Expert Internet Marketing Advice for Small Businesses
There's a large and growing market available to restaurant owners to promote their businesses: the smartphone user.
A recent survey on smartphone usage by Pew Internet found that 74% of smartphone owners use вЂњlocation-based servicesвЂќ on their smartphones: that means asking for directions or looking for recommendations. And with smartphones set to outnumber humans in the UK this year, that is a huge potential market.
Businesses can create loyalty and brand awareness using these apps. Here are a few ways they can help:
By allowing you to post offers and discounts to attract visitors
By making potential customers and residents in your local area aware that you exist
By giving them directions to get to you
By allowing people to phone you with a simple click
By allowing you to advertise on their app
By making it easy for visitors to post reviews of your business
Not every app does every single thing, so we've put together a list of 25 apps, some with a greater number of features, usefulness or a bigger user database than others. We think you'll find something in here that will help get your business seen, reviewed and shared.
The AA app is вЂњlocation awareвЂќ (as are many on this list) that features around 2000 of the UK restaurants that appear in its printed guide. Reviews from the guide appear, as well as phone numbers, location, price guide, opening times and whether parking's available.
Unfortunately, users can't review the restaurants.
AroundMe presents users with nearby service-based businesses, including restaurants. It's вЂњthe most used local search application globallyвЂќ according to their website, with 25 million searches carried out every month.
We found it to be spammy with pop-ups and there are lots of ads on the free version. On the plus side, we were given lots of local results to choose from.
An app with a positive goal: as well as helping users discover great coffee, it aims to support independent and specialist coffee sellers. Beanhunter's recently updated interface has been given an Editor's Choice award for best mobile app by Lifehacker.
Although there's a bias toward Australia (the owner's home country), users from anywhere worldwide can review, submit new businesses and upload photos; and you can submit your own business (all you need to do is register). We found no cafes locally, however the nearest was 23km away.
Only businesses serious about their coffee should submit their details.
The USP of this app are the dish recommendations by real top chefs: Michel Roux and Richard Corrigan are two of the British chefs who have contributed. Users are also encouraged to submit their own reviews of the recommended meals. At time of writing, they've had over 165,000 вЂњdishes eatenвЂќ.
The downside is that at the moment in the UK it supports only restaurants close to London and to be included youll have to get noticed by their chefs!
Unsurprisingly, another coffee app. Only the best cafes are selected by experts and the interface is quite sophisticated. The user can keep track of the cafes they've visited, and find out which ones near them are open. Shopfront images are included for each business.
No internet connection is required to view the recommendations and ratings, and users can review different parts of the business, for example, the quality of desserts.
Unfortunately, the UK app is London-centred.
Users can give star ratings, likes and promotions for a business on Facebook as well as the usual social media searches. Click to call, check-ins and Likes are also possible.
The Feed app very cleverly provides a real-time feed that shows content from social media (Facebook and Foursquare so far) where deals, specials and events are being promoted for restaurants and bars near you. As well as taking advantage of the information yourself, you can easily share with friends.
The UK-based Food & Drink Guide have been reviewing restaurants for over 10 years and now have over 5,000 of them listed on their mobile app which covers 30 regions of the UK. Search by current or intended location, view images of the restaurants and save and like your favourites.
If you've seen people taking snaps of their meals, chances are, Foodspotting is going to be where the images will end up. Users are also able to like and share images on Facebook. And of course you can search for the restaurants where the photos have been taken.
Businesses are encouraged to create accounts in the name of the restaurant and post photos of their own dishes, but should make it clear that they're posting on the restaurant's behalf.
Similar to Foodspotting in that It's all about the dishes, the вЂњnearbyвЂќ restaurant-finder, Forkly, goes one better by giving the user the option to review the food and drink they've had. Privileges can be earned and вЂњtastemakers, chefs and food celebsвЂќ can be followed.
Interestingly, Forkly works with restaurants to help them reach out to potential customers and businesses can manage menus and promote daily specials. The restaurant can also post their own professional images of their food. Advertise the fact that you're on Forkly by sticking the pink Forkly вЂњclingвЂќ to your shop window.
Downloads: iTunesВ or Google Play (coming soon)
If you only have one app to be involved with, look no further than Foursquare. With a community of over 30 million and 3.5 billion вЂњcheck-insвЂќ and counting, this app will give you a very good chance of being noticed. Users can post reviews, check in to your establishment, review you, upload photos and more, egged on by the ability to earn points and prizes and compete against their friends.
Businesses can work with Foursquare by claiming an existing business (ie, a member of the public has already told them about you), adding a new one, offering deals, discounts and rewards, tracking footfall and lots more. Have a look at the case studies they post on their Businesses pages for inspiration.
This being Google, there's a huge amount of data available on the Google+ Local app. Reviews and ratings are pulled in from Zagat, plus reviews from real people, including your friends.
More and more reviews will be appearing on Google+ Local, especially since Google have recently started to pull in businesses from your search history, essentially reminding you to review the places you were searching for and may well have visited.
I would be surprised if you haven't seen a poster for this takeaway-ordering service in your local fast food restaurant. They've recruited 30,000+ restaurants worldwide and attract 3.2 million visits to their website a month. In the UK they have 986,945 Facebook likes they're enormous.
With the app, customers can search for their nearest restaurant and order online from a simple menu: they can then leave reviews and star ratings. The restaurant posts offers and manages its own menu. Orders are placed online without having to wait to get through to a busy phone line: there's an option to pay by credit card from the app also.
The app for the daily deal website (similar to Groupon), users can take advantage of the discounts offered through this this app instead of checking their email each day.
Deals (or вЂњvouchersвЂќ) can be shared with friends via Twitter of email. No customer or Living Social reviews are available on the app, therefore you're buying in the dark.
Localscope is an iPhone-only location/navigation app that aggregates information from Google+ Local, Qype, Foursquare, Twitter and many more sources. In a local area, you can toggle between the different sources to find directions, address details or reviews of nearby services (restaurants are only one of many types of business it covers).
Sharing locations is very easy within Localscope which means that your location details can be passed on to friends.
вЂњIt's going to change your life and find you pizzas at the same timeвЂќ reads the marketing for this paid pizza-finder app.
Foursquare provides the data enabling the user to spin the pizza slice to find the nearest pizzeria in the direction It's pointing. Then share your pizza finds on social media and read the вЂњtipsвЂќ pulled in from Foursquare reviews. Foursquare launches directly from the app, so users can add their own reviews and check in etc.
As the name would suggest, Pubme concentrates on the public house industry. It's based in the UK, but accepts worldwide pub suggestions.
Users вЂњtap inвЂќ to a pub and can add new businesses, rate and share the pub location with friends from Facebook. Unfortunately, there's no real information about the pub on the app.
Tastecard is a UK-based paid membership site that offers its members either 50% off or 2 for 1 deals in thousands of chain and independent restaurants. Restaurants can impose their own restrictions for example an offer that doesn't have to apply on Saturday and Sunday orВ and only applies to a set menu.
With the app, users can find a restaurant, seek out offers and phone to book.
As well as restaurants, the TimeOut London app features, gigs, things to do, museums, films and the like. Users can search nearby or browse by business type or area, and by type of cuisine for restaurants.
Users can give a star rating but not a review.
The ubiquitous toptable, now owned by OpenTable (between the two of them, OpenTable and totable have seated 30 million diners in the UK), powers restaurant bookings, allows users to review and rate, and allows restaurants to post discounts and offers.
With the app the prospective customer can find a restaurant, book a table or amend or cancel a booking, share bookings with calendars or on Facebook and Twitter.
In the first quarter of 2017, 25% of customers seated through toptable booked through their mobile phone.
The TripAdvisor app basically gives the user access to all the hotels, restaurant, flight and things to do information that's available on the TripAdvisor website.
It's possible to search for nearby locations and companies and add your own reviews to the millions already made. We found this to be one of the best for finding lots of businesses, and of course the often very detailed reviews that TripAdvisor users give can be very useful indeed.
Urbanspoon unfortunately doesn't cover the whole of the UK, but it does offer a fair selection of locations. The user can search for restaurants using name, location and cuisine and recommendations.
Two novel aspects of this app are the вЂњshakeвЂќ option to find a restaurant in a slot machine-styled list and the ability to vote restaurants вЂњupвЂќ and вЂњdownвЂќ. Users and restaurants are encouraged to add their own reviews and any restaurants that aren't already listed.hu
Find nearby restaurants, bars and cafes by GPS. This is a ratings only app for iPhone and iPad only, so far.
This very popular and well reviewed app searches over 2 million local businesses from the yell.com database. вЂњNearbyвЂќ search by GPS, directions to locations are given and It's possible to phone businesses with a click. Users can leave reviews and rate.
This urban business finder is enormous: every second, a user вЂњgenerated directions to or calledВ a local business from a Yelp mobile appвЂќ and, with 102 million visitors to the Yelp site per month (45% of them coming from their mobile phones), there's no reason not to get your business onto Yelp. (Source Yelp stats from from the first quarter of 2017)
Search for a local business on the app (20% of the businesses featured on Yelp are restaurants); book a table through OpenTable; check in; click to call and leave ratings and reviews. Restaurants can also add their own business details and photos.