How restaurants can get more bookings from two key audiences

Blog banner

The latest consumer insights from ONS show 64% of adults in the UK are spending less on non-essentials – as of June 2023. Some reports suggest as many as 83% are cutting back on restaurants and takeaways as economic pressure increases.

However, many customers are still spending and this article tells you how to find them.

Are UK consumers cutting back on takeaways & eating out?

Most of the shallow data being published suggests UK consumers are spending less money on takeaways and eating out. For example, joint insights from Natwest and Retail Economics tell us that takeaways and eating out are most at risk of being cut from consumer spending in the UK.

Spending intentions in 2023


Browsing through the stats, it’s easy to think people have stopped spending on non-essentials. Yet, while overall spending is down, people are still eating out and ordering in.

In fact, data from CGA’s monthly Cost of Living Pulse shows 94% of British consumers went out at least once in April and 40% were going out at least once per week.

Sadly, the cost of living crisis affects people disproportionately. Affluent spenders are the least affected and most likely to continue eating out while the poorest are hit hardest.

As CGA explains:

“This group is dominated by consumers who were already lower-frequency users of Britain’s On Premise—while the important core of regular visitors have maintained or increased their trips out.”

Restaurant marketers need to look past shallow insights and focus on spending data for their target audiences. Don’t pay attention to survey results because consumers say one thing in surveys and do something completely different when the situation arises

Restaurants must focus on those who are still spending

The key to making it through the cost of living crisis is focusing on what consumers are doing – not what they aren’t doing. Forget about people cutting back on X, Y, Z or anyone who isn’t going to palace an order.

It’s time to focus on the people who are spending during the cost of living crisis and target your most profitable audiences.

We’re going to do this in three key steps:

  1. Identify your priority audiences – consumers who are still spending and interested in your food business.
  2. Reach the people who matter most – adapt your marketing strategies to build visibility and capture the right kind of leads.
  3. Maximise repeat revenue – Convert potential customers into paying customers and nurture them into repeat customers.

Marketing itself isn’t any different during economic hardships. You may need to rethink who you’re targeting and what kind of message to deliver, but the same general rules apply.

#1: Identify your priority audiences

For most restaurants and food businesses, there are two types of priority audiences during economic downturns: big spenders and repeat spenders.

Big spenders can include one-time customers and repeat customers (we love these!) but we’re talking about high-ROI transactions, either way.

Repeat spenders come in two main groups:

  1. People who regularly eat out or order in – your biggest opportunity to attract new customers because they’re still spending regularly.
  2. Customers who repeatedly order from you – your most important set of customers.

Now, you have to pinpoint your target audiences within each group. Use your existing customer data and market analysis to monitor spending habits to identify your priority audiences: the people still spending, the biggest spenders, regular spenders, etc.

Pay close attention to the following:

  • How often they book or order
  • How much they spend per booking
  • How much they spend per item
  • Which items they order
  • How many items they order per booking
  • How many people they attend with/order for
  • How much they tip
  • Services they use (sit-in, takeaway, delivery, etc.)

For a more detailed look at how you can use your existing customer data to identify priority audiences, take a look at our guide: How restaurants can beat the cost-of-living crisis.

#2: Reach the people who matter most

Once you know your priority audiences, it’s time to rethink your marketing strategies. Whether you’re targeting new audiences, adapting your messages for existing audiences – or both – you need to reach priority audiences at each stage of the customer cycle.

For restaurants and food businesses, this involves four key stages:

  1. Discovery: Prospects discover your restaurant in search, a delivery app, social media, etc.
  2. Consideration: They find out more about your restaurant and compare you with alternative options.
  3. Motivation: Specific factors motivate prospects to take action: urgency, location, special offers, special occasions, online reviews, etc.
  4. Conversion: Prospects convert by booking online, calling up or placing an order.

Broadly speaking, you have two primary goals at each stage of this customer journey. First, you want to attract new people at each stage and, secondly, you want to nurture people at each of these stages to their first or next order.

For this you need a complete multichannel marketing strategy:

The most common channels include:

  • SEO: Segment keyword targeting to reach the right audience (intent, relevance, long-tail keywords, etc.).
  • Content marketing: Adapt your content strategy to prioritise the interests of priority target audiences.
  • Local SEO: Optimise your Google Business Profile, target locations, local outreach, etc.
  • Social media: Adapt your content and messaging in social posts to maximise relevance with priority audiences.
  • Paid advertising: Use targeting to narrow your target audiences and optimise bids to maximise ROI.
  • Video marketing: Consider whether you need to take a different approach to video content, including style, tone, messaging and visual content.
  • Seasonal campaigns: Know when your target audiences spend the most throughout the year and optimise your budgets, messaging, etc. to maximise ROI.
  • Influencer marketing: Network with influencers and micro-influencers who can promote your restaurant to relevant audiences.
  • Offline networking: Partner with hotels, attractions and relevant publishers (city guides, in-flight magazines, etc.).

Keep in mind that the customer cycle can be very short for food businesses. Hunger is a powerful motivator and, unless people are booking in advance, purchase intent is high. Compare this to, say, a traveller booking their next trip, who takes their time researching locations, compares ticket prices and checks all kinds of other information.

When people make quick decisions, they need reinforcement signals to help them feel confident. At the search stage of the customer cycle, your audience is probably using Google Search or delivery apps like Deliveroo.

Make sure your profiles are optimised to help people make quick booking decisions with confidence:

  • Complete profiles: Make sure your Google Business Profile is 100% complete and kept up-to-date.
  • Images: Include quality images showcasing your restaurant (for dining in), your menu (to help people order), food prices, your best dishes, etc.
  • Customer reviews: Build a profile of positive reviews to increase trust.
  • Promotions: Promote special deals on social media and your Google Business Profile.
  • Special occasions: Cater for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions (where relevant to your target audiences).
  • Engagement: Answer Q&As and respond to reviews on your Google Business Profile.

Obviously, showing quality images of your best food is a great way to win customers, but the less obvious details can also make the difference. Something as simple as showing your opening times can tell customers you’re open and ready for business. Likewise, including pictures of your menu with prices for each dish can help new customers know what to expect.

#3: Maximise repeat revenue

Now that you’re capturing and converting your priority audiences, it’s time to maximise revenue from them. Your aim now is to turn as many customers as possible into repeat buyers. To achieve this, you have to keep marketing to them with ultra-relevant, personalised messages.

This starts with understanding their purchase habits:

  • Frequency: How often each customer buys from you.
  • Recency: The time since their last visit.
  • Value: How much they spend when they visit.
  • Products: What they buy.

With this data, you can start to group customers into cohorts – eg: biggest spenders, regular spenders, regular big spenders, etc. You can also start to identify niche segments, such as customers who always order vegan dishes, order more frequently towards the end of a month or spend significantly more on busy sporting weekends. By monitoring frequency, you can also identify drop-off and intervene before losing valuable customers.

Your CRM should contain all of the purchase habit data you need but you can gain even deeper insights by integrating multichannel data.

Let’s say you’ve got two customers in the same area who always order vegan food. By simply looking at CRM data, you might place these two customers in the same cohort and send the same email messages. What if you incorporate social media insights, though, and discover one engages with a lot of animal welfare accounts while the other one is purely interested in health and fitness? Suddenly, it’s clear that these two customers will respond to very different marketing messages, but you’ll only make this distinction by incorporating multichannel data.

This is the level of personalisation you have to achieve to maximise revenue from repeat orders.

Need help capturing the right customers?

If you need more help with capturing the right customers, our guide for restaurants and food businesses goes into plenty more detail.

Our team is always ready to help, too. Call us on 023 9283 0281 to speak to our hospitality marketing experts or send us your details and we’ll get right back to you.

Dave Colgate profile picture
Dave Colgate

Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.

More articles by Dave
Related articles
GUIDE: How restaurants can beat the cost-of-living crisis

GUIDE: How restaurants can beat the cost-of-living crisis

By Michelle Hill
Waiter serving lady in restaurant

5 highly-effective PPC strategies for restaurants

By James Faulkner
keyboard with happy and sad faces to denote user experience satisfaction

Accessibility is UX: How inclusive design benefits EVERY user

By Rick Toovey