Maximise your restaurant’s paid marketing

Optimise spend to drive bookings

The majority of restaurants invest in paid marketing—69% of OpenTable customers use it to promote their restaurant. [1]This checklist will help you make the most of your paid digital marketing.

First up, be sure to understand—

[1]Based on a survey of OpenTable US customers in 2018.
The importance of booking intent

There is a difference between a broad group of people discovering your restaurant in the course of their day and reaching people who are actively looking to find a table. Both Facebook and Google speak to the breadth and size of their network, but that audience may or may not have booking intent. Facebook and Instagram are the most popular channels for paid digital marketing,[2] but they have limitations. Guests on Facebook are commonly scrolling through their newsfeed, inundated with other ads. And on Instagram, the amount of food photography can make it hard to stand out.

To grow brand presence, consider using organic social, with no spend behind the posts instead. If your goal is to fill your seats, you’ll want to reach guests who are already in the mindset of making a reservation and have a high intent to book.

[2]Based on a survey of OpenTable US customers in 2018
Success metrics that matter

If your goal is to fill your seats, you’ll want to be careful about measuring your success using vanity metrics, such as impressions or clicks. These metrics give you a good idea of what content your audience sees and interacts with, but they don’t tell the whole story of how this drives seated reservations. OpenTable’s marketing tracking feature lets you track reservations and seated covers to your digital and social channels.

Key features about each platform

All paid digital marketing channels have strengths and weaknesses. Our tip: consider your priorities. Whether you’re seeking brand awareness, leads, or seated diners, choose the platform best suited to those goals. Get started with this overview of the top channels for restaurants:

OpenTable Digital Marketing
Booking intent. For users making any kind of search on OpenTable, the top 10 restaurants in search results account for 83% of the reservations made by those users.[3]

Flexible campaign tools. Fill seats during slow times, jump closer to the top to be seen more frequently, or incentivise diners to book.

Clear ROI. When you integrate your POS system, you connect your diner’s average spend to your cost per cover for a full understanding of your true ROI.

Turn diners into regulars. Once you bring in diners through the door, deliver great hospitality to keep diners coming back with guest relations tools.

Facebook & Instagram[4]
Huge audience. With about three billion monthly users combined, they are all about reach and brand awareness.

Pay for views and clicks. You’re paying for the opportunity to get your restaurant in front of the immense number of people who use these platforms, not seated reservations.

Eyeballs over ROI. It’s tricky to ever know how many reservations each ad drives in.

Key question. Do you need this ad to drive reservations, or are those diners going to book anyway?

Huge audience. With over three billion searches per day, this platform is all about reaching people who intend to book.

Pay for clicks. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, you pay only when diners find you through Google. • Targeted ads. You pick a goal and location, define your product and service, and finally create your ad and set your budget.
Detailed analytics. Google’s Ad Manager shows metrics for click-throughs to your website, impressions, and cost per click, including your total spend.

It’s all about keywords. It’s crucial to include the right keywords. Research keywords or talk to an expert before getting started.

It’s not about pictures. Google Ads are text-only, so those great food photos won’t be of much use. Make sure your copy conveys your message effectively—make every word count.

Clicks, not ROI. Google Ads is a pay-per-click service. That means you may spend a significant amount of money and see little to no ROI. Don’t forget, you ultimately want diners to book a reservation, not just land on your website.

[3] Based on OpenTable US impression and conversion data from 1 July 2019 to 30 September 2019
[4] Based on Facebook for business
[5] Based on Google Ads
Checklist for maximising your restaurant’s paid digital marketing


  • Define your end-goal and expectations. Know what you want—build brand awareness, drive weeknight bookings, create more regulars—so you can use the channel best fit for that goal.
  • Assess expertise and resources required. Advertising on any channel takes time and requires research and strategic direction. The channel’s ad manager may make suggestions for copy and placement, but make sure any recommendations are in line with your business and your goals.
  • Get ready for the competition. Getting noticed above the ad clutter is harder than ever. A solution might be creative ad sets, which can come at additional cost. 
  • Be flexible. What works for one restaurant may not work for another. If you don’t see the results you want, be prepared to try something else.
  • Keep an eye on your spending. Businesses of all sizes (and budgets) are competing for attention, especially via Google Ads. When businesses target the same keywords, you may end up paying more to advertise. It’s easy to spend more than you planned. Constant monitoring is key.

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