By Michael Scarpace

The restaurant industry has evolved with the increase of smartphone use and the emergence of companies like Yelp, GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. With the heavy reliance on smartphones, restaurants are placing a higher priority on providing seamless mobile experiences.

Consumers who previously called their local restaurant to place carry-out or delivery orders are now reading reviews online and placing their orders through mobile apps.

According to an eMarketer report, mobile is quickly becoming a growing channel for the restaurant industry.  For 2019, they forecasted that 82.6% of the US population would be mobile phone users, and that 229.5 million people would use smartphone apps.  The increase is in part due to quick-service national restaurants, such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s, which are now utilizing online delivery because they see the potential growth and opportunity in the space.

According to research from App Annie, hungry consumers around the world ordered meals on mobile 130% more in 2018 than in 2016, and global downloads of the top five delivery apps grew 115% during the same period. Market Research Company NPD Group predicted that restaurant digital orders will triple in volume by the end of 2020, with mobile leading the way.

Even with online ordering on the rise, the restaurant industry still faces challenges with losing control of brand experience with many restaurants offering delivery through partnerships through DoorDash, Postmates, and other third-party delivery companies. Customer service complaints on driver and delivery personnel and lack of urgency in delivery are some of the issues that can hurt the brand experience when utilizing third party delivery apps.

According to BIA, Quick Service Restaurant digital advertising is expected to grow from 36.1 percent in 2019 to 43.8 percent of total quick-service advertising by 2023. BIA projects that local digital advertising growth will come primarily in the form of online advertising, which they expect to increase by an additional $186 million per year by 2023 as compared to 2019.


As the restaurant industry continues to invest more in digital advertising, its important to educate local restaurants on how to establish relevant metrics and campaign goals, as well as how to leverage data to make informed campaign decisions and utilize effective optimization strategies.

While mobile and traditional display ads can be extremely effective, they should also complement other forms of advertising. A multi-platform approach is recommended for almost all verticals, but especially the restaurant industry.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Emphasis on the local audience with geo-targeted ads – focus on driving local traffic to your restaurant as your community will become the repeat customers and the foundation of your business.  Geo-targeting ads help to ensure that only users in certain cities or within specific radiuses will see your ads, thus eliminating non-relevant impressions and clicks.
  • Once you’ve established your restaurant in your community, expand your target to business travelers and people planning a vacation to the area.
  • Develop your restaurant’s brand identity and give an authentic look into who you are and what you serve with your online ads and website images.  Your goal should be to build your restaurant’s identity around your target customers.
  • Online reviews are vital to your success – a Harvard Business School study showed that a 1-star increase on Yelp can increase revenue by 5-9%.  Pay close attention to what people are saying about your restaurant online and be sure to respond in a timely manner to comments, questions, and feedback while being respectful when responding to negative comments.
  • Optimize your website for mobile devices – with more consumers exclusively using their smartphones and tablets as their primary device for accessing the internet, it’s imperative to ensure that consumers have a user-friendly online experience.  Making it difficult to view the restaurant’s menu or having a subpar ordering system can lead to consumers going to your competitors.
  • Consider using retargeting ads to advertise to people who have previously visited your website.

Below you’ll find a suggested starter plan for the restaurant vertical. This plan can be customized based on your advertiser’s specific goal and audience. Keep in mind that this target will vary depending on the type of restaurant, the target audience, and the client’s goal. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Centro team if you have any questions!

  • Audience Targeting – Foodies, Fine Dining Enthusiasts, Restaurants & Dining. Find users who have shown a behavior or interest in food and restaurants or reach users who eat out frequently.
  • Contextual Targeting – Food & Drink, Foodies, Dining Out. Reach users who are reading and consuming content about food and drink.
  • Hyperlocal Mobile – Ability to geofence the restaurant, bar and grocery store locations as well as competitor locations.
  • Mobile Location Retargeting – Reach users who have been to restaurants or bars, or specific locations like McDonalds, Wendy’s etc.
  • Run of Network – Expand the plan’s reach while also having the ability to optimize quickly and efficiently.
  • Retargeting – Re-engage users who have already shown an interest in the advertiser.