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5 Location-Based Marketing Strategies for Restaurants


Ben Goldstein


The prevalence of smartphones has changed the way restaurants think about marketing. Research shows that in 2015 over 60% of both US and UK adults owned a smartphone, and that number is set to rise even higher in the future. These pocket-sized supercomputers all share a common trait that is becoming increasingly important to businesses trying to increase footfall: the ability to determine a customer’s location.

Traditionally, marketing campaigns were based on fixed locations, such as a customer’s home or place of work. This approach is not as flexible or adapted to the way we constantly move, consume content, or make purchasing decisions nowadays. Sending targeted communications to a potential customer’s smartphone also helps encourage spur-of-the-moment purchases in a extremely competitive fast casual dining market.

No longer exclusive to large restaurant chains, being able to target potential customers when they are near your restaurant has huge potential benefits. And there are plenty of options when it comes to using location to market your restaurant, from proximity marketing and near-field communications to geosocial media and location-based advertising.

Operating under the assumption that you don’t have a custom app made for your restaurant, there are plenty of things you can do to take advantage of location-based marketing. Below is a run-down of some of the fundamentals and how you can get started with location-based marketing for your restaurant.


An obvious but sometimes overlooked foundation to location-based marketing is to make sure your restaurant is visible online. The majority of customers are searching for potential places to dine online using Google Maps, Yelp and Bing so be sure you have a presence on all of these platforms.

Using a service such as Moz Local allows you to check your online presence across a wide variety of platforms and ensure all your information is correct and up-to-date.

Related: 9 Ways to Grow and Manage Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation


Apps such as Foursquare and Facebook introduced the concept of customers “checking in” to your business online. Not only is this a great tool for running marketing campaigns like offering incentives in return for customer check-ins but it also helps spread brand awareness by being visible on your customers’ social media profile. Given you’re providing an excellent customer experience, check-ins can also contribute to a “return and refer” scenario where the customer encourages their followers to visit your restaurant.

Check-ins are also a great tool for increasing customer loyalty. Offering exclusive deals or prizes for the customers with the most amount of check-ins is an option, as well as setting up a loyalty reward scheme for frequent check-in customers.

Related: Why Your Restaurant Should Abandon Coupons and Embrace Loyalty Programs


Also referred to as geolocating, geofencing, or proximity marketing, this is the practice of serving specific ads or communications when the customer is near your restaurant. Although there are many ways of doing this, the most cost-effective option for smaller businesses is using a platform such Facebook’s Local Awareness ads, Google AdWords or YP.com.

These platforms not only give you the option to target keywords your customers might be searching for, but also allow you to target them based on their proximity to your business using a set radius. This is a powerful tool as not only are you able to serve your customers ads when close to your restaurant but also when they are nearby or even visiting your competitors’ businesses (a practice called geo-conquesting).

Related: How Technology Is Making Restaurant Franchises Faster, Smarter, And More Efficient

Social media

Social media is getting increasingly focused on location; Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all feature location tagging on content posted on their platforms. With the rise of the foodie culture and sharing of content, these platforms make it easy for your customers to find user-generated content related to your restaurant, increase exposure, and ultimately influence potential customers’ purchasing decisions.

Social media also lends itself perfectly for hyperlocal content; content targeted at people in a defined area for a specific duration of time. Hyperlocal content is great for customer engagement and is ideal for promotional, contest-led, or storytelling based content aimed to increase brand awareness.

Customer avatar

This item probably falls under a more general marketing tip, but to optimize your success with location-based marketing it is crucial that you not only know where your customers are but also who they are. Defining a customer avatar — also known as a buyer persona — will help ensure the ads and messages you’re targeting your customers with are relevant and end up in a sale.

Obvious criteria for creating customer avatars to be used in a location-based marketing campaign include geography or area and demographic. Unless you’ve done a survey on your existing customers, you’ll be able to make assumptions based on this information as to what type of ads or content results in the highest amount of actions taken.

Getting in front of your potential customers is becoming more difficult, but as people are constantly looking for real-time information, utilizing the devices they use every day has huge potential. As long as you can consistently create value for your potential customers you’ll be sure to see the benefits of location-based marketing.