A hungry family traveling through scenic New England, interior car view.

15 Ways to Generate More Business, Traffic from Travelers & Tourists in New England

Operate a restaurant or food service business in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts? It’s time to double-check your digital presence. Potential customers are making decisions online. Here’s how to get them through your door!

By Luke LaBree 🔎
CMO, Dennis Food Service


I’m a father and a traveler. I’ve been a restaurant dishwasher, waiter, maintenance worker, and even a touch-screen order system installer (my favorite part of that job was wiring the network connections.) I’m the son of a country store-owning mother and a lifelong food service industry father. I started a website design company and began working to promote local businesses while I was still in high school. I’ve spent the past two decades as a branding and marketing professional, nearly a quarter of which has been for an employee-owned food service distributor. I’m a native of Maine, and I not only enjoy the bountiful wilderness, coast, culture, and local cuisine New England has to offer, but I also recognize the seasonal windows our local businesses work within to attract new customers. Man is a blue dress shirt smiling at the camera in a kitchen

The image of a hungry family traveling through scenic New England perfectly captures “Decision to Dine” season. I used multiple AI-powered image generation tools and manual techniques to create it. The need to use the manual skills that I’ve spent the past 30 years mastering–that I have built a career on–is quickly being replaced by what is essentially a poorly written incomplete sentence. I share all of this because few people are more uniquely qualified than me to step onto a soapbox in front of New England’s hospitality industry and shout, “Double-check your digital presence, update photos, menus, map listings, and links. Respond to reviews and put systems in place to create consistent content across your channels. Decision to Dine season is coming!”

Depending on your outlook, I offer one more introductory word of encouragement or warning. This is likely the last season that AI won’t be heavily involved in the customer’s journey to your door. There will be powerful AI incorporated into our phones by next season; within two seasons, nearly everyone will be using it. That AI has not only been “fed the internet,” it reads the internet just like a human, but faster and far more efficiently. So, I ask again, how well represented is your business on the internet?

These 15 strategies will help you win “Decision to Dine” season by increasing foot traffic and revenue using your digital presence to attract more travelers and tourists.

What is “Decision to Dine” Season?

“Decision to Dine” season spans from early spring to late summer and represents the season for many foodservice and hospitality establishments. I’m not discounting winter, there’s a decision time frame there too, but the successes of summer often establish offerings, strategies, and even bookings for other seasons. Either way, a prosperous season for many New England businesses intertwines with their ability to attract tourists and travelers within a specific window–when those potential customers are actively exploring dining and destination options.

A robust digital presence will significantly influence a customer’s decision to dine at your establishment and impact their potential to browse, reserve, book, or even see your business as an option in their search results and social feeds. Food and hospitality operations that update and showcase their new seasons with refreshed visuals, new and unique offerings, and content-based encouragement around location, brand, and atmosphere stand a far better chance of attracting traveling customers than those that don’t.

Optimize Your Online Visibility

When traveling or visiting an unfamiliar area, one of the first and most frequent things your potential customers do online is search for nearby food and dining options. In the internet age of search first, decide later, having a complete online presence that ranks well in search results is crucial during “Decision to Dine” season. Here’s how to optimize your online visibility:

    1. Verify accurate and up-to-date business information across digital properties

In the absence of a dedicated website, potential customers will rely heavily on third-party sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor to learn about your establishment. Claiming and updating your business listings on these platforms is essential to controlling the narrative and providing accurate operating hours, contact information, and menus. Unclaimed listings can become littered with outdated details and unflattering user-generated content, deterring potential diners.

    1. Tap into local SEO to rank higher in relevant location-based searches

Search engines like Google prioritize local results based on a user’s location and the relevance to the search. By optimizing your website and online listings with local keywords, geographic terms, and details about your cuisine and specialties, you increase your chances of ranking higher when travelers search for “restaurants near me” or “best seafood in [your town].”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you use the term “restaurants near me” in your content. Rather, focus on specific terms that identify your business location and category, such as towns, streets, nearby destinations, cuisine category, best-selling items, etc.

    1. The role of search engines and review sites in the decision-making process 

Let’s face it, when we’re traveling or exploring a new area, we rely oh-so-heavily on web searches and “review and discovery” sites (Maps, Yelp, and TripAdvisor) to inform our choices. A well-maintained presence on these platforms, backed by managed reviews and enticing visuals, can sway a potential customer’s decision to visit your establishment over a competitor’s. Managing your online reputation and leveraging user-generated content can give you a significant edge during “Decision to Dine” season.

Showcase Your Brand’s Unique Essence

Your potential customer’s digital feeds are brimming with content aggressively vying for their limited time and attention. Having a website or a Facebook page is not enough – you need to showcase what makes your brand truly unique and captivating. During “Decision to Dine” season, travelers are bombarded by options. Here’s how to help your establishment stand out:

    1. Use compelling visuals to highlight your establishment’s ambiance, cuisine, and culture 

Visuals reign supreme in digital marketing. High-quality photographs and videos can transport potential diners into the heart of your establishment, whetting their appetites with mouthwatering imagery and immersing them in the ambiance that sets you apart. Don’t settle for stock – authenticity is key. Invest in a high-end smartphone to simplify capturing and sharing authentic images of your food, staff, and environment. Provide potential customers the opportunity to see for themselves and decide, “Does this look like the food I want?”… “Does this look like a place I would enjoy?”

    1. Share your brand story through authentic, behind-the-scenes content 

Every restaurant has a story to share – a tale of passion, dedication, the pursuit of culinary excellence, or the classic New England strategy of wicked-big portions. Share that narrative through engaging, behind-the-scenes content that pulls back the curtain and connects with your audience on a deeper level. From the sourcing of local ingredients to the kitchen camaraderie that fuels your operation, these authentic glimpses into your brand’s culture will work to lure diners seeking a genuine experience.

    1. Engage with customers and respond to reviews to build trust and loyalty

Make sure your reviews are on a two-way street; customers crave a two-way conversation with the brands they follow and frequent. By actively engaging with your audience, managing and responding to reviews (both positive and negative), and fostering a sense of community around your brand, you cultivate trust and loyalty that can sway the “Decision to Dine” in your favor. Remember, even a negative review can be an opportunity to showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Capitalize on Social Media’s Influence

Social media has revolutionized how we discover, share, and engage with brands – with restaurants and food businesses contributing to a significant portion of the conversation. Why? Because hunger is a universal driving force. The tradeoff with social media is that it requires more of your time and active focus than updating a website or managing review and discovery sites. Making the time internally to leverage social marketing can make the difference between being overlooked and becoming the destination for someone’s next meal. Here’s how to leverage social media’s powerful reach to access more potential customers:

    1. Create a consistent and recognizable brand presence across social platforms

Consistency is key to building brand recognition and trust with your social efforts. Maintain a cohesive look, tone, and messaging across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Use consistent handles, profile pictures, and branded visuals to reinforce your identity. This unified presence is more professional and boosts the perception of quality and attention to detail across your entire operation. If your digital presence is sloppy, what is stopping someone from drawing that conclusion about your kitchen?

    1. Promote user-generated content to amplify your reach and credibility 

One of social media’s greatest strengths is its ability to harness content generated by other users. The authentic, unfiltered experiences shared by your customers can be highly effective marketing. Encourage diners to share their meals and dining moments by creating branded hashtags or running social media contests. Reposting and amplifying this “customer content” extends your reach and adds a layer of credibility that can sway the “Decision to Dine” in your favor.

Ready to run a contest? Use a free QR code on a table tent, menu, or poster to provide your customers with quick, convenient access to your message, contest rules, entry forms, social media accounts, and more.

    1. Start social media advertising strategies to target travelers in your area 

While organic social content may be the bread-and-butter of your digital marketing efforts, strategic paid advertising can give you a competitive edge during peak travel seasons. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer hyper-targeted advertising options, allowing you to serve enticing visuals and promotions directly to travelers within a specified geographic radius. These targeted campaigns can capture the attention of potential diners in the crucial “Decision to Dine” window.

Offer a Seamless Digital Experience

The high-speed, technology-driven experiences of the internet are now driving expectations in the real world; potential diners expect a seamless and convenient digital experience when researching and interacting with your brand. During the “Decision to Dine” season, removing friction from the customer journey can be the deciding factor that sets you apart. Here’s how to deliver a top-notch digital experience:

    1. Mobile-friendly and user-friendly website experiences are a must

A significant portion of the traffic heading to your current digital properties already comes from mobile devices, and that percentage increases dramatically during “Decision to Dine” season. This means that many potential customers only ever interact with your brand through a mobile device. Restaurant and hospitality websites must be optimized for seamless viewing and navigation on smartphones and tablets. Prioritize a clearly branded, responsive design that loads quickly and provides easy access to essential information like your menu, hours, reservations, and location. Today’s travelers are researching options on the go, meaning a frustrating mobile experience could cost you customers.

A mobile-friendly website doesn’t need to break the bank. Today’s DIY website platforms offer options to seamlessly format your website for smartphones–no coding required.

    1. It might be time for an online ordering and reservation system

5G networks provide near-instant search results. High-speed connectivity presents an opportunity for your business to meet the immediate needs of potential customers faster than ever. Offering online ordering and reservation options could add new revenue to your business during “Decision to Dine” season. Visitors appreciate the convenience of browsing your menu, placing an order for pickup or delivery, and reserving a table – all from their mobile devices. Incorporating digital tools that capture immediate consumer needs allows you to establish and engage new customers before they even walk through the door.

    1. Use geolocation and push notifications to engage nearby visitors 

Imagine being able to serve up a tantalizing promotion or featured special directly to a potential customer’s smartphone as they explore your area. Geolocation and push notification technologies enable this level of targeted, real-time engagement. By allowing users to opt-in to location-based notifications, you can capture their attention at the precise moment they’re making their decision, increasing the chances of drawing them to your establishment.

Measure and Refine Your Efforts

The digital landscape is evolving, and you should be too; it’s essential to continuously measure, analyze, and refine your efforts to ensure you’re effectively reaching and engaging potential customers during “Decision to Dine” season. You can fine-tune your strategies and maximize your impact by leveraging data and customer insights. Here’s how to stay ahead of the curve:

    1. Understand what’s working and what isn’t

From website traffic and social engagement to reach, views, and conversions, there’s a wealth of freely available data at your fingertips that can provide insights into the effectiveness of your digital efforts. Even occasionally reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs) across your various platforms can help you identify what’s working, what’s not, and where there’s room for improvement.

Keep the terms from tripping you up. Start small and work your way to more advanced analysis. Engagement = Likes, shares, and comments. A KPI could be the number of likes a post receives. Depending on your goal, the KPI will change.

    1. Collect customer feedback like cash in the bank 

While quantitative data is essential, consider the value of qualitative feedback from your customers. Actively solicit reviews, comments, and suggestions—both online and in person—to better understand their experiences and high vs low points. These insights can inform everything from menu tweaks to website enhancements, ensuring you consistently deliver an exceptional experience that keeps diners coming back.

Pro-Tip: The reviews of your competitors may reveal a consistent pattern of customer low points, which could be an opportunity for you to build a marketing message around.

    1. Evaluate and improve your digital efforts for maximum impact

Resting on your digital laurels is a surefire way to fall behind the competition. Commit to a mindset of continuous improvement and optimization. Regularly review your content, analytics, and customer feedback, as well as industry trends, and be prepared to adjust your efforts accordingly. Experiment with new platforms, content formats, and advertising approaches to keep your digital presence fresh, relevant, and more likely to capture attention during “Decision to Dine” season.

“Decision to dine” season is the most important time of the year for restaurants and hospitality businesses to attract and engage travelers and visitors.

By leveraging the power of a complete digital presence, you can influence customer decisions, stand out from the competition, and drive more traffic and revenue to your establishment.

Remember, optimizing your online visibility through search engines, review sites, and local SEO is the foundation for your digital success. From there, showcasing your brand’s unique essence through compelling visuals, authentic storytelling, and customer engagement cultivates the kind of emotional connection that resonates with potential diners.

Although social media can feel daunting and time-consuming, it is a critical piece of your complete digital presence. In addition to offering a creative outlet to showcase your brand, social media platforms give you access to user-generated content and the ability to execute targeted advertising campaigns. Your social efforts should also regularly reference and link back to your website and vice versa. Offering a seamless digital experience—from mobile-friendly websites to online ordering and location-based engagement—will be a deciding factor that secures a future visitor’s business.

There is no finish line for your digital marketing education and efforts. Continuously measuring, analyzing, and refining strategies based on data, customer feedback, consumer sentiment, and industry trends is essential to improving your work and maximizing your impact each season. And the time for impact is now.

By implementing the strategies I’ve outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to captivating travelers and visitors with your brand’s story, cuisine, and outstanding dining experience. Embrace the power of a robust digital presence and watch as your establishment becomes a must-visit destination during “Decision to Dine” season and beyond.