You've heard it before. To compete in today’s marketplace, business owners need to be tech-savvy. You know your restaurant needs a website and a presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
But having a website and social media accounts isn’t enough. Without a site that’s optimized for search engine results, customers won’t be able to find you on the web.
And when they can’t find you, they’ll move on to your competitors.
What does Google look for when it crawls your website to determine your search engine ranking? While search engine optimization (SEO) involves many complex factors, publishing new, freshly updated content can be an effective means to boost your ranking.
A restaurant blog is one of the best ways to ensure your website stays current. To gain your audience’s attention, you need to post frequent, valuable content people want to read.
To gain your audience’s attention, you need to post frequent, valuable content people want to read.
The occasional self-promoting, sales-pitchy blog post is not going to increase the number of hits to your page. If you're going to have a blog, you need to post on a regular basis.
In fact, blogging 16 or more times per month could net you at least three times the amount of traffic you have now.
But you can breathe a sigh of relief. Truth be told, most restaurants are not blogging 16 times a month. Ideally, business owners will post to their blogs at least once per week, which I think is a better target number for busy restaurant industry professionals.
Still, even once a week might seem like a lot, especially if you’re also trying to run a restaurant. Hiring a content marketer or writer can be a worthwhile investment.
Maybe you're convinced a blog will boost your restaurant’s marketing efforts. But you might wonder what you could write about frequently enough to make your site successful.
The right kind of content is even more important than frequent content. The days of spammy, keyword-stuffed filler content are over. Google’s algorithms are so sophisticated now that they can evaluate the quality of your blog articles - another reason to consider hiring a skilled writer.
The days of spammy, keyword-stuffed filler content are over.
If you’re stumped on what kind of content to post to your restaurant’s blog, here are 7 ideas to get you started:
1. Write about events at your restaurant.
Perhaps the most obvious use case for your restaurant’s blog, restaurant events can boost hits to your page as well as event attendance.
Prior to an upcoming event, write a detailed post that includes the following information:
- Event date, time, and location. Include the exact address.
- Who should attend the event? Are you hoping to attract families with kids? Couples? Bloggers and media personalities? Other local business owners?
- Who is scheduled to appear at the event? If your culinary team, chef, management, or restaurant owners will be in attendance, be sure to list their names and titles in your blog post.
- Why should people attend your event? What’s unique about it and what’s the incentive for showing up?
- Is the event RSVP-only? If so, be sure to state a deadline for RSVP’s and include a link or phone number for replies.
- How many guests can each attendee bring?
- What is the cost to attend the event and do attendees need to pay in advance? If so, include a secure link for them to purchase tickets or explain how they can purchase them in person.
- Include a relevant and unique hashtag attendees can use on Instagram, SnapChat, or Twitter to tag photos of the event once it happens. Offer guests an incentive for Instagramming or Tweeting about the event, even if you just say you plan to feature the best photos on your social media pages.
- Include any visuals you have to accompany the event description. If you had a graphic designer design a flyer to advertise the event, be sure to include a web-friendly copy of it that people can share on their social media accounts. If you’ve held the event before and have pictures you can share, include those too. If you don’t have either, include a royalty-free stock image from a site like Unsplash.
After an event, write up a detailed post that includes the following:
- Who attended the event, how many people showed up, and who spoke at the event
- How long the event lasted
- Quotes from attendees with their first and last names included. If you can, tag the attendees when you share your blog post on social media.
If you can, tag the attendees when you share your blog post on social media.
- Quality images from the event
- A ‘thank you’ to those in attendance
- Plans for similar events in the future
2. Feature a monthly employee interview.
Let your readers get to know the friendly faces of your establishment. Every month, interview a different team member - especially a member of your culinary team who can speak in-depth about your food and the stories behind it.
Every month, interview a different team member - especially someone from your culinary team who can speak in-depth about your food and the stories behind it.
You can post your blog in a Q&A format by directly transcribing the featured employee’s responses. Otherwise, you can weave the employee’s quotes throughout a third-person, journalistic-style article.
A third option would be to feature the best quotes from the interview in the form of a list. This Food and Wine interview with Chef Michael Carlson is a great example of how to write-up a list-style interview post. Their write-up includes short, bold headlines to accompany each paragraph. Since people are so prone to scanning information quickly on the Internet, this style might be especially effective, especially if you also include some eye-catching images.
And, finally, you might decide to nix the article altogether and conduct the interview in video format. Don’t worry if your videography skills aren’t up to par. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with a casual, smartphone interview with minimal editing.
People are accustomed to seeing smartphone videos, and you might even find it helps with humanizing your brand - as long as casual and friendly fits the tone of your restaurant. Make sure the video isn’t too dark or the audio isn’t too quiet for people to hear easily.
Be sure to also include a transcript of the interview below the embedded video on your blog for SEO purposes. You should also optimize the YouTube video when you upload it by using appropriate descriptions and tags.
3. Feature a monthly customer interview.
Let’s face it: we’re all a bit vain.
On social media, people love to share things about themselves. If you feature a customer on your blog (with their permission, of course), you’re almost guaranteeing that your site will be shared with everyone they know - leading to more hits and more social media followers.
You can conduct the interview in the same way you conduct interviews with your employees. Or switch up the format and try something new. Whether you choose to post the interview as a Q&A, article, or video, the questions you ask the customer will be the same.
Consider questions like:
- How long have you lived in [TOWN NAME] and what do you like best about living here? (This question is best if the customer lives in the same town where your restaurant is located.)
- What do you do for a living?
- Do you have kids/grandkids?
- When did you first start coming to [RESTAURANT NAME]?
- What are your favorite memories at [RESTAURANT NAME]?
- What’s your favorite dish at [RESTAURANT NAME]?
- What’s your favorite drink at [RESTAURANT NAME]?
- If you could add any food to our menu, what would it be?
Another option is to interview several customers each month and to ask them all the same question. If you already know customers’ birthdays, you can feature them during their birthday month. Wish them a ‘happy birthday’ in your blog post and ask them what dish they like best at your restaurant. Include their pictures and quotes in a monthly, list-style post.
If you already know customers’ birthdays, you can feature them during their birthday month.
Again, be sure you have permission to use their pictures and quotes on your blog and that you’re clear about how they will be used.
4. Feature a monthly (or weekly) recipe from one of your chefs.
People love to share recipes they can make at home. If you don’t want to give away all your secrets, have your chef share a recipe for a dish that isn’t on your menu.
If possible, include a seasonal tie-in with your recipe. For instance, if Thanksgiving is approaching, post a fall recipe that people can make on Thanksgiving. Be sure to post at least one to two weeks prior to the holiday.
If possible, include a seasonal tie-in with your recipe.
Don’t feel you have to stick to major holidays either. There is a National Day for almost any food you can dream up. The National Day website provides a helpful calendar listing for every minor holiday in existence. Be prepared to post your recipe to your blog on the day of or prior to the holiday. Then, share the recipe on your social media pages with the same relevant hashtag everyone else is using to celebrate that day (i.e. #NationalCookieDay).
…share the recipe on your social media pages with the same relevant hashtag everyone else is using to celebrate that day (i.e. #NationalCookieDay).
5. Feature a dish from your menu.
Maybe you don’t have a recipe to share. You can still feature one of your best menu items on your blog - especially if you have some scrumptious-looking photos to accompany it.
But what do you write about exactly?
Here are some questions you can answer about the dish in your blog article:
- When did you start serving the dish? Tell your dish’s origin story.
Tell your dish’s origin story.
- Who came up with the idea for the dish?
- Is the dish an old family recipe or did someone invent it recently?
- How popular is the dish at your restaurant?
- What are the boldest flavors in the dish?
- What makes the dish unique from what other restaurants are serving?
- Where did you source the ingredients for the dish? People care about where their food comes from. If the ingredients for the dish come from any local purveyors in your community, be sure to mention them in your post with a link to their websites. When you share the post on your social media pages, tag the local vendors. They will likely share your blog on their social media accounts too.
If the ingredients for the dish come from any local purveyors in your community, be sure to mention them in your post with a link to their websites.
As with a recipe feature, include a seasonal tie-in whenever possible. Highlight dishes that include in-season ingredients. Or use the National Day calendar to feature dishes that coincide with “holidays” like National Gazpacho Day or National Pie Day or whatever is taking place. Whatever you have on your menu, there is likely a fitting holiday to celebrate it.
Whatever you have on your menu, there is likely a fitting holiday to celebrate it.
6. Be a community resource.
Nobody likes a constant sales pitch. There’s a reason people dodge aggressive, high-pressure salespeople. You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating: to be successful at sales, you need to provide value to your customers.
Sometimes adding value means supporting the other businesses in your community instead of trying to convince people you’re better than everybody else.
Sometimes adding value means supporting the other businesses in your community instead of trying to convince people you’re better than everybody else.
There are several ways to go about this:
Put together a local restaurant guide: Feature a list of the best restaurants in your area. You can either make this post general and feature a variety of cuisines in one post with headings for each style (i.e. Best Mexican; Best Italian; Best Family Eatery, etc.) or you can feature one style at a time (i.e. 10 Best Italian Restaurants in [CITY]). If you’re not comfortable featuring your direct competitors, feature restaurants that are different enough from your own that they don’t pose a threat to you.
Feature a list of hunger charities in your area: You can title the post something like, “7 Charities Helping to End Hunger in [CITY]” or “7 Food Banks in [CITY] That Need Your Help This Holiday Season.” Include links to each charity along with a description of what people can do to help, whether that means volunteering their time, donating money, or donating food. You might want to consider starting a food drive to support one of your local hunger charities. This can be as simple as setting up a box near your hostess stand where people can drop non-perishable food items.
On social media, ‘virtue signaling’ - the public display of one’s good character - is rampant. Sharing support for charities is one type of virtue signaling. Like it or not, people love to share things that make them look good. Moreover, with so much bad news in our faces all the time, people also enjoy seeing good news - especially on Facebook.
Like it or not, people love to share things that make them look good.
Raffle off a prize: Partner with local businesses for contests and giveaways. When you work with other businesses to market your own, you can tap into a bigger audience. Approach other business owners to raffle off a basket of prizes. Write about the giveaway on your blog along with a list of everything inside the basket. People can earn raffle tickets anytime they eat or buy something from one of the business partners over a limited period of time.
Post a calendar of events in your area. If your restaurant is in a city with a lot of events happening all the time, you may want to post a calendar every week. But if you live in a small town, a seasonal calendar might work better.
7. Announce your restaurant’s specials.
In today’s world, people expect information at their fingertips. Full disclosure: I’m annoyed when I want to view a restaurant’s menu and it’s either not online at all or I have to zoom in on a blurry Facebook photo to see it.
Your restaurant’s website should include a menu separate from your blog. However, you can also use your blog to post off-menu specials. If your specials change frequently, writing about them can really boost your post frequency, which - as I mentioned above - can be an important factor for search ranking.
If your specials change frequently, writing about them can really boost your post frequency,
As always, include pictures whenever possible. Even if you can’t hire a professional photographer, smartphone cameras are so advanced now that you should be able to find a suitable image. In a worst case scenario, you can use pictures of your restaurant’s interior if you don’t have food images you can share.
Watch Your Tone
A final word of warning:
Whatever you choose to post on your blog, be sure it matches the tone of your brand. For example, a post about how the meatballs you serve came from your grandmother’s family recipe is more appropriate for a friendly, family restaurant than it is for a posh establishment striving for innovator status in the industry.
Your blog’s writing tone should also match your brand. Including casual, cliche idioms (i.e. ‘in a jiffy’ or ‘head over heals’) will work well for a corner pub, as will writing in first-person that addresses the customer as ‘you.’ Sensual, foreign food terms are more appropriate for higher-end restaurants.
The point is: think about the audience you’re trying to attract and make sure your blog can communicate with that audience.