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October 24, 2016

With a Bloomberg analyst reporting a decline in the restaurant industry, it's natural that restaurateurs might get a bit nervous: eateries live and die by their ability to drive foot traffic.

In the smartphone age, encouraging new customers to come in for a bite is a bit more complicated than putting a sign out on the sidewalk, but mobile devices can serve as the ultimate online-to-offline bridge, and recent research from xAd indicates that location-based mobile ads have a proven link to physical sales. Restaurants can quell their fears by driving more foot traffic through mobile with these tactics.

Serve Up Geofenced Ads
This strategy is a solid bet for restaurants looking to drive foot traffic through mobile because the real-time nature of geofencing means that consumers seeing the ad are already nearby. Geofencing ensures that ads being served are relevant based on a consumer's real-time location, and as MarketingTech notes, relevancy is key to higher engagement in mobile ad campaigns.

This tactic works particularly well for QSRs and fast-casual chains because dining at these restaurants requires less of a time commitment than a more upscale, sit-down eatery; so a real-time ad or message is more likely to influence a nearby customer to make an in-the-moment decision.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Papa John's ran a geofenced ad campaign—averaging 2.5 miles in distance around four locations—with banner ads touting a free pizza promotion. The campaign had a built-in click-to-map capacity, allowing customers within the specified area to seamlessly find (or order from) their nearest location.ThumbVista reported that the campaign resulted in over 68,000 impressions, with 469 actions taken.

Optimize Your Restaurant's Presence In Search Rankings
Why does your restaurant's search ranking matter more than ever? Check this out: 76 percent of location searches (eg, "restaurant near me," "sushi near me") result in a business visit within a day, according to research from Think with Google. Searchers probably won't visit a restaurant that doesn't come up in the results, or that has inaccurate location information listed.

Search is a powerful predictor of intent, and this is great for local marketers, but it means that you need to put in work up front to ensure that your listings are easily discoverable. First, take a look at your SEO strategy: Does your website—and associated properties, such as social pages and Yelp listings—use clear, concise, consistent keywords to indicate what kind of food and atmosphere you offer? Have you maintained an active presence across social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Foursquare?

Next, move on to search rankings. The key to ranking in the "three-pack" (Google's top mapped search results) is to make sure that your restaurant's location information is correct and consistent. You should perform an audit to ensure that information, including your address and business hours, is accurate across social media, review sites, and proprietary websites, whether your restaurant has one location or thousands. That way, you will rank higher in search results, and more customers will see your information—and correct data means that those customers can then find your property without any issues.

Leverage Check-Ins
Social media check-ins are great for restaurants: they build brand awareness through visibility on visitors' social profiles, making it more likely that friends and acquaintances of existing customers will become customers themselves. You can take this a step further by rewarding restaurant check-ins through a loyalty program.

Rewards don't have to be just about who spends the most money. If your goal is to drive foot traffic, building relationships with local customers is key.

Rewards for a certain number of social check-ins can include discounts off the bill, prizes, or anything you feel comfortable with; the goal is to tie loyalty points to location visits, and to make any discounts offered easily redeemable on mobile—then you're sure to keep loyal customers coming back.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. Try running a geofenced mobile ad campaign. It's a great way to make new customers out of people who are already conveniently near a restaurant location.
2. Make sure your restaurant has a comprehensive digital presence and that your information is correct everywhere. This will help with search rankings, meaning that more local consumers can discover your establishment.
3. Reward check-ins. Location-tagged social media check-ins are important for driving brand awareness. You should reward loyal customers for checking in, not just for the dollars they spend.
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