Before taking a trip or going out for an occasion, people like to find out more about what their experience is going to be like.

Psychological studies show that people who get spoiled about stories actually enjoy them more. The same is true of any experience, from a holiday to a night out at a restaurant.

According to stats released by Google, there is a growing trend in searches among restaurant customers about their upcoming dining experience.

People search for everything. From menus, specials and prices, to reviews and pictures of the food in anticipation of their experience.

This isn’t just because they want the peace of mind of going to a great restaurant that’s well reviewed, although that does play a role. They also want to get excited about their trip out.

1. Make Your Business Look Great on Google

There has been a 55 percent increase in “menu” searches in the last two years. By now, most restaurants understand the value of keeping an up to date menu on their website and Google Business listing.

Last year, Google unveiled a new tool for restaurants to showcase their menus: Menu Schema.

What is Schema?

Schema is what you can use to create better looking, more informative search results. It allows rich snippets to appear in search results that show user review ratings, location, and now menus.

Moz has a great guide for helping you set up menu schema.

This means that when people search for a restaurant, they can see the available dishes right there in the search results, similar to weather and movie screening times, which have been available on Google for a while now.

This doesn’t mean you should stop publishing menus on your sites; you definitely still should. But by using this new structured data markup, restaurant websites can become the primary source that Google uses to gather data on what is served, rather than review sites.

2. Structure for voice search now

Searchers don’t just chat around the water cooler any more. They’re also talking to their smart phones.

Voice search is becoming increasingly popular, especially from searchers on the move. It’s thought that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches.

If someone says, “Hey Google, which restaurants in near me serve vegan pizza?” You want Google to respond with Vizzeria, the Vegan Pizzeria you’ve just opened.

Structuring content on site that facilitates the needs of these queries will put your restaurant at the forefront of people’s minds when they’re choosing where to eat out.

3. Engage local influencers

Generation Z is driving restaurant growth in 2018, spending $1 in every $5 eating out. This demographic favors the opinions of their favorite celebrities and influencers.

This new version of word of mouth marketing allows you to leverage the power of an influential voice to attract diners to your restaurant.

Work with local influencers, bloggers and reviewers so they act as advocates for your brand. This could include as little as an invitation to dine at your restaurant and can pay dividends when the influencers thousands of followers see your place on their social feeds.

4. Leverage email marketing

One of the best ways to preview your restaurant is to roll out powerful email marketing campaigns. Email campaigns are versatile marketing tools. They can get the word out about the grand opening of a new restaurant, to just encouraging people to pop in on those quiet midweek nights.

The best email marketing combines great content and powerful calls to action with a personalized experience. Treat your email contacts like guests and pretty soon, that’s what they’ll become.

Personalized emails attract the eye of the reader, encouraging them to engage with your email. They can increase click-through rates by 16 percent and are 26 percent more likely to be opened.

The trick with a personalized email in context. Don’t just use their name, refer to their previous experience in your subject title. You can boost your open rates a little more by including emojis, too.

5. Treat Your Favorite Customers

Loyalty schemes and special discounts serve two important functions to restaurants today. They help build an invested audience of brand advocates and encourage that audience to come back.

They also create some serious FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out is a powerful driver among millennials and Gen Zers who need to be in the loop at all times.

You can play into this by teasing new dishes or promotions early to customers on your loyalty scheme. You make them feel special and in return, letting them share their experiences will encourage people who are missing out to get involved

With customers expecting more engaging, personalized experiences from every trip out, restaurants need to be smarter about how they market themselves. Make the searcher’s research stage more engaging and you will increase the chances of them visiting your restaurant over the competition.
Adam Blackford-Mills is the Digital Sales & Marketing Director at MRS Digital. Adam works tirelessly to develop digital solutions that expand online marketing potential for businesses and delivers results. Using innovative and actionable thinking, Adam crafts a unique digital experience for every business. 
Outside Insights, Story, Technology