Digitopia Marketing



A Digital Marketing Guide For Restaurant Owners in Dubai And The Middle East

It is said that the restaurant business is one of the most difficult industries to break into, let alone thrive in. Small business owners already face an uphill battle, as nearly 50 percent of them fail within the first five years. With that being said, being a restauranteur, in my opinion, is a very interesting experience as you are directly involved in bringing some level of happiness and joy through the food you are serving.

If you are running or planning on running your own digital marketing efforts for your restaurant in Dubai (or any part of the Middle East), then don’t leave this page until you have consumed it all. The content here is going to be very useful and it is the frame work of what any digital marketing agency will do if they were to take on your restaurant as a client!

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As a digital marketing agency (and a wanna-be restauranteur), I helped many restaurant owners in the Middle East conceptualize and bring to life their vision and brand.


For the sake of this article, I will assume that the overarching marketing strategy and the branding are already done.


Now the big question is how to let my future customers know about me?


The question assumes that you already know your customers as this should be part of your overarching marketing plan. With that being said, I would still want to create Personas (also known as Avatars) to capture not only who your customers are but how they behave and what they do.


I will share with you an example of a persona. The more detailed you are the better. And do not feel like what persona you create is set in stone. In fact you will want to tweak, revisit or create new ones as your restaurant grows.


At Digitopia.Marketing we like to give each persona a name and image that fits the persona. Some other digital marketing agencies only Name it. I prefer you name and add an image, this will help you connect and identify with the different personas.



Here is an example of what a persona could look like:


John He is between 25 and 35. Works in the commercial area around the restaurant. Always wears a suit. Visits during lunch hour usually with a colleague. Takes advantage of the lunch hour menu. He is usually on LinkedIn and Facebook.


You may know more about John or less, but at least you know what age group he is in, you know that he does not like to waste time commuting to a far away restaurant but still likes to leave the office. Which means he is looking for a change of scenery and to refresh a bit. He is also always in the company of a colleague, so you might consider leveraging that in either your communication before the visit, during the visit, or after the visit. You also know what platforms he likes to use and therefore you know how and where to communicate with him.


Even if you have not yet opened your restaurant, you should be able to come up with some kind of a profile for a couple of types of customers that you are expecting (based on your cuisine, prices, location, offers, etc). If you still have no idea, then please STOP and get some professional help otherwise you will be wasting your investment.


Once you have the personas sorted out, then we go back to the big question of how do we get your customers and potential customers to know about you?  


First Step is Awareness.

As the name of the step implies, it is to let people become aware of your existence, and why you exist (should be part of the branding bit).


To make them aware of you, you need to have to do the following:


  1. Get your Google Map Local Listing done. This is an important component of your Local SEO efforts.
  2. Get your business listed on food ordering apps (like Zomato, Talabat, Uber Eats Listing). I think it is quiet safe to say that we use these apps to order food more than we like to admit.
  3. Get on Trip Advisor as well. Dubai is a touristy city. Lots of tourists like to read reviews on Trip Advisor so make sure you invest time creating and maintaining that that as well.
  4. Consider being on The Entertainer, Groupon, and Cobone. This is not necessarily the right path of upscale restaurants, nevertheless, the footfall will help with the word-of-mouth


In parallel to all of this, you need to have a responsive website for your restaurant. A responsive website is one that adapts to the device used to view the website. So if you are on your laptop, you will see the full page as you would normally see it on a computer screen. However the website adapts its self to the screen size. So if you are viewing the website from a mobile phone, then the website rearranges itself in a way that is mobile friendly.


Also you need to have your social media pages set up and linked to and from your website.


Now that you have a website set up, you need to figure out how to optimize the website to start appearing on Google which will generate you free organic traffic. This is where SEO and Local SEO come in.


There are lots of factors that signal to google that your website should start ranking higher. One of the primary ones is you Page rank (named after Larry Page, one of Google’s founders who came up with the algorithm for “Page” rank). Your page rank is influenced by how many websites are linking to you, the location of the websites and their quality. Some of these websites (like business listing websites) will help you with your local SEO, others will help your overall SEO.


What you need to do is make a list of the websites you need to reach out to in order for you to get them to link to you.


Once your list of target websites is ready, you can then start contacting them. Usually it works by having a guest post on their blog. The guest post will have a link back to your website. Ensure that the link is a dofollow link, otherwise it will not be as strong (technically it does not count, but it helps affirm to Google who you are).


Please note that we are not talking about influencers reviewing your food and talking about it here. This will be discussed a bit later. Here we are looking at improving/building your backlink profile.


In parallel (again), you need to be working on your content creation. The more content you have ready, the less stressful the process will be as you move forward in time. As a restauranteur, you need to think of Video content, Image content and Written content (with a focus on Video and Image). Sometimes an Image or a Video can describe the flavor of a steak or the sweetness of a cheese cake better than any words can. Plan your content out. What you will post when and what captions hashtags you will use for each piece of content. Ensure that you content plan takes into account the different holidays and activities in Dubai.


And the last piece of the Awareness component is your own blog. I find that lots of businesses start a blog but never maintain it and I think that it is the easiest and lowest hanging fruit for you to get free traffic as part of your funnel to acquiring bookings and orders.


Once you have all of these things set-up and in motion, you will begin driving the awareness up. Please be patient and keep in mind that some aspects take longer to show any results.  


The Second part is Consideration.

Consideration is when your audience if engaging with you brand in different ways. Sometimes it could be a question about something related to your restaurant on one of your social media pages. Or it could be a review they are reading on a website.


To ensure that you are able to succeed in moving your potential customer forward, you have to make sure that you are addressing all the reviews on Google My Business, or Trip Advisor or where ever you are being reviewed. You can also use paid ads to start directing them through different content and moving them forward down the funnel. Things like a 360 digital tour of the restaurant, an eMail campaign, or some kind of user generated content can be pushed and presented to your audience.


Because each restaurant is different and has different audiences, I will not give you a to-do list that is very straight forward. Instead, I am going to list some of the things that you can do during the Consideration phase. You can test which combination you can do effectively.


  1. Paid ads (google, IG, FB, Youtube, LinkedIn) Depends on your audience\
  2. Retargeting ads
  3. Location based ads (ads that appear based on where your audience is living or traveling to and from)
  4. Posting and boosting:
    • – 360 degree virtual tour of your restaurant
    • – User generated content (could be a review)
    • – Video of a compilation of reviews
    • – A day in the life of your chef
  5. Influencer Marketing
  6. Going Live on social media

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The third part of this journey is Evaluation.

Evaluation is when your audience starts considering your restaurant as an option. They will compare your prices with other restaurants of the same cuisine. Food quality and restaurant reviews. Menu selection and prices. Availability of seating on weekends. Lunch hour deals.


From what I have seen, this is very critical part of the journey. Up to this point your potential customer is kind of going back and forth between the different parts of the funnel (going back and forth between consideration and evaluation). As marketers we always say “taking them down the funnel”, but in reality there is a lot of going “up and down” or “back and forth“. What is critical at this point is that the potential customer wants to feel that you are not going to disappoint them. So make sure you or someone in your team is always responding to reviews appropriately. Make sure that someone is always engaging with your audience on your social media pages. Make sure you have properly trained staff who are answering the phone to take orders or bookings. You want the client to feel that he/she is going to have a great experience in your restaurant or dealing with your restaurant.  


The last part of your overall approach is the Conversion & Retention.

This is where your audience members become customers and order from your restaurant. Some of your clients will convert without much effort from your end. Others might need a nudge or two from your end. So at this stage you can offer them an offer. It can be a very personalized offer or it can be a generic one.


To convert and retain your clients, you need to continuously communicate with them where ever they are to ensure that they are reminded of their positive experience; they want to try it again and they want to talk about their experience with their family and friends. So think of things that help them do that and put these findings and ideas into action using Paid ads, social media, SMS, email, loyalty programs and influencer marketing.


Remember this only works if your customers had a great experience. If their experience was great, you won’t have to do much work to get them to become loyal and speak positively about you. In fact most people just want to talk to their friends about their experiences. So if you have done a great job in creating a good experience, then your investment (time and money) in paid ads, social media content and posts, SMS, etc. will not be huge.


On the other hand, if their experience was not the best, then you are in trouble! You are going to have to put in lots of work (dealing with the negative reviews and rebuilding the trust again)

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One of my ambitions that I would like to achieve is owning a restaurant. I tried to share with you the steps and the thought process that a digital marketing agency in Dubai would follow when offering their services to the restaurant owners. And though I strongly recommend you to let a digital marketing agency do all the leg work for you, but feel free to partake in that journey on your own if you are able to afford to invest some focus and time on this.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts or questions about this. Please feel free to drop me an email with your questions.

Haithem Zaidan

Founder of Digitopia.Marketing – Your Digital Marketing Chaperon

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