Online Marketing Strategies For Restaurants

Aaron Hoos

It was Saturday afternoon. I was looking for a restaurant to go to with my wife for the evening. We reviewed our mental short-list of places we’d driven past and said, “oh, we should eat there.

And now we were in decision-making mode. So we checked online to see when the restaurant was open ’til and what was on the menu.

And that’s when we discovered it: restaurant websites are terrible (if they exist at all).

Now, granted, I’m not an expert restaurant marketer. But I am a marketer and strategist for a wide variety of businesses, plus I am a restaurant customer, so that gives me a bit of a perspective and some value to share.

Restaurants are missing important information on their websites—information that a customer like me is looking for to choose YOUR restaurant over the thousands of other options.

In the past few months that I’ve been paying attention to the general crappiness of restaurant websites, I’ve encountered sites with the following glaring errors and omissions…

  • No clear directions about how to get to the restaurant
  • No idea of when the restaurant is open or closed
  • No menu
  • No pictures of food
  • No prices
  • Old specials
  • No idea of what the atmosphere is like inside
  • No idea of whether reservations are needed, or when
  • Restaurants that didn’t have any online presence at all
  • Heck, one restaurant had a “Update: we’re just making improvements to our website”… but the date was more than a year old!

Maybe it’s me but it feels like these things should be the bare minimum when running a restaurant’s online marketing!

A Few Simple Fixes

The solution is simple. You don’t have to be fancy, just start a simple website and a few basic social media accounts, and then put the following information on it:

  1. The menu. (Oh, and don’t just make it downloadable, as many restaurants do, because I want to view it on my phone and downloading a PDF is a hassle).
  2. Mobile friendly website. (After all, I’m often deciding where to eat while I’m driving around… so why not meet me part way with a mobile-friendly site?)
  3. Directions from key places in the city. And don’t just say “north” or “south” but give clear directions (“one block past Fairview park—look for our big yellow sign”) and a link to Google Maps.
  4. Tell me where to park and if I need change for the meter (and how much that change should be).
  5. SHOW ME WHAT THE FOOD LOOKS LIKE!!!
  6. Give me an idea of the experience of your restaurant—What does it look like? How should I dress? Is this a great restaurant for an intimate dinner or a loud raucous group or a sports enthusiast?

See? simple.

Of course you can do more if you want, like…

  • Post frequent videos.
  • Maintain a blog with testimonials, messages from the chef and waitstaff, and yes, even recipes!
  • Keep your website up-to-date.
  • Give me ideas of when your restaurant is the perfect place to eat, and why. (Your restaurant is not perfect for every occasion but tell me why it’s perfect for entertaining out of town guests.)
  • Integrate social media and invite me to participate in the social conversation by helping me to find and tag you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Tell me what beers are on tap.
  • Tell me the busiest times of the week and the slowest.
  • Tell me what your most popular foods are, and the surprise secret dish that the chef is most proud of.

I love experiencing new restaurants. I like trying to new foods and discovering restaurants I’ve never eaten at before. There are a million restaurants in my city and if you own one of them then help me choose your restaurant with these simple changes to your online marketing.

Hilarious update: I wrote a draft of this blog post and then left it for a week while I went to visit a friend in another city. He was getting married and I was his best man, so I’d planned a stag party (a pretty tame one, at his request), which included a few friends at a local bar. I checked the bar’s website and it said they were open from “11AM until Close” which is vague but whatever. But while we were eating there, the waitstaff came over and told us they were closing… and it was only 10:30 at night!!! We were shocked! In fact, by the time we left, the waitresses were outside smoking, waiting for us to be done. (#classy) Fortunately there was a bottle of whiskey back at the hotel that we could drown our sorrows in but that information would have been helpful if placed on their website. I just checked Google and their hours in Google are incorrectly listed as being open until midnight. It just reinforced the general crappiness of restaurant websites.

I WANT to discover YOUR website… help me out here!!!

When You Feel Like You’ve Maxed Out Your Productivity, Do This…

Aaron Hoos

As a copywriter, clients hire me to deliver copy that gets their prospects taking action. Along with my knowledge and experience distilled into words, they’re also paying for my time—for me to spend time on their project.

Of course I want to deliver great value but also I want to make more money. So, I can increase my rates (done!), I can fill my schedule with my clients (done!) but I can also become more productive to help me deliver great content faster.

When we think of productivity, we often think of working faster and more focused to get more done in less time.

I’ve tried them all and created gains from each of them, helping me to increase my productivity and get more great copy written for my clients.

And if you’re like me (a professional who sells knowledge + experience + time), you probably have done some or all of these things to increase your productivity.

But I’ve hit a wall and so will you: there are only so many hours you can add by getting up early; there’s only so much focus you can have, it doesn’t make you get your existing work done any faster.

In other words, there are limits and if you are focused on being more productive, you will hit these limits at some point. For example, for my situation as a copywriter, some limits include: the process of writing, my typing speed, the need to communicate with customers (I can’t ask them to talk faster!), the need to do research, etc. Of course in your professional situation there might be other limits… so the question we should be asking is: what can you do to break through those limits to become more productive when you think you’ve already squeezed out all the productivity you can?

The Breakdown

The key that unlocked it all for me was breaking down what I do into smaller pieces. Rather than asking: “How to I deliver my copywriting service faster and more efficiently?” I broke down what I do into individual pieces. When I deliver copywriting service, I really do the following…

  1. Connect with the client and get the project assignment from them
  2. Outline the project
  3. Research
  4. Write
  5. Revise
  6. Edit
  7. Proof
  8. Deliver

Depending on the project, it could vary a little but that’s generally what many of my projects look like.

Now, instead of asking “How to I deliver my copywriting service faster and more efficiently?”, I ask “How do I do each step faster and more efficiently?”

This opens up a variety of methods that I hadn’t considered before when I was thinking about this more generally. In other words, getting more specific reveal new productivity opportunities. For example…

  • Maybe I could have a fillable Google Form that my clients simply send projects to, thus eliminating the need to talk to them on the phone.
  • Maybe that filllable form also starts the outlining process for me by capturing the data and putting it into a project management spreadsheet with a service like Zapier.
  • Maybe my research could be outsourced to someone else.
  • Maybe I could use more templates that eliminate the time it takes me to decide how I want to write this piece.
  • Maybe the proofing can be outsourced to someone else (after all, my expertise is in creating the words, not in making sure that the grammar is perfect).

These are just a few examples but already I can see that applying even a couple of them can increase the amount of monetizable writing time I have while minimizing the other aspects of the project that can be time-consuming.

And once I’ve done this for one service, I can break it out in other ways too: perhaps for other writing and content services I provide, or my consulting services, or my investing… or whatever.

Breaking things down into parts and examining those parts in detail will reveal greater productivity opportunities than when thinking about your service as a whole.

Speaking Of Productivity…

Aaron Hoos

One of my clients puts on an event a few times each year. It’s a multi-day event for business owners and he does a deep-dive into growing your business. He covers everything from leadership to marketing to hiring to scaling to systems, and much more. I promise it’s not like any other event you’ve ever been at: there’s a firehose of information!

He holds the event (Service Business Edge) a few times a year and I try to attend when I can (I usually get there once a year at least). The event was held this past October (I just got back a couple days ago) and I’m still catching up on work!

Well, this year he asked me to participate in a panel along with a couple of my colleagues who work as a team for him. Of course I was happy to do so because it was an opportunity to speak (which I’m doing a bit more of), plus hang out with my friends, and it also meant that I was speaking from the same stage as the legendary business minds of Jay Abraham and Mike Michalowicz, too! Here’s a shot (below) of the stage from a few minutes before the first day started, while people were just trickling in and finding their seats.

Aaron Hoos

The event started on a Tuesday and I can’t remember if I spoke on the Wednesday or Thursday (the week is a blur) but here I am below with my fellow panel guests—Lyndsay Phillips of Smooth Sailing Business Growth and Stephen Christopher of Wit Digital—moments before taking the stage…

Aaron Hoos

Once on stage, my client Mike pumped up the audience with some high energy music (and a mini-dance party!) and then we settled in to do our panel. The topic was on how the three of us (pictured above) deliver a high level of content and services to our clients and stay productive even though we work remotely (Lyndsay lives in Ontario Canada, I live in Saskatchewan Canada, and Stephen lives in Colorado; and we serve clients all over the world—separately in our own businesses and as a team for our client Mike).

Mike asked questions, we answered them, then also fielded questions from the audience too. Topics includes things like…

  • How to work together remotely to align schedules and communicate effectively
  • Tools we use to communicate and be productive
  • Productivity tips and strategies
  • How to measure and evaluate the work of a remote team
  • How remote teams could fit in the workflow of a local team
  • How to find and hire great remote people and make them feel like they are part of the team
  • And more

One of the insights I was able to share to this audience of business owners (most of whom have local employees but have never hired a remote person before) was about productivity and payment for work: there were a lot of questions about how to know if someone is doing the work, and how to make sure they aren’t ripping you off. It became apparent that they were thinking in terms of hourly employees, just like the ones that worked at their offices, and how paying a remote person hourly feels risky because there isn’t a lot of visibility into the productivity of the team member. So I talked about how there is more than one way to pay a remote team member: I gave some examples of other ways that they could base the team member’s pay on… things like specific deliverables.

The panel seemed to go very quickly (as does every time I speak!) I had a lot of fun, I enjoyed sharing some insights and best practices with other business owners, and of course it was a highlight for me to be able to present on a panel with my good friends! I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Aaron Hoos

Financial Fiction Review: ‘The First Billion’ by Christopher Reich

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

The First Billion by Christopher Reich


Financial fiction with international adventure, plenty of IPO and stock market action, big dollars, and a corrupt Russian businessman.

OVERVIEW: This story is about John “Jett” Gavallan, a former pilot who now owns Jet Black Securities and is in the midst of taking a Russian media company public on the New York Stock Exchange. His company is stretched thin to make this big win and they are pinning all their hopes on this media company… when a mysterious blogger starts sharing alarming information about the media company. Suddenly, everything starts to unravel as Jett globetrots from the US to Europe to Russia to learn the truth and save his struggling company.

REVIEW: This is Christopher Reich’s third book, published in 2002. I really enjoyed Reich’s other books (Numbered Account, The Runner, The Devil’s Banker — I will be reviewing all of them here) but I gotta be honest, I didn’t love this book. The characters seemed like they were stereotypes (the all-American jet-flying hero, the bureaucratic Swiss banker, the seductive Russian woman named Tatiana, the corrupt Russian businessman, the by-the-books FBI agent, etc., etc.) These characters then felt plunked down in a plot that seemed tired and stretched thin. I also find the inconsequential details, like on page 129-130, which lists the brands of empty drink containers he has in his garbage can. I think Reichs did this to give it a sense of realism and to root the story in the real world (maybe?) but I think it distracts from the pace of the story and pads the runtime. And most disappointing, in my opinion, was the the climax: the characters all converged at the New York Stock Exchange for one final showdown but nothing really happened. Yes justice was dealt but (spoiler alert) the villain got away and so did a turncoat on the inside of the main character’s business… therefore justice was done but not by the main character. The book just felt like a bloated story with cardboard cut-out caricatures.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: The financial fiction quotient comes and goes through the book. At times there is a good amount of financial content, especially as they introduce the concepts of the stock exchange, how an underwriter works, and all the money moving around the world. That part was great. But it came in bursts and then vanished, to be replaced by a bit more punching-and-shooting action. Nothing wrong with with either. This is probably better for newbies to financial fiction because it’s very approachable and not overly detailed. That said, you also need to remember that this book was published in 2002, which means it was probably written in 2000-2001 at the height of a tech bubble, so some of the info is dated.

SUMMARY: I hate being so critical of this book, especially since I normally love Christopher Reich… but I just didn’t love this book. It was hard to get through and I almost gave up a few times. This book will appeal to someone; just not me.

Find more financial fiction reviews here.

Do You WOW Your Customers? (Many Say They Do But Very Few Actually Do)

Aaron Hoos

(Okay, ignore that silly picture of me. I’m apparently reflecting the same WOWed face of a statue of a famous Greek philosopher.)

Instead, let’s talk about WOWing customers…

Do you serve your customers? Do you WOW them?

You might THINK you do but you probably don’t.

Nope. Even YOU.

Customer Service: The Misunderstood Deliverable

Customer service is such a weird thing: customers want to be served, businesses want to serve them, businesses know that good customer service helps to cement the relationship…

and yet, businesses fail to understand the depth to which customer service needs to occur.

The result is: businesses think they’re giving good customer service (when really they’re not), customers barely feel served so they go somewhere else.

Customer service is the misunderstood deliverable. Many businesses believe they give good customer service but very very very very few actually do.

What Is “Good” Customer Service?

Businesses often tout their “good” (or “great” or whatever) customer service as a point of pride or a core value. They plaster their good-customer-service claims everywhere.

But when the customer engages with the business, they experience something entirely different.

That’s because the business and the customer measure “good” very differently.

If you’re a business owner, think about what you consider to be “good” customer service. For a lot of businesses it includes things like:

  • We greet you as soon as you walk in the store
  • Our staff are friendly, polite, and helpful
  • We make sure you are served with what you want and need
  • We have fair prices and good value; we’re not ripping people off
  • We happily refund purchases if they don’t work

I suspect that some business owners are reading this list and nodding in agreement and thinking: “yes, that’s exactly the kind of good customer service that we give! And we’re proud of it!”

Well here’s where things fall apart: You might think that is good customer service…

… your customers view that as the absolutely minimum baseline for what they can expect in any and every store they do business with.

(Yes, even your competitors probably deliver this, even if you don’t think they do.)

So, what stores are measuring as “good”, customers are expecting as the absolute bare minimum.

Let’s use a different example to highlight the disparity: Imagine a romantic relationship between two people.

The one person in the relationship believes that they are good in the relationship because…

  • They call
  • They go out on dates with the other person
  • They don’t smell
  • They remember the other person’s birthday

Person one is proud that they are a good partner. Problem is, the other person in relationship knows that there are a million fish in the sea who also have those qualities. Those aren’t “good” qualities, they’re the minimum baseline upon which the first person needs to do better if they want the relationship to last.

So, What Really Is Good Customer Service?

Good customer service is service that rises above the baseline. It builds on the minimum standard but goes further.

  • It’s not just greeting the person when they walk in the store but connecting with them later as well with a thank you call that doesn’t try to sell them anything
  • It’s not just a staff that are friendly, polite, and helpful; it’s a staff who very clearly go out of their way to drop everything and make the customer the sole focus of their attention (hire someone else to answer the ringing phones), and who become so friendly with the customer that the customer asks for them by name when they come back
  • It’s not just serving customers with what they want and need; it’s finding ways to add value beyond that, recommending additional products and services, giving away free information to support the use of the product, and following-up about the purchase months later
  • It’s not just having fair prices and good value; it’s about surprising them with much, much, much, much more than they were ever expecting
  • It’s not just a refund policy, it’s a guarantee with teeth
  • It’s not just knowing the customer’s name but using it regularly, along with their family’s names

… and that’s just scratching the surface.

Stop thinking of your customer service as “good”. Customers are getting the same amount of service from your competitors, so there’s no loyalty created. Instead, aim to SHOCK your customers with customer service that leaves them speechless and near to tears with your generosity and value.

(Does that sound like “too much”? Good! Now we’re finally getting close to what “good customer service” really is.)

(Edit: you know what’s funny? I stumbled across an old blog post I wrote back in 2015, with almost an identical name—Too Many Businesses Say They WOW Their Customers But Few Actually Do. haha! I’ve been thinking about for a while!)