Hotels continue to invest in their F&B programs to help differentiate their brands and appeal to travelers seeking authentic cultural experiences. However, your F&B outlets don’t exist just for your guests. There’s a large audience in every market to fill your restaurants’ seats that often goes untapped – LOCALS.
The easiest way to improve your restaurant’s repeat visitors rate is with locals. Turn a local guest into a regular and you will benefit from not only their year-round business, but also from word-of-mouth marketing to other locals and travelers. Plus, if your hotel brand is in other cities, you can build brand loyalty with locals at home so they always choose your hotels when traveling.
So how do you appeal to locals? It all starts with a local marketing strategy that addresses what matters to this audience. This means you’ll need separate ad campaigns, copy and promotions across your channels to appeal to locals.
Keep reading as we dig into how to create your local marketing strategy.
CREATE PROGRAMMING THAT ATTRACTS LOCALS
Below are six actionable strategies to attract more locals to your venue.
The guests who enjoy these programs — especially locals — are your best sources of marketing. If locals have a memorable experience at your hotel and with your brand, they’re more likely to recommend you to their out-of-town friends and give positive feedback on review sites. This is the fastest way to drive interest in your property from locals and visitors alike.
STRATEGICALLY LEVERAGE LOCAL CHANNELS
If you want to reach locals, you need to communicate with them on the channels they use to find out where to dine next. From local influencers and relevant social hashtags, to finding the right publications to share your message, to taking on an active role in your community, there are many channels to consider when building your local marketing strategy.
FIND MICRO INFLUENCERS: Today’s brands know micro is best. Instead of paying a high-priced influencer to visit your restaurant, engage with micro influencers within your city. Invite them in to share a meal with friends and share their experience on their social channels (and tag your restaurant!). To find micro influencers, go into your Followers list on Instagram and look for the profiles with the blue checkmark. These influencers have higher engagement from their followers than the average Instagram user, which means more extensive reach for your venue.
INVITE INFLUENCERS TO AN EVENT OR PRIVATE DINNER: Because of their audience reach, it’s worth hosting an event or dinner where you invite these users to bring their friends for a complimentary experience or private event. Just make sure that there’s an understanding that they share the experience as an Instagram story or post. You can repurpose their photos and posts on your own channels and website.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT LOCAL HASHTAGS: Search for local hashtags with the highest traffic on each social site and use these as your key post tags. Ask your micro influencers to use your hashtags when they promote their experience, or do this more subtly with a printed card with the hashtags at the table. For help creating your hashtags, leverage free online tools including
- Hashtagify.me – Search a complete database to find hashtags from influential people in your industry and market.
- Trendsmap – View the top searched hashtag by city, country, and region to get ahead of what’s trending.
IMPLEMENT A LOCAL PR STRATEGY: Identify the top local publications and papers that “in the know” people read around town, and make it a goal to get a feature or a mention in a write-up about restaurants and local events. Similar to treating influencers to meals, consider inviting local writers to experience your restaurant. When you wow them with the experience, they will want to write about what your hotel and restaurant are up to.
SPREAD THE WORD: BE AN ACTIVE PART OF THE COMMUNITY
66% of restaurants sponsor community and charity organizations, making it the most common form of restaurant marketing and an important channel to reach locals. The key is to get in front of locals in an authentic way that makes sense for your brand. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
>Sponsor a community sporting, music, or gaming event. If the event has a size-able enough crowd of locals, it could be worth the cost of locking down a food truck.
>Connect with local schools or universities to help mentor youths in the kitchen and teach them about a career in hospitality. Or liven up your decor by featuring student artwork on your outlet’s walls.
>Surprise local workers with lunch by coordinating with a local school, hospital or non-profit to arrange a date, time, and menu. An extra plus if you can capture photos to use as social content!
>Host a stand or food truck at community fairs and events. If your community has a regular farmer’s market, consider being a meal option for people doing their shopping.
>Support a local organization with creative monthly initiatives to collect donations. For example, donate 20% of sales of a ‘local’ cocktail to a neighborhood charity.
>When the kitchen is closed, lend your space to local community organizations. Or host a “Dinner with a Cause” event, where a percentage of the proceeds benefit a designated organization.
LOCALIZE YOUR MARKETING CHANNELS
Once you decide which channels fit into your local marketing strategy, it’s time to start thinking about the type of content you want to promote, the voice and tone you plan to use in your communications to locals, and how to make sure you are reaching the right people across channels.
SEND LOCAL SPECIFIC EMAILS: Email marketing remains a staple in the marketing toolbox because it’s cheap and effective. It gives you an easy-to-execute way to stay in front of your target audiences. A monthly newsletter targeted to locals can feature new menu items, recipes, behind-the-scenes stories with your chefs and local partners, and upcoming events. The most important thing is to keep the content timely and relevant. In dedicated emails promoting events and other initiatives, be sure to include a clear Call-to-Action button.
MAKE LOCALS FEED HEARD ACROSS CHANNELS: Respond to every comment that your brand is tagged in, especially when the comments aren’t positive. Treat local comments with extra care — for example, invite them back in for a locals-only special. The more your restaurant interacts with its social media followers and reviewers on sites like Yelp, the stronger your personal connection to your guests.
GEO-TARGET YOUR MESSAGING: To promote local-specific specials or events on channels like Facebook and Instagram, geo-target by selecting specific locations (within 10 miles of your business) and focus who can see your search. Facebook Ads are a great channel to reach just about anyone, but the content — text, images, what it promotes, when it runs — is what makes it resonate with specific audiences.
Let’s use an example of promoting an offer: ‘stay 3 nights, get the 4th night free.’ This will certainly appeal to your overnight guests and should be used on your hotel specific social channels. As a local, I’m probably not interested in a local hotel night offer, but I may very well be interested in a ‘dine 3x, get a free night’ offer for any property. Paid search ads on Google or Bing can also target by location, so your keyword ads will only appear to customers in your area.
These tips are just the beginning when you are thinking about how to reap the benefits of your local audience. Once you capture your locals, it’s time to think about how to keep them coming back!
Check out our latest playbook, “Hotel F&B: Local Marketing – Unleash the Revenue Potential of Locals” for more strategics to make sure you are making most of these often untapped guests. Plus, hear directly from EAST, Miami, a Swire Hotel property, on how they successfully built a local following for their F&B outlets.