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. The goal of this post is to give you strategies you can use now that will grow new customers and increase repeat vistors 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
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 multiple times per day of which the majority are accessing 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.
Nobody is carrying around the newspaper, or a magazine and checking it multiple times per day – but they are checking Facebook and Instagram (Facebook owns 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.