Effective Digital Marketing Strategies For Restaurants With Brenton Thomas (Ep 212)

publication date: Apr 1, 2024
author/source: Jaime Oikle with Brenton Thomas



In this episode, we host Brenton Thomas, founder of Twibi, in a conversation about effective digital marketing strategies for restaurants. Brenton advises starting with Google and Facebook ads due to their high return potential and suggests focusing on conversion tracking and consistent messaging across platforms. He recommends search campaigns and performance max campaigns for targeting high-intent customers and emphasizes the importance of optimizing Google My Business for local SEO.


Brenton also touches on the value of high-quality photography and the challenges of adapting to algorithm changes, offering practical tips for small restaurants, including:

  • Recommendations for channel usage and budget allocation, emphasizing Google ads and Facebook ads
  • Importance of setting up conversion tracking on Facebook for ad optimization
  • Utilizing Google ads, including search campaigns and performance max campaigns
  • Emphasizing the significance of optimizing Google My Business profiles and local SEO
  • Incorporating short-form videos into performance max campaigns and focusing on lifestyle in video content
  • Value of portraying the dining experience through images and high-quality photography
  • Challenges of keeping up with evolving algorithms and privacy policies


Be sure to check out the episode. Find out more at https://www.twibiagency.com and https://www.runningrestaurants.com.


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Effective Digital Marketing Strategies For Restaurants With Brenton Thomas

I got a great episode for you with Brenton Thomas, founder of Twibi, a digital marketing agency. Brenton, there’s a lot of stuff going on in digital marketing. I will not pretend to be able to keep up with it all. Give me a quick overview of what you guys do, and then we'll dig into questions restaurant folks might have.

Digital Marketing Overview

We're a digital marketing agency, as you just mentioned, and we highly focus on e-commerce brands, restaurants, and selling food and beverage products. I've seen really good results, and we'll put our client's products on Google ads and Facebook ads, which includes Instagram. We do LinkedIn ads, but not as much that doesn't work as well for restaurants, food and beverage, and email marketing. We all still have a little bit of SEO as well. That's our core offer.

I was going to ask you what you thought about channels because in restaurants, there's Facebook, there's Instagram, there's the big ones that I think maybe Twitter is fading in different directions for restaurants but then TikTok and LinkedIn are taken off in a different direction. Probably not from a B2B standpoint.

Let's talk about that for a little bit. Channel recommendations. If a restaurant had limited time, what one, two, or three channels, should they pay attention to? Where should they put their money, their budget? What do you think?

Channel Recommendations

I would say, we are working with a restaurant right now in Napa Valley and they have a winery attached to the restaurant. For all of our clients, we always start with Google and Facebook ads, they send me the best results. I think with Twitter, the algorithm isn't as smart. Also, TikTok doesn't produce the same results. It's cheap and you can get a lot of impressions, but a lot of those impressions don't turn into paying customers.

For most of our clients, the main goal is revenue generation and return on ad spend. We try to stay away from TikTok and Twitter. We’ll split a test between Google and Facebook ads and we'll split the budget evenly. Then we'll give them both a month to run in the very beginning. Then we'll start to move the budget across the two channels, depending on the performance.

Facebook Advertising

Let's go to Facebook for a second. We don't do too much there, but whenever I try to post an ad or do a boost, it's Instagram this and Messenger that, click a box, don't click a box. That's very confusing. You guys probably do this all day. Do you go across all their channels? Do you pick and choose? Do you, how do you get into radiuses? Let's dig more into Facebook's world.

We'll go across all the channels. Messenger, audience network. It's display ads basically on third-party websites. Facebook has a network of websites. Your ad can go onto. We'll do Facebook, Instagram, all of it but the main important part is you set up what's called conversion tracking. You feed information into Facebook to let it know that an event that you care about has taken place. Then you can feed it back into Facebook and say, “Find me more of these events now that you understand that this event took place that I care about.”

By event, do you mean a click and action? How would you specify that a little bit more?

It tends to be lower in the funnel, like a purchase took place. You just feed it into Facebook and you let it know multiple purchases have taken place, and then Facebook will record that information. Then you can say, now optimize towards that. Give me more of those purchases. It could be an email collection. It could be basically anything you care about. It could be at the carts. It could be checkouts, whatever you want. Someone made it into your location, et cetera.

Let me go back inside that met universal Facebook, they have so much so many different tools. Do you find that one thing produces a little bit better than others or do you just just throw it into their world and let it run? Instagram versus the messenger feed versus the Facebook mobile versus Facebook desktop? Do you get granular like that? What what do you think?

It depends on your business. There are quite a few nuances across each type of business, but I would say instinctively, without any data in front of me, I would suggest that Facebook probably performs better. I just think the way that the content is presented on Instagram is less action-oriented. Most of the time, people are looking for funny videos or inspiration. It's a different demographic. Facebook as well. I think they might be more action-oriented with money as well to buy something.

Google Ads Strategy

Agreed. I think different platforms do a better job and so forth of presenting the ads and making it look like an experience that you want to take, take action on. Let's go over to the big Google folks for a second. You said Google ads. That can mean a whole bunch of things as well because Google is a giant and they do what they do. If we were to take the time machine back fifteen years, it would be all about those little blue ads on the side or the top and that's not really where it's at anymore. Is it more in the maps? Is it in the search? Where can a restaurant make the most impact in Google's space?

We always start with a search campaign, of course. That's just text-based ads that you'll see if you do any organic search. The first two usually are an ad at the top. Then the bottom two of that same first page are two ads as well. Always start with that. You can get high-intent individuals. They're actively in the mindset of maybe visiting your restaurant or making an online order from your restaurant. That's great. We always start with that one campaign type. Then the second one is a campaign type called performance max.

It's all of the Google properties combined into a single campaign. It's display ads, it's search ads, Gmail ads, YouTube ads, and it's Google shopping. All of that is in one campaign. In the past, you would have had to create six different campaigns and try to manage all that. It's too hard for marketers to move the budgets around and do it in real-time. If you wait a couple of days, you might have missed some really good periods to make some revenue. I'll start those two campaigns. I’ll do a search campaign and then perform max campaign.


It's hard for marketers to move the budget around and do it in real-time. If you wait a couple of days, you risk missing some good periods to make revenue.


I will say that I have despised ads in my Gmail. Ever since they started doing that. I hit delete on purpose. I don't want an ad in my Gmail. Anyway, that's just side quick quick side now. What about the Maps feature? Finding not just on Google, but everywhere you want that Google and Yelp listing to be accurate. All those all those things. You guys get involved there as well.

Yes. Optimize Google My Business profile. A lot of that's connected to that. Try to find location-specific keywords. This starting to get a little bit into local SEO. Try to find your exact city appended to your restaurant. You could say Napa Valley restaurant for our client and try to use that in your description of your business for Google My Business and try to fit it into other places to try to bring it all together for the Google bot.

Local SEO and Business Citations

It's step one to manage your listings on the big websites, and a lot of restaurants still don't do that. I hope you encourage them to manage your listings. There's a lot of free things you can do. There's a lot of enhanced things you can do. Do you make any recommendations on those enhanced listings, whether it's Google or Yelp or some of the other folks that have big traffic numbers?

Yes, we'll write the whole thing for our clients and choose categories, and you need a couple of blog posts or something that you've done in the past. Just highlight the business, and you can add that to your Google My Business listing. That always helps. We also do local business citations. That's local directories that you put your business onto. People can find you on Yelp, and Foursquare then optimize the main channels as well, Facebook, and Instagram, but you have to make sure your address, the name of your company, and the phone number are all the same.

The formatting of the phone number needs to be the same. The email you use needs to be the same, and Google will tie in and start to understand that you're listed in twenty places. Instead, it notices that you're listed in five places, and it thinks it's a soft connection because of the phone number change. You want to make sure it understands that you're in all of these places together to consolidate the power of your website.

Video Advertising

Good point, I was not aware of that thought. You mentioned YouTube a little while ago, and then something you said made me think about video. Do you recommend restaurants to do some stuff with short-form videos? What do you think?

Load it up into the performance max campaign. There'll be a slot to add a video to it. Typically video doesn't convert as well. I think there's a lot of noise sometimes on YouTube. Usually, you're trying to get to the video you want to see, but it's still good to add that as an option in performance max just in case it does perform well, but we don't go too deep. We don't create a bunch of videos. We'll just put one option for videos, but we'll upload maybe seven images for display inside of that same performance max campaign.

Content Creation for Restaurants

I know the short-form video is taken off everywhere, but yes, it gets cluttered. Inside of that idea of restaurants creating content. If you work with different industries, a lot of folks do content marketing versus pay-per-click and so forth. Anything you would suggest restaurants do in the content creation side versus, “Come in. We're running a happy hour special.” What do you think?

Inside the restaurant industry, and then also food and beverage in general, if you can show images of other people enjoying the experience. Don't just take a picture of the burger that you offer at your restaurant, but try to take pictures of people enjoying the experience. I believe that people don't buy the thing that you're selling, but they're buying the experience around what you're trying to sell or the lifestyle is what you're trying to sell.


People aren’t buying the thing that you're selling. They're buying into the experience around what you're trying to sell or the lifestyle.


Try to show a group of people sitting at a table laughing. You don't want all the food to be bitten and eaten. That doesn't look good. It's new burgers and no one has quite started to eat the food yet. Drinks are on the table. Those are some of the highest-performing ads we've ever run because you can see yourself in that exact situation. You can see your friends sitting there in that picture. That always works best.

Keeping Up With Changes

I like that too. I'm not going to say something that folks don't already know, but doing photography well is a big deal on your website, social posts, et cetera. It surprises me that some people still don't do that very well. Google and Facebook continue to change their algorithms and restaurants are busy anyway. You guys manage for clients, but how can folks even keep their minds around all the changes that are happening?

You can work with an agency like ours. That always helps quite a bit. Meta and Google, once you have your ad account, they'll send you email updates. They'll let you know, “We're going to change this.” “These policies are updating.” It's one way to do it. You might have to go search for the data, and blog posts, and then spend a lot of time just reading about it. I would say right now, Google has a lot more changes than Facebook.

Third-party cookies are phasing out later this year. Switch to first-party cookies and then that's a whole experience that I don't think the average business owner who doesn't do digital marketing wants to get into. It's extremely technical even for myself.  I've set up conversion tracking for over 100 clients. We're now trying to figure out how to set this up. I understand about 70% of the process, but there's that last 30% where it's a new process that we need to add to our business. If I didn't know this for 70%, the whole thing would look like another language.

Digital Marketing Tips

That's right. Changes are coming along with privacy, cookies, and tracking that will continue to change and make things a challenge. As we go to wrapping stuff, any other tips, tricks, or things you've seen in the space that are working or parting wisdom, or closing thoughts? What do you think?

Let's say you're a small restaurant and you have a limited budget. I would start with Facebook first. I think the visual element in Facebook is nice to have. You don't always get that inside of Google. I would start with Facebook and do at least $1,500 per month. You need at least a decent amount of ad spend to train the algorithm.

I would start there. One of my clients is a restaurant. They have a third-party ordering system called Spot On. When you go from their main website to Spot On, it looks like two sessions to GA4 or Google Analytics 4. We're not able to push attribution back to the true source because it's splitting it up into two separate sessions.

This is pretty technical. I don't know if it's too much, but you need to add a referral exclusion and tell GA4 that this is all one continuous session. You'll want to add your reservation system. For this example, it's SpotOn.com. You have to add that to GA4, and then now we can connect the whole attribution and see which ad drove the person to the purchase.

Yes, that goes beyond the average person. Every time I log into my Google stuff, it gets more confusing. I swear to God. You have to stay on top of it. Let's tell folks where to find you guys. The main website, social channels, where else, and so forth. What do you have?

The website is TwibiAgency.com. Jamie, I'll send you a link that you can add to the show notes. If anyone wants to talk to me about strategy or partnership, even digital marketing in general, you can use that link to personally reach me. We also offer, within four months, if we don't reach your desired goal of a 130% return on ad spend, we offer two free months of service. That's how confident we are in our ability to run ads.

I appreciate it. My favorite topic inside of restaurants is the restaurant marketing piece, and then digital is another piece. I'm telling you, it keeps getting more and more technical. If an average operator is juggling all the fires and stuff that they do, doing this type of stuff yourself is difficult. Get in touch with folks like Brenton to dig in.

Let's wrap up. Brenton Thomas of Twibi. You can find them at TwibiAgency.com. I'll look for more information in the show notes. For more great restaurant marketing and service people and tech tips, stay tuned to us here at RunningRestaurants.com. Do us a big favor, click the button, subscribe button, all those things. Give us feedback. All that stuff helps us. We appreciate it. Thanks, folks. We will see you next time. Thanks, Brenton.



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