When Tokyo Restaurant Factory (TRF) owners came to us asking about a digital marketing plan for their new restaurant opening in the West Village, they were already dealing with a full plate of issues that seemed more important at the time. Issues like securing a liquor license, building codes and staffing a new restaurant that wasn’t even open yet. We knew once the restaurant opened this focus would shift immediately to attracting new guests. Unfortunately Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not something that can be turned on this quickly – an SEO campaign can take months to mature and show positive results. Lucky for TRF, they contacted Hudson Creative with enough time to prepare the website and online listings so that the restaurant could be found online easily on opening night.
A new restaurant should launch their website and start implementing a digital marketing plan 3 months prior to opening, or run the risk of guests being confused at how to find it online when it opens.
What did Hudson Creative do to Prepare Toriko’s Web Presence for a Successful Opening?
It all started with the website and making sure the website looked great, had a simple user experience and could be read easily by search engines. We worked with TRF to answer a few simple questions about the Toriko website:
- Could guests make an online reservation easily?
- What common questions did website users have and could they find answers to these questions easily from all pages?
- Did the website design accurately represent the restaurant ambiance?
- How could we track and report online reservations, phone calls and requests for directions? Note: request for directions is a great indicator of walk-in covers.
- Was there an obvious section of the website to highlight current information like the restaurant opening date, employment inquiries and changes to the menu for the opening?
Once we were comfortable with the website, we shifted focus to off-site SEO work and link-building. Hudson Creative has over 5 years experience organizing directory listings and building links for restaurants that will help Google index the location quickly. For Toriko we organized this effort into 3 Tiers: Primary Directories (Google, Facebook, Foursquare, etc) Secondary Directories (Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar/Localeze, etc) and Restaurant-Specific Directories (Allmenus, Zomato, Yelp and other geo-specific directory sites).
What was the result of our SEO Efforts?
This graph shows website users and covers for Toriko which opened on August 20, 2018. One of the most impressive metrics was the increase in Website Covers vs OpenTable Covers from August to September. In our experience, this is an atypical datapoint for restaurant openings over the past five years because of how popular OpenTable is. This was a clear indicator that guests were able to find the restaurant online easily and make a reservation.
What did this user experience look like?
See below to view how Toriko was displayed in search results before and after our efforts:
The large area highlighted in yellow on the right is called the knowledge panel, and its presence is a direct result of our efforts to improve the website and build directory listings. The information from this knowledge panel is shown in both Google Search and Google Maps, allowing users to find the restaurant easily.
Using our Digital Dashboard, we tracked user interaction with the Toriko knowledge panel before and after the restaurant opening on August 20th. SEO is often a long term investment, and these types of dramatic increases can take 3-6 months to show. But in Toriko’s case, we were able to parlay the popularity of the restaurant opening with our digital marketing efforts to generate exponential gains for the opening of the restaurant.