Do you run a restaurant or a dark kitchen and are you looking for ideas to get more people through your door and ordering your deliveries?
Let’s have a look at some marketing techniques that will help you do just that.
Running a kitchen or a whole restaurant is challenging on many different levels. We all know that the restaurant business is famous for the high number of people who fail in it every year.
This is due to many factors. The saturation of quality restaurants in some areas is very high, many people who come into the business do not have a lot of experience, the costs of running a restaurant are very high and much more...
The food business has gone through some significant changes in the last ten years. The prevalence of dark kitchens is a fairly new phenomenon (ie. kitchens that prepare food but sell their dishes for deliveries only, without a physical location for their customers to dine).
On top of this the introduction and the ‘success’ of food delivery apps together with everything that comes with them has changed the landscape for restaurants across the board.
These apps have been dominating the market, taking considerable commission from each sale they facilitate and largely control the way restaurants on their system can market themselves.
All of this came before the government restrictions relating to Covid 19 shook up the landscape completely.
At this point only the strongest survive and no one can afford to ignore the need for high quality marketing anymore.
Food is a tangible product that is either enjoyed in the environment of a restaurant or delivered to people’s homes. By definition the experience of enjoying food is an offline experience.
As such offline marketing plays a large role in the food world. It creates a real tangible connection with your potential clients and can build trust easier than some online advertising methods.
Restaurants across the country have been using leaflet distribution to advertise for decades. This has historically taken the form of a menu that included a phone number for people to make their orders.
This system has worked for a long time. However in the modern world almost no one makes their food delivery orders by calling a number. Almost all orders are done on apps or websites.
We need to make sure to consider this this in the way we use flyers to advertise food and restaurants.
The most obvious place where this has an effect is in the design of the flyers that we look to deliver. If your leaflets should not be gatefold menus with a phone number what should they look like?
The number one principle in the design of modern restaurant leaflets is simplicity. Keeping your leaflets simple is paramount.
We generally recommend for your leaflets to be a single page A5 or A6 format. Occasionally using a more complicated format can be the right approach but these are the exceptions that prove the rule.
On top of this we recommend that you do not include a long list of all the dishes that you offer in your design. In general using the space you have for your copy to present the concept of your restaurant is a better approach.
So now you have a single page design that does not include a menu or a list of dishes.
What should your design actually consist of then?
Photography and QR codes
High quality photography has become one of the most important elements in the offline marketing of restaurants.
the design of your leaflet has gotten simpler
the copy that you have focuses on presenting the concept of your restaurant or a single dish rather than the old-style menu
The rest of the work is done by your choice of photography.
We generally recommend that one whole side of your flyer is fully dedicated to a high quality photo that represents either your most popular dish or the concept of your restaurant.
This will generally be presented in something resembling a life-size format in order to maximise the hunger-producing effect.
As people are going to be ordering either from your website, your proprietary app or your delivery app of choice the easiest way to get them there is using a QR code.
These are unique codes in the form of an image that direct you to a website or an app when scanned with your phone.
When generating and applying these QR codes to your designs pay extra attention to their size to ensure that when printed people can easily scan them. For QR codes the rule is - The bigger the better.
QR codes do not have to be used only for ordering a good delivery. More upscale restaurants that do not deliver can use QR codes to direct people to well produced videos about the head chef or towards an online table booking system.
Overall the modern restaurant leaflets
- - Is simple
- - Is on a single A5 or A6 sheet
- - Includes very high quality photography
- - Includes a QR code
- - Does not include a full menu
- - Economically explains the concept of your restaurant
- - Creates hunger for your food
Some basic general design rules will also apply in this situation. You want to make sure that you keep your fonts and colour scheme consistent across all media and platforms.
Your online presence should be using similar colours as your menus, the interior of your restaurant and your offline marketing too.
Keep it simple, keep it consistent. If you’d like to see some examples of what these designs can look like get in touch with us here.
When you have finalised your design the natural follow up is the actual printing process.
For many people this step can be surprisingly confusing. Picking the right printing company, the right gsm, the right amounts to print, deciding where to keep the stock once it arrives.
This is where working with a professional leaflet distribution company will make a big difference.
At The Private Postman we have good relationships with some of the UK’s largest printing houses and we can get you prices you would not be able to get on your own.
This is due to the obvious fact that we regularly print quantities of leaflets far in excess of what a single restaurant does.
We can help you decide on what gsm is appropriate for you. In general we tend to stick to somewhere around 200gsm to make sure that when your leaflets are being delivered they have enough integrity to make it through the letterbox intact.
Making a decision on what numbers you should be printing is something that should definitely be discussed with your distribution company.
The numbers will completely depend on the size of your campaign, the number of drops and the future plans for deliveries.
We can also keep and store your stock in our warehouse for you. This is very important as receiving forty boxes of printed material that weigh over a tonne can be a stressful experience for a restaurant.
We can receive the delivery from the printer and store everything minimising any inconvenience to you. You should be cooking and serving your clients. We take care of the flyers.
Make sure to include your professional distributor of choice in your campaign planning.
They will have experience that is hard to replace and deciding on how many leaflets you should print, deliver and how many times your offline marketing materials should target the same homes is something you should get some help with if possible.
Leaflets as a way of bypassing the apps
One of the most important issues that comes with the delivery apps is the fact that restaurants that use them do not have full control over their own marketing.
Even the better apps tend to ultimately morph into a list of the relevant restaurants in a given area. What this means for you is that you’ve just been listed next to all your local competition.
On top of this you do not have a great choice in how you present yourself on the app. A one by one centimeter icon tends to be all you get to try to stick out. This is the same real estate that the apps give to all your competition listed next to you.
This is a very difficult environment to try to stand out in or to communicate a unique identity your restaurant has.
Given that this is a fact that many restaurants have to deal with it is important that you take your marketing into your own hands.
Leaflets can do this for you. Instead of trying to pay the app of choice for a better position on the endless list of food related businesses in your area you can bypass them and move your marketing offline.
The way to go
Designing your leaflets according to the principles mentioned above. A simple format with great photography and a QR code pointing to your delivery app of choice is the way to go.
These can then be delivered to every single household in your area. We can do this multiple times a year or at important times during a year.
These kinds of proactive offline marketing campaigns can help you use the power of the apps and have someone else quickly and cheaply deliver your food while you can still keep the control over your marketing.
Having control of your own marketing is not something the Apps will allow you to do and it is not something they want to encourage either.
You can go offline and explain to everyone in your local area why your food is delicious and different to your competition. Then use the Apps as the cheap delivery services they are.
The same principles of local marketing will also apply to alternative online based food companies that focus on emergency food and storageor even recipe boxes.
The concept of a dark kitchen has emerged in the last decade as a response to the increased demand for food home delivery.
Restaurants have been offering delivery or take-away services for decades but dark kitchens specialise in deliveries only. They completely bypass the traditional model of a restaurant based in a location where customers come to eat.
A dark kitchen is simply a kitchen without any space for people to come and eat but with a hundred percent focus only on deliveries.
The dark kitchen approach has some obvious advantages. The overhead of owning or more likely renting a space in a busy and expensive city is not present. A dark kitchen does not need to be in a prime location on the high street.
Smaller overhead is not the only advantage the dark kitchen approach offers. It can be easier to market and present a delivery restaurant concept that is highly specialised.
For example having a restaurant that focuses only on great quality Korean Chicken Wings is great for marketing.
A simple concept like this might not be enough to sustain a business with an expensive location on the high street. But it is great for a dark kitchen business focused exclusively on deliveries.
Simplicity in message is very important in marketing. Having the ability to create highly specialised offerings within the food industry with minimal overhead and test these ideas with well focused marketing can be really powerful.
On top of this a single dark kitchen can be running multiple restaurant concepts that one can market as completely separate entities. Nothing is stopping a dark kitchen from running a burger ‘restaurant’ and a Korean Chicken Wing delivery ‘restaurant’ at the same time.
There is real potential power in marketing highly specialised and unique concepts to well defined areas and demographics. If you run a dark kitchen the concepts presented in this guide all apply to you as well as any other restaurant business.
It goes without saying that a large proportion of business and our lives in general has moved online. This is very relevant especially in the context of delivery apps and online orders/booking making up a majority of orders a restaurant will be dealing with.
Online marketing therefore has to be a part of any restaurant’s strategy to acquire new customers, get people through the door and get more orders coming in.
We’ve spoken about the importance of high quality photography in offline marketing already. The same will apply for restaurants and their social media presence.
A picture is worth a thousand words and this is especially true in the context of restaurant marketing. Any social media platform that is focused on visuals should be on your radar.
We will mention the obvious candidates that are relevant in 2021 but as the social media landscape changes you should always be looking ahead at which platforms are becoming popular.
What you are looking for is the relevant people seeing your content and hopefully becoming customers. Forget about some form of loyalty to a given platform. This is not a good long term strategy. Use what is popular.
Facebook and Instagram for Restaurants
Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same company and are behemoths of the social media landscape.
As a general rule the demographics of Facebook tend to lean towards the 30+ age groups. On the other hand Instagram has more of a tilt towards younger users.
Instagram is obviously a very visual platform which would make it ideal for sharing images of your dishes.
It is however very crowded with very steep competition (especially in the food world) and the chance of you getting significant organic traction in your niche and geographic area is very low.
The best approach to marketing a local restaurant on Instagram is definitely through smart targeting of users in your local area with carefully crafted ads.
Remember that you do not have to use one single ad for your campaign. It is good practice to target different age groups, sexes and demographics in general with customised ads.
You can run separate ads that only women over the age of 40 will see, ads specifically tailored for men under 30 and more.
As you can imagine each demographic will have different sensibilities for what they find appealing and you need to consider this when planning your social media campaigns.
Due to the fact that Facebook and Instagram are run by the same company the process of setting up your ads on both of these platforms is done via the same system.
When you go to create an ad for one of these platforms the Facebook Ad Manager will offer you the option of making various types of ads from a single image or video.
They will automatically format your single ad for Facebook in-feed ads, Instagram post ads, Instagram stories and more.
When possible try to avoid using this option and create your ads for each of these pipelines from scratch. Format your images for Instagram stories differently to your in-feed ads. Make sure that you are using each of these techniques to their full potential.
Graphics and editing
If you are doing all of this yourself you will need some way of editing your images and formatting your content for different uses.
Photoshop is the most widely used program for these tasks. You will be able to find tutorials for pretty much any task using Photoshop easily. However it is quite expensive and can be overwhelming for a beginner.
Affinity Photo is a much cheaper alternative to Photoshop. It is almost equal in functionality to the big Adobe program but is leaner and offers a one-time purchase model which is considerably better than the subscription model Adobe has adopted.
GIMP is a free alternative to Photoshop that provides a good standard and basic functionality that will be more than enough for social media ad creation. It is also quite popular and as such many tutorials on how to use it correctly can be found all over the internet.
You can find out more information about some user friendly alternatives to the above mentioned programs here.
LinkedIn for Restaurants
LinkedIn is a social media platform focused on working professionals. It is largely overlooked by many social media managers and as such it offers some great opportunities for smart marketing moves for local restaurants.
If you want to get into supplying lunches to offices or if you put any kind of focus onto booking larger groups of clients LinkedIn can be a great asset in developing these vectors in your business.
Social media summary
If we are to summarize what we believe about how local restaurants and dark kitchens should be using social media we would highlight these points.
Get high quality photos of your food and dishes
Use paid ads as a way to get to the customers that are relevant to you
Don’t worry about the overall numbers of likes and engagements on your content. You care about the people that can actually order your food, not people on another continent liking your pictures.
Create small nimble campaigns that you can deactivate quickly if they are not working
Experiment and control your own ‘creative’.
Look for new opportunities and platforms. Do not get stuck in one way of thinking, the world of social media is ever changing and we don’t want to stay behind
Google and SEO
Google is tremendously influential in the online business world. Every restaurant has to have a profile on Google my Business in order to be featured on Google maps.
User reviews are a huge part of this system. The more and better reviews you have the more likely you are to pop up in local searches for restaurants and the better your listing will look on Google maps.
It is a good idea to encourage your happy customers to leave a positive review on your Google profile. A good system that ensures a reliable influx of positive reviews can have a tremendous impact on the amount of business that you get from various Google services.
To keep everything ticking the way it should you want to make sure to regularly update your Google profile and post relevant images often.
Search Engine Optimisation is a big topic. A great amount of resources can be spent fighting for Google positions with some big names.
Sometimes this can be worth it but for a local restaurant the previously mentioned techniques focusing on social media and offline presence should be paid attention to first.
If your social media game is on point, your Google profile gets regular reviews and you are actively distributing leaflets to your local area it is worth focusing on SEO.
In general the keywords and searches you will want to rank well in will be in the realm of ‘restaurant in Hampstead’ or ‘Indian restaurant in Swiss Cottage’.
There is no point in aiming for keywords that are dominated by big players like large newspapers, good magazines and multinational food chains. These companies have resources that might exceed your by the factor of 1000.
We need to be nimble and aim for niche searches that are relevant to our local business landscape. Look for searches that your local clients are likely to type into Google when they are hungry.
This might be different if you are running a startup company with a considerable venture capital backing but in this case you are most likely going to have SEO people on staff already.
The things that really matter in SEO are the technical health of your website, content and the perceived authority of your site.
There are many different types of metrics for determining the technical health of your site. You can use a service like SEM Rush to check these.
In general it is best to spend some extra money and have a professional build your website and keep it in good health.
If you want to take care of this step yourself it’s best to use the WordPress platform with some quality SEO focused plugins. If you are going to be focusing on SEO it is a good idea to stay away from the all-in-one solutions you often see advertised on social media.
Having a blog and regularly posting quality content on your site can be extremely important in your mission for good Google rankings.
Whether you talk about the suppliers you use for quality ingredients, post recipes people can try at home or talk about what you do in your local community - good written content that you regularly post to your site is important.
Google uses various metrics to decide whether your site is trustworthy and whether it is authoritative.
One of the most important elements in this is whether other sites are linking to yours. The more relevant websites around the internet are linking to you for information the more perceived authority you hold in Google’s eyes.
And that means better rankings across the board.
In order to get links you might want to consider exchanging content with other companies in your business.
Does your supplier also have a farm shop website aimed at individual consumers in their local area?
You can do a write up about what a great job they do with their organic farming and animal welfare standard on your blog while they post a write up about you on theirs in return.
This way you can share content and exchange links and thus build your authority in Google’s eyes.
Food blogs and sites are always looking for content. Sharing some of your expertise and recipes with them can be a fantastic way to get both high quality links to your site as well as some good traffic.
All of these elements combine and build to help your standing on Google across the board. You can then use this power and post surgically targeted blogs at specific keywords you believe people in your are will be looking for.
General approach to marketing for Restaurants and Dark Kitchens
We’ve gone through many tactics that relate to restaurant marketing in this guide. We’ve even gone into specific programs you can use to create images for social media and tackled techniques for getting links to your site.
There are some general themes to take away here also.
Avoid the crowded channels
If all of your competition is stuck on the delivery apps bidding for better positions and trying to compete with 1x1cm icons you can step aside and use offline marketing and A5 size physical materials with great photography to drive traffic to your profile.
If everyone is throwing tens of thousands of pounds at big Google keywords you can do more research into smaller, locally relevant keywords and build links and authority one blog at a time in your quest for the domination of your local market.
If every restaurant is posting on Instagram, experiment with LinkedIn.
This is an idea that is very basic and might appear obvious but it bears repeating. Focus your marketing locally at the relevant areas you can serve.
Especially once you start focusing on marketing your restaurant online it is easy to get caught up in chasing numbers. Likes, impressions, engagement and metrics can take over.
Your London restaurant marketing team should care about one thing. How many people in London that can come visit your restaurant or order your food are you talking to and how effective are your efforts in convincing them to spend money with you.
Stay nimble and targeted
Whether we are talking about leaflet distribution, social media or SEO campaigns it is a good idea to run multiple smaller campaigns rather than one large one.
With every smaller campaign you can collect data and experience and calibrate for your next effort.
If something isn’t working - get rid of it and adjust what you are doing for your next step. This is how you can make sure that your marketing remains cost effective, efficient and you remain competitive in a crowded market like the London restaurant world.
And finally we come to the controversial topic of Ordering Apps. They have dominated the market over the last half a decade and are a considerable part of the food business now.
They have squeezed the profit margins of many restaurants to almost nothing, driven some restaurants out of business and on the other hand helped some survive the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
The big ones are
There are also others that might focus on the more upscale end of the market like Supper.
You will know best which of these apps if any are the right choice for you. Each app on this list will have a slightly different business model in terms of fees and costs.
Joining the wrong Ordering App for you could have a detrimental effect on your business and vice versa. Making the right choice could help elevate what you do.
These apps can be very helpful in supplying some clientele that you otherwise might miss. They also provide relatively low-cost delivery services that might otherwise not be available to you.
One thing that is certain however is the fact that you want to be in charge of what your relationship with these multinational giants is like.
You do not want to rely on these Apps for your marketing. You need to be in control of how you present yourself and avoid becoming just another 1x1cm icon on an app.
Use your social media, offline marketing, QR codes and SEO to drive traffic to your apps of choice if they fit your business model but make sure that you retain control of how this is done.
Large corporations are angling to take over large chunks of the restaurant market and ideally make you completely dependent on them. In this landscape it is imperative that you retain control where possible.
You need to be in control of how you present yourself and talk to your local market directly. Develop relationships with people, families and other businesses in your local area in the real world.
Take part in local events, farmer’s markets if possible, deliver quality leaflets to local homes and make sure that people that can visit your restaurant or order your food know you and what your food stands for.
Do not become reliant on an app that can squeeze your profit margins over time and replace you with a franchise. Keep the connections with your clientele real even if you are mostly relying on food deliveries facilitated by the Apps.
We hope that this guide has been helpful to you. We at the Private Postman focus on the London restaurant market and work with dozens of clients within it on a daily basis.
We believe in the importance of restaurants to the local economy and are big fans of food ourselves. If you have any questions about any of the ideas we shared in this blog feel free to contact us here.
As the landscape in the food business changes so will the marketing techniques. One thing has remained through every historical change so far - Offline marketing works.
Make sure not to underestimate the power of leaflet distribution and no matter what happens in the online world keep some control over how you talk to your local clientele.