Restaurant Marketing Budget Recommendations for 2016

Restaurant Marketing Budget Recommendations for 2016

When every year comes to a close, restaurateurs can often relish in the winter months; from holiday parties that begin wrapping up the year, to vacations, and family visits that often see increased activity and big tickets, it can be a great time to be in foodservice. However, as 2016 starts to peer into view, restaurant owners and marketers can forgive themselves for the urge to start planning for next year, even before the holidays roll in. For many restaurants looking to reach new customers, this is a great time to start assessing your marketing budget as a whole, and how those dollars can best reach your future diners. Below, we outline some guiding principles for any restaurant looking to make the most sense of their marketing budget.


The Three Percent


Restaurant marketing consultant, Aaron Allen, comments on a statistic that was first made popular by the Restaurant Marketing Association: “The National Restaurant Association (USA) has reported the average restaurant marketing budget is three percent (3%) of total revenues. Critics argue this point and we’ve seen budgets ranging from zero to six percent (6%),” said Allen. While there may be argument about the precise percentage or national average, the number of about 3%-6% of monthly revenue is often reported to be about the going standard for restaurants looking to better allocate funds specifically for putting more people in seats at their restaurant.


If your total marketing budget constitutes 3% of your monthly revenue, then at least 40% of that, says Allen, should go into digital marketing. Really, digital marketing for restaurants is certainly something that any restaurant, regardless of budget, should invest resources into. This is a low point of entry that can scale up depending on the size of the task in front of you, and how deep you want to pursue your marketing initiatives. Below, we address four key ways to allocate this budget, and what portion of that 40% budget should be allocated to each.


SEO (15%)


Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t where most restaurants might think of spending their marketing budget, but this is among the most long-lasting and cost effective ways to promote your restaurant online. SEO for restaurants will almost always focus on local optimization, but also offers a host of other opportunities as a cornerstone of Google’s UX.  


Google My Business & Local Listings


At the forefront of your restaurant marketing digital budget, it’s crucial to ensure that your restaurant has a listing on Google My Business that’s active, claimed, and verified. This listing not only acts as the place marker on Google Maps identifying your restaurant’s exact location, but serves as the listing within the local pack on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) that links directly to your website.


Once a Google My Business listing is created and claimed, the process has just begun. Ensure that you work with your SEO specialist to ensure every field is filled out with optimized content that represents your restaurant’s brand and unique qualities. Write a description that talks about the history of the business, the founders, chefs, inspiration behind the food and any notable details. Ensure you include a cover photo, profile image, and a gallery with photos of some of your finest dishes, the interior of the restaurant, or any images that can help better set the tone diners can expect on arrival. A robust Google My Business profile helps the restaurant be better indexed and understood by the search engine, yet also encourages users to peer into photos and pique their senses, whet their appetite, and take in the atmosphere. Additionally, this profile will also act as a repository for reviews and serve as a portal for user interaction!


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Rich Snippets & Structured Data


In addition to the reviews that your Google My Business listing may garner, Google offers a host of features unique to restaurants on its SERPs that can increase visibility and offer compelling calls to action.


For many restaurant-related queries, Google will often generate SERPs that have rich snippets embedded within each result, showing aggregate ratings and links to live customer feedback about your eatery. While Google continues to test the way in which these display there are still key URLs that generate aggregate reviews, commanding the attention of the viewer and often increasing click-through-rate.


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PPC (10%)


Pay-Per-Click is another way to get incredible visibility, display user sentiment with reviews and rich snippets, and also command top positions for new customers. However, while PPC may be pigeon-holed as just SEM or AdWords, think outside the box to get maximum visibility with paid advertising.


Display Network


Google’s Display Network offers the ability to advertise via images across a number of sites to users that meet your criteria. Once you’ve gathered a picture of your target diner, use behavioral, geographic, or demographic signals to send impressions of images showcasing your restaurant’s best–be it innovative interior design, or your most elegant entree. Image ads display across a number of sites that participate in Google’s display network–over 2 million sites that reach 90% of internet users. Depending on how specific your criteria is, this can be a valuable way to attract new customers with a low cost per click.


Targeted Ads


Among the most innovative ways to build brand awareness and get your name in front of your target audience is to hone in the crosshairs, and refine your target. Using geo-targeted technology, restaurants can now take their local restaurant marketing efforts exclusively to their demographic. By using display advertising, banner ads, or any geo-targeted ads that are catered to a specific radius, it helps build brand awareness in the digital environment. In addition to the display network, geo-targeted ads are clickable dynamic banners that display in common mobile apps in a defined geographic radius. These ads are a great way to get eyes on your restaurant and build awareness with incredibly high impressions and a low cost-per-click.


Social Media (10%)


In addition to other display options, leveraging social media is an ideal way to market your restaurant on a competitive budget. Social can work for you in a number of ways–from building relationships with loyal customers, to nurturing a growing audience through curated content, or even reaching interested eaters using ads, social media should now be a cornerstone of every restaurant’s marketing budget.




Facebook for restaurants is a great way for restaurants to communicate seasonal updates, specials, happy hour offers and more, all while showcasing your restaurant’s best dishes. However, social media managers should realize that Facebook offers a few nuances that are critically important to nailing your social media strategy.


Ensure that your posts are entertaining and engaging, not just sales-focused. If your feed only talks about your restaurant, it may come across as overly salesy to your audience and inadvertently alienate those who have followed you on Facebook. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that only 20% of your content is overtly promotional, while the other 80% should be designed to engage and entertain.


“Work can be stressful, so when someone sneaks away from the office for lunch or dinner, they want to be delighted,” according to Mashable. This means that it’s important for restaurants to set the tone for their customers on Facebook by being affable and charming, not necessarily hyper-focused on sales.


In addition to the organic reach on Facebook, the social network also offers incredibly agile advertising options, allowing you to target users by interest and age, all the way down to zip code. This helps ensure that any paid spend on Facebook goes directly to your target audience.




Facebook-owned Instagram is another place where restaurants really need to make their mark. Instagram’s intuitive photo-sharing app is a great place to reach new customers with stunning visuals of your food.


“Instagram is the perfect place to share your menu and restaurant photos. It seamlessly integrates with Facebook so your images show on both platforms,” says Restaurant Engine. While the platform is an intuitive way to build your brand, it can also be a great pathway for further engagement. “Take your menu photos one step further – encourage your customers to upload their favorite items. This helps build your menu of images while increasing engagement.”


Content Marketing & Blogging (5%)


Lastly, content marketing and blogging is a great way to supplement the efforts above. While blogs may not always be the driver that helps put new customers at your table, this is a great way to build brand awareness, build shareable content, and earn mentions and citations for your site.

Blogging gives you assets to post on social media, and also helps your site rank in search engines by attracting links and mentions, and capturing long-tail keyword traffic that users may be searching for.


Fore more on how to get the most out of your restaurant’s marketing budget in 2016, contact us today!


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