In 2016, more than half of U.S. restaurant IT decision-makers planned to invest in technology to improve customer engagement/guest loyalty. With diners craving more convenience and customization, restaurants are racing to provide faster service and product diversification.

As the competition among restaurants continues to heighten, brands aim to roll out marketing that breaks through the crowd and enhances relevancy. Their media mix usually contains various channels in an attempt to lure new customers while not alienating loyalists.

More and more, restaurants are leveraging social media advertising to reach both wide and niche audiences. Here are some targeting strategies that have proven effective:

Mobile Users

For quick-service restaurants in particular, you can drive users to a restaurant location when they’re on-the-go and hungry through mobile marketing. Eighty-one percent of diners have smartphones close by nearly every waking hour and 60 percent of people have used only their mobile device when deciding where to eat. Social apps are playing an ever-growing importance in people’s lives, with most social media time spent on mobile.

In addition to dayparting campaigns, you should target social users based on action they have taken with a restaurant’s app, such as:

  • Downloaded but haven’t logged in within the past 90 days
  • Recently opened the app
  • Abandoned cart
  • Completed a purchase
  • Use Apple’s and Android’s Advertising Identifier or Facebook User IDs, called mobile advertiser IDs, to create customer lists.
  • Measure activity like clicks, installs, and in-app events (namely, in-app conversions). Facebook Analytics for Apps is one free solution that helps brands analyze customer lifetime value and retention by ad campaign, ad set, or ad across devices.

Website Audiences

Using the Facebook pixel for tracking, you can leverage insights on customers from website data to optimize campaign targeting. You’re able to not only reach audiences as broad as site visitors, but also narrow in on segments based on different actions taking place on-site such as online orders. Targeting site visitors drives a large percentage of online orders coming from social media.

  • Segment users who are most likely to order food online then send them to Facebook Pages (where they can order) or online ordering sites and into stores.
  • Reactivate online orderers who have lapsed. These segments are often top-performers in terms of the number and value of orders, and ultimately, cost efficiencies.
  • Use point-of-sale data to bucket customers based on their buying patterns and retarget those who have deviated from their past behavior.
  • Invite the most active consumers to join loyalty programs.
  • Break out users who are likely to spend more during their next visit.


Lookalikes/actalikes are new people who are similar to people already interested in a business. Build off of existing website audiences to prospect lookalikes at scale.

To expand your customer base, you should maintain a balance between reaching lookalikes and more prospecting audiences built off of platform targeting options like keywords or niche segments from third-party companies. Prospecting lookalikes will often drive cost efficiencies, and it is important to determine how much acquiring a new customer is worth to your brand ahead of time.

Third-party Data

Third-party data services enable social advertisers to target at greater scale that they can using only their own first party data.

Tap into audience segments from data companies Acxiom and Datalogix for the restaurant industry, such as:

  • Buyer profiles, including foodies
  • Fast casual diners
  • Fast food diners
  • Online-only shoppers
  • Custom audiences of people who buy certain items at the grocery store that resemble quick-service foods
  • Proximity targeting, especially to nab customers from competitors
  • Use Visa data (via Oracle) to create custom segments, including competitors, for a more accurate version of competitive conquesting.

Overall, customer expectations are higher than ever. By tapping into the targeting capabilities available through social media platforms, restaurant advertisers can reach specific audiences—e.g., multicultural millennials, parents of young children, Baby Boomers—with personalized messaging.<

Lindsey Silverman is a Client Strategy Manager at Adaptly. When she’s not working on a project, she’s debating her feelings about the newest Oreo flavor, pinning new recipes to cook in her rice maker, and finding just the right gif to respond with on Slack.
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