Why Google Ads DON’T work for hospo businesses

Why Google Ads DON'T work for hospitality businesses

What business are you in? If your answer is “hospitality,” then this blog post will be of interest to you.

A few months back, I had a discussion with one of our social clients who had had another agency tell them that Google Ads were “the way to go”. I wholeheartedly disagreed. Flash forward a few more months and they’d spent a decent chunk of money with no real discernable results.

There are many misconceptions about Google Ads, which can lead to wasted money for companies that don’t know what they’re doing. And, unless you’re actually a digital marketer, that applies to just about everyone.

So here’s why Google Ads don’t work for hospitality businesses under most circumstances, and where they can actually work.

What are you actually advertising?

Are you hoping to just get more foot traffic through your doors? Dinner bookings?

My question here is: what does an average order look like to you? What are your profit margins?

With hospitality, it typically isn’t massive.

The cost of actually advertising on Google – on getting someone through the door – quickly eats up, or is more, than the profit you would make on that in the first place.

What are you actually bidding on?

“Best XYZ Near Me”

The way Google Ads works is by selecting a series of ‘keywords’ to bid on. So, when a user types in those words, or similiar to them, in the search engine, your ads show up.

Say you want to advertise your breakfast menu? You may want to bid on ‘best brunch near me’. That kind of thing.

However, you have to think about how many people are actually searching that, and what’s going to sway them. With food and drink, it’s usually images and reviews. Something Google Ads can’t exactly provide.

Not saying you can’t bid on these, but a better use of your time (and money) would probably be on fostering a great Instagram presence, or encouraging reviews from customers, and putting more pictures on your Google My Business listing.

Brand Terms

The second thing I’ve seen a lot of is bidding on “brand terms”. Its name is exactly what it would suggest.

Bidding on your brand name.

This is useful under some very select circumstances. Say you’re newer and your website isn’t ranking yet, or competitors are bidding on your name. Even then, a small budget is all you need.

If people are searching your brand name, they’re very likely to find your website anyway. Why pay to show them it then?

This, however, is a favourite of the dodgy marketers everywhere trying to boost their performance. Of course, you’ll get a cheaper cost per conversion and your results will look better if you’re paying to show up in front of people intending to come to you anyway.

If you do have an agency running Google Ads for you ask for a keyword report.

Most of your budget should not be going towards your own brand.

Here’s where Google Ads CAN work

What’s your biggest moneymaker as a venue? I mean, asides from alcohol.

Probably functions and larger group bookings.

It only takes one person then to actually “convert” and your profit margins are much higher (and more predictable).

What can I do apart from Google Ads

Oh so many things, both free and paid. Here’s a few of them


Social ads are my preferred pick over Google Ads here, but even then a huge budget isn’t necessary. But, because food is visual, may as well use that to your advantage.

Of course, there’s a few ad types that will be the most beneficial.

  • “Store Traffic” can work really well for local businesses. These ad types open a map that goes directly to your venue
  • Click to Web ads for bookings, which go to your booking page


  • Instagram – no explanation necessary #foodporn
  • Your Google My Business listing – reviews are a big one here, but you can also post photos, add services and descriptions, create offers and a host of other things that makes you more likely to show up in Google Maps

If you liked this article, let us know and we’ll be sure to post more like them.

If you’re struggling with how to promote your local business, you can also reach out to us for an initial free 30-minute consult.

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