restaurant facebook ads

When the Upserve marketing team first learned about Coronavirus and the impact it could have on our customers, we immediately started brainstorming ways to help restaurants. Not only did we want every customer to have Online Ordering up and running so they could supplement revenue, but we also wanted to make sure their customers knew they had it. 

The team gathered into a conference room (pre-being told to stay more than six feet away from people, of course), and started throwing out ideas. We agreed Facebook would be the best advertising channel to reach hungry customers (although I think we dismissed TikTok too quickly if you ask me). We decided we were going to offer customers $100 in Facebook Ad credit and run beautiful ad placements for them targeted towards diners in their area. 

Sounds great right? Well, there was one problem… we’re not an ad agency and we had never run an ad campaign of this scale before. I wanted to share six things we learned making hundreds of ads for Upserve restaurants in the past two months.

1. Online Ordering is No Longer a Luxury, but a Necessity

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from running online ordering ads for our customers it’s that the demand for a meal from local restaurants has not gone down, people just need to eat at home now. From February to April we saw a 169% increase in Upserve restaurants using Online Ordering and an 840% increase in weekly sales. And this isn’t just a big city trend, in large suburbs, online ordering has grown 3,868% since February. Of course, for all restaurants, online ordering is necessary right now to keep a consistent revenue stream, but it’s going to be even more vital moving forward. 

Some states have started to pull back on social distancing measures, but it doesn’t mean customers are going to come running back. As much as everyone would like to leave their house and have everything return to normal, 70% of Americans still think the best plan of action right now is to social distance, even at the risk of the economy. 

restaurant online ordering from a couch

In less than two months of running Facebook Ads for our customers, we’ve seen over 150,000 clicks and more than seven million impressions on their ads. 

Building Facebook ads for your restaurant is a great first step to promoting your online ordering menu, but you have to keep in mind that you’re competing (as you were before) against every other online menu in your area. It’s important for your restaurant to show up as often as possible to nab that order. There are plenty of ways to market your restaurant during the coronavirus, but Facebook has proven to be an especially valuable channel. As the economy slowly reopens in the next few months, you’ll want to capitalize on the returning dine-in customers, as well as those still playing it safe and staying home.

2. Making a Facebook Ad is Easier Than You Might Think! 

Like I said, we’re not an ad agency, and making hundreds of unique customer ads on Facebook was a daunting task. Once I got into Facebook and started exploring how we could run effective ads for our customers though, it soon became clear that this was nowhere near the challenge I thought it was going to be. In fact, I can give you quick steps on how to make one yourself.

Step 1: Create a Facebook Business Account

You can’t run ads for your business on Facebook without a Facebook Business Account, which makes sense. Luckily, Facebook has resources detailing how to create a Facebook Business Account. Even if you’re not ready to spend money on reaching customers through the platform, you should definitely create a business page for your restaurant. Digital marketing on social platforms is key if you want to promote your online offerings.

Step 2: Create a Campaign

Once you have an account, you’ll want to go to the Ads Manager dashboard on your business account. You’ll see a tab labeled Campaigns and you’re going to want to click the big green +Create button. Here, you can name your campaign, select the Buying Type (just use Auction, it’s the simplest), and set the objective of your campaign. We chose Link Clicks as the objective because ultimately our goal was to get people to click through to customers online menus.

Step 3: Create Your Ad Set

Once your campaign is created, it will ask you to make an Ad Set, which is basically just saying who you want to see your ad. Here you can create your budget. Your budget can be Daily or Lifetime. I always choose a Lifetime Budget because I’m super forgetful, and if I forget to log on to Facebook for a few days I won’t get back on to find out I accidentally spent $150 in three days that I wasn’t planning on. 

Next, you can select the start and end dates of your campaign. If you click Show More Options underneath the start and end dates as well, you can schedule your ads to run during certain hours of the day. We used this feature to only run ads when our customers Online Ordering was available.

Once your timeline is set, you can target customers by location. Type your restaurant’s address in the location bar and set the radius to however far you want. We stuck to three miles to capture a wide audience, but one that would still make the drive to pick up food. 

Lastly, you want to select the Optimization for Delivery. You can optimize for:

  • Impressions: the number of times your ad is shown to anyone
  • Reach: the number of people exposed to your ad
  • Link Clicks: the number of times someone clicks on your ad
  • Landing Page Views: the number of times someone clicks through to the page you want to send them to

In this case, we optimized for Link Clicks.

Step 4: Create Your Ad (What People Are Actually Going to See)

Once you’ve got a campaign and an ad set, you can move on to the fun part: actually creating the advertisement people are going to see in their feeds. The first step to this is uploading media. Because of Facebook’s formatting, we suggest a 1080×1080 image. We also suggest you include professional photos of your food, drinks, or logo.

Then, it’s time to write the copy for your ad. There’s the Primary Text, which is the longer message you have to say. For our ads, we went with “Support local restaurants! Order online from [Restaurant Name] right now!” There’s the Headline, which you would probably just want to be your restaurant’s name. Lastly, there’s the Description, which we would suggest is just the City, State of where your restaurant is located.

restaurant facebook ad

The final destination on our ad building journey is the Destination section (see what I did there?). Here, you can choose your Website URL (which is where people who click on the ad will be sent, in this case it was our customers OLO pages), your Display Link (your “.com”), and then your Call To Action, which for most restaurants should probably be See Menu. The last thing to do is hit Publish! Facebook will then review your ad to make sure it fits their advertising guidelines and if it all checks out, it’ll be on timelines in no time and you’ll be raking in new customers!

3. Show Us Your Food: Restaurant Ads With More, Professional Quality Photos Perform Best

I know I’m not the only person who sees incredible food photos and wants to smash the “order” button. Since we started making these ads in mid-March, our restaurant Facebook ads have driven over 45,000 views to customer’s OLO pages and they’ve reached over 3 million people. 

Naturally, some ads perform better than others. What makes a good restaurant Facebook ad? We found that ads with multiple professional food photos with a logo superimposed over the image usually get the most landing page views (ie: more people clicking through to the order menu). Take a look at this ad from Bywater in Warren, RI.

bywater restaurant facebook ad

This ad has almost 500 landing page views in about a month’s time. It shows multiple menu items to appeal to all appetites, and it has the logo in the middle to be recognized by local customers. 

As you select photos for your ad, keep in mind what your most popular OLO menu items are. While you may normally be famous for your crab legs or oysters, that may not “travel” well for a delivery order compared to a more portable item like sushi or tacos.

Top delivery food items
Top delivery items according to DATASSENTIAL.

4. Create a Call-to-Action That Appeals to Your Audience.

As much as the food photos are going to drive clicks, we also found encouraging customers to “Support local restaurants!” in the ad copy drove more engagement compared to generic copy like: “Hungry? Order now!” Like I said before, people still want food from their favorite eateries, and if you ask for their support during these difficult times, it just gives them one more reason to put in a takeout order.

People are seeing their favorite local restaurant names popping up on their feeds and heading to their online ordering pages to support them. It’s a perfect system. Restaurants can provide customers with delicious food, and customers can order from them and feel like the economic hero of small businesses, rather than just someone who’s too lazy to cook. 

If you’re anything like me, you realize you can only have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so many times until you start to lose the sensation of taste. People are turning to their local eateries for a break from making meals, it’s just a matter of enabling each business with the option to still serve their customers through online ordering

5. Even in the Midst of a Global Pandemic, People on Facebook are Rude

Times are tough right now for everyone. Businesses are closing down, families and friends are separated, and the anxiety of not knowing when this will end is overwhelming… yet people are still finding the time to post uselessly rude and inexplicably absurd comments on local businesses Facebook ads. Look at this one.

restaurant facebook ads comments

[Please read with the heftiest serving of sarcasm possible.] This is the real hero of the pandemic right here. Not the nurses risking their lives to help people with the virus, not the essential workers providing us with the goods and services we need to stay healthy, but this person, making sure burgers stay American. I know you can’t see me right now but I’m saluting you, thank you for your service. 

restaurant facebook ads comments

“Worst pizza in HISTORY” is a BOLD statement to say the least. You’re telling me the pizza they were making in ancient Rome on the rat-infested sidewalks before plumbing was invented tasted worse than this? Let’s take it easy. Everyone’s trying to get by right now and you gotta leave this roast of a comment on a local businesses’ ad?

restaurant facebook ads comments

…Good to know?

Look, these are difficult times for everyone, so let’s practice a little sympathy. As a general rule, before you post something on Facebook, think to yourself “is this going to make this person’s quarantine better or worse?” If you answered “worse,” KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. 

6. The Only Way We’re Going to Get Through This is Together

If there’s anything we learned from those ridiculous comments, it’s that we need to be there for each other right now. I had never run a Facebook ad campaign at the beginning of March, but we figured it out and ran over 400 ads for our customers in under two months with the power of teamwork. We had people from our talent team identifying customers for us to run ads for, we had people from our Customer Support team helping customers get set up with online ordering in less than 24 hours, and our small marketing team found a way to create images and target local customers for our restaurants because we all had an attitude of support. We REALLY love our customers and it felt great to build something for them that we knew would drive more dollars back into their restaurant. 

For all the rude (and unintentionally funny) comments we saw, there were ten times more with words of encouragement. These restaurants have provided a place of comfort for their customers for years. Restaurants are where we go to catch up, celebrate, and make memories with loved ones. It’s so important for us to support our favorite restaurants now, so we can celebrate this all being over with them later. Until then, we’ll be there for our customers, and we hope guests will be there for them too. So do your part and order online from your favorite restaurant. Remember, this is your duty as the hero of the small business economy!  

The popularity of online ordering is on a meteoric rise. How important is providing online ordering for your digital customers?

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Written by   |  
Ryan McSweeney started his restaurant career as a dish-washer at the Sundae School Ice Cream Parlor in Dennisport, Massachusetts. For five years he served Cape Cod vacationers the biggest scoops of their favorite flavors. He spent many more years in the service industry, and brings his knowledge and love for the restaurant-world to Upserve where he provides the best restaurant technology to restaurateurs around the country.