Facebook Ads for Restaurants: Using Social Media to Get Guests in Your Seats
Despite the recent headlines, Facebook is still the world’s largest social network.
Quite frankly, it’s where the people are. And you want those people to step into and order from your restaurant. With 65% of Facebook users logging on daily and 1.52 billion daily active users on mobile, it’s difficult to underestimate the opportunity to reach guests through this channel.
Besides just being a “place where people hang out online,” Facebook comes with social proof.
It’s a place where people go to connect with friends and family. It’s where they get their news. It’s where they go when they’re bored. Facebook is where people get recommendations on everything from travel tips to where to dine in their own neighborhood.
With recent changes to how Facebook works, you can forget about organic posts. (By “organic,” we mean non-paid posts that make their way to the News Feed on Facebook. Since 2018, marketing content has taken a backseat to content from friends and family on the platform.)
Restaurants can’t get exposure on Facebook without paid ads. (By “paid,” we mean ads created by pages that Facebook designates as marketing content and requires funding from the ad creator to run and reach targeted audiences.)
What this means is that growing your audience (increased traffic, more likes, etc.) is no longer scalable through organic posts alone. If you want your restaurant to focus Facebook as a preferred channel, paid advertising must be a part of your growth strategy. Not only that, you’d better be taking a mobile-first approach given recent trends in mobile usage.
The graphic above illustrates that there’s about a $7 billion dollar gap between the time guests are spending on mobile versus what’s being spent on advertising to them via mobile. Research has shown that mobile has outpaced desktop usage (in terms of traffic share) since 2013 and shows no signs of slowing down.
What does this mean for restaurant advertising via Facebook?
It means that it’s absolutely critical for restaurants to reach guests with personalized Facebook ads that are tailored for their mobile devices. By doing this, you’ll be able to expand your audience through Facebook even more because you’re hitting the exponentially larger mobile demographic. Not to say that you shouldn’t consider optimizing your ads for desktop too, but put more focus into mobile.
First, Develop a Strategy for Your Facebook Ad Campaign
Before you purchase expensive Facebook ads, define your goals.
Understand why you’re investing in Facebook ads and be clear about what you expect to get out of it. Setting yourself up with the right metrics on the front end will help you determine, after you’ve run some ads and checked the results, whether Facebook ads are the right channel for your business.
Set a clear purpose for your restaurant’s Facebook ads
The first step is determining what you want your Facebook ads to accomplish for your restaurant.
This is where your advertising goals (and related metrics) come into play. Here’s a quick list of possible goals you might have for your ad campaign:
Raise guest awareness about your restaurant
Increase delivery orders
Boost online orders
Increase reservation numbers
Promote seasonal specials
Advertise restaurant entertainment (trivia nights, theme nights, etc)
Reward existing guests through retargeting campaigns
Grow your catering business
Integrate Facebook ads with traditional marketing campaigns
Share job openings in your restaurant
Once you’ve determined the broader strategy for your Facebook ad campaign, you can drill down into more discrete metrics like:
Page likes (a good way to measure awareness of your restaurant)
Reach/engagement for specific posts (when promoting specials, for example)
Web traffic to your site or app (secured via Facebook ads in this case)
Setting a clear goal with specific metrics at the outset of your Facebook ad campaign is critical to its success. Make it worth the dollars you’re spending by clarifying what success looks like at the beginning. This will also help you determine over time if your campaigns are providing higher return as you optimize (or not).
Specify your target audience
Depending on the type of restaurant you run, you’re likely not trying to be all things to all people.
You have a particular guest profile and you’re working to fill your tables with people who fit it. Facebook has some powerful tools to help you do just that. You may be surprised with how specific you can get in targeting your Facebook ads.
Demographics: Target your ads towards specific age groups, gender, education levels, even relationship statuses. People share a lot of content on Facebook and with ad targeting, you can use it to your advantage to match your target personas for guests.
Location: This is a no-brainer for restaurants. Find people in your area, or even local neighborhoods without dining options like yours. This kind of targeting becomes handy when you are opening a new location and want to drive guest traffic in a new area.
Interests: This one can work multiple ways. First, you can include people who have shown an interest for the type of cuisine you’re serving (such as pizza). You can also exclude people who have shown active disinterest in what you’re offering (such as vegans or vegetarians) if you’re running a seafood-heavy joint.
Narrowing down your audience using ad targeting tools can help you get the most out of your spend by reaching the right guests in the right places.
Determine your budget
You’ve generally got two options here: a daily budget or a lifetime budget.
Daily budgets are great if you’d like to run a short campaign for a daily special or an event happening on a specific day (perhaps the same day). If you’re tight for funds and just want to test it out, this can be a good option.
Lifetime budgets are good for beginners who know exactly how much they want to spend overall and perhaps do not have data from previous ads. Facebook will automatically spread your budget out over time to reach the maximum number of people. Not quite “set it and forget it,” but pretty close.
Prepare to measure your Facebook ad campaign
Once you’ve determined your goals, your target audience, and your budget, you can dive into the specifics of the broader ad campaign you’re running and the tactics for each specific ad.
To get you started on identifying your goals, get a copy of the template below to get started. Try to use S.M.A.R.T. goals for this. According to Buffer, S.M.A.R.T. goals are broken down as:
S – Specific – The more specific you can be with writing down your objective, the easier it will be to clearly see what it is you need to accomplish. Often, answering the five “W” questions—Who, What, Where, Why, and Which—can help you achieve greater specificity.
M – Measurable – Can your goal be measured? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?
A – Attainable – Another way of putting this is “realistic.” Is it possible to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself?
R – Relevant – For businesses, a relevant goal means that it has the potential to impact your business objectives, vision, or values.
T – Time-bound – Give your goal a deadline.
Take a look at the template below to get started on setting yourself up for success with your Facebook ads:
Get Organized before Launching Your Facebook Ad Campaign
You’ve set some solid, S.M.A.R.T. goals.
You know the audience you are targeting.
You understand how you’ll measure your ad campaign.
Now you need to take a few key steps before you even create your first Facebook ad:
1. Set up your restaurant’s Facebook page (if you don’t already have one)
Be sure to include the need-to-know information about your restaurant (address, hours of operation, phone number, website, etc.) so that guests can find it quickly and get in touch. Toss in high-quality photos of the delicious food you’re serving and some positive guest reviews to add some social proof (this will have to be done by the guests themselves).
2. Set up Facebook Business Manager and Ads Manager
Setting up these two features allows you to manage your various ad accounts, ad pages, and the individuals that work on your ads. It’s basically your dashboard for all things ad-related on Facebook.
3. Choose Your Facebook Ad Marketing Objectives
At this point, you’ll want to look back at your initial strategy and consider which marketing objectives best fit here. Thought it will vary from ad campaign to ad campaign, you’ll typically be pushing for brand awareness and/or traffic (letting people know your restaurant exists and acquiring new guests) with your campaign objectives.
4. Set your audience targeting, placement, and budget
As we mentioned, you can get pretty specific with how you target your ads and you should. This is a powerful tool for finding the right potential guests based on the information they’ve shared.
Now is the time to dig back into your strategy to set the audience you’ll be reaching with your ads, while also determining their placement and the overall campaign budget. These first steps really shape the context for your ad—who will come across it based on specific criteria that you set.
Your strategy should include some level of market research about who you’re targeting and why. Armed with insights about which potential guests you want to reach, you can put Facebook’s powerful ad targeting tools to best use.
Now we’ll dive into discussing the specific ads you’re creating to attract guests...
How to Design and Run an Effective Facebook Ad
To get guests into the door using Facebook ads, you’ll need a step-by-step process to move them from initial awareness to actually ordering a meal in your restaurant (or whatever your end-goal is). Here’s what that might look like at a high level:
Step 1: Create a high-quality Facebook ad
Many people will see this ad but that doesn’t mean they’ll click it. Let’s say 20,000 people see your ad.
Of the 20,000, maybe 2% (400 people) actually click your add. When they do click, this will lead them to a landing page—a unique site built specifically for your restaurant with a next step for the guest to take. (We’ll talk a bit more about the landing page below, don’t worry.)
Now you’ll want to dive into the creative aspects of your Facebook ad. Remember that a good Facebook ad offers something of value to potential guests while helping them learn more about your restaurant. Combining the ad with some sort of promotion can be an effective strategy in this case.
More broadly, here are a few key elements that make for a great Facebook ad:
Headline: Make it simple, catchy, and offer value to potential guests
Main Copy: Ensure that the copy relates to the target audience and restates what you’re offering
Image: Choose a fun, inviting image that conveys the vibe of your restaurant
Description: Restate the offer with more detail and toss in more enticing language (“Come celebrate your family gathering with us!”)
URL: Make it custom and easy to read. Avoid extension URLs (e.g. “.leadpages”) that will cost your ad more in the long run due to poor ranking.
Call-to-Action: A simple, action-oriented button that conveys the value of the offer (“Enjoy your first meal free” or “Learn more”)
It’s important to note here that Facebook ads come in different formats. The most typical is the Facebook Feed Ad. These appear on a guest’s Facebook Feed—prime real estate for advertising your restaurant. Facebook Feed Ads can include images or video and will appear on both desktop and mobile. Check out the guidelines here:
Facebook Feed Ad Image Guidelines
Recommended image dimensions is 1200 x 628 pixels.
Minimum width and height of 600 pixels.
Recommended aspect ratio is between 9:16 to 16:9, but crops to 1.91:1 with a link.
Recommended image formats are JPG and PNG.
Images with 20% text or more could increase chances of failed delivery.
Text: 215 characters.
Headline: 25 characters.
Link description: 30 characters.
In terms of images, you can add up to six per ad. You can also test which images perform with different versions of the text. When testing ads, be sure to test out two different ads at a time, but try to only change one variable between the two when comparing the ads. Make the ads the same except for swapping out a headline, an image, or some other single variable.
This way, you can optimize as you go based on the results. Get rid of the ads that do not perform and keep it minimal in terms of design.
Following the suggestions above will put you on the road to an effective Facebook ad that draws guests to your restaurant.
Step 2: Create a landing page
Once your Facebook ad drives a guest to your landing page, this is where you grab their contact information so you can stay in touch.
Make the background visuals appealing and aligned to the text box. Ensure that the main text here is very similar to the ad copy as this often improves conversion rates.
Ask for the minimal amount of information you need so guests are more inclined to share it. Also add in some scarcity (“This deal only last for one more week!”) so guests are enticed to fill out the form sooner rather than never.
This is a key part in the conversion process because it establishes the link between your restaurant and the guest.
So, back to our example, of the 20,000 people who saw your ad we said that 2% (400 people) clicked on your ad. Of the initial 400 people that landed on your landing page, let’s say 20% (80 people) fill out the form on the landing page. This could be an actual reservation request or just submitting their email to hear about special deals and offers at your restaurant.
Those 80 people have completed the action you intended them to complete. Once they’ve done so, they should land on your “thank you page.”
Step 3: Create a thank you page
It’s always good to express a little gratitude.
The guest has just shared their personal contact information with you so be sure to thank them. Also confirm for the guest that it’s been received and securely stored so that guests feel confident in your first interaction.
Now that you’ve got their information, keep the lines of communication open.
If they opted into the newsletter, keep them updated about new and exciting things happening at your restaurant. (For Canadian restaurants, you’ll want to keep in mind CASL laws with your electronic communications.) If they made a reservation, be sure to send them a confirmation email or text to let them know that you received their request and are excited to greet them at your restaurant.
Feel free to throw in even more scarcity by offering up a free item if they come into the restaurant within the next few days as a way to further drive their interest.
Step 4: Create a follow-up sequence (emails and texts to stay in touch)
Pace yourself with the follow-up.
While it’s a definite win that you’ve gotten connected to guests through your Facebook ad, make sure that you’re using their information sparingly by customizing outreach as much as possible and reaching out only on special occasions. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays are often great occasions to remind guests that they should be dining in your restaurant.
Don’t drive them to click “unsubscribe” with generic and random outreach. Remember that guests do appreciate considerate and personalized follow-up, so follow suit.
The overall goal is to move guests through this sequence, from initial awareness to getting them in the door at your restaurant. Each step in this sequence should link back to the broader goals of your Facebook ad campaign as we discussed earlier.
Once they’re seated at your table, you can and should take further steps to engage them, build their loyalty, and keep them coming back.
For example, retargeting for a loyal guest who dines with you monthly should look different from initial outreach to potential guests who matched your ad targeting in Facebook. Building this level of intention and personalization into each of your Facebook ad campaigns will help you make the right advertising moves for different groups of guests, resulting in happy guests and higher revenue.
Getting Guests in the Door with Facebook Ads
Facebook ads can be a tremendous tool for driving guest traffic into your restaurant. It starts with clarifying your goals, your audience, and your budget for outreach as you begin to build your Facebook ad campaign. Build some appealing ads, test them, optimize, and drive that traffic.
Following the specific tactics outlined above when it comes to crafting the right campaign for your restaurant will help you stand out from the crowd on the world’s largest social network.