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I came home on Friday to find not one but four different takeaway menus through my letterbox and it got me thinking: What a waste of paper and someone’s time these disposable fliers are.

It would be much better for the millions of curry houses, pizza places, kebab shops and Chinese restaurants to invest that time and money into some decent online marketing instead. After all, a huge amount of people now go online when they want to order food, meaning you can market to them at exactly the moment they want to buy.

Compare that to marketing with fliers in an untargeted blanket approach. One is undoubtedly more cost efficient.

So, takeaways in Oxford and the rest of the country, read on. Here are some marketing tips that will last a lot longer than the fliers I just shoved in my recycling bin.

Capture regular customers’ email addresses

The same places flier me month after month, presumably to make sure they are first to mind when I can’t face cooking.

But they could spare themselves the effort and simply drop me an emailed offer if only they had my details.

Now, I am not likely to share my information for free, even if you make a decent king prawn jalfrezi. But I may well agree to hand it over in return for a free starter or dessert; it’s worth asking when I call.

Then you can drop me an email when you want to remind me of your business. One good tip is to let me know if you’re running a special offer and reward my loyalty by giving me a discount.

Make yourself easy to find

When it comes to targeting brand new customers, it’s a little trickier. You can aim to flier every household within a 10-mile radius or advertise in local papers. But this is untargeted.

It’s better for you to be marketing at people who want what you sell at that exact moment. So, search engine optimisation (SEO) is ideal.

You may think only big businesses can climb to the top of the rankings. However, the more specific you are the cheaper and less competitive this kind of marketing becomes.

So, take a curry house in the Oxford region of Headington. When I type ‘curry house Headington’ into the search engine, there’s one Google Local result and then a lot of websites that list restaurants in the local area.

So, rewrite your website (or set one up if you haven’t already!), making sure you include ‘[food type] restaurant and takeaway in [local area]’ throughout.

Then a very little effort should see you rise to the top of the rankings. Ensure that all the food listings websites that mention you include a link to your site, tweet about yourself and make sure you update your website frequently.

Because most takeaways have failed to grasp the potential benefits of internet marketing, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had.

Have a website!

Let’s start with the very basics, but there’s so many restaurants which when you search for them in Google all you find are review or directory listing websites. So they are likely to find competitors as well as your own site here.

This is an area which is definitely worth improving, these people are searching specifically for a restaurant, so they already know about you and are very likely to be repeat or word-of-mouth potential customers. All you need is a basic website containing contact details and ideally a menu. That should be enough to start converting some extra customers and easily justifying the effort involved.

Use Google Places

It’s free to list your business on Google Places and it means that when people search Maps for information, your business name, number address and opening hours can be displayed. Also remember to optimise your local listings!

Customers can also leave reviews of your service, so think about inviting regular customers to do so when you next email them.

Use geo-targeted PPC campaigns

It can take a while for a newly-optimised website to climb up the Google rankings organically. However, paid search results can have an instant effect and at a low budget if well geo-targeted.

So, going back to my previous example, when I search for ‘curry house Headington’, there is no paid advertising. That means it would be dirt cheap for a curry house in Headington to advertise there and the advertiser will only pay if I click on it.

Because I am only likely to search for such a specific thing if I am about to purchase a curry in Headington, you pay a small amount for a customer who’s ready to buy. It’s going to be more expensive than a flier, but you make contact with the customer at the exact moment they want your service.

Make use of review websites

A growing proportion of us don’t even bother using a search engine to find a takeaway in a hurry. We’ll turn to Yell.com or a food-specific website like Just-Eat.co.uk. 

So, make sure there’s enough information on Yell.com and consider investing in a sponsored listing. Also, don’t overlook the benefits of making sure you’re listed on popular restaurant review website’s such as Just-Eat or Qype.

Just-Eat, for example, gets more than 1.5million visits a month and markets itself across the mainstream media. So it’s a great opportunity to can take advantage of that by getting listed. Yes, you’ll pay the website for its service, but you should look at that like the fee you paid the bloke who delivered fliers.

These are customers you wouldn’t otherwise get, so they are worth paying a small fee for.

A marketing feast

Of course, all the tips mentioned in this post can be reworked for any local business. The internet might be global but small companies can use it to market their local services. They miss out on a wide number of customers by failing to do so.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 31 March, 2011 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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Pauline Randall

Pauline Randall, Director at Florizel Media

Absolutely right Kevin. I get fed up of having to recycle the bits of paper that get shoved through my letterbox. If I kept them 'just in case' I'd be lucky to find the front door.

I'm still amazed at how many small businesses don't have even a basic website and food outlets in particular really need them. I was recently trying to find a local Chinese that had been recommended to me but I couldn't remember their name. Google seemed to be the obvious choice but in the end I guessed where I thought they'd be and found them when I drove past. Under most other circumstances I wouldn't have bothered going to that trouble. As it turned out they had a restaurant as well as a takeaway and the eat-in option was good that night. If I'd been looking for a takeaway it would have been even harder - no website, no menu online. Have you ever considered phoning a takeaway and asking them to read the menu to you?!

over 5 years ago


Chris Mapley

I'm not sure Takeaways have the budget for their own e-commerce site (or want to buy in the skills to maintain and make the best use of it) but certainly at the least they should have maybe a google site with their menu and telephone details on there which they can maybe link to their business details on google maps.

Perhaps a good way around this is to go to a local university and and offer free takeaways to any student with the skills to build and maintain it!

The real problem though is things changed when chip and pin was introduced and paying by card over the phone isn't possible anymore. For companies big enough like Dominoes or Papa Johns they could afford to build their own sites when the change came in and probably boosted the adoption of ordering online however somewhere like Just-Eat offers the whole infrastructure for a percentage of the order and allows the consumer a greater choice in what they eat.

What would be good for takeaways is for there to be a meaningful competitor or two to Just-Eat who can maybe offer better returns and then leave it to these uber-menu sites to fight it out amongst themselves to grab the consumer's attention.

over 5 years ago


Jolene Phillips

Excellent article and way of putting it.
I am constantly filling up my recycling bin with the same takeaway leaflets that cram up my door. I also religiously throw away the Sky Magazine, leaflets of services of no use to me, and "to the occupier" letters.

I'd rather my email be junked up than my hallway floor!

over 5 years ago

Rachel Cummins

Rachel Cummins, Marketing and Communications Manager at Bright Digital

Just-Eat = bad news for waistline. They will make millions, just can't believe it didn't come around sooner!

over 5 years ago


Rob Mansfield

Although I agree about the wastefulness of takeaway menus, I disagree that e-marketing will work for the majority of these sorts of restaurants.

We have a drawer of takeaway menus that we can pull out and sift through when we fancy something.

Although you can do the same with online bookmarks, the experience is no way comparable and I think that this is one area that can't and won't be replaced by the web.

over 5 years ago


Bob Pritchard

I agree with Rob. (And warning dedicated e-marketers - heretical view ahead...)

Digital cannot be the sole answer to everything - at least not yet - and as any marketer worth their added salt and MSG will realise, you'll probably be shutting yourself off from more potential customers by stopping the flyers than by adding them to your marketing mix.

By all means be ahead of the rest of your competitors but don't do that at the expense of the bulk of your potential customer base (no pun intended. Although let's face it, some of us who live a more plugged-in, sedentary life could probably do with cutting our BMI by bending over to pick up those very flyers...)

over 5 years ago


Duncan Pringle

Kevin are you mad? Trying to create a digital solution for an opportunity that doesn't exist or isn't viable or profitable. If I type "curry house Headington" into Google ad words there are no searches for that term this month and I suspect ever!But you want the local curry house to build a website and get involved in SEO anyway on the off chance that one person like you might Google him one day! What you propose is a classic mistake of digital practioners the world over.Here's an idea walk around your local town and see what curry houses there are rather than Googling them.Of course that doesn't help them market to potential customers but you get my point.And really! does a local takeaway need to be in a restaurant review website? Just eat might have 1.5 million visits per month but I suspect they are not all in a 10 mile radius of your local takeaway. I think you are making some big assumptions that they will get some customers for this small fee let alone the amount of time they would have to spend to attract them.Do you have any other more relevent marketing ideas for them?

over 5 years ago



I agree with Rob. Many of us spend our working day sat staring at a screen - when you want a takeaway, pull out a flier, throw it round the room until everyone's chosen, then grab it back for the phone number. How long will it take doing that with an iPad? And how long before it gets damaged.

Plus one important factor is that leaflets can well have less environmental impact than the churning away of data centres. It's a bit of a favourite topic of mine - here's something I wrote on the subject http://www.webmartuk.com/print_brain/environmental/commercial-printing-digital/

over 5 years ago


Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

Create your own website for existing customers, yes (remember previous orders, payment details for one click ordering, etc) but for new customers the answer for me is in sites like hungryhouse.

Nobody want to trawl a dozen sites looking for food when you can quickly browse through leaflets. However, being able to quickly enter your postcode and cuisine choice to bring up all the local restaurants with (and this is the crux) user generated content is a viable option.

I don't think hungryhouse have it perfect yet, but the few times I've used them they've been pretty good. And remembering my payment details mean that its quick to order no matter where I buy my curry from.

over 5 years ago



previous post was removed im guessing for the link i put in it. easy mistake never made a post before. wont do it again.

Like i was saying before though, chip and pin has not restricted making payments over the phone.

over 5 years ago

Michele Neylon

Michele Neylon, CEO at Blacknight Internet Solutions Ltd

While I can understand the sentiment behind this article I can't really agree with it.

Yes the leaflets can be annnoying. I think fridge magnets work better..

But I don't think that online sales are going to replace offline for a long time especially when it comes to fast food.

And Just-Eat isn't a review site - you can order directly from it.

over 5 years ago



Option 1 - Phone
1/ pick up phone
2/ call takeaway we usually use
3/ speak to friendly person on the other end, order meal, find out how long it will take
4/ hang up

Time elapsed: 30 seconds

Option 2 - Interweb
1/ open up laptop
2/ search on Google for curry house
3/ look at a few results
4/ search for reviews to find out if the food is any good
5/ closest one gets a bad review...back to Google
6/ click on ad
7/ use confusing ordering system (as takeaway's budget was very low and their site was built on the cheap)
8/ realise extra naan bread isn't in the order
9/ go back to the menu and re-select
10/ go to the checkout
11/ try to log in
12/ use the forgot password feature
13/ wait for the password reset email
14/ reset password
15/ log in
16/ find out cart has lost contents
17/ start re-ordering
18/ scream at laptop, close browser and pick up the phone...

Or is that just too skeptical?

over 5 years ago

Michele Neylon

Michele Neylon, CEO at Blacknight Internet Solutions Ltd

@Nick If there was a "like" button I'd be clicking on it :)

over 5 years ago

Margaret Robertson

Margaret Robertson, European Marketing Director at Canvas HolidaysSmall Business Multi-user

Lots of interesting discussion, but I agree with Nick ( did someone not say that soemwhere before ...? ) Sometimes we need to remember that not everyone wants to operate solely in a digital bubble, and that some old style offline marketing approaches still have their place. That said I thought Kevin's post offered some sound workable advice applicable for lots of small businesses that would not have to demand big resource.

over 5 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

@Nick spot on
@Margaret indeed. Problem I have with this blog post is that it misses the whole point of MULTI channel strategy. You are right, not everyone wishes to exist in a digital bubble all the time.

over 5 years ago


Chris Mapley

lol @nick with the great options, if slightly loaded in one particular direction.

A more typical experience would be

1) Feel hungry and look in fridge/cupboard to find it bare.
2) Fave TV programmes start in 15 mins no time to go to the shop
3) decide on takeaway and check wallet. Remember you broke your emergency tenner last night when you went for a pint after work
4) Check trousers and various shelves for loose cash, only find enough for two starters
5) Programme now starts in 5 mins
6) Go to laptop and close farmville and search for just-eat (as advertised on the flyer).
7) find takeaway, order and pay
8) Watch TV
9) Answer door to collect food just as Patrick Jane reveals how he knew who the murderer was along

over 5 years ago


Shane Lake, Managing Director at hungryhouse.co.uk

I'm on Chris's side. Although I wouldn't be using our aforementioned competitor, of course.

Considering Domino's now receive over 40% of their orders from online channels, this is pretty compelling evidence that takeaways who don't have an online presence, are missing out.

A lot of restaurateurs wouldn't have a clue where to start if you told them to put more effort into their "digital marketing" - those that do are currently using this as a competitive advantage - and good luck to them.

The trusty leaflet still does has a part to play - why would you suddenly start ignoring the majority that still order the old-fashioned way - but the trend is definitely swinging online (with a little help from us takeaway aggregators).

Then again, maybe I'm biased!

(and thanks for the vote of confidence Jonny)

over 5 years ago


Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

No worries, I take it the discount card is already in the post, um... I mean... been emailed, right?

over 5 years ago


Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

For me, the option to order a take-away is nearly always born out of convenience. I'd love it if my favourite local Japanese had a big "THE USUAL" button stamped at the top of their website, which when I rolled over I could pick from the same three things I always do.

One-click. Job done.

However, I never would have found them without the old school leaflet technique.

Bit of both is best I guess.

over 5 years ago

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