Melbourne Industry Series: 5 tips to effectively market to diners

6 minute read.

OpenTable’s popular Industry Series recently came to Melbourne for another inspiring discussion about what you can do to make diners choose you. Three respected restaurateurs came together to discuss what you can do to bring more diners through your doors — and how to keep them coming back. Here are five key tips to get your started… 

1. Storytelling is the art of great content

Most marketing campaigns run on content. For Almenning, that means investing in professional photography and videos that his company can share. However, he believes storytelling must be at the heart of all good content.

“Great content is about storytelling and having a tight concept that you can weave all kinds of beautiful stories out of,” he explains. “For example, we’ve built a sequence of service that is theatrical and constantly surprises our guests. Our guests get a free shot on arrival for an old Viking toast. Then, after they’ve placed their order, we bring out a big leather roll and the guest chooses a hand-made knife.”

Almenning has also seen great success from the use of a novelty pop up bill in the form of a 3D viking ship.  

“One of our guests made of a 90-second video of the bill and posted it on Facebook,” he says. “The video got 20,000 views. It really showed us that if you can create a narrative or a surprising experience, that’s how you go viral.”

2. Social media is the new ‘word of mouth’

More than 90 per cent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their friends and family above all other forms of advertising. That’s according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, and it’s the number-one reason hospitality professionals are desperate to lift their venues’ social media profiles. 

“Word-of-mouth has always been the best recommendation you can possibly get,” says  Sven Almenning, managing director of Speakeasy Group. “Before Facebook, a customer may have shared an amazing experience in a venue with a handful of friends. But now, with social media, when a customer has a good experience they can share it with thousands of people.”

To maximise your results, you must consider targeting the social media channels that are the best fit for your venue.

“We have very visual food so Instagram is huge for us,” says Melissa Goffin, co-owner of Red Gum BBQ. “We made the decision very early on to communicate in a personal way about what we are doing, who we are, and what our values are. We really feel like we’re building a community, and that’s where we get the greatest engagement.”

3. Bad reviews are an opportunity to learn

Receiving a negative review after you’ve put your heart and soul into a service can be a bitter pill to swallow. But Angie Giannakodakis, owner of Epocha and Elyros Restaurants, says it’s important to put your emotions aside and see bad reviews as an opportunity to improve.

“Good reviews feel great, but bad reviews are more important,” she says. “They could be articulating an issue that you might not have picked up on. Bad reviews can be an indicator of what you’re not getting right and when it’s time to change a few things. They can help you identify exactly what it is about their experience you can improve in the future.


“We look at bad review for trends around the quality of our product and the quality of our service,” agrees Goffin. “These insights drive bigger conversations around what we need to invest in and what we don’t.”

And bad reviews don’t necessarily mean lost customers — as long as you respond to them. According to the Yellow Social Media Report 2018, 22 per cent of customers who posted negative reviews or blogs online indicated that if the business responds, their opinion of that business might change.

Use tools like review manager to easily manage your online reputation across important review sites.

4. Restaurant management solutions take the load off

Bookings management can be stressful at the best of times. A high volume of calls could indicate a full venue, but a busy phone can quickly become an ongoing distraction for your team. Fortunately, online booking platforms can do much of the heavy lifting for you.

OpenTable is brilliant for dissuading people from calling,” says Goffin. “It’s not because we don’t like making that connection with our guests, but phone bookings are a real drain on resources.”

Giannakodakis says there’s plenty of opportunity to build that connection with guests when they arrive at your venue, and that while social media, good content and online platforms will bring diners into your restaurant, it’s the in-person connection you build with them that will drive repeat business. 

“For me it’s about bringing out some empathy and making sure that our service is not only unique, but also heartfelt,” she says.

Choosing the right restaurant management solution can intelligently handle maximising your seating capacity, and provide you with insights and data on your smartphone to build better relationships and consistently run shifts.

5. Data helps you work smarter

The other benefit of using a table management solution is the insights they generate. Access to data is becoming more commonplace, and the right table management solution will provide you with the meaningful data you need to deliver the personalised, heartfelt service Giannakodakis advocates. 

“We load up all this beautiful information into our system and our customers have tags in the GuestCenter. For example, it’s nice to know that when Mr Smith and Mr Jones came in last they ordered sparkling water, and that Mrs Jones is gluten free and lactose intolerant. 

“So just by looking at my phone I can see if there’s anybody coming in that I need to know about and I can quickly ask my staff to organise something nice for them. That’s how we turn a first-time diner into a second-, third- and fourth-timer.”

Want to connect your restaurant with OpenTable’s 29 million global monthly diners? Get started here

Want to join the upcoming Industry Series in Melbourne? Book your spot now.