By Chris Fraser

In the restaurant world, it’s not enough to simply be open and serve great food. If your audience doesn’t know you exist, then they aren’t going to visit your business, and it’s as simple as that. By implementing these solid and proven marketing tips, you increase your awareness and chance for success.

1. Establish a Google+ Page

A whopping 85% of customers use the Internet to search for local businesses every day, and 59% of Google users use the search engine to find local businesses. If you aren’t on Google+, then you’re missing a prime marketing opportunity. When you search a business on Google, the results display information about operating hours, reviews, location, and more. This information is often found in business’ Google+ pages, so having an updated profile is key. Having Google retrieve this information from Google+ is particularly helpful for mobile users, because it’s displayed front and center in their search results.

2. Sign Up with a Popular Food Delivery Service

Delivery services that let users pick from a variety of restaurants are all the rage right now, and if you aren’t listed, you may be missing out. Signing up with a food delivery service lets you simplify your delivery service and increase your sales, because users will search for food near their zip code. Eat24, Seamless, Skip the Dishes, and OrderUp are a few of the popular food delivery services. If your customers aren’t aware of your brick and mortar store, they may have their first exposure through one of these delivery services, and then visit your physical location. Using a delivery service like Eat24 or OrderUp also makes it easy for you to offer delivery, because an individual is picking up and delivering the food, not one of your employees.

3. Offer a Loyalty Program

Rewarding your customers for their patronage is a time-tested restaurant marketing option anyone can use. You can use a digital loyalty program service for your restaurant, and offer a discount or free item to customers after they’ve visited a certain number of times or reach a certain purchase amount. When your customers know that they will receive a bonus by going to a place they enjoy, they’re more likely to choose your restaurant over another restaurant where they don’t have a loyalty program. Apps and services like Digital Dining and BellyCard will help you establish a loyalty program. Foursquare is also a popular loyalty program, because you can reward your customers for “checking in.”

4. Schedule Well-Timed Tweets

Being on Twitter is good, but having well-targeted tweets for your restaurant is better. You can schedule your tweets using a free service like Tweetdeck, and send them out when your audience is most likely going to be hungry: around the breakfast, lunch and dinner hours. Don’t forget to include a photo so they can see what delicious food they could experience if they visit your restaurant.

5. Show Off Your Press Coverage

Did you receive a good write-up by a local newspaper, TV station or food blogger? By sharing your good press, you’re showing that you appreciate the exposure, and also letting potential customers see what others say.

6. Get on Yelp

Are you on Yelp? Even if you aren’t, you can still get reviews, and that’s when you’re missing a golden opportunity to market yourself. Yelp is one of the foremost business websites, and people love to Yelp for a new place to eat. Not only does Yelp display your business reviews left by Yelpers, but it also lets you claim your business. When you set a Yelp profile for your restaurant, you get the ability to add business information like operating hours, services (delivery and takeout), specials, WiFi availability, menus, price range, parking, and more. You and your customers also have the ability to share plenty of photos of your food and the restaurant. Take advantage.

7. Share Snaps on Instagram

Instagram has risen from a simple photo-sharing service to a powerful marketing tool. You can share snaps of your food, your employees, and other related topics. You can use Instagram hashtags to have fun, and get seen by new people. Once you’ve set yourself up on Instagram, let your food photos draw them into your business. Instagram is a good way for you to share your brand identity, giving customers a look at the personality of the business. You want your customers to feel like they have a good connection with you, and Instagram will help establish that relationship.

8. Use User-Generated Content on Social Media

If you’re on Instagram or Facebook, have you been tagged in a photo or two? Social media users love to share what they’re eating and where they are, and they’ll often post photos of their activities. If your food or business has made an appearance on a user’s social media profile, you can capitalize on this. Ask if you may use the image, and repost it on your own account. You’ll be showing your pages’ fans that other people enjoy your food, and that you appreciate their business. You can also have a contest where users submit their own photos, and the winner receives a gift card or free entree.

9. Use Google Alerts

Are you familiar with Google Alerts? Google allows you to set up an alert if a certain keyword or phrase is mentioned. You can set up your restaurant’s name as an Alert, then receive email notifications about each mention. By doing this, you can keep an eye on the online presence of your restaurant.

10. Offer Online Reservations

We use the internet to accomplish many tasks in this day and age, and that includes making reservations. You can sign up with a service like OpenTable, and integrate online reservations into your existing website. OpenTable also markets to their users, and that may give you a sales boost with more exposure to new customers.

Whether you have a brand-new restaurant or you’ve been an established business for over 20 years, you still can use marketing to increase your sales and brand awareness. I hope these tips put you on the way to loyal customers and great success.