Targeting Google Ads for Restaurants

/ Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips / April 15

Targeting Google Ads for Restaurants - Mobile

Although social media and SEO are important, don’t underestimate the power of Google Ads when marketing your restaurant. Unlike social media and organic search tactics that can take months to produce results, Google Ads pay off right away.

Using Google Ads for restaurants is so effective because they can be targeted to reach specific people and accomplish certain goals quickly and directly. By understanding the ways in which Google Ads can be targeted, you can grow your restaurant business in no time.

Keyword Match Types

Organically, multiple keywords can lead people to your site: some of those keywords you targeted intentionally with SEO, others you didn’t. Likewise, Google can serve ads for your restaurant for both keywords you had anticipated and those you hadn’t.

That’s why it’s important to understand how to use match types, the degree to which you want the Google AI to show your ad for related keywords. Using match types correctly allows you to generate new keywords, as well as identify those which lead to the most conversions and sales.

Exact Match

exact keyword + close variations + same meaning

  • Most restrictive

  • Uses [ ] around keyword

  • Your ad may show when people search for the exact keyword you specify, along with close variations such as plurals, abbreviations and misspellings.

    • Google can also show your ad for keyword phrases that contain different words but which the AI has determined have the same meaning

  • For example, if your keyword is [pizzeria in Chicago], Google may show your ad for:

    • Pizzeria in Chicago, pizzerias in Chicago, piczeria in Chicago, pizza place in Chicago, pizza restaurant in Chicago

Phrase Match

Some overlap from exact match + phrases that include your exact keyword + phrases that include the meaning of your keyword

  • Less restrictive than exact match

  • Uses ” “ around keyword

  • Google can serve your ad when people search for phrases that include your exact keyword or include the meaning of your keyword.

    • Includes overlap from exact match, especially if the search query is exactly the same

  • For instance, if your keyword is “pizzeria in Chicago,” your ad might appear for:

    • Best pizzeria in Chicago, pizzeria near me, vegan pizzeria in Chicago, gluten free pizzeria in Chicago, Italian pizzeria in Chicago, best pizza place in Chicago, good pizza in Chicago, etc.

    • Along with overlap for exact or almost exact matches: Pizzeria in Chicago, pizza place in Chicago

Broad Match

Some overlap from phrase match + related searches

  • Least restrictive

  • No characters around keyword

  • Google may show your ad for searches that are somewhat related to the focus keyword.

  • Includes overlap from phrase and exact match. 

  • For example, if your broad match keyword is–pizzeria in Chicago–people may see your ad if they search for:

    • Italian restaurant in Chicago, red sauce restaurant in Chicago, Italian-American restaurant in Chicago, Chicago deep dish pizza, Chicago pizza recipe, pizzeria in Chicago downtown

    • Along with overlapping keywords: pizza in Chicago, pizzeria in Chicago

Negative Keywords

Any keywords that you DO NOT want to rank for

  • Different from the other match types, negative keywords are keywords for which you DO NOT want your ads to show

  • For example, if you own a pizza restaurant that isn’t vegan and it’s located far from the city center, it makes sense to include the negative keywords:

    • Chicago pizza recipe – Someone searching for information probably doesn’t want to make a purchase.

    • Vegan pizzeria in Chicago – If your pizzas aren’t vegan, people who click on your ad probably won’t make a purchase.

    • Pizzeria in Chicago downtown – If your pizzeria isn’t in the city center, people who are in a downtown office probably won’t order from you on their lunch break. 

Targeting Keywords with Match Types

Once you understand the Google Ads match types, you can use them to target the best keywords when using Google Ads for restaurants. Using different match types allows you to:

  • Find new keywords – If you start your pizza restaurant’s Google Ads campaign with phrase match, you might be surprised to see that your restaurant’s ad shows for “good pizza in Chicago.” If using broad match, you may be shocked that people searching for “red sauce restaurant in Chicago” click on your ad, too.  

  • Identify the best keywords – Maybe you notice that “good pizza in Chicago” results in more clicks and orders than “pizzeria in Chicago,” so focusing your advertising budget on the former rather than the latter would be a good idea. In fact, you might want to consider making “good pizza in Chicago” an exact match keyword to tell Google to include close variants, too.

  • Save money by eliminating irrelevant keywords – If you don’t offer vegan options, clicks for “vegan pizza in Chicago” waste money. So, adding “vegan pizza in Chicago” as a negative keyword allows you to spend money on keywords that will lead to sales.

Location Targeting 

As we just discussed, using the most relevant keywords will make Google Ads for restaurants more effective. Likewise, targeting your ads based on location will help you use your budget more efficiently and maximize conversions.

Including Locations

Most of the customers for a local brick-and-mortar business like a restaurant will come from a small geographic area, so targeting your ads to people in a specific location is key. Within Google ads, you have a lot of targeting options:

  • Countries, States and Cities – National chains may want to show their ads to entire countries, states or cities in order to build awareness. However, a CDC study found that people were willing to travel a median distance of just 1.4 miles to a sit-down restaurant, so independent restaurants probably shouldn’t target entire states or even cities.

  • Zip Codes – For independent restaurants, targeting specific zip codes is a better idea. Starting with the zip code where your restaurant is located, along with the surrounding zip codes, is a good starting point. 

  • A radius – Instead of serving your ads in specific zip codes, you can also tell Google to use a radius around your restaurant. If the zip codes are irregularly shaped in your area, a radius may be a better option.

  • Target people currently or regularly in a certain location, and / or people interested in that location – By default, Google shows your ads to people currently in your target area or who visit the area frequently, as well as people whose browsing suggests they are interested in the area. New Yorkers searching for “pizzeria in Chicago” are likely just doing research for an upcoming trip, so changing the default setting can save you money on clicks that are unlikely to lead to sales.

Targeting Google Ads for Restaurants - Radius

Google Ads allows you to target locations, such as a small radius around your restaurant, in order to increase conversions.

Excluding Locations

Although telling Google where to show your ads is important, it’s just as important to tell Google where not to serve your ads. In order to optimize Google Ads for restaurants, Google allows you to:

  • Exclude less profitable locations – Even if the ads for your restaurant only show in the surrounding zip codes, over time you may notice a zip code or two where either there are few clicks or the clicks don’t lead to sales. In that case, exclude those zip codes so you can focus your budget on more profitable areas.

    • Block your ads from appearing in other states – In a YouTube video, Google Ads expert Nick Mancini said that sometimes ads for local businesses pop up in other states, so telling Google to exclude other states saves you money.

  • Not show ads during certain days / times – In a Google Ads tutorial, Nick Mancini says that clicks in the middle of the night or when businesses aren’t open rarely lead to sales. So, if your pizzeria isn’t open Tuesday mornings, save your budget for when it is.

Audience Targeting

In addition to a geographic location, you can also target the Google Ads for restaurants to people based on their demographic characteristics or general interests. 


Campaign Level

Some criteria can be targeted when building a campaign, a set of advertisements for a category of products or services. The characteristics targeted at this level will apply to all the advertisements within the campaign.

For example, if you want to promote three categories of food at your Italian restaurant (pizza, pasta and appetizers), you will start three ad campaigns. You may know that people interested in a category tend to have certain characteristics. At the campaign level, you can target:

  • Parental Status

  • Marital Status

  • Education

  • Homeownership Status

  • Employment Status

Ad Group Level

Other criteria can only be targeted after establishing an ad group, a smaller set of ads for a specific product. Each ad group has multiple ads so that the Google algorithm can test which ad copy results in the most clicks.

Continuing with the same example, let’s say that within your pizza campaign, you have 3 ad groups: vegan pizza, gluten free pizza and deep dish pizza. If you think each product would appeal to a different demographic, you can focus ads based on criteria such as: 

  • Age Range

  • Gender

  • Household Income


In addition to demographics like parental status and household income, you can target Google Ads for restaurants based on either users’ demonstrated interests or recent history.

Unlike demographics, interests can be targeted at both the campaign and ad group level. Since targeting by interests can be done for both product categories and specific products, it’s a powerful way to find passionate consumers who are likely to convert.

Affinity Audience

Google’s affinity audiences use search patterns and browsing history to identify groups of users by interests. Even though people within affinity audiences may not be using keywords or browsing websites related to their interests right now, they have done so in the past.

For instance, although someone may be looking for weather info right now, he or she may have a history of searching for “best pizzeria in Chicago,” browsing recipe websites and reading restaurant reviews. If so, it’s likely that he or she is a “foodie” who values good food.

Affinity audiences range from general to specific. More general affinity audiences include:

  • Baking & Finance

  • Beauty & Wellness

  • Food & Dining

  • Home & Garden

More specific audiences have creative names. For example, within Food & Dining, the more specific audiences include:

  • Coffee Shop Regulars – People who regularly visit cafes or coffee shops and buy beverages or light fare

  • Cooking Enthusiasts – People who like to cook, look up recipes, and consume content about cooking

  • Fast Food Cravers – People who seek out fast food and other quick and inexpensive dining options

  • Foodies – People enthusiastic about food and restaurant culture

Targeting Google Ads for Restaurants - Browsing the Internet

Google Ads affinity audiences use search and browsing history to determine users’ interests and likelihood of making a purchase.

In-Market Audience

According to Google Ads consultant Stu Edwards, in-market audiences are people whom “Google predicts to have a high likelihood of making a purchase (high commercial intent) based on their previous search and browsing history.”

If someone browsed pizzeria menus last night and is currently reading online reviews, he or she probably wants to eat pizza. Additionally, that person is more likely to not only click on an ad for “pizzeria in Chicago” but also place an order than someone who has never shown “foodie” characteristics before.

Just like affinity audiences, in-market audiences start general and become specific, like:

  • Employment

  • Financial Services

  • Food

    • Baked Goods – People interested in purchasing baked goods

    • Candy & Chocolate – People interested in purchasing candy or chocolate

    • Dairy & Eggs – People interested in purchasing eggs or dairy products such as milk or yogurt

    • Fast Food Meals – People interested in getting fast food for dine-in, pick-up or delivery

Using Audiences

Affinity and in-market audiences were primarily designed for display ads, ads that appear on websites–not the search results pages–when people search for a keyword. However, they can be used in search campaigns to find people who are the most likely to convert:

  • Affinity audiences identify people who are likely to convert – A “foodie” is much more likely to order a gourmet pizza than someone who is just looking for a quick lunch. So, showing ads for your pizza restaurant to “foodies” is more likely to result in sales.

  • In-market audiences identify people closer to making a purchase – For example, people who have been actively researching where to eat are farther down the sales funnel than people who have been watching dog videos for an hour and just suddenly realized it’s lunchtime.

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