Americans are eating out more than ever before.

In fact, we’re spending 48% of our food budget on eating out these days, compared to only 25% back in the 1950s. Over half of us eat a restaurant-prepared meal two to three times per week.  

But with over 1 million restaurants in America today (the most there have ever been), the competition for those dollars is fierce. 

So how do you stay one step ahead of the competition?

Today, we’re going to do a deep dive into three simple but effective ways that you can increase restaurant sales. 

1. Search Engine Optimization

If I had to identify the single BEST way to increase your restaurant sales, I wouldn’t pick social media. And I wouldn’t pick special promotions. 

I would pick Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

Why?

Because SEO is the best way to connect to people who are searching for what you offer. With 93% of all website traffic coming from search engines like Google and Yahoo, SEO is vital. 

It ensures that when people are looking for a restaurant online, they find you.

For non-experts, the world of SEO can be a little confusing. But there are plenty of non-technical techniques that you can use to give your website a boost. 

I’m going to break down what SEO is, and how you can make it work for your restaurant.

What is SEO?

When a user types a question or prompt into the Google search bar, how does the search engine connect their query to a result?

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The answer is a complicated one. 

Google’s algorithm considers over 200 different metrics when matching searches to results. Those metrics and how much weight they get are changing all the time. 

But at its core, the better your website matches the searcher’s question, the higher your website will appear in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

how to get more restaurant sales

No one, not even SEO professionals, are 100% sure of the best way to hack the algorithm. But there are some things that are established fact in the SEO world.

So we’re going to focus on some of the changes you can make to your online presence to help make sure your website gains the visibility it needs. 

Note – Each of the search engines (like Yahoo, Bing, and Safari) have their own SEO metrics. But since Google has an 88.5% market share, I’m going to focus on Google for simplicity.

Why Bother?

Because 84% of people use the internet to find local businesses every day.

chart showing how many people use the internet to find local businesses

And the higher up the SERP your website appears, the better chances you have of someone clicking on it. In fact, 75% of all clicks on Google go to first page results.

Think about it — if you’re hungry, and you’re trying to find a restaurant nearby, are you going to scroll through page after page of search results? No!

You’ll find the very first restaurant nearby that looks appealing, and you’ll go. 

It may seem that an easy workaround is simply to pay for a Google Ad to ensure you show up in that top spot. 

This can be a good strategy, but it’s always better to rank organically rather than by buying ads.

That’s because 70 – 80% of users ignore paid advertisements in Google results. They generally know those spaces are bought, and may be skeptical about the result actually solving their search query.

So they’ll often skip those paid results and head down to the organic results — even if the organic and paid result lead to the exact same website.

increase restaurant sales with Google rankings

So now that you know why SEO is so important, let’s talk about how to do it. 

Content

If you talk to any of the SEO pros and ask them the best way to increase your rankings, they’ll tell you that you need great content.

As restaurateurs, this can be a little tricky. Restaurant websites tend to be on the simple side, including a menu, hours, address, and often not much else. 

Unfortunately, Google is very mistrustful of any page with less than 300 words of content. The algorithm doesn’t think anything that short can answer a search query very well. 

The highest-ranked pages on Google often have closer to 2,000 words. But don’t worry — you don’t have to write a novel. 

Instead, look at your current website and consider adding or upgrading some of these pages.

Menu

I’m sure you already have your menu on your website. But how?

If it’s a PDF, it’s time for an upgrade. 

PDF menus pose three different problems.

  1. Website visitors have to download them to see them, and they don’t like it.
  2. Reading a PDF on mobile is a pain, requiring users to pinch in and scroll around to read it. And with 81% of consumers searching for restaurants on mobile devices, that’s no good!
  3. Most important — search engines don’t always recognize the text in PDFs. So all of those wonderful words aren’t helping your SEO!

Instead, include your menu directly on your website.

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It will be easier for website visitors to read. And it will provide valuable clues to Google indicating that you have a restaurant website.

About

Introduce yourself to your community. Provide some backstory about your restaurant, management, chef, and menu.

Do you have any interesting stories about why you decided to start your particular restaurant?

Maybe summers in Louisiana as a kid fostered a love of Cajun cuisine that made you want to serve your own. Or maybe your chef learned the art of handmade pasta from her Nonna in the foothills of the Italian Alps.

Every restaurant has a story, so use the opportunity to share yours.

Restaurant's "About Us" page to boost restaurant sales

You could also use this space to include some good press that you’ve received. 

Events

An event page on your website will provide valuable content to your readers. Post a calendar where you can list special events, live music, guest chefs, and any closures.

Make sure to update it regularly. It won’t do any good if it sits empty.

Contact Info/Reservations

Address and phone number are a given, as well as a link to OpenTable or a similar reservation software. But can you think of any additional information to include here? 

How about any information about booking private events or press inquiries? A few paragraphs explaining your reservation policy can help reduce phone calls AND add content to your website.

Community Involvement

Does your restaurant support any local or national charities or causes? Why not add a few paragraphs to your website about it?

You can explain why you chose to work with that charity, as well as how you contribute. Include a link to the charity where people can make their own donations. 

Information about ingredients or suppliers

People love to know where their food is coming from. With the cry of “buy local” going up everywhere, it would be great to identify any local farms or suppliers that you work with.  

You can also educate the public about specific, unique ingredients you use. Or you can write about certain regional or unusual dishes on your menu. 

This is especially informative in ethnic cuisines that many Americans might not be as familiar with.

Restaurant website describing Persian ingredients

If you make Colombian food, for example, you could include a page describing the variety of chiles that you use in your cooking. 

Blog

A blog is one of the best ways to increase your website’s content, and not many restaurants take advantage of it.

The reason? It’s time-consuming. 

But if you can outsource blogging to someone on staff or hire a freelancer, you can make sure to have a steady flow of new material to post. 

You can post about new menu items, events around town, do staff profiles, discuss ingredients, and more. Google likes fresh content, so updating a blog regularly will be great for your website’s SEO.

Keywords

When you’re writing all that content for your website, you’ll have to consider your keywords. Keywords are words and phrases that tell Google the core of your topic.

Keywords basically link the searcher to the result. The goal of using keywords is to improve your rank for those searches.

If I owned a vegan restaurant in Dallas, it would be logical for me to want the keyword “best vegan food in Dallas” to list my restaurant right at the top. That’s called “ranking” for the keyword.

There are a few different types of keywords that you should know.

Broad keyword

A broad keyword is a general term.

It will apply to a large number of restaurants, and will therefore be hard to rank for. But it will also appear in a high volume of searches.

These tend to be “short-tail” keywords — one or two words. “Chinese food” is an example of a broad, short-tail keyword. 

Niche keyword

Niche keywords are more specific. They will apply to fewer businesses, meaning they will be easier to rank for.

But they will also appear in fewer searches. They are often “long-tail” keywords — phrases of up to four or five words. 

“Pad see ew in Sacramento” is a niche, long-tail keyword.

Brand keyword

A brand keyword will usually include your restaurant name. It could also include a specific item name, like “Big Mac”.

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These are usually the easiest to rank for. But it may not happen automatically. 

Websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor can sometimes outrank individual restaurants, even for their restaurant name. 

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Keyword research

So how do you know what keywords you should focus on? You’ll have to do some keyword research. 

There are a lot of tools you can use, like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. But these sites charge monthly fees, and can be a little complicated for beginners. 

A great free option is UberSuggest

Here’s how it works. Search for a term that you think you’d like to optimize for.

I searched for “best deli in charlotte”. I immediately get helpful results. 

I can see that the “search volume” (number of searches for this term in a month) is 50. I can also see that the “keyword difficulty” (competition for this term) is low.

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I can also see how the search is trending with the graph below the overview.  

At its peak, this term has been searched for 70 times per month. At its lowest, it has been searched for 30 times per month.

Ideally, you want to find a keyword with a high search volume, and low difficulty. But search volume is going to be relative. 

For a major online retailer, a search volume of 70 is pathetically low. But for a small deli in Charlotte, North Carolina, that could be 70 new customers coming through their doors in a month! 

Based on these results, this looks like a great keyword to focus on. 

You can also scroll down the page to get additional keyword suggestions. 

UberSuggest screenshot for keyword research

The second result, “best deli in charlotte nc”, has lower difficulty. But it also has a much lower search volume than “best deli in charlotte”.

So now that you have a keyword, you should use it everywhere, right?

Wrong. That’s called “keyword stuffing” and it’s a big no-no. 

It looks like this:

We’re the best deli in Charlotte. Come to the best deli in Charlotte for premium pastrami and roast beef sandwiches! We bake our bread fresh in-house every morning. So come to Bob’s Deli — the best deli in Charlotte, NC!

No one wants to read that.

Behavior like this can get you penalized by Google’s algorithm. Remember, the #1 thing you can do is provide good, useful, readable content. 

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is basically how we’ll put together our content and keyword research to maximize results. There are also some technical aspects to on-page SEO that we’re going to go through. 

Keyword Density

As we discussed in the last section, keyword stuffing is to be avoided. So how many times should you include your keyword in the content?

Estimates vary, depending on who you ask. Some say a good rule of thumb is 1-3%. 

But that means that if you write 1,000 words of content, your keyword should appear 10 to 30 times. Is it possible to add the phrase “best deli in Charlotte” 30 times within a thousand words, and have it sound natural?

I doubt it. 

So it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you are writing great, informative content, and your keyword only makes it into the piece a few times, that should be just fine. 

Meta Descriptions

In addition to adding your keyword to your content, you’ll want to add it to your meta descriptions as well.

A meta description is a short snippet that appears on the search engine results page to tell readers what the page is about.

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Including your keyword in this meta description is another indicator to Google that your content is a good answer to the searcher’s question.

Another benefit is that the search terms will appear in bold type in the meta description. Searchers often scan results, looking for the best match.

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So if you have that exact term in your meta description, you’ll increase your chances of getting the click

Title tags

Listen up, because this section is important! Title tags are a big deal. 

A title tag is an attribute you assign to the title on your web page. It tells the search engine, “this is what it’s all about.”

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When you assign your title the “title tag”, it will ensure that this is the phrase that appears in the SERP. 

And it will be a big ranking factor. 

So make sure to use your keyword! It should be near the beginning of the title if possible. 

But you also have to remember that you’re not only writing this piece of content for Google. You’re writing it for people, too. 

So you want to make sure your title tag is interesting and eye-catching.

As for how you set up your title tag, this will depend on what kind of website you have. 

But the big website builders have made this pretty easy. Some sites, like WordPress, will automatically assign the title tag to the Title you type into a new web page.

"Add Title" box on WordPress

Photos

Adding photos is a great way to improve your SEO. Photos break up your text, improving the user experience and encouraging them to stay longer on your page. 

Plus, drool-worthy photos of your food will entice people in your doors, helping to increase restaurant sales!

In order to take full advantage of these images, make sure to include alt text. Alt text (short for alternative text) has a few purposes.

  1. It helps visually impaired website users to understand what the image displays.
  2. It will appear if your image can’t load.
  3. It helps Google to understand the image and its purpose

Alt text should be descriptive.

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Bad alt text to describe this image would be “cheeseburger”.

Good alt text could be “triple patty cheeseburger with bacon on a donut”.

If you can find a way to include a keyword organically in your alt text, that’s ideal. But just like in your written content, avoid keyword stuffing.

And your keyword shouldn’t appear in every image’s alt text. Just sprinkle it in where you can.

Finally, make sure your images aren’t too big. 

Huge image files will slow down your site speed, which actually hurts your SEO. (More on that later.)

Depending on where your site is built, you may be able to use a plugin like Smush to shrink the size of your photos. Or you could do it manually on a site like FastStone.

Responsive Design

Back in the day, all web browsing was done on a computer. But these days, mobile makes up 60% of Google searches.

So it’s vital that your site look as good on a phone as it does on a computer. 

A webpage with a responsive design will resize and reorient itself, depending on the type of device that is being used. A nonresponsive site shrinks the content down so badly that it’s practically unreadable.

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Users have to scroll in just to see, and can easily hit the wrong link. The result is a bad user experience that can quickly lose your mobile web traffic.

The better the user experience, the longer they’ll stay on your site. And the amount of time on your site is another ranking factor.

The good news is that most site builders like WordPress and Squarespace have responsiveness built-in. 

Responsive website on mobile

But if you see that your site doesn’t reorient on mobile, it may be time for a refresh.

Site Speed

Your website’s speed both on desktop and mobile is another important ranking factor for SEO. Google likes to see quick websites, and so do users.

In fact, 40% of users will give up on a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. 

So test your website speed using Google’s Page Speed Insights.

Type in your site’s URL for a full report on your site’s speed and how to improve it. Some of the fixes may require the help of a web developer.

Restaurant schema

Schema is a little complicated. At its core, it’s like a vocabulary that helps to identify certain kinds of content online. 

Using schema to identify this content helps Google to keep things organized. A schema “markup” tells the search engine what kind of data it’s looking at.

For example, using the schema markup “hasMenu” tells Google that your website includes a menu. Or the markup “servesItalian” will tell Google that your restaurant serves Italian food.

By using Schema to identify content, you increase your chances of that content appearing as a snippet in your search results.

Add schema for more restaurant sales

You can see a full list of restaurant schema at Schema.org/restaurant.

Adding schema involves editing your website’s code. You may want to ask a web developer for help, but it’s well worth it!

Now that we’ve explored some of the ways you can boost your SEO on your website, let’s talk about some things you can do elsewhere on the web.

Link building

Link building is a type of off-page SEO.

It’s called off-page, because it isn’t about what you put on your website. Rather, it’s about how the outside world interacts with your website. 

This is a component of SEO that a lot of people ignore, and it’s a big mistake. You see, a robust set of links back to your website tells Google that your site is valuable and useful.

Without it, Google thinks you’re a nobody. So you want to get those backlinks!

But not all links are created equal.

Domain Authority

If it was strictly a numbers game, it would be easy to get plenty of backlinks from random websites all across the internet. 

But we’re not looking for quantity. We’re looking for quality

Every website has something called a “Domain Authority” score. This number reflects how trustworthy a website is. 

The higher the Domain Authority, the more helpful a backlink from that site will be. A great DA score will be 80+. 

The more backlinks you can get from sites with high DA, the better your own DA will become. And that will boost your SEO.

To check a website’s DA, head back over to Ubersuggest. Enter any URL in the search bar to check that site’s DA!

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Now that you know how to find Domain Authority, what should you do with it? 

To start, you should reach out to some of these sites. Try to interest them in some kind of collaboration that would include a link back to your site.

You can pitch stories featuring your restaurant, invite writers in to dine with you, and even offer to write a guest post from an industry insider (you!).

Here are just a few websites you could reach out to.

Local news outlets

Does your local news ever do food features? Reach out to someone in their programming department to pitch a story about your restaurant!

Don’t think that just because it’s local, it can’t have a good DA. For example, Portland, Maine’s WGME news site has a DA of 84.

Eater

National outlet Eater has local branches in 24 cities across the nation, and they’re all restaurant all the time. If you can get a backlink from Eater, you’d give your SEO a huge boost.

build links for more restaurant sales

Link on Eater website to Dirt Candy's website

Local bloggers

Local bloggers and influencers can have great domain authority on their sites. They may not always hit that 80 threshold, but they’ll still be worth getting.

It can be tempting to just buy links. But don’t do it.

If any money changes hands when you’re link building, Google’s terms of use say that the link has to be a “nofollow” link. That means you won’t get the SEO boost from that link. 

If the site violates that rule, you could be penalized. So don’t risk it!

Local SEO

With mobile searches so dominant, most of us aren’t searching for where to eat next week, or even tomorrow. Many of us are searching for where to eat right now.

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So they’re often looking for something close by. As a restaurant with a physical storefront, you’ll be able to leverage that type of search by maximizing your local SEO

One of the major factors in local SEO is a very simple one — consistent NAP.

NAP is an abbreviation for Name, Address, and Phone Number. Website is also crucial, so sometimes it’s referred to as NAPW. 

When this information is listed inaccurately online, it can hurt your rankings and cause confusion to your customers. 

You want consistency and completion everywhere

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Yelp, Foursquare, Google My Business, and Trip Advisor are prime places where your contact information is listed. By fully filling out your profiles on all of these sites, you’ll tell Google that your restaurant is where you claim it is.

When people search for restaurants nearby, you’ll improve their chances of finding you! This is one of the best ways to increase restaurant sales.

A final note

Beware of unsolicited emails from SEO “experts” claiming that they can get you top-ranked on Google in 30 days, or similar messaging. These types of services often use so-called “black hat” techniques — sneaky methods that violate Google’s terms of service. 

These actions only get temporary results, and can result in your website being penalized or even banned from Google.

So don’t risk it!

2. Use Instagram influencer marketing

Let’s face it — we live in the age of the influencer. All it takes is the average cell phone and some creativity to build a huge audience that hangs on your every word. 

And that’s great news for restaurants! 

People trust influencers even more than their own friends and families. And they rely on these people to make local restaurant recommendations. 

But why is Instagram the best place to do this kind of marketing?

To start, the platform has over a billion monthly users. And they’re a highly engaged audience. 

Graph showing higher engagement rates on Instagram than Twitter

In fact, Instagram users are more engaged than users on any other social media platform.

Plus, 82% of Instagram influencer marketers think that this method gets the best quality of customers. So it works!

And finally, Instagram is 100% visual. 

Every post is a photo or video. And since people eat with their eyes, it’s the best place to show off all of your delicious food.

But how do you know the best way to interact with these local online celebrities? I’m going to break it down for you.

Choosing influencers

First, you’ll have to do some research. 

On Instagram, navigate to the “Explore” tab by hitting the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen. Then, you can start searching.

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You want to find local food influencers, because local influencers will have local followers. An audience of 30,000 in your town will be much more valuable than an audience of 100,000 in the next state! 

So start with local foodie tags, like these: 

#[city]eats
#[city]foodstagram
#[city]foodie
#eating[city]
#[city]foodblogger

These tags will help you find local foodies that have used these tags. 

Once you’ve found a few, check out their follower counts

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Local influencers can have anywhere between 2,000 and 100,000 followers (or more)! The reach you want to go for is up to you. 

For your first influencer campaign, maybe look for someone in the 10,000 to 20,000 follower range. 

It’s usually easier to come to an arrangement with a smaller influencer than a big one. And you’ll also have to consider engagement, which we’ll get into shortly.

Once you’ve identified a candidate with a good number of followers, it’s time to dig in deeper! 

First, make sure their audience is similar to your audience.

Look for influencers who have posted photos at restaurants with a similar vibe or similar patrons to yours. Don’t get sucked into the feed of a BBQ enthusiast if you sell salads!

Make sure their content aligns with your brand both on and off Instagram. Check their Facebook page, blog, Twitter, and any other sites where they have a presence. 

You will waste a lot of time and energy if you work out a deal with an influencer whose audience doesn’t match your own. 

Once you’ve confirmed their audience, it’s time to check their engagement rate. This is the percentage of their followers that like or comment on their posts.

Engagement is just as important as number of followers. 100,000 followers don’t do you any good if no one is paying attention to the content!

To figure it out, you’ll have to do some math.

Pick a post from your influencer, and add up the number of likes and the number of comments.

how to get more restaurant sales

Then, divide that number by their total number of followers, and multiply by 100. 

In our example:

332 likes + 17 comments = 349 total
349/25,200 followers = 0.0138 X 100 = 1.38%

That’s this influencer’s engagement rate for one post. 

But sometimes, one post will do much better or much worse than others. So you’ll want to find an average. 

Complete the above formula for 30 posts. Add the engagement rates for all 30 posts together, and divide by 30 to get an average. 

You’re looking for an engagement rate of at least 2-3%.  4-6% would be even better! 

Keep in mind, there is usually a negative correlation between number of followers and engagement. An influencer with 10,000 highly engaged followers could be more valuable to you than one with 50,000 unengaged followers!

Reaching out

So let’s say you’ve done your research and found three perfect influencers for your restaurant. Time to send them a message, right?

Not so fast. 

Social media is all about relationships. So you need to build one before the big ask. 

If you haven’t followed their account yet, that’s your first step. 

Next, spend some time engaging with them. 

Don’t just go through all their old photos and like every one. That’s spammy, and they’ll see right through it.

Instead, you’ll have to spend a little time on your campaign. Like their photos as they’re posted, and comment where it’s appropriate.

But only comment if you can think of something real to say. You’re aiming to be a memorable part of the influencer’s community. 

Generic comments on Instagram

It can also help to interact with people the influencer follows. Click on “Following” on the top right of their profile to find some other accounts that they follow.

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Influencers are often a community, so find a few others that your influencer interacts with often on Instagram. Make sure to comment and like their content as well! 

After a few weeks, it’s time for the ask.

You can either Direct Message them right on Instagram, or send them an email if you can find an email address.

Let them know that you’re a fan of their content (true!) and invite them in to the restaurant so you can work together! Offer them a free meal in exchange for a few posts on their feed. 

Be up front about what you’d like to see. If you provide a huge meal and get one image out of it, that may not provide enough value to you. 

Instead, ask them for a few images and one or two Instagram stories. Influencers are always looking for content, so the opportunity to get some great photos for free will often be one they’ll jump at!

Some of the bigger influencers will also want to charge a fee. But rates are generally low, especially for local (not national) influencers.

graph showing rates for sponsored posts charged by influencers

 

And if you do have the budget to pay a small fee, it may be worth it. The average ROI for each dollar spent on influencer marketing is $5.20!

Graph showing high influencer ROI

Following the rules

To play it safe, you may want to make sure the influencer abides by FTC disclosure requirements. Most don’t.

Providing free product falls under the FTC’s Endorsement Guides. Big-time celebrities like the Kardashians have been fined for not disclosing their sponsorship agreements with certain brands.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that your local foodie will be on the FTC’s radar. But fans appreciate transparency. 

An influencer can lose some of their support if their followers feel like they’ve been duped. And that’s not good for you or the influencer.

To comply with the rules:

  • Include #ad or #sponsored in the first 3 lines of description, before it gets cut off. Viewers shouldn’t have to hit “more” to see the disclosure.

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  • Explain the material connection at the front. Something like “Bob’s Cafe invited me in to try…” would probably work. 
  • You can also use Instagram’s built-in sponsorship feature.

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Analytics

So you made the connection and your influencer said yes. Now how will you know if your campaign was a success?

First, you need to decide how you’ll define success. What are your goals?

One possibility is to send people to your website or online ordering system. If that’s your goal,  ask the influencer to use tracked links.

With Google Analytics Campaign URL builder, you can enter all the details of your campaign.

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Then, the program will provide a custom tracking URL that you can send to the influencer. Ask him or her to use it on the post.

If your goal is engagement, you can simply do the math the same way you did when gauging influencer engagement. Only this time, you’ll be calculating for one post instead of finding an average across 30 posts. 

If you have an Instagram story included, ask the influencer to send you a screenshot showing the views. Story views aren’t public. 

And if your goal is an increase in your own followers, just make a note of how many you have before the post goes up. Check it again about 2 days later. 

Instagram’s algorithm can show people content out of order, so give it a little time to work!

Bonus: User Generated Content

One of the bonuses of working with influencers is that they create their own content that you can then repost. 

Influencers usually take great photos. And since they’re also trying to increase their reach, they’re happy for others to repost their photos, as long as they get credit. 

You can also repost user-generated content (UGC) from other visitors. If you’re going to do it, it’s always a good idea to get permission first. 

To find these photos, click on this icon:

When you find a photo you like, click on the little paper airplane to send a direct message. Type in the users’ profile name to send them a message. 

By sending the message from the image page, you’ll show the user exactly which photo you’d like to repost. 

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You can also repost Instagram stories if you are tagged in them. When someone tags you in their Instagram story, you’ll receive a message in your DMs with a link that says “Add to my Story”. 

It’s still a good idea to ask permission to add someone else’s story to yours. But at the least, make sure to tag the original poster to give them credit!

restaurant sales boost

3. Host a Facebook contest (with a chat bot)

This last way to increase restaurant sales is one big technique that can bring you a lot of business fast. It takes a little work on the front end, but once it’s up and running, you’re going to see huge Facebook engagement and have a lot of new customers.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First, you’re going to decide on one BIG giveaway. This should be something so good that even people who have never heard of your restaurant will want to enter. 
  2. Then, you’ll create a Facebook Post that requires people leave a comment in order to enter your giveaway.
  3. Next, you’ll set up a bot. This will automatically message everyone who leaves a message on your post, asking them to provide contact information to complete their giveaway entry.
  4. Then, you’ll set up a simple integration that will upload all of that contact info into a manageable list.

Once this all done and your post is live, you’re going to see huge engagement. And you’re going to “sweeten” the loss for everyone who didn’t win your contest with a little giveaway to get them in the door.

And you will have provided a major boost to your email list, earning hundreds or even thousands of new subscribers. Just follow these steps.

Decide on your BIG giveaway (and a little one)

Your grand prize should be something big and splashy! Everyone who sees this post should want to enter.  

For example, you could provide free lunch for a year or a $500 gift card. If you have a private room, you could offer a private dining experience for up to 6 people, with everything included.

Next, you’ll want to come up with a smaller offer. 

This will go out to a lot of people, so make sure it’s something you can afford. It could be a free appetizer, free dessert with purchase, or a small discount on their order. 

The idea behind this offer is to give the losers an incentive to come try your restaurant, even though they didn’t win. 

Create your post

Next, you need to decide on the creative for your Grand Giveaway post.

Video does well on Facebook, so you could do a video of the owner or a manager talking about the giveaway. 

If you go that route, make sure to add subtitles! 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, and you don’t want people watching your video at the grocery store or at work to miss out!

You can also use a program like Inshot or Canva to create a graphic. Start with a high-quality food or restaurant photo, and add some text to your image to make an eye-catching ad.

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Facebook requires that ad images include less than 20% text. If you add too much, your ad could fail to post.

So make sure to keep the text to a minimum. 

When you’re writing your post copy, keep these three elements in mind:

  • First, call the target audience out (ie. “Attention sushi lovers!).
  • Then, explain what you’re giving away, and when the contest ends. You want to encourage the audience to act right away.
  • Finally, provide a clear Call to Action (ie. “Comment your favorite sushi below to enter!”)

Posting

Once you’ve got your image created and your copy written, schedule your post to go live on your business page two days from now. That will give you plenty of time to get your automations set up.

Set up your bot

Now, we’re going to create our bot on an app called ManyChat. ManyChat is a popular chatbot program.

The functionality that we need for this step will require ManyChatPRO, a paid account. Plans start at $10 per month, and you can cancel it after you’ve completed this campaign — although you may not want to! 

Once you’ve set up your account and linked it to your Facebook page, here’s what you’ll do next:

  • Click on the “Growth Tool” menu on the left column.
  • Then click on the “New Growth Tool” button on the top right.

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  • Select “Facebook Comments”.
  • Click the “Select Post Button” and find the scheduled post that you already set up on your Facebook business page. Then click “Next”.

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Next, we’re going to create an auto-response. 

When people comment on your giveaway post, they’ll receive this auto-response on Facebook messenger. This message will let commenters know that they need to provide a few details to finalize their entry. 

Ask them to reply with a specific keyword to continue. By replying with that word, they’ll become subscribers to your messages. 

Then click “Next”.

Add a Facebook message to a chatbot

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Click “Save & Activate”.

Create your chat flow

Once the user has responded with the keyword, the chatbot conversation will start. So we need to tell it what to say. 

This is called the “Flow” of your chatbot’s conversation. 

First, click on “Flows” on the left column.

Select your giveaway from the list. Then click “Edit Flow” in the top right. 

From here, you can build out your chatbot flow.

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To start, select “+User Input” down at the bottom of the screen. This will let you write out a chatbot question, and leave a place for the user to respond. 

You can ask for any information you want, but a good place to start is an email address. You can also ask for a phone number if you want to build a list for SMS messaging. 

When using the “Free Keyboard Input”, be sure to add a tag to the user’s response. This will later help Active Campaign (which we’ll discuss in a bit) to identify the data provided.

So if you’re asking for an email address, tag the user’s response “email address”. If you’re asking for a phone number, tag the response “phone number”.

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You can have a lot of fun with your chatbot. You can use emojis, gifs, images, or anything else you want. 

When you’re done, click Preview to send the chat to yourself on Facebook Messenger and test it out! Don’t worry if it takes a few seconds for the chatbot to respond. 

Here’s an example:

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When you’re done, hit “Publish”. Now your chatbot knows what to say!

Automating your chatbot

Here’s how we’ll make sure your chatbot starts talking once the user provides your keyword. Click on “Automation” on the left column.increase restaurant sales

Then click on “Keywords”, and then “New Rule” on the top right.

Type in your keyword that you already selected. Then click “Create keyword”.

Next, click “Select Existing”, and select the flow that you built out!

At this point, we’ve created a Facebook post promoting your big giveaway. We’ve also set up your chatbot conversation on ManyChat. 

Now, when someone comments on your Facebook post to enter your giveaway, they’ll receive the messages that we set up. To enter your giveaway, they’ll have to provide their phone numbers and email addresses! 

Now, we need to decide what will happen to that information once it’s collected. 

Create your list

There are quite a few data collection and email marketing tools out there.  One I like is called Active Campaign

It will let you create your list and send email messaging all in one place. To start, set up an account with Active Campaign.

Then click on the “Lists” button on the left column, and then “Add New List” at the top right.

Create a a new list on Active Campaign

Create the list name. I named mine “Big Giveaway List”.

Where it says “List URL”, put in your website’s email address.

Then under “List Description”, include a little reminder of how the user got on this list. This will be visible in any emails that are sent to this list through Active Campaign.

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You could say something like I did above, or write something of your own. 

So now, you have a place for your email addresses and phone numbers to collect. But we have to set up a way for ManyChat (which collects the info) to talk to Active Campaign (which stores the info). 

So we’re going to use an app called Zapier. 

Putting it all together

Zapier lets different apps talk together with basic an IFTTT sequence. IFTTT stands for “If this, then that”. 

We’re going to set up a triggering event (“if this”), which will then lead to a result (“then that!”).

Our triggering event will be when a new user is added on ManyChat. And the result will be to save that user’s contact info to your Active Campaign list.

First, you’ll need to set up a free account on Zapier. You can sign up with Facebook to make it really easy.

Then, follow these steps.

First, click on the “Make a Zap!” button on the top right.

Click "Make a Zap" in the upper right corner of Zapier

Your first trigger will be from “ManyChat”, so click that icon. Then, select your “Trigger Event” — “New Tagged User”.

Add a "new tagged user" in ManyChat

Select the Many Chat account that you will be working with, then save and continue.

Select the “Tag” dropdown menu, and you’ll see the tags that you set up back in ManyChat. Remember that we assigned email addresses the “email address” tag, and phone numbers got the “phone number” tag. 

Select either one and click “Continue”.

So we’ve set up the conditional part of the sequence. Now we need to set up the action!

Select the “Active Campaign” icon. Click “Create/Update Contact” from the “Choose Active Event” dropdown menu.

Next, click “Continue” to sign in to Active Campaign. You’ll have to go to your Active Campaign account and click the settings cog on the bottom left. 

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Then click on “Developer”. Now, you have to copy your URL API and Key into the popup. 

This will connect your Zapier account to your Active Campaign account.

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Now head back to Zapier, and select the Active Campaign account you will be working with.

Select the list that you had created from the pull down, and any other information you want to pull (name, email, phone, etc.).

Click Finish and turn on that ZAP!

Now you can go through those steps again for the other tag, if you’re collecting both email addresses and phone numbers. 

So you’ve set up your chatbot and automated the process! Here’s what will happen when your Facebook post goes live: 

First, you’ll get tons of engagement on your post, because your giveaway is amazing. High engagement will increase the post’s organic reach even further. 

After people comment on your post, they’ll get an automated message from your chatbot. It will ask users for their phone numbers and email addresses based on the flow you created.

Once they provide that information to the chatbot, Zapier will tell Active Campaign. That information will be compiled in your Active Campaign list, and you’ll have a bunch of new leads! 

Max it out

Organic reach on Facebook, even for a great post with lots of engagement, is still not high enough. We want tons of people to see this post.

So you should run an “engagement” Facebook ad. Just click on “Boost” on your post to get started, and Facebook will walk you through it.

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You can customize the size of your audience by selecting “Choose a target demographic.” Then select “Create a new audience”.

From here, you’ll refine your audience by location, age, and specific interests. One option for specific interests could be some of your competing restaurants in the area. 

Make sure to keep your potential reach in the green zone. Red is too specific, and yellow is too broad. 

Facebook screenshot showing an ad's potential reach

Next, as people start interacting with and subscribing to your bot, send them out an offer with a one-time special. You want to thank them for participating, and also show them the great deals they can get by staying subscribed! 

To send out your offer, you can send a broadcast message in ManyChat. 

From the ManyChat dashboard, click “Broadcast” in the left column. Then click “New Broadcast” in the top right.

Now you can create your message, sharing your offer. 

Then click “Go Next”, and select “Promotional Content” on the next page. Then click “Send Now”!

This deal is going to bring tons of business through your doors. 

Winner!

You can announce the winner however you want. 

You can do a simple post to your Facebook page, or you can do another broadcast message.  

You could also do a Facebook live. You could do a broadcast message or send an email to the whole list to let them know when to tune in for the live stream. 

No matter what method you choose, also send the winner an email or text to make sure they don’t miss the message.

After the contest

So the contest is over and the winner is selected. You’ve exposed your brand to a ton of potential new customers, and given them a sweet deal to pique their interest and bring them in the door.

PLUS you also have a great new email list! 

99% of people check their email daily. And the hospitality industry has a 39% email open rate overall.

So you’ll want to use that list to your advantage!

You can keep the list separate in Active Campaign to send special deals just to that group. You can also add those email addresses to your main list for messages designed to increase restaurant sales. 

And you can upload that list back to Facebook to create a custom audience. 

In the Ads Manager, under Audiences, click Create Audience. Then click “Custom Audience”.

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You know every single one of these users has a Facebook account — because that’s where the email addresses came from! So set up a custom audience you can use to promote your restaurant to this group through more Facebook ads.

Conclusion

Think of these three tactics to increase restaurants sales as three different races.

SEO is a marathon. It’s something you work on over time, and it’s never really done.

You should always be adding more content to your website, optimizing for different keywords, and building backlinks from other quality sites. Every new page needs a title tag, meta description, and image alt text.

Over time, you will start to see incremental improvements in your Google rankings. This will lead to overall better visibility for your restaurant.

Instagram influencer marketing is a 10k. Campaigns aren’t usually long, but it does take some work on the front end to identify the right influencers and build relationships. 

The result will be a spike in social media awareness and followers, which will strengthen your brand and lead to more influencer interest.

And Facebook giveaways with chatbots are a sprint. You can have one set up from start to finish in less than a week. 

These giveaways will get real customers in your doors almost immediately. 

A combination of these three methods of boosting restaurant sales will lead to impressive short term and long term gains. 

This is the kind of approach you should always take with your marketing. What will get customers in the door tomorrow, next month, and next year?

By playing the short game and the long game, you’ll have a long, profitable future to look forward to.