How You Can Use Retargeting For Restaurants To Improve Repeat Visits & ROI

Did you know that nearly 95 out of 100 people who visit your restaurant website will leave without doing anything (calling, making a reservation, joining your newsletter, etc)? Did you also know that there's an incredibly effective way to have a second chance to get in front of these interested potential diners and increase engagement and conversion rates by more than 70%?


In this article, we'll introduce you to- and teach you step-by-step how to master- retargeting for restaurants.





As you begin to read this article, think about how many people come to your website each month, it's likely several hundred or more.


A consumer who visits your restaurant's website is one of the best (potential) customers that you can reach online. He or she took a proactive action to come to your site and spent their time to learn about your restaurant. But no matter how interested the prospective diner or how great your site/ menu is, most of visitors leave your site without taking an action.


In fact, the vast majority of those users- over 95%- will leave without taking action such as calling your restaurant, making a reservation, or joining your newsletter list. Sure, maybe they just wanted to check your hours, but you don't want to let this interested group just drift off and forget about your awesome restaurant, especially when their are many more dining choices in your area.


Enter retargeting, also known as remarketing. Retargeting is one of the most-powerful, cost-effective ways to continuously stay top-of-mind to those who have, effectively, raised their hand saying "I want to know more about your restaurant!" As a restaurateur, you've invested in creating a high-quality website and driving traffic to it.


While retargeting is effective for companies and business large and small, retargeting is really effective at helping small- to medium-sized, independent, high-quality restaurants who are lesser known, stay top-of-mind in communities where dining choices are abundant. Simply put, retargeting is great at helping you continue to communicate with an audience of people that previously you only had one chance with.


So what is retargeting, technically?


Retargeting is a form of digital advertising where you show targeted display (or social) ads to people who who've visited your site, but left without converting. As a consumer, you've probably seen retargeting ads many times without realizing retargeting was at play.


The concept of retargeting is easiest to understand by using an example scenario:


Let's assume that you recently went to Olive Garden's website, perhaps you wanted to view the menu, or look for current promotions. So you spend a few moments, on, view a few pages and then move onto something else entirely.


Because you left without taking action such as calling, joining their newsletter, or making a reservation, Olive Garden may then put you into their retargeting pool. In the days and weeks to follow, you start seeing ads for Olive Garden- as you visit other sites across the web like YAHOO, AOL, CNN, ESPN, NY Times, and many others. You may even see ads in your Facebook feed for Olive Garden as a result (but more on that later).


While it may seem like a very convenient coincidence that you're seeing Olive Garden ads all over the Internet, it's not. That's a standard retargeting campaign being executed, and it works really well at driving people back to the advertiser's website.


Retargeting technically works using a snippet of JavaScript code that gets embedded onto a site's page. This is sometimes referred to as a tracking pixel. The JS tag drops an anonymous cookie on the user visiting that page and adds that user to a specific group or audience that you can begin retargeting. That audience can then be used to show display ads to as they visit other sites. The more visitors you have to your site, the larger your 'retargetable' audience is. .


Note the image below, an example of a webpage on Olive Garden's site that you might visit on the left, and on the right, the ads that would appear later on another website such as NY Times as a result.


how retargeting works for restaurants


Which Retargeting Network to choose

While there are many companies and platforms that can do retargeting there are three that are widely considered to be the biggest and best. Further these three have the best technology, offer self-service, and are the most cost-effective options for restaurants.


Two of the companies- Google and Facebook- are no surprise in the digital advertising space, but the third company, AdRoll, which got it's start specializing in retargeting technology, is known for its excellent results. We'll dig into each platform below.


Google is the granddaddy of Internet advertising, and this holds true in retargeting as well. Thanks to their near-ubiquitous presence online, Google makes it easy to reach those people who visited your site but left without "taking action." Google Adwords has the unique advantage of being able to plug into your Google Analytics for audience data. Learn more about Google Adwords Retargeting here.


In addition to being a great place to catch up on the lives of friends near and far, Facebook is an extremely powerful place to engage with your prospective customers. Because people turn to Facebook for a break from the everyday and catch up on cat videos, friend's kids, and vacation pics, they're usually in a good mood while on the platform, and thus it's a great opportunity to insert your brand messaging into this space. Learn more about Facebook retargeting here.


As mentioned above, AdRoll's a great option for retargeting outside of Google and Facebook. The the old business adage of you must be "first, biggest, or best" to dominate is true for these guys, as they were one of the original retargeting specialty companies and quickly grew to become one of the biggest.


We like AdRoll for a few reasons. First, they're connected with all of the biggest global ad exchanges, so their scale is massive. They also have their own sophisticated, and effective optimization algorithms that "learn" about your audience to yield real results that improve over time. Learn more about Adroll here.


Step by Step Retargeting Set Up in Google Adwords

In this article we want to walk you through the campaign and ad group settings for Google Adwords. Campaign Settings

Geo Targeting
You'll want to make sure you are geo-targeting your ads, even though most people on your restargeting list will be in your area, there's no point showing ads to someone who is too far away.


Adwords Location Targeting


Day parting
You may want to set your retargeting ads so that they only run when your restaurant is open for business. Also see further down about an advanced day-parting tactic you can use.


Adwords Day Parting


Frequency Capping
Frequency capping refers to the contorl over how many times a visitor will see your ad each day. You want to people to coninously see your retargeting ads enough so that your restaurant stays top-of-mind, but not so much that they become annoying. We like to set this number to no more than 10 ad impressions per day, this way you won't over do it.


What to Promote & Ad copy and Messaging

You can promote anything you offer though we have seem restaurants successfully promote things like happy hour, brunch, 1/2 price wine bottles, and many others.


When you're thinking about what your ads that you'll show your retargeting pool will look like, there are several things to keep in mind. The first is that your prospective customer will be seeing a display ad, so make it look good! Spending a bit on a professional designer is worth it to ensure your images are crisp and clear images and your copy is formatted correctly. Remember, the recipients of these ads are the ones who are most interested in your restaurant, so you'll want to put your best foot forward. Potential design links?


Visual Appeal
We also recommend including images of folks actively having fun in your restaurant, as it allows the recipient to imagine themselves in the fun, too.


No matter how grand the restaurant on the left is, it feels cold and uninviting, while the action of the image on the right draws your attention into the experience. Images with people nearly always respond better than ones that don't include people.


Clear, Concise Call-to-Action
After you've attracted the attention of your potential diner, the single most important element is the messaging: who are you and want do you want them to know or do. If you're alerting them to addition of live music on Friday nights, make that clear… and then tell them to come in and listen! Many otherwise great ads and marketing efforts fail because they don't clearly tell viewer what they want them to do!


Always sell Benefits, Not Features
In all short-form marketing efforts- but especially display ads- it's important to convey the benefit over the feature. Perhaps your restaurant just rolled out champagne brunch, so you want to make this the focus of a particular retargeting campaign. While you could just say "we're now offering brunch," you might make the copy more engaging (and even fun!) by highlighting champagne brunch as a classy, socially acceptable way to drink in the morning.


Obviously, this type of messaging would have to align with the vibe of your restaurant and doesn't make sense in every instance, but punchy copy is much more memorable… exactly what you want to be when that consumer's choosing where to book their next Sunday brunch reservations.


Size Matters
When designing creatives for retargeting ads, remember to design for multiple ad sizes, and possibly multiple screens. While it logically makes sense that you have a bit of room to play with in a desktop 728x90 unit(the long, thin vertical ads often at the top and bottom of a site), think about the design and messaging not only what the large rectangle (300x250) on desktop, but also mobile web ads. Don't fall into the trap of trying to squeeze too much info- address, hours, specials, etc- all in a tiny ad unit. The most popular ads are 300x250, 728x90, 160x600, 300x600,


And finally, building off of the notion of not trying to jam everything a potential diner would need or want to know in a tiny ad, remember the acronym KISS, standing for "keep it simple, stupid." The purpose of your retargeting ad is to impart one takeaway on to an engaged prospective diner. Perhaps it reinforces information specific to the page where they were put into the cookie pool (ex: you may want to impart different messaging on someone who visited the cafe breakfast page vs your fine dining section). Or perhaps you've just opened a second location in town, and you simply want to announce the opening. Or if you're running a special- like 2 for 1 drinks during a the home team's televised games, be clear in telling the ad recipient to come in and mention they saw the ad to receive the special.


Advanced tactics

Use email lists instead of retargetomg adiences
If you have a large email address list of customers, you now have the ability to upload this list to Google and Facebook. They will create an audience, by matching those addresses to known users on their platform. This will allow you to perpetually serve ads to people who have opted in into your restaurant's newsletter. Your customer won't know they are being targeted via your email address, they will just think they are seeing ads for a restaurant they like. Pretty cool right?


Use day parting to customize your messaging
You can set up mulitple retargeting campaigns to deliver customized your messaging based on the time of day or day of week. For example, from 10am - 2pm, Mon - Fri you could run a lunch ad. From 3pm - 5pm, you could run a happy hour or dinner ad. On Friday, Saturday and Sundays you could run brunch retargeting ads.


Share pixels across multiple websites.
If you own more than one restaurant, with more than one website. you can share retargeting pixels so that visitors to one of your restaurant sites also starts seeing ads for your other restaurants. It's that simple.


Add retargeting pixel to email markering messages
Since promotional emails are actually just HTML webpages, you can add a retargeting pixel to your email messages, so that all of your email recipients get added to your retargeting list. You have to use the non-Javascript version of your retargeting code though.



Retargeting is used by every Fortune 500 company, and thousands more because it is so cost-effective, though virtually no restaurants use it, and less than 1% of local businesses take advantage of it. When used correctly retargeting will be a super effective tool at helping to build your brand, generate new customers, and increase revenue all at the same time. It's easy to set up and use now, and you'd be wise to do so ahead your compeditors.

Let us know about your experience with retargeting ad campaigns for your restaurant. Leave us a comment or send us a note below, we answer every question.