4 Easy Tips for Restaurants to Be Found Where Diners Are Searching

The digital world asks a lot from restaurants. Posting fresh, compelling content to different channels every day and always trying to stay top of mind can get overwhelming. As digital marketing and social media platforms evolve, nailing down and executing an online strategy feels more daunting than ever. But you don’t need to push new content to be found – and be current – where diners are searching for your restaurant.

Last month, we introduced a new Open for Business series all about online marketing, tapping our own internal team for tips on best practices on each platform. And while yes, digital marketing requires planning, constant attention, and analysis, there are also plenty of easy things restaurants can do right now to optimize their presence. Below, we share four simple ways to build your brand presence. Start by updating these channels, then think of everything that comes next as bonus points.  

1. Optimize your Google Business listing. 

Every month, there are five billion searches for restaurants on Google. A free business profile lets you connect with all of those potential guests through Google Search and Maps. Like with Yelp, you can post photos and offers to your profile to inspire diners to come in for a meal. 

To claim your restaurant’s Google Business listing, log into the Google account you want associated with the business. From there, you can search for your restaurant’s name – if you see your restaurant in the results, select it and follow the steps for verification. 

Google may verify your business by calling you on your business phone number or sending you an email. But the most common method is to send a postcard to your restaurant’s physical address. This can take up to five days and look like a spam mailer, so keep an eye out for it. 

If you search for your restaurant and don’t see it in results, select “Create a business with this name.” Since your restaurant has a brick-and-mortar location, select “Yes” when asked if you want to add a location to your listing. Enter your restaurant’s address, hit “Next,” and on the next prompt, select “Yes, I also serve them outside my location” if you offer delivery. You’ll also be prompted to enter your service area, which is an optional step. (If you don’t offer delivery, select “no.”) 

Next add a business category, like “Italian restaurant.” You can always change it later. Finally, you can add your restaurant’s phone number and website, which is vital because it gives diners a way to reach you easily with questions or to book a reservation. Select “Finish” to begin the verification process.  

2. Set up an Instagram (business) account.

If you use Instagram with a personal account, you know the drill: post your best photos, like and be liked, comment and reply, and don’t forget the hashtags. Your restaurant’s Instagram account will be similar to your personal one, but business accounts give access to tools that can help you optimize your feed, like analytics and paid advertising. 

Operators can see their audience’s demographics (age range, location, and more), as well as which posts had the most impressions or engagement. That kind of insight gives you the power to optimize your social media strategy based on your best-performing assets. Businesses can also add buttons such as “Contact” and “Reserve” to their profiles so users can reach out or book a table. Finally, you can put money behind your posts to reach more people, if you choose to do so. 

If you already have a regular Instagram account for your restaurant, you can convert it to a business account easily in “Settings” without losing any content. If you’re starting from scratch, create an account using a Facebook account, email or phone number. (It’s a good idea to use a general restaurant or company email to ensure you’ll always have access, even if the person who created it leaves.) During the setup process, you’ll see the words “Try Instagram Business Tools” – click there to make yours a business account. Select a category and sub-category (think “restaurant” and “dim sum restaurant”, and add your physical address – this is key, because a location makes you searchable on Instagram. Once you’re up and running, start posting!

3. Claim your Yelp page.

Yelp automatically generates pages for businesses that users review, which means there could be a page for your restaurant floating around out there with inaccurate information, completely unsupervised. A “claimed” Yelp business page is one that’s been claimed by the owner or representative of the business through Yelp’s verification process. Claiming is completely free – it doesn’t mean you’re advertising with Yelp.

To claim your page, first log in to Yelp using your personal account, then try to locate your business. If you see a search result for your restaurant, that means you’re already on Yelp. Once you find it, select the text that reads “Work here? Claim this business” and follow the steps to create your business account on Yelp. If you have more than one restaurant or location, you’ll have to select and claim each location individually.

Once you claim your page, it’s important to fill in your correct address, hours of operation, and contact information so that if someone discovers you on Yelp they know when you’re open, where to find you, and how to get in touch. Additionally, be sure to link your profile to a specific category (in this case, “Restaurant”) so users can find your listing when they browse the site looking for a place to dine. Finally, restaurants can indicate whether they accept credit cards, allow dogs, have Wi-Fi, offer takeout, provide parking, and more. Include all pertinent information that you want guests to be aware of. 

What if my restaurant isn’t listed on Yelp?

If your restaurant is not yet listed on Yelp, you can create a page for it. Sign up for a Yelp account, and search for your restaurant by name and location to ensure it’s not already listed. Then, at the bottom of the search results, select “Add a Business.” Under the “Add a Business” prompt, you’ll see another: “This is my Business.” 

4. Build out your OpenTable profile.

Last year, diners looking to discover a place to eat made 620 million searches on OpenTable. We call this group who turn to OpenTable to find restaurants “undecided diners.” Sometimes, they use the OpenTable website or app to search for a restaurant’s name. Other times, though, they may search for “Thai,” “fried chicken,” or “Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” Our search algorithm takes into account over 170 factors about the restaurant and the diner to match the right restaurants to the right diners, and send more diners to restaurants we know they’ll enjoy. For these discovery searches, there are a few important things restaurants can do to improve their organic search rank in OpenTable’s results. 

Maintain an up-to-date and comprehensive restaurant profile. Great profiles increase a diner’s likelihood to book at that restaurant once they land on the restaurant profile. Also, they help the restaurant to be included in more collections or specialized landing pages (think “Great for Brunch”). A complete restaurant profile should include:

  • Menu. Have a cocktail menu or brunch menu in addition to dinner? Post them all so diners know everything you have to offer.
  • Photos of interior. Show people in your restaurant to bring the atmosphere to life.
  • Photos of food. Apply the same standards you would for social media content – dishes should be beautiful and representative of your menu’s range.
  • Tags. Think “kid-friendly,” “romantic,” or other descriptors that make your restaurant stand out.
  • Description. Provide a short paragraph about your food, location, chef, sourcing – anything that reflects your restaurant’s brand. 

Here are a few ways to maximize your search ranking: 

Pay attention to reviews. Reviews matter, so solicit them during the dining experience (with checks, for example) and afterward, with OpenTable’s automated post-dining survey emails. Our research shows that diners are looking for recent, concise, and diverse reviews. Address critical feedback – average ratings are calculated for the trailing 120 days, so the best way to boost your ratings is to study diner complaints and address them.

Create a robust photo gallery. Gallery photos can help you to improve your search ranking and be seen by more diners. Two-thirds of diners think photos are important when picking a restaurant. Again, use your social media lens and pick images that show off different areas of your menu (brunch, cocktails, desserts) and play up your ambiance. Learn how to upload photos to your profile page here.

Post a complete, accurate menu. 78% of diners say menus are very important when considering a restaurant, so make sure people know what to expect. OpenTable restaurants can quickly and easily submit new menus and updates in GuestCenter.

Start a digital marketing campaign.

The most effective and fastest way to improve your restaurant’s search rank is to run a campaign using OpenTable marketing solutions. Unlike many other platforms, OpenTable is only for restaurants and diners – that means people are visiting the site or app for the sole purpose of finding restaurants and booking tables. By running a campaign, you can target the very guests you’re trying to reach, whether you want to bring in new diners, build brand awareness, or fill your seats during slow times. See how it works and get started here.

10 things you need to know before starting a restaurant remodel

10 things you need to know before starting a restaurant remodel

If your restaurant has been open for 10 years and business is good, that’s something to celebrate. But at some...
Olivia Terenzio
How to Raise Funds for Your Restaurant

How to Raise Funds for Your Restaurant

Few aspiring restaurateurs have the cash on hand to get their dream off the ground. That’s where investors come in....
Alison Arth
Hospitality in real life: How to make every guest feel like a VIP

Hospitality in real life: How to make every guest feel like a VIP

We all know that hospitality is the key to success in the restaurant industry—not just getting butts in seats, but...
Olivia Terenzio
Q&A's See all
Rosita Lamberti on loyalty, resilience, and the celebrations ahead

Rosita Lamberti on loyalty, resilience, and the celebrations ahead

With six Italian restaurants, Rosita Lamberti shares how the family restaurant group has been resilient and come out of the pandemic stronger than before.
Joy Manning
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants provides ‘ridiculously personal experiences’ with OpenTable

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants provides ‘ridiculously personal experiences’ with OpenTable

Hospitality is at the heart of many restaurants’ ethos—and for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants it’s the lifeblood of how they...
Sarah Hacker