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10 Yelp Alternatives For Restaurants Under $500


Don't want to watch the video? Read on or download the PDF here

In Store Strategies

1. Customer Wifi - hint: it's not about the Wifi 

Offering free Wifi to your customers is becoming the norm. This can be a great way to attract mobile workers during the quieter times of the day, and they'll likely refuel with food and coffee throughout their stay. But it's not really about the Wifi - it's about getting them to go through the login process. 

Instead of having a hand written note on a blackboard for the Wifi password, try using Social Wifi or better yet - a QR code that delivers the wifi login screen through a Messenger chat bot. More on this later. 

2. Instagrammable appetizer trays

Who could resist reposting these mini wagons filled with plantain and potato chips from Nashville TN Indian Street Food concept Chaatable

Why am I suggesting app serving plates instead of mains? Seeing as this article is for investments under $500, small serving trays will be more budget friendly, easy on dishwashing space and will not draw attention from what should be the star performer of your restaurant: the food. Check out this Pinterest article for some inspiration, and just be sure to not go too far like the examples from this article

3. Start shooting video. Yesterday

You don't need to be Scorsese. Your staff doesn't have to be like the cast of a reality show. I hope for your sake they're not like the cast of a reality show.

The truth is, video is the number 1 way to share content on social platforms and food is the most popular content to share. A video of your chef putting the final touches on a signature dish is fascinating for those of us who never get to venture into the mysterious world behind the FOH. 

Raw, unedited, candid video works best. Take a look at this video by Lazurus Lynch preparing a Nashville inspired Hot Chicken Sandwich:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1931873223782951

4. Commission a Mural Wall. 

The investment for this one can range from $0 to much higher than $500. However, if you can offer an incentive to the artist (or you happen to have a budding artist amongst your staff) you can create an arrangement that's a win-win for everyone. Make sure the artists' IG handle is large and clearly displayed in the art and they can share in the distribution of their art and name forever. The key is to create a social media worthy photo opportunity for your customers. The art doesn't have to be elaborate, just make it recognisable and unique. This wall at Boombozz East Nashville works because it's simple and memorable. 

5. Run a Giveaway or Photo Contest.  

Want to hear a crazy idea? Run a giveaway and offer a free main course every day for 1 year to the winner. Though this seems excessive - consider this: this winner will likely return to your restaurant with their friends and family because they will be the VIP. They and their friends will order drinks, appetizers and desserts. They will post their win on social media and will have an absolute blast every time they come in because they will be the "guest of honor". And how much will it cost you to offer them a free main course for each visit? Not very much.

To take this strategy to another level, consider combining a contest with the mural wall strategy. State that the customer photo that gets the most likes wins..... make the conditions include that the customer must be local and the winner will most likely be one of the most influential and sociable people in your community. 

Here are some broad guidelines for giveaway and contest regulations. Be sure to consult a trusted legal advisor before running a giveaway or contest. 

Online Strategies

1. Facebook Messenger Chatbot

There is no ifs or buts about this one. Imagine having a website before everyone else in 1998? That's where we are with Facebook Messenger and chat bots. What's more these are very easy to set up and you can do this in under 5 minutes. Check out this video where I walk through exactly how to do this. 

Remember the customer wifi strategy mentioned at the start of this article? Instead of posting the wifi code on your counter or writing it on a blackboard you can create a scan code that customers can scan to get the code: "Sure we have wifi! To get the code just scan here!" 

Now, you can invite them into your VIP Offers program and communicate with them in a platform that is set to be THE biggest marketing and social media channel.

2. Facebook Ads

As a restaurant owner you have a HUGE advantage when it comes to advertising on social media. Why? Food is such shareable and engaging content! You don't need to come up with far fetched commercials like insurance and financial companies and diaper companies do!

Run an ad with an enticing image of one of your dishes on social media and offer a 2 for 1 Main Course, Free Appetiser or whatever makes sense for your concept. Link the ad to your Facebook Messenger chatbot and now you have a trackable advertising system that lets you know exactly how many sales are being generated by your advertising spend.

3. Reviews and Reputation Management

The main reason an unhappy customer will leave a negative review is because they usually don’t know who to express their grievance to or how feel like they’re being heard.... what if you could reach these customers in a way that makes them feel important, and lets you actually do something about the situation? 

A good reputation management platform will enable you to do this and much more. It's actually possible to post only your positive reviews to the platforms most important to you. Over time, your rating will increase and get closer to 5 star average.... yes, even on Yelp and even if you're not advertising with them (by now I really hope you've decided not to).

4. Google Adwords

The advantage of paid search advertising is that if done effectively, you can have your restaurant shown when a potential customer is searching for somewhere to eat. The disadvantages are that the competition is likely fierce and it's hard to track exactly many people come into your restaurant as a result of the advertising. Reviews can play a big part in whether a customer will choose you over your competitors, so it pays to make sure you have a good reputation management system set up. 

In any case, advertising with Google Adwords is a far superior strategy to advertising on Yelp. 

5. Instagram Reposting

This strategy costs you nothing, and will help you build an Instagram profile full of social proof. 

Make sure your location is set in your Instagram Business profile. For every image you post yourself on Instagram, find a recent customer post at your restaurant and repost it. Vary the posts by the food itself and group shots. The customers will usually love this as they can tag their friends and show they've "made it" to your profile, and it shows people having a good time at your establishment. 

In conclusion. 

Hopefully, these strategies have sparked some ideas and provided some inspiration. Business owners usually start advertising on Yelp because it "seems" easy and less of a headache than having to fool around with some of the strategies mentioned here. Unfortunately, it's always difficult to track the ROI on the monthly investment that Yelp requires. The cost per click can be astronomical and there's no way of knowing if anyone has come into your restaurant as a result of those clicks.

The key is to build an audience (customer database) over time that YOU own, not Yelp, Google, Facebook or any other platform. 

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