Cerilli discussed how one restaurant has used social media marketing to drive customers through its doors:

The Burger Shoppe, an "old New York" style ode to all things Burger (and more), offers its loyal followers (500+ today) a free side of fries or onion rings when they show the cashier or bartender that they've checked in via Foursquare. Each additional check-in increases The Burger Shoppe's word-of-mouth buzz, drawing new customers, and retaining current ones.

Location-based mobile apps help drive traffic through the door as well as create loyalty. On Foursquare, 7.5 million active users are checking-in to get access to special offers and direct their friends to their favorite establishments.

Viral marketing strategies allow you to aggressively and cost-effectively reach new customers, while social media marketing allows you to build relationships with people that live nearby.

Search and Yellow Pages websites allow you to capture demand for people who want to engage with your business for the first time. They might search for a “Boston burger restaurant” or a “Chinese restaurant in Austin” – something that shows they are actively looking for your business.