Digital Marketing Strategy for Bars and Restaurants. Branding Hospitality

What’s your Digital Marketing Strategy?

Eighty-two percent of smartphone users vet their purchases before they buy in the store.  A FULL 45% of ANY purchase (including bars and restaurants) informs our recommendations.  – Forbes

If you know you’re going to be stalked, why not introduce yourself first with digital marketing?

I have many friends that have gone on from being a bartender to owning their bars.  Considering how hard it is to open a bar and keep it open, I find it astounding how few cultivate and nurture an outreach and continuing marketing program.  They say the best things in life are free, make sure you’re using free stuff to always be selling your bar. In my experience, ego is a significant factor in this reluctance to leverage your staff, community, and message to get butts in seats.  Your community WANTS to support you, why would they if you don’t ask them to?

Resourceful Digital Marketing

There are a million things to do all the time in a small business, and there’s nobody else to do it but you, right?  Maybe, but why not empower your staff to enable your customers to advertise for you? The absolute best way to get testimonials and recommendations from your customers is by asking them to leave you a review on Yelp or Google.  Believe it or not, people read that, and they act on is. Amazon grew its sales by 29% in one quarter just by integrating a recommendation engine in 2010. People do not want to form their own opinions; they want someone else to dip their toe in the water and decide for them whether or not to dive in.

Most people will be too polite to give you a negative review in the end, but even if they do, you are influencing the mysterious search algorithms that will sometimes be the difference between your success or failure.  Recommendations are the NEW WORD OF MOUTH.  Ask them to grab their phone, search for you on Google, and leave a review.

Use your Digital Presence to initiate a positive experience

The guest’s first impression of your bar or restaurant begins well before they ever set foot on that tile you so conscientiously picked out.  45% of the time, they have already formed some opinion of you.  How do you rank on the search engines?  When someone is walking around your neighborhood looking for a place to go, do you pop up on the first page for your service style or cuisine?

Getting that high page rank is vital in super-dense and competitive environments in large urban areas, and which way Google maps points to some degree depends on the work you do.  In addition to having updated menus on your website (in text form for the web spiders can search them), you need to make sure your meta tags and formatting is correct for search engine optimization (SEO).  When your page does show up, make sure you’re selling your experience.  No memes, no goofy pictures of people being drunk, sell the PRODUCT with composed, filtered, and articulate descriptions of your food and drinks.

If you have a web designer, make sure you explain to them the concept of your restaurant, and exactly what keywords are relevant to find your bar.  Make sure these keywords are something that would regularly show up in your social media and build your online presence to constantly hammer these terms, so our overlords at Google know that your spot is THE PLACE to be for Labne in the Brewer Hill neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Daily Marketing Integration

Marketing your bar should be part of your day-to-day operations, and to some degree, everyone’s responsibility.  There is a causal relationship with tips and guest flow.  Obviously, you don’t want your bartenders to be making Instagram stories on shift but they can before the shift, and all they have to do is create a drink or recreate a menu item, and take a photo of it.  That photo could be texted to the manager or owner, edited, captioned, hashtagged, and published daily by anyone in the world.  Each of these steps has nuance, but the world will forgive you lower quality digital imagery while you’re figuring it out, but they can’t forgive you (or follow you) if they don’t know you exist.

The bottom line is that in order for your business to get past the astonishing fail rate of bars and restaurants, you need a great product, served by happy and knowledgable people, and you need new people to find you all the time.  The sphere of your influence hasn’t started at your frontage in a decade.  Now it starts with the little computer in everyone’s pocket.  They say the riches are in niches.  Own your space with digital marketing, and find your audience.

Data Capture

If all this is too much, trust me, I get it.  Maybe you just want to play it cool.  Whatever your scenario, it’s never too late to start gathering information from your EXISTING customers.  Unless they live right above you, It’s extremely to remain top of mind, which is what we really want.  We just want to be present, and around when the occasion strikes our guest.  We want them to know we’re always there for them with a new drink special, a new dish, or to provide a new recommendation to one of their friends.  If you ever stop a New Yorker on the street, you’ll find that they LOVE giving directions.

If you have to, incentivize your staff and guests to volunteer information.  It doesn’t have to be something corny like a raffle of business cards for a bar tab, it could be something basic like “Here’s a shot on the house if you give us your business card, we’d love to add you to our mailing list.” — you can choose the shot out of a DNR (“Do not reorder”) bottle and recover the cost of the bottle.  Better yet, is an active endorsement.

For help with or ideas on your bar or restaurant’s individual digital marketing strategy, book a chat with Jason any time.

About author

WHAT I DO: I help bars, craft spirits brands, hotels, and event managers to glorify their brands by providing high-end cocktail expertise, hospitality consulting, and winning operations management. Working in the space where craft meets commerce, I can put together creative, develop go-to-market strategies, promote your brand to bartenders, develop trade advocacy initiatives, and put together back end financials. I develop concept designs, effective marketing platforms, and turnaround strategies. HOW I DO IT: I am a craft cocktail personality and event planner with 10 years of experience bartending, training bartenders, writing menus, setting up cost-effective operations, communicating brand messages to trade, and leading the bartending community. WHO I WORK WITH: • Craft Spirit Marketing Directors and Brand Owners seeking fresh go-to-market strategies • Hospitality Executives and Owners for bars, restaurants, and hotels • Marketing and PR Agencies for Events and Targeted Marketing • Struggling bars seeking a turnaround specialist MY FAVORITE CALL: “Hi Jason, I’ve got this amazing spirit. I want bartenders to know what it is and how to use it.” WHY IT WORKS: I am uniquely positioned in the industry because of my work experience, industry connections, and leadership. I’ve got my ear to the ground, and as a nano-agency, I’m an agile specialist with expertise that bigger, more conservative agencies can’t match. WHY I’M DIFFERENT: As a bartender by trade, I’m a skilled organizer with great communication skills and attention to detail. I build delicious drinks, strong teams, and successful events and businesses. I can produce high-end cocktails en masse at a festival, make them for a photo shoot, train your staff to make them, or convert your struggling bar into a winning concept with a killer story and world-class drinks.
Related posts

Beverage Alcohol and Digital Marketing


The Future of Cannabis Packaging and Branding


Opportunities - Cannabis and Digital Marketing


The Art of Building Cocktail Rounds

I want more emails!