• Aleya Harris

Use Digital Marketing to Turn Strangers into Clients

New restaurants and catering businesses are popping up regularly. In this day of digital awareness, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs must take advantage of every opportunity to stay in front of potential clients. Leveraging digital marketing strategies is a powerful way of moving out of the shadows and turning strangers into clients.

With 45% of diners eating out multiple times weekly, and other 20% of those diners eating out once weekly, those working in the food and beverage industry must tap into these strategies now.

Clients are using customer review sites, search engines, and social media sites to find food, beverage, and event services. That means your business must be consistent, sustainable, and visible to stay in front of existing and potential clients. I’m going to teach you ways to use digital marketing to turn strangers into clients.

What was working a decade ago to market restaurants or catering businesses has transformed over the years. Finding new clients for your food business can be more challenging than ever before because of the higher level of competition. However, with the implementation of digital media, social media, and other new technologies benefiting you, it’s possible to gain clients at a lower cost compared to ever before.

A functional restaurant or catering business doesn’t mean it’s successful. Even if you’re doing everything right, serving delicious food, and customer service is on point, that doesn’t mean your business will stay busy with word-of-mouth. Because competition is stiff, you must implement online marketing to find success.

Have you noticed how the Internet has taken over our lives entirely in many respects? We’re using it to help us make decisions regarding what movies to watch, where to find doctors, and for job hunting. That’s why digital marketing for restaurants and catering business is becoming a top-of-the-hour priority. The strategies I’m outlining for you here will help you take your food business to the next level.

Break from Tradition. Go Digital.

Traditional marketing involves phone communication, radio ads, television advertising, physical marketing, print ads, and any other means that doesn’t include the Internet or digital electronics. Often, the food, beverage, and event industry rely on word-of-mouth marketing. However, is this a good idea if you want to keep a steady flow of clients?

Before answering that, I’m going to show you the pros and cons of traditional versus digital marketing.

Traditional Marketing


∙ You can reach your local target audience easily.

∙ Clients can save hard copies of your marketing materials.

∙ Traditional marketing is easier to understand.


∙ It’s less engaging.

∙ There’s a higher cost.

∙ It’s more challenging to measure ROI.

Digital Marketing


∙ There’s potential to reach a broader audience.

∙ You can tap into new markets.

∙ Content can be tailored and personalized.

∙ It’s more engaging.

∙ It’s cost-effective.

∙ You receive instant publicity and results.

∙ It’s easier to measure ROI.


∙ There are opportunities for receiving negative feedback.

∙ Search engines regulate digital marketing.

Ideally, my suggestion is that businesses should stop relying on word-of-mouth marketing. Breaking from tradition allows you to embrace a wealth of possibilities. Let me show you why.

When people read direct mail advertising, 39% of them will try that business. That’s compared to 72% of consumers who are searching for local businesses within five miles of their location and visit them. When you look specifically at digital marketing statistics for restaurants, they tell an even better story. Before dining, 90% of guests go online to research restaurants. Before deciding, 57% of those guests view restaurant websites.

Let’s look at why digital marketing is essential for your business.

  • Online marketing for catering and online marketing for restaurants has a vast reach and has a lower cost compared to the profits you can achieve. For example, if you decide not to boost posts online or pay for advertising, online marketing can be virtually free.

  • You’ll have direct contact with clients, both existing and potential, using your social media platforms. As a result, they will always be able to reach you with a concern, and you can improve your customer care.

  • Online marketing channels provide a massive reach that, as a result, provides your business with many potential clients who are on the receiving end of your marketing efforts.

  • It’s easier to understand what a client wants and meet their needs when communicating with them in real-time using online platforms through digital marketing strategies.

Going digital doesn’t mean you won’t need to make a significant time investment. On the contrary, you’re going to need to spend a substantial amount of time working on developing your digital marketing strategy. However, if you don’t have time to dedicate, you can opt for our SMP Free Trial, and we’ll take care of everything for you.

The best way to ensure your digital marketing is on point, here are some tips:

Develop an Email Marketing Strategy

Your email list is going to be the backbone of your business. I suggest using it to send out deals, discounts, event notices, menu updates, promotions, and more. That way, you can keep your new and existing clients in the loop regarding your brand.

Engage in Social Media

Here are some stats you need to know before engaging in social media:

There are over 2.41 billion active monthly users on Facebook as of June 2019.  As of June 2016, Instagram reported having 600 million “Instagrammers.” Twitter currently has 330 million active monthly users, with 134 million engaging daily.

What does that mean for your restaurant or catering business’s social media strategy?

Don’t “set it and forget it” when posting on social media. Your clients want interaction. Therefore, reply to comments and create a dialogue. Social media sites with the highest engagement show up in the top results.

Keep Your Materials Up-to-Date

Have you changed your menu? Do you have specials changing regularly? Are you offering events that change frequently? Does your restaurant or catering business feature seasonal items?

Your brand’s decor, events, hours, menu, and other materials undergo frequent changes. Make sure everything changes consistently and that your customers know about it immediately.

Optimize for Mobile

Everyone is using their smartphone for searching, multi-tasking, managing their calendars, and more. If your website doesn’t have mobile optimization, I suggest taking care of this now. Bring up your website on your smartphone. Is it easy to navigate? Are the fonts clear? How do the images and videos load?

Many clients are performing quick Google searches when trying to solve a problem or look for services on their phones. They should be able to access your site during these searches. Make it easy for them to find your website, book services, see your menu, and locate other content they need.

Photograph Everything

Stop relying on word-of-mouth to tell people how good your food or service is—show them! Your clients will appreciate seeing these visuals along with enticing descriptions. They want to know what’s in a dish and see how it’s presented on the plate. Use a combination of high-quality photographs and videos to tantalize their taste buds.

Only 31% of those who visit restaurants use print media to find them. That’s a relatively low number when looking at how many clients are using online media. That doesn’t mean abandoning your print marketing efforts altogether. There’s still value in offering coupons. For example, 55% of consumers report using a combination of print and digital coupons.

What is Digital Marketing?

According to HubSpot, when marketing efforts involve the Internet or an electronic device, that’s digital marketing. Businesses connect with current and prospective clients by leveraging digital channels, including email, search engines, social media, and other websites.

How does this definition relate to digital marketing for food, beverage, or event industries? I’ll break it down for you.

Potential clients are influenced about where to eat or receive services by the business’s price, the number of positive reviews, and location. You can begin your digital marketing strategy with three pillars:

  • Building a website that includes a blog.

  • Using email marketing.

  • Developing your social media presence.

Capitalize on your business’s social media presence by using Facebook and Instagram, which stand out as leaders regarding online marketing for restaurants and online marketing for caterers.

Digital marketing helps food, beverage, and event industry businesses in a variety of ways, including:

Identifying Your Brand

You’re sharing a story regarding your business, its strategies, and the services you’re offering with your clients online. You can’t do that before developing your brand identity. Your brand distinguishes your business from your competitors, tells your story, and articulates the experience clients can expect. It achieves these goals all before clients walk through your door.

Using digital marketing will help identify and develop your brand. One of the biggest mistakes those working in the food, beverage, and event industry can make is not taking this step. Developing your brand helps potential clients understand the quality and type of services you’re providing. Digital marketing is an excellent opportunity for maintaining your credibility and identity.

Encourage Brand Loyalty

Using digital marketing strategies, particularly through social media, provides a platform for your clients to comment on your offers and promotions. That means you’ll always have opportunities to develop relationships with existing and potential clients. These efforts help encourage brand loyalty while increasing recognition.

Engaging with clients on a personal level should be the priority of anyone running a catering business or restaurant. Social media platforms are the perfect tool for achieving that goal. That way, you know precisely how to meet the needs of your clients, how to solve their problems, and the services they’re looking for the most.

Social media is an excellent opportunity for letting your personality shine. In doing so, you’ll earn the trust and loyalty of your potential clients. Be sure to respond quickly to clients engaging with you and keep it professional. These steps will make them feel valued and more likely to engage in your services.

Post Dynamic Photos and Videos

Capitalize on the fact that people “eat with their eyes first” as part of your digital marketing strategy. Here’s an opportunity to share enticing visuals, fresh content, and delicious menu options. When clients see exciting content on social media and your website, it encourages them to visit.

Clients want your services because of your food, right? If your clients can’t see what you’re offering, how can they crave your dishes? Online marketing for events, restaurants, and catering can include high-quality photographs of your best recipes. Don’t forget to add videos of these menu items. Give your potential clients a treat for their eyes.

Why stop with photos and videos? Include information about limited-time menu options, exciting events, and tasting opportunities. Add teaser images, gifs, and memes depicting these offers to garner interest.

Update it and Then Update it Again

Potential and existing clients find it incredibly frustrating when they come across outdated information online. Your digital marketing strategy should include keeping your online presence up-to-date. Give your clients the information they want. That includes:

  • Access to up-to-date information on your website.

  • Business listings on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and more.

  • Presence on social media channels that include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Your website and social media channels are both excellent resources for sharing your location, menu, opening hours, and contact details. Use your website to include further information regarding your business’s story.

You’ll find that your website will soon become your most valuable asset for:

  • Sharing interesting and relevant content on your blog.

  • Posting videos and photographs on an event page.

  • Sharing recommendations and testimonials from existing and past clients.

  • Curating a list of current events and promotions that clients can participate in or book.

Respond to Online Feedback

Online reviews are a crucial ingredient for a thriving food, beverage, or event business. I can’t overstate their importance regarding the failure and success of your business. When choosing a restaurant, 35% of clients stated that online reviews influence them.

No matter if it’s negative or positive, managing an online reputation is critical. I suggest responding to every comment professionally and promptly. When handling negative reviews in-person or online, 23% of food and beverage business owners will reach out to the individual who gave the feedback directly. Another 15% use that feedback during performance reviews.

Why is this a good idea?

How your business reflects online is how your existing and potential clients will expect face-to-face exchanges to occur.

Timely Promotions and Offers

Does your catering business or restaurant offer promotions regularly? Do you have featured menu options often?

Add these promotions and specials to your digital marketing. You can spread the word about these opportunities using social media. In doing so, you’re promoting your offers while simultaneously building an audience and encouraging repeat business.

Digital marketing is an excellent opportunity to post promotions and offers. I suggest using social media to encourage new clients to receive a discount for taking advantage of a new service. Post discount coupons for email subscribers. Use your website as a channel for promotional opportunities.

The Digital Marketing Funnel Explained

Digital marketing funnels are available in a variety of forms. Influencers and experts refer to the stages and the funnel by several names. For example, in inbound marketing, it may be referred to as the “Buyer’s Journey.” However, each of these funnels describes the same process for the client. I’ll explain:

The Basic Digital Marketing Funnel

The following stages occur during the funnel:

  • Awareness

  • Consideration

  • Purchase

  • Loyalty

  • Advocacy

The top of your funnel is where you’re driving traffic to your website and generating a buzz about your brand. You can accomplish these goals by publishing evergreen content on your blog, creating a lead magnet for your landing page, writing SEO-friendly content, and getting backlinks. Now, let’s talk about what your digital marketing funnel should contain.


Your pages need high-quality content, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s there. The best person who knows about the services you’re offering is, of course, you. Use a combination of high-quality pictures and videos to showcase your brand. Then, promote these pieces of content alongside infographics and other content you find from your clients.

Content includes the material you’re creating to generate interest in and awareness of your brand. This content can consist of:

  • Advertisements

  • Blog posts

  • Articles

  • Emails

  • Newsletters

  • Social media posts

  • Videos

  • and more.

Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are the high-quality informational tools your visitors find valuable, and you offer for free when they give their email addresses.  Examples of lead magnets include:

  • Coupon offers

  • E-books

  • Free trials

  • Handbooks

  • Video tutorials

  • White papers

Some restaurants or catering businesses also use lead magnets to showcase a new menu, cooking tutorial, recipe release, or discount coupon. I suggest using a lead magnet that works best for your marketing funnel. For example, if your target audience craves information about how to make your dishes, then you’ll benefit from lead magnets focusing on video tutorials, recipe releases, or a combination of the two.

Landing Pages

We also refer to the landing page as the lead capture, squeeze, or opt-in page. It’s where visitors “land” when first discovering your company after following a promotion or ad. It’s a single page offering a free guide, resource, or tool (lead magnet) in exchange for the visitor’s email address.

Examples of what the landing page can include:

  • Franchise opportunities.

  • Gift cards sales options.

  • Loyalty club sign-up.

  • Reservations page.

  • Special events contact form.

When creating landing pages, my suggestion is to use compelling storytelling with a strong focus on the main message. That means including some positive reviews from clients who have used your services and links to your social media pages.

Your landing page must also include information about what sets your restaurant or catering business apart. Include high-quality graphics, photographs, and videos showcasing your business's best features. I also suggest listing the unique benefits and features that your food business has to offer.

Email Lists

Creating an email list involves collecting email addresses of your existing and potential clients. As part of your marketing funnel, you request these email addresses. Then, you start a series of engaging emails regarding your brand.

Using email marketing only to deliver promotions and digital coupons to your clients is a critical oversight. I’ve seen many businesses focus this messaging around sending greetings with an offer attached. In doing so, they’re missing out on many opportunities.

Instead, send updates about your company by introducing your team, an article about a recent event your business hosted, or a new pastry chef you hired. Make the messages personal and cultural by showing clients how you’re going to meet their needs, with whom, and how you’ve done so in the past with other clients.


Advertising and promotions occur where your existing and potential clients frequent, including social media channels and your website. You will present strategic advertising content throughout every stage of the digital marketing funnel.

For example, online marketing for events involves social media posts during the awareness stage, event listings during the consideration stage, discounts during the purchase stage, customer service content during the loyalty stage, and referral incentives during the advocacy stage.

Getting Started Next Steps

No matter if you’re trying to promote a new menu or restaurant location, it’s time for clients to know. What exactly does that mean? Rolling out online marketing for caterers or strategies for online marketing for restaurants is the best opportunity to get the word out regarding your business.

From developing awareness to mastering social media and everything in between, now is the time to stop relying on word-of-mouth and take your digital marketing to the next level.

Master the Art of Social Media

Turning strangers into clients starts with mastering the art of social media. You’ll win more engagement by committing to at least one post daily, and if you’re on Instagram, three stories. Stagger your stories, so one happens in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.

Create posts containing:

  • Pictures of your dishes at events.

  • Food preparation, including raw ingredients.

  • Diners enjoying your meals, desserts, and signature beverages.

  • Servers providing excellent client care.

  • Beautifully appointed table settings.

Become an Email Ninja

Your email list will have a high return on its investment. For example, for every dollar you spend developing it, you’re average ROI could be $38.

Consider segmenting your business’s email list according to your client’s interests. For example, as you attract new clients, create a list according to updates, promotions, and events. You may have existing clients who want information about holiday events or when you have a new menu. I suggest tailoring your email list accordingly.

Don’t forget to incorporate analytics. That way, you can track open rates, the best time to send out emails, and so on. You’ll also find out which email subject lines received the highest traction, and how many links in your email’s body received clicks.

Scrutinize Your Website

When was the last time you carefully examined your website? Is it what’s making or breaking your digital marketing? Here are some questions:

  • Have you made mobile-friendly updates?

  • Can potential or existing clients make reservations or book events?

  • Do potential or existing clients have to wait for business hours to make contact?

  • Is your website well-organized?

  • Does your website include social media profile links on the homepage?

  • Do you have a current menu on your website?

Online marketing for restaurants and catering businesses involves working to ensure websites are up-to-date and well-maintained. These efforts also include making sure branding is consistent across all channels.

Your Website’s Call to Action

When you’re examining your website, don’t forget to implement a call to action. Implementation of a call to action helps satiate the cravings you generate with the images you're using for your palatable dishes. When you add an “order” button, your potential or existing clients can solve their hunger pangs.

Become a Food Blogger

If you’re not creating content regarding your events, menus, or the food you’re serving, how can your current or potential clients learn more? You can’t get your point across without incorporating this digital marketing strategy.

Blogging should occur at least two or three times weekly. Blogging helps you achieve multiple goals, including:

  • Showing clients a “bird's-eye view” of your business.

  • Highlight employees providing expert service or performing food preparation.

  • Discuss the sources of your ingredients while showcasing them.

  • Connect and engage with clients more deeply.

Blogging allows you to add to your social media strategy. Posts about your restaurant or catering business become highly sharable.

Turning strangers into clients using digital marketing doesn’t have to be a stressful process for your food, beverage, or event business. The tactics and strategies I’ve outlined here will not only help keep you on track but also keep you organized and set your business up for success. Digital marketing is instrumental in helping businesses of all sizes find new clients, nurture their existing client base, and keep their profits rolling in.

If you need any help with developing your social media strategy and attracting clients, I suggest signing up for our Success Recipes email. In doing so, you’ll receive tools and strategies from me regarding how to take your business to the next level.