Whether your restaurant is high-end, fast casual, a healthy eatery, a gastropub, or fast food, your restaurant’s specific target audience is on Facebook multiple times per day every day of the week. Paid social ads with Facebook and Instagram are essential for building an effective online presence that grows potential customer. (a related post here on growing your restaurant's SEO presence in Google)
The goal of this post is to give you strategies you can use now that will grow new customers and increase repeat visitors of your restaurant.
If you’re not utilizing Facebook ads to reach your customers, you are missing out on one of the most effective advertising channels to reach them. And the worst part, if you’re not promoting your restaurant with Facebook ads, your savvier competitors likely are and stealing your customers and growing sales.
Facebook is an incredibly robust and flexible platform for businesses enabling many to easily reach their ideal customer segments. You can even target special niches within the restaurant and food space too. Do you want to target event planners, group dining, private dining? That’s all achievable with Facebook ads too.
In this post, I outline why Facebook ads are so important for creating awareness for your restaurant, and give you six killer ad tactics to consider so you can create more business (including catering).
Below is a summary of what we are covering.
Who Is This Post For?
This post is for any restaurant managers, owners, or staff that want to understand how to effectively use Facebook and Instagram ads to grow their business.
Why you need to use Facebook ads to promote your restaurant
It's no surprise that digital marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach new restaurant customer. And Facebook advertising is arguably one of the best at reaching customers at the right time. As the old saying goes, be where your customers' eyeballs are.
Facebook is hands down the number one social media channel in the world.
Your customers are there in the largest concentration out of any other social channel. And the vast majority of your customers access Facebook or Instagram (Facebook owns Instagram) multiple times per day of which the majority are accessing it via their mobile phone. Pair these stats with the below statistics and insights (Source: Facebook Quarterly Report):
From the perspective of marketing and advertising, mobile usage with your target customer is a big deal, and you’re probably not leveraging it well.
Your potential customers are not carrying around the newspaper, or a magazine and checking it multiple times per day – but they are checking Facebook and Instagram via their mobile phones multiple times per day.
Of the three hours per day that consumers spend on mobile devices, almost one-third of that time is spent on Facebook! And the combined amount of time that people spend on the next 5 most popular social apps still does not sum to the amount of time people spend with Facebook and Instagram.
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Facebook Ads for Restaurants
Jumpstart your Facebook marketing. Our workbook will help you generate ideas, strategies based on our blog post.
Consider also that many of your restaurant competitors are not very savvy with online marketing and are still over-relying on inefficient and wasteful traditional marketing.
While traditional marketing has its place, there is a real opportunity for you to get in the game ahead of your slower, less digitally sophisticated competitors.
Facebook Is Pay-to-Play
Forget About Facebook Organic Posts – There’s No Exposure Without Ads!
Don't expect your page posts on your restaurant's Facebook page to drive results. Almost nobody sees those posts as Facebook has reduced your exposure from page posts to low single digits of your page's fan base (i.e. 2% - 4%) of your fan base.
So what this means is that if you had 1,000 fans, you would reach maybe 20 people at best. Without ads, you have no exposure to anyone on Facebook (this is true of almost all social channels – without ads your ability to have an impact in social media is limited).
However, this does not mean you should stop organic page posts - you still need to post up good content to your Facebook page, but realize that real tangible business results such as growing new customers or repeat customers happens with ads.
Different Skill Set Required For Running Ads
In addition, running ads on Facebook is a very different skill set than posting content on your page. Facebook has one of the most robust advertising platforms which means there are many levers, options, steps, and decisions that you need to take to set up a winning restaurant ad campaign.
For example, Facebook has more than 10 campaign objectives that align with different business goals. Each campaign objective has an algorithm behind it designed to achieve that goal. So, your choice in campaign objectives is the first essential step to a successful campaign.
So, depending on the creative you have at hand and what business outcome you are trying to achieve your objective will change. Here are 3 of the most common campaign objectives for restaurant and food companies.
And if you're running Boost Posts (a campaign objective similar to Engagement), here is a related post about why you should not be running the Facebook Boost Post.
Incredible Demographic Targeting Possibilities With Facebook Ads
A Niche Spanish Tapas Restaurant Facebook Ad Targeting Example
Below we are using Facebook Ads to find people in the Houston area that like tapas or tapas bars, or have a household income that is in the top 50% or higher of US households, AND that have an interest in Spanish Cuisine. From this we can see there are 11,000 people we can target.
All the chosen variables in this example can be modified, refined, added to, to create even more precise targeting. So think about this for a moment – what other advertising platform can you down select for an audience like this? There is none!
Fast Casual Restaurant in Manhattan, NYC, Facebook Ad Targeting Example
Lets assume you have a fast casual restaurant in midtown Manhattan as an example.
We can target people that have an interest in competitor restaurants in midtown Manhattan. For this example, we selected Chipotle Mexican Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill, El Pollo Loco, and Panera.
As you can see below, we are targeting a relatively small area around part of Central Park. Facebook is telling us that there are 8,000 people here that have an interest in those competitor restaurants. The options inside Facebook for being precise in your targeting based on interests, likes, and behaviors are many. I am showing you just a fraction of what’s possible.
Facebook or Instagram Ads?
A quick note about a question we get often which is, should we run Instagram ads too?
Facebook owns Instagram and as such it is one of the placements Facebook will automatically use to show your ads.
Facebook decides for each ad impression to someone in your ad targeting that if it can achieve the goal at the lowest cost by showing the ad to the user over on Instagram it will show your ad there. Conversely, if Facebook believes the result can be achieved at a lower cost on Facebook it will show the ad to that user on Facebook.
You can choose to run your ads only on Instagram, however, anytime we have forced the ads to show only on Instagram the results are far more expensive. Unless you have a very good reason to force your restaurant ads to show on Instagram, the best option is to let Facebook's algorithm make choice.
Get your creative ideas started now. Download our PDF of 50 Facebook Restaurant ads. Click the button below.
Facebook Ad Tactic:
You have dozens of menu items you could promote, but choose a dish that makes sense for the season.
It helps if you have a calendar planned out in advance for the year for each month by week. If it is summer and you have great salads, showcase your salad options.
Alternatively, if it is Mother’s Day, showcase the food items that will resonate well with families and moms.
Below is another example of targeting for Mother’s Day – perhaps your restaurant has a Mother’s Day brunch special, and you have fun activities planned for young kids as well.
Below we are able to find families within 10 miles of San Diego that are parents with kids of ALL ages that also have household incomes in the upper 25% of household incomes.
Mother's Day Targeting Example
Facebook Ad Tactic:
Promote Restaurant Entertainment
Does your restaurant have live music of entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays? Use Facebook ads to promote your entertainment to people that you know are highly likely to be interested.
For example, if you are promoting an Irish pub, and you have an Irish band, target the below people on Facebook.
Below we pulled everyone in Los Angeles within 5 miles of downtown that likes craft beer, beer festivals, etc, AND then they must like Irish cuisine, Irish pubs, Jameson Whiskey, and more Irish targets.
Promoting Restaurant Entertainment Example
Facebook Ad Tactic:
Reward Your Existing Customers
It is possible to target your loyal, repeat customers with special promotions, or for just brand awareness to encourage repeat visits. What you choose to promote to them is up to you, but you can easily target them on Facebook.
There are a couple of ways to target past customers for your restaurant on Facebook.
- 1Retargeting customers with emails: Do you collect email or phone number information from your customers? For example, if you provide free wifi for guests, often the customer has to enter their email to get access. Once you have their email or phone number, you can take that list and load it into Facebook and have Facebook match those emails to Facebook profiles – now you have what is called a Custom Audience inside Facebook of past customers you can run ads at.
- 2Website visitors: anyone that has visited your restaurant website can also be retargeted. Facebook allows you to create a retargeting list of anyone that visits your website. This is another good way to reach past customers.
Restaurant Gift Card Purchases
There is nobody more likely to buy gift cards from you than your past customers. Facebook can be used to sell gift cards directly to all your past visitors. And considering that a large percentage of gift cards are never redeemed, that's cash flow and profit that falls to the bottom-line.
Lookalike Audiences: Unleash New Sales With Your Customer List
Your customer database is a goldmine that holds untapped profit for your restaurant. You can unleash that profit from your list with Facebook's Lookalike audiences.
Here's how it works. Once you have created a Custom Audience from your customer list, you tell Facebook to find people that have similar profiles to those customers already in your list. This tactic is one of the first you should consider when utilizing when running Facebook Ads.
This is all done with the Audience Manager in the Facebook Ads Manager.
After you click the button, Create Lookalike Audience, you will see a screen similar to the below. Here is where you can tell Facebook how "similar" you want this Lookalike to be to your current audience. The selection of similarity is from 0% to 10%, the latter of which will be the least similar but broadest audience. So what selection is right, then? So without knowing more about your particular restaurant ad targeting situation, I would create several Lookalikes at different levels of similarity to your customer database and test them to see what delivers the best results.
Facebook Ad Tactic:
How To Grow Restaurant Catering
Do you also offer catering? Maybe you do corporate events, parties, and more. Promoting this aspect of your restaurant is also possible. Below we selected for anyone that had an executive assistant-like job title to promote the catering services. Ideally you would drive this traffic to a landing page on your website that was all about your catering services with pricing and testimonials and images of what you offer.
Facebook Ad Tactic:
Integrating Ads With Your Traditional Marketing
Are you spending on traditional marketing tactics – print, radio, or TV? We all know traditional marketing is incredibly wasteful because of the lack of efficient targeting – its benefit is that it reaches a large audience.
However, with Facebook ads, we can make our traditional marketing much more effective. Facebook ads can easily integrate with your other traditional marketing efforts to improve response rates (in marketing we call that "Lift").
It’s no surprise that integrating efforts like this improves overall response from your other traditional advertising – multiple channels and multiple impressions helps push the customer closer to a conversion.
A consumer survey found that on average, people need more than 12 sources of influence before making a purchase decision (source: Think With Google). If people hear a radio ad, or see a print ad, and then also see a targeted Facebook ad they are that much closer to becoming your restaurant customer.
So for example, if you are doing any print marketing like mailing out postcards to a USPS carrier route around your restaurant location, why not also run Facebook ads in those same neighborhoods as well? It's particularly effective if you run your Facebook ad right before you drop the postcard and then for some time after you drop the postcard. Don’t rely on just that one impression from the postcard which most end up in the trash.
Alternatively, what if you’re running local radio ads or a TV commercial? Did you know you can target radio listeners of specific radio stations and TV shows on Facebook?
Seattle Sports Bar Example:
In the below example, I’m targeting men in Seattle between the ages of 22 - 55 years that listen to Fox Sports Radio, watch ESPN, like the Mariners and the Seahawks. We can reach 94,000 men.
If you leverage Facebook ads and integrate them into your traditional marketing tactics, you will improve the “lift” or response from the traditional advertising tactics and will see better results.
Facebook Ad Tactic:
Now Hiring Job Ads
Need help finding restaurant workers? Facebook can help attract talent for your restaurant. Facebook's targeting has changed a bit for job ads to reduce discrimination in hiring, but still effective at reaching a broad audience.
Example Now Hiring Facebook Job Ad
Restaurant job ads typically get very good mileage - meaning your job budget goes far. For this ad we were able to reach 85,630 unique people and close to 160,000 impressions. This ad ran for about 6 weeks.
Different Types of Facebook Ads For Your Tactics
Facebook offers different ad formats for showcasing your restaurant’s promotions, brand, or specials.
You can be incredibly creative with Facebook ads, and there are many ways to promote your restaurant with rich media. Your ad type will depend somewhat on what creative assets you have, such as, images, or video.
Facebook Restaurant Ad Examples
Single Image Ads: these are the most common type of ad and run with only one image. These are fine and work well in Facebook for restaurants, but there are more options to utilize rich media and more creativity.
Video ads: do you have nice video content? Maybe you had a promotional video made? For example, you can highlight the kitchen as the dishes are being prepared if you're a higher end restaurant. One of the best experiences I have ever had was at a restaurant in downtown Cleveland sitting at the chef’s table – I had a front row view of how the kitchen was operating, and it was completely fascinating.
Video ads will stream through a user’s newsfeed and are on mute until they choose to hear the audio by tapping on the video.
And if you choose the Video Views campaign objective, you will likely get views on your video for pennies each view! As an advertiser, the Video Views campaign objective provides amazing mileage for your ad spend.
Carousel ads: Maybe you have a 3-course executive lunch special. Or perhaps you have multiple images of different dishes, or you want to showcase Friday night entertainment.
Carousel ads are similar to single image ads except you can put multiple images in each ad. With carousel ads, users scroll horizontally through different pictures of the lunch special. In this case, you could show each item with a call-to-action on each image.
Carousel Ads give people a better sense of what you're promoting since multiple images are being shown.
Or another idea, maybe you have several different offers – you can use carousel ads to highlight each type of promotion allowing people to scroll easily through each promotion to find the most appealing.
Facebook Ads Manager
So, if you're ready to dive in to learning how to run Facebook Ads yourself, the first place you need to start with is the Facebook Ad Manager. If you have the time, Facebook provides many resources to dive in and learn from the basics of how to setup your ad account, business manager, to ad strategy.
But if you don't have the time to setup and learn the Facebook Ads Manager, it can be overwhelming if you don't spend your days running ads, consider having us setup the campaigns for your by clicking the link below. Or we can offer a concierge service of ongoing ads management that we'd be happy to discuss with you - you can book a time here and find a time that works for you.
Facebook Ads Campaign Jumpstart
Want us to jumpstart your Facebook Ad Campaign?
Pro Tip - Competitor Ads
If you want to see what Facebook ads your competitors or other brands are running, you can access them from any business Facebook page.
Step One: visit any business Facebook page and scroll down and on the left column you should see a section called Page Transparency - click on "See All"
Step two: click on "Go to Ad Library"
And there you go - all the Facebook ads that Starbucks is running right now. You can also see ad spend totals for the page, but you won't see what types of campaign objectives the ads are using.
Are Facebook Ads Good For Restaurants?
Who are the target market for restaurants?
Related Post: Common Facebook Ad Campaign Questions
There are a couple of ways to target past customers for your restaurant on Facebook.
Retargeting customers with emails: Do you collect email or phone number information from your customers? For example, if you provide free wifi for guests, often they have to enter their email to get access. Well, you can take that email list and load it into Facebook and have Facebook match those emails to profiles – now you have a Custom Audience inside Facebook of past customers you can run ads towards.
Would love it if you could show us how to load in the emails….
Jason, here’s a short video showing you how to load emails as a Custom Audience in Facebook to then target with Facebook ads. https://youtu.be/HZT2llY3nBw
How are you measuring ROI for restaurant facebook ads?
You can measure ROI a couple ways: if you’re using a direct response ad strategy (i.e. Lead Ads in Facebook as an example), then you can count the number of conversions from people interested in the restaurant offer. But the majority of Facebook ad spend for restaurants is best for awareness with your target audience – Facebook provides for consideration with the target audience that you otherwise would have difficulty achieving with other tactics. Measuring ROI then focuses on your income statement – every industry has benchmarks in terms of the percentage of revenue you should spend on marketing. How much are you spending on marketing and what is that overall return on investment?
Do you have any videos on how frequent a restaurant should post ads? Also what is “publishing” exactly? Do you recommend “embedding”, if so under what circumstances? Thanks
Without knowing what type of restaurant you have, or the budget you have and other details about the restaurant, in general, you should have Facebook ads running all the time creating awareness of your restaurant – either targeting new prospects with seasonal specials, or promotions, etc and retargeting campaigns as well, i.e. people that have visited your website previously or from email lists you have collected (perhaps from people opting in to free wifi). Running ads ongoing doesn’t have to be expensive either – you can run some Facebook campaigns for just dollars per day, but it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve, and budgets etc. Hope that helps.
Hi, Sorry I missed this earlier! Yes, often your competitors, if they are not very big, will not show up as a target within Facebook’s ad platform for various reasons. But you can target similar larger establishments as you mention, and there are a whole host of other interests and behaviors that will help you target your specific audience. Yes, income level is not available is some other countries, but is in the US. Regarding day parting, you can do this in Facebook if you use a lifetime budget versus setting a daily spend amount.
Great Article! Quick question. Is it a good idea to run FB ads for online orders conversions?
Yes, but your site needs to be dialed in, simple, ready for e-commerce. Facebook does have a campaign objective for Conversions but for it to optimize for conversions you need about 50 per week. If you budget is small or smaller than what is needed to optimize for conversions, then you can just send the traffic into the site from your ads using the Conversion objective but with View Content as the conversion (there is a Traffic objective in Facebook but Conversion with View Content is far better). Don’t forget to implement a Retargeting campaign as well – anyone that has visited your site before or any customer lists that you have from, for example, people opting in to wifi – past customers are the ones most likely to buy again from you.