5 Ways to Get Tourists Into Your Restaurant

Travelers seek out dining options that offer authentic local flavor.
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Looking for more revenue from tourists? Connect with your local tourism office and nurture a relationship with it. (Photo: View Apart/Shutterstock)

Every restaurant strives to become the go-to spot for locals in their neighborhood. But after you’ve built a base of customers from your community, who’s the next group you should target?

Tourists — they’re a major driver of business to restaurants, with food services accounting for more than $248 billion of travel spending in the United States each year.

“Tourists can also help fill empty tables when locals are out of town,” said Kelly Richardson, founder of Venone PR, which helps restaurants and hotels attract travelers. “Developing your restaurant into a tourist attraction also makes it more desirable to locals, who will want stop by when their friends and family are in town.”

Kelly Richardson

“Developing your restaurant into a tourist attraction also makes it more desirable to locals, who will want stop by when their friends and family are in town.” -Kelly Richardson (Photo: Kelly Richardson)

But with so many dining options available to tourists, how do you get travelers into your restaurant? Here, Richardson offers tips to make your restaurant appeal to out-of-towners and ensure it’s on everyone’s trip-planning radar.

Partner with the tourism office

Your local tourism office is the best place to start if you want to draw visitors to your restaurant, said Richardson. She suggested reaching out to see who’s the best point contact at the office, and keeping them up-to-date on major menu changes, special events and other news about your business.

“It’s all about relationships. Tourism offices constantly bring in travel writers from out of town and can send media your way to write about your restaurant,” she said.

The tourism office may also highlight your business on promotional materials aimed at travelers, including online platforms and brochures.

Related: How to Make Your Chamber of Commerce Work for You

Add value for visitors

Every town and city has that one special attraction that appeals to every visitor — it might be a park, museum, art installation or a shopping center. Piggy-back on that tourist traffic by offering a bonus when customers show proof that they visited the popular attraction, said Richardson.

“It could be a complimentary glass of wine, free dessert or extra side dish,” she said.

A receipt is the most traditional form of proof to ask for, but you can also get creative and allow visitors to show you a photo of them at the destination. Anything you can do to connect your restaurant with tourist hot spots will help boost visitors traffic to your restaurant.

Invite influencers

Influencers play a huge role in promoting travel experiences, including where to eat at destinations. Host a dinner for digital influencers to acquaint them with your restaurant and what makes it great for their followers, said Richardson.

“You don’t need someone with millions of followers, like Kim Kardashian. You can find good quality influencers in the neighborhood of 2,500-30,000 followers and partner with them,” she said.

“You don’t need someone with millions of followers, like Kim Kardashian. You can find good quality influencers in the neighborhood of 2,500-30,000 followers and partner with them.” -Kelly Richardson

Social media stars shouldn’t be the only influencers you connect with, though. Concierges at local hotels can also influence how many visitors dine at your restaurant, said Richardson.

“They’re that second layer, and while so many people do use social media, international tourists tend to go to their concierge for restaurant recommendations. Hosting local concierge events is a great way to start building that relationship,” she said.

Related: How to Win Over Your City’s Concierges to Boost Business

Optimize your website

Tourists spend time browsing restaurant websites as they plan where to eat. You should optimize your website to make sure it pops up right away when people search for dining options online, said Richardson.

“It’s really hard to find actual restaurant websites now because everything is so clouded with Yelp, Facebook and other third-party websites that might show up before yours. Make sure your web address makes sense,” she said.

Your website must contain the basic info travelers need, including address, phone number, hours and a PDF of your menu, added Richardson. If tourists can’t easily find these critical details online, they may skip over your restaurant.

Related: How to Edit Your Restaurant’s Menu in Google My Business

Get involved with review sites

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Take advantage of your Yelp and TripAdvisor pages, as well as any other travel sites that will showcase your business. (Shutterstock: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock)

Online review sites help tourists find reliably decent places to visit on their trips. But sites like Yelp aren’t just for reviewers to talk to each other — they’re also platforms for you to respond to customers and promote your business, said Richardson.

“Take ownership of your Yelp profile and claim your TripAdvisor page,” she said. “So many businesses ignore them, but it’s important to freshen them up, post pictures and use them to your advantage. Make sure they have links to your menus.”

Making your presence known on these sites also gives visitors a sense that you care about the customer experience, said Richardson.

“Respond to every review, whether it’s good or bad. If there’s criticism, apologize and explain how you’re working to prevent the problem from happening again, such as by improving training or switching vendors,” she said.

Make your Instagram travel-friendly

While some travelers make their dining decisions based on written reviews, others rely exclusively on pictures. The quality of your Instagram can make or break a tourist’s decision to eat at your restaurant.

“Instagram is huge on the food scene, so you need to use it properly. So many people are using the location search function on Instagram to seek out new hot spots while traveling and to see what other people are eating, so you’ll want to geotag all your posts,” said Richardson.

Interact with other users’ posts about your restaurant to boost visibility.

“You’ll want to be building community. If someone is posting pictures of your restaurant or tagging it, interact with them. Reshare it, comment on it and engage with the user,” she said.

Related: How to Make Your Restaurant More Instagrammable

Instagram’s Stories feature is also an opportunity to share a more personal side of your business, and get potential visitors excited about dining there, added Richardson.

“So often, we see a restaurant’s picture-perfect Instagram feed, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the business. Instagram Stories can help you showcase that by giving people a behind-the-scenes look at how the foods are made, where the ingredients are sourced and who’s working in the kitchen,” she said.

Building a reputation as a prime spot for tourists to dine will help you seize a piece of the lucrative visitor market and become a must-visit destination for travelers and locals alike.

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