You should begin promoting your restaurant two to three months before your grand opening.
Best restaurant promotion ideas you need to follow:
Create brand awareness for your restaurant before it’s open
Generate interest in your soft opening
Create momentum to sustain a steady flow of customers after your grand opening
Think of your pre-opening promotional activities as targeting the following diner segments:
Early adopters: Trendsetters who like to try new things. Early adopters are the people who will want to try your restaurant as soon as your doors are open. These folks buy into the buzz.
Early/late majority: People who will wait until the rush dies down. They’ll wait for reviews and recommendations to come in before making a decision. These folks thrive off momentum.
You’ll walk away from this section knowing how to:
Set up your restaurant website
Use social media to promote your restaurant
Establish a PR strategy
Plan promotions and campaigns
Plan and execute a soft opening
Create a returning customer base after your grand opening
While there are many ways to promote your restaurant – and you’ll want to be as creative as you can – this section will walk you through all the necessities of a healthy restaurant marketing plan.
One of the best restaurant promotion ideas is to build a website. Every restaurant needs a website. Many customers will read your menu online as they’re deciding where to dine, and you’ll want to make sure your menu is designed properly for desktop and mobile users.
We’ll take you through the components of a good website and search engine optimization, then walk you through building and designing your website.
Restaurant website homepage
Your homepage is your first impression – so make sure it’s a good one, because you only get one chance to communicate who you are as a business. Showcase any specials, upcoming events, or promotions – and make sure to add very obvious links to your menu.
Restaurant website menu
Display a web-based version of all your menus. Make sure they are desktop and mobile friendly. You’ll want to avoid PDF menus, as they are out of date and difficult to modify after you’ve posted them.
Restaurant website photos
Photos of your dining room will provide guests with a preview of your restaurant’s ambiance. You can choose to build out a separate web page for photos, or use photos of your interior as part of your overall website design.
Restaurant website events
List any upcoming events should in chronological order. Showcase recurring events as well.
Restaurant website about us page
Tell your origin story! If you have an interesting rationale for your concept, people will want to know. If applicable, include your mission statement, value statement, and core values.
Restaurant website Contact/reservations page
List essential information like your phone number, address, and operating hours. If you take online reservations or use a reservation platform, make sure users can easily book online on this page. Also make sure to include links to your social media channels on this page, and in the footer of all pages.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the best restaurant promotion ideas for a website is SEO. Google crawls the web on a regular basis, indexing web pages based on headlines, keywords, structured data, images, and other content on your website. Google and other search engines do this so that when someone searches for “Chinese food in Toronto”, results don’t include a pizzeria from Brooklyn.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website for search engine results, particularly Google. Your goal is to rank the highest on search engine page results (SERPs) when people use search terms that are relevant to your restaurant’s concept, type of food, and location.
There are several ways you can develop your website so that it’s optimized for Google’s indexing algorithm. Here are some basic best practices when you’re thinking about SEO.
Don’t plagiarize content because Google will know. Use original copy on your website that keeps people browsing. As you develop the content on your site after you open, post relevant videos, images, and links to reputable websites to improve your SEO ranking.
Research keywords that are relevant to your restaurant. Use Google Keyword Planner to get started. Enter your city and the term “restaurant”, click on your product category, and browse the results. Once you’ve researched relevant keywords, use them (naturally) into your web copy.
In the backend of your website, you’ll see a field for title tags. Title tags are what appear in Google search results, and they should be between 20 and 60 characters long. Be as straightforward as you can when using title tags. For your restaurant’s homepage, for example, use your restaurant’s name and your location for your title tag.
Your meta description is the brief description of text below the title tag displayed in search results. In your meta description, summarize your page in 150 characters or less. Use relevant keywords within your description.
Backlinks to your website
Note that when a “high authority” website links to your website, your SEO ranking improves. So if you can get media coverage, blog coverage, etc. from other websites that Google has already ranked highly, your website’s ranking will also improve.
Google My Business Page
Create a business listing on Google My Business to put your business on the map – literally. Google My Business lists your restaurant’s contact information and website in search results on all Google-related sites like Google Maps. Here’s how to set up an account.
Note that many website providers give you the option to secure a domain name through their platform. Go with an independent domain hosting company instead. Should you change website providers in the future, independents allow you to keep your domain name without complications.
Here are some tips for securing the right domain name for your website,
If your restaurant name by itself is unavailable, you’ll want to use keywords as well. The word “restaurant” or “pub” can usually suffice; they will also help search engines properly index your site.
Get a .com domain.
When you purchase your domain name, many providers will attempt to lure you into buying other domains like .net or .co. For the most part, this is unnecessary. A .com address is all you need.
If you’re a Canadian restaurant and your desired .com domain is unavailable, consider purchasing a .ca domain instead. American restaurants with hopes of moving into the Canadian market may also want to consider securing a .ca domain name.
Register your domain name under your own name.
As the owner, you should be the domain owner and contact. Registering a domain under someone else’s name is a pricey risk. If that person severs ties with your business, you’ll need to pay them out for the domain or start from scratch with a new one.
Inspect your domain name’s past.
If your domain name’s previous owner violated the terms and conditions of search engines, your search results may be affected. Use a tool like MXtoolbox to check a domain name’s health.
Don’t buy a domain name that is too similar to a competitor.
If the domain name you choose is too close to a competitor’s trademark, you could get in legal trouble.
Renew your domain annually.
The domain hosting company will prompt you for payment, but mark a renewal date on your calendar. If you don’t renew, the provider could turn your website off and post your domain name for sale. The last thing you want is for a competitor to snag your domain name and steal your website traffic.
Design your website
When it’s time to design your website – fun! – you have two options:
Design your own website using a design platform
Hire a freelancer to create, manage, and maintain your website
Here’s what you need to consider when designing your own website.
Templates are intuitive and pre-built
You’ll have more control over your own pictures, text, and links
You have complete control over changes, design, and adjustments
If you need to change something, you can do it quickly
Many providers also have plugins built for restaurant-specific activities, like online reservations
You’ll spend more time learning how to use the platform
You’re responsible for learning about SEO, installing backend updates, and keeping content updated
You’re reliant on the platform you’re using – and stuck with any of its limitations
If a glitch occurs, you’ll have to rely on the platform provider to help you
Basic to premium templates range between $35–$200.
pro tip: make sure your website is mobile responsive so diners can easily navigate your menu on their cell phone.
Here’s what you need to consider when hiring a freelance web designer.
You’ll spend less time on the development of your website
You can lean on the expertise of someone who knows how to design a website
Designers can create a custom template
Designers can maintain your website for you
Some developers have expertise in SEO
Web developers can handle custom patches or complex website integrations
You’re paying more for your website
You’re relying on someone else to make changes for you
Complete custom website: $5,000–$10,000+
Ongoing content population and maintenance: $50–$80 per hour
Social Media Marketing for Restaurants
Social media marketing for restaurants: it’s no longer a “nice to have”. It’s a must.
You’ll use social media to:
Spread awareness of your restaurant’s brand
Tantalize prospective customers with pictures of your dishes
Form and maintain relationships with your customers
Encourage customer loyalty
At a minimum, you’ll want to create a company page on Facebook and an account on Instagram because:
They are visual
They provide access to a large target audience
They allow you to create effective advertisements
How to set up a Facebook page for your restaurant
Visit www.facebook.com and login to your personal Facebook page. Select Create a Page. When you create a page, it will be linked to your personal Facebook page. If you don’t have a personal Facebook page, you’ll need to create one.
Select a category and a subcategory. The best category for your restaurant is “Local Business or Place”, as this page category allows your customers to review your restaurant, tag your restaurant location in posts, and view your restaurant on a map. Other page categories don’t have this functionality.
Fill in your information and click Get Started.
Select a profile picture and banner photo. Use your logo as your profile picture. For your banner, you can get creative. Since you’re not open yet, consider creating a banner that announces your grand opening date and perhaps mentions a promotion or incentive.
Edit the call-to-action button on your banner depending on what you would like people to do after they visit your page.
Edit all your Page Info fields. Remember: the more information you include, the better.
Edit your Page Settings. As you’re editing and designing your Facebook page, feel free to set it to “Private”. Make sure your page visibility is set to “Public” before you promote it.
Start posting content about your grand opening, your menu, your staff, employment opportunities, and promotions. Anything that will pique interest in your restaurant!
Additional features to note:
Tagging ability allows people to tag themselves and friends in photos at your restaurant. You’ll likely want to turn this feature on, as it defaults to off.
Similar page suggestions: Facebook offers suggestions based on similar pages. Turn this function on if you’d like to be suggested when someone likes a similar page.
How to set up an Instagram account for your restaurant
On your smartphone, download the Instagram app and create a new account.
Enter your restaurant’s name as your user name. As with other platforms, if your name is taken, use your location or your restaurant’s concept. The key is to make it easy to remember.
Add your logo as your profile picture.
Once you’ve completed the initial setup, click Edit Profile.
Add your website to your bio.
Customize your bio. You only have 150 characters, so keep it brief. Your cuisine type, location, and a brief summary of your mission will do. If you have a motto or tagline, you can add it if space permits.
Select Instagram for Business Tools. This will allow you to:
Learn about your followers using post performance metrics
Create ads and promotions
Access Instagram for Business functions, including a contact button
Connect your Facebook Page. To do this, your Facebook page must be published. Private, unfinished pages won’t be able to connect to this feature.
Add any business contact information that’s missing.
Click Contact Options to enable the app to access your contact information from Facebook.
Remember that Instagram is all about the great pictures of your food and your venue. A few pre-promotional posting ideas are:
Pictures of your food!
Behind-the-scenes pictures of your venue (even if it’s under construction)
Pictures of your staff
Plan Promotions and Campaigns
Now that you’ve built your website and established your social media marketing profiles for your restaruant, it’s time to start the generating the promotions and campaigns what will create buzz.
First, you’ll want to gather a bit of help.
Partners help build your brand reputation, give you access to a broader audience, and generate excitement for your restaurant’s grand opening. At this stage, the goal of your partnerships is to access your target market through like-minded businesses and introduce them to your concept.
Choose partners who:
Have a similar target market to you
Are in line with your brand
Express interest in mutual collaboration
Here’s who you can approach to build your initial brand partnerships.
Choose a charity that aligns with your mission statement or with your personal core values. Make sure the partnership is natural and genuine, as the public might perceive an inauthentic partnership as hollow. Choose a foundation that is active in your neighborhood and city to maximize the benefits of the relationship.
Some local charities will promote you to their email database if you sponsor a benefit or a fundraiser. If you have the opportunity to cater an event, you’ll be generating interest in your menu.
Chambers of Commerce are networks that connect local businesses and create pro-business initiatives. You can join a chamber of commerce at the community, city, state, and national level.
When you join a chamber of commerce, you’re gaining a voice in your business community and access to a huge network. In a 2012 study, Schapiro Group found that “if respondents know that a small business is a member of its local chamber, the business enjoys a 49% increase in its consumer favorability rating, a 73% increase in consumer awareness, a 68% increase in its local reputation, and an 80% increase in the likelihood that consumers will patronize the business in the future.”
Other membership benefits include:
Credibility to your business
Visibility for your restaurant
Conduit for forming partnerships
Access to local events and programs
Opportunity to acquire customers based on your membership
Membership fees depend on your restaurant’s size and number of employees. Typically, membership costs between $30–40 per month with a $300–$700 annual fee.
Go back to your competitor analysis. Take a look at your competitors’ offerings and determine how your businesses actually align. While your offer for mutual support will have more legs when you’re up and running, start warming up the relationship before you open. Invite these business owners to your soft opening and grand opening. Start the relationship early so you can work together later.
A public relations (PR) plan will raise media and consumer awareness of your restaurant. Successful pre-opening PR draws much needed attention to your grand opening.
The essence of PR is to craft a story that is newsworthy so news publications will write about it.
Do this in three steps for your grand opening:
Build a media list.
Your list should include the name, email, phone number, Instagram/Twitter profiles, and website of the following media:
Local print media publications
Individual food journalists
Local social media influencers
Create a grand opening press release.
A press release is short, one-page document that delivers news to the media. In distributing a press release to the media, the hope is that they will create a news story from it after following up with you. But you have to do the heavy lifting for them. Give them the context, convey the relevance of your business and story, and outline the necessary information in a way that piques their interest. If you fail to entice the media, they will pass over your news.
Questions you should answer in your press release:
What is your restaurant’s concept and cuisine?
Why did you open your restaurant?
When are you opening? (city, neighborhood, and address)
What do you offer and how are you different?
What are your specialties?
What is your ambiance like?
Press release best practices:
Keep the press release to a single page or 300-500 words
Use basic font (Times New Roman or Arial) at 10 or 12 pts
Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors
Don’t use industry jargon or acronyms
Get to the point. Avoid fluff or marketing jargon. Write with the question, “Why should the reporter care?” in mind
Include a clear call-to-action at the end of your release. For example: Join us for our grand opening!
This is how to format a press release:
Headline: Use action words to grab a reader’s attention. Keep your headline under 100 characters. This should answer the question, “Why should diners care?” and it should highlight the most interesting thing about your concept.
Example: New Restaurant in Williamsburg Serves Diners in the Dark
Dateline: The dateline appears at the beginning of the first paragraph. It is composed of the nearest metropolitan area to your restaurant, province or state, and the date of the press release.
Example: CHICAGO, Illinois, June 2, 2018 –
Opening paragraph: This begins right after the dateline. Your opening paragraph should immediately grab attention and communicate essential information about your restaurant and its opening date. It should answer the 5 W’s: who, what, when where, when, why, and how.
You can also mention partnerships with charities should your grand opening be raising funds to support a cause.
Body: Expand on your opening paragraph. Include background information on the opening of your restaurant and your menu. This is where you answer:
What do you offer?
How are you different from others who offer the same thing?
What are your specialties?
What is your ambiance?
In the body, include a quote. As the owner, you’ll want to convey why you’re excited to open and what you plan on offering your prospective customers.
Call to action paragraph: Invite readers to attend your restaurant once it’s open. Include your contact information and phone number.
Boilerplate conclusion: This is your short “About Us” statement. It should be no longer than five sentences. Answer when you founded your restaurant, what you serve, your location, and your website. Press and customers alike should be able to scan it and gather information quickly.
Distribute your press release.
Send your press release out to your media list.
Don’t: send a batch email to all media.
Do: send separate, personalized emails to every member of the media on your list.
In your PR email:
Use a sharp subject line: Consider using the headline of your press release.
Address the media member directly: Use their name.
Explain the relevance: Describe why your restaurant’s opening would appeal to this person. Do they often write about local restaurant openings that fit your concept? Have they expressed that they’d like a particular dish? Make the email personal.
Include the press release in the body of the email: Attachments could flag your email as spam.
You can also use a wire service. The benefits of distributing a press release using a wire are that you access a significant amount of media at once. The downside is that you pay for it. Memberships to wire services range from $200–$1,000+ dollars.
Now that you’ve built your digital platforms and caught the media’s attention, it’s time to turn your efforts to the public.
Your promo campaigns will give people a reason to come to your restaurant. At this early stage, your promotions should seek to:
Inform customers of your menu
Establish your brand’s personality
Incentivize the public to come to your new restaurant
Here are some restaurant promo ideas to get you started.
Free appetizer coupons: Offer a free appetizer. For the sake of your bottom line, make sure this item has a low food cost percentage.
Discount coupon: Create coupons that give the diner a dollar amount off their meal. Don’t forget to include a disclaimer limiting the coupon to one per guest or one per bill.
Deal coupon: Offer a drink and meal for a set price. Again, choose a food item that has a low food cost percentage. For example: a burger and a beer combo.
Flyers: Distribute flyers by hand, in your local newspaper or by direct mail. Include:
Your business’s name and logo
Discount opportunities and freebies at the opening
A personalized message to invite customers
Date and location
Social media accounts
Phone number and website for reservations if needed
Print take-home menus: Print and distribute take-home menus before your grand opening so that prospective guests get a sneak peek at what you’ll be offering. Bonus: They’ll have the menu on-hand for take-out orders later.
Banners and signage: Sidewalk signs and grand opening banners capture the attention of foot and vehicle traffic. Indicate the date of your grand opening, your website, and any promotions, like a band or free appetizer plates.
Your first choice should be to use your graphic designer to create promotional materials. If budget dictates that you should create your promotional materials in-house, use one of the following programs. They come complete with easy-to-customize templates.
A soft opening (also known as a soft launch) is a limited opening of your restaurant before your grand opening. Most restaurants host soft openings two to three weeks before their grand opening. You can run more than one soft opening if your budget allows for it. The purpose of a soft opening is to test:
Soft openings give you an opportunity to iron out any kinks in a controlled setting. (And before customers have the chance to leave public reviews.)
While it may be tempting to open your doors to the public right away, a soft opening will enable you to:
Train staff in a live service scenario under less pressure. If you have a personal relationship with your soft opening guests, they’ll be more forgiving of rough patches in the service.
Test your concept with real guests. Make adjustments and changes according to their feedback.
Get procedural feedback from staff. If something isn’t working either in the kitchen or the front of house, address it before you open. By taking this feedback early on, you establish an open team dynamic from the start.
Generate buzz! When word of your soft opening spreads, it’ll get rest of the local dining population eating.
Invite people in your network who will provide you with honest feedback. Since they know you personally and understand you’re still in test-run mode, they’ll be understanding of kinks in the system. Ask friends, family, your network. If you lack numbers, ask your staff’s network. The goal is to invite people who will give you honest feedback, without compromising return business.
If you’re planning on running a few soft openings, use one to host a “locals party.” Use this opportunity to connect with neighbors, complementary businesses, and active community members. If you’ve joined your local chamber of commerce, invite connections from there. If you’re near a residential area, pass out exclusive invitations to residents on nearby blocks.
You can test your breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus and service in a series of individual soft openings. One day, test lunch. Another day, test dinner. This progressive approach gives your staff a chance to reflect and adjust between services. Then combine services (lunch and dinner in a single day) and add in multiple seatings per service. By the time you open, your staff will have gathered enough experience to handle a busy night.
The decision you make depends on the menu you choose to offer guests. You can:
Offer a discount to guests on a full or partial menu
Create a prix-fixe menu for guests to choose from using a single price
Offer free samples and hors d’oeuvres to thank guests for their time and feedback
A printed invitation is a nice personal touch. But if your budget is slim, send a digital invite to the people you know personally and deliver a printed version to business partners and people you don’t know.
Deliver a printed invitation by hand to local businesses or residential neighbors to put a face to your restaurant. You might even get the chance to speak with a future patron, and print invitations give the person something physical to remember you by.
Here’s what to include on your invitation:
Specify that it is a “soft” opening
Any discount you’re offering
Event information (date, time, address)
Contact information (email and phone number)
Social media handles
You’ll need a way to capture valuable guest feedback. On your comment cards, include the following:
Please help us improve! Do you have any other feedback?
Would you like to be on our email list? ____________________
Would you like to follow us on social media? (include social media handles)
Post-soft opening tasks
Review customer feedback
Meet with kitchen and front-of-house staff to discuss wins, obstacles, and opportunities for improvement
Make adjustments to service, food, operations, and your kitchen layout
Give guests a coupon or discount to get them to come back
Your Grand Opening
The time has finally come – you’re about to open your doors! Your grand opening is as much a celebration of your hard work as it is a test of that work, so take a moment to feel proud that you’ve made it this far. So many people haven’t!
Here’s some guidance on how to execute your perfect grand opening, also known as one of the best days of your life.
As with your press release emails, make it personal. Send each member of the media a printed invitation. Then, follow up with an email invitation. Depending on responses you get, you may even follow up with a phone call.
Local business owners
If applicable, distribute grand opening invitations to local business partners at your soft launch. This is a great way to affirm the relationship. Alternatively, mail or hand deliver your invitations.
Politicians and influential community members. As with the media, give them personal attention. Send a physical invitation. Follow up with an email invitation and a phone call.
As you did with your “locals event”, distribute flyers door-to-door or through a direct mail campaign. Make custom invitations for your neighbors to make them feel special.
During your grand opening, your restaurant is under the microscope. If space allows, invite some of your network. It’s nice to have friendly, supportive faces rooting you on.
pro-tip: hire a photographer. photographers can come at a high cost, but consider hiring a student or semi-professional looking to get experience. that way, you’ll have some high-resolution images of the night to add to your social media pages.
Full menu: Some restaurants choose to run a full menu on their grand opening night.
The pros: the diners who attend get a realistic picture of what customers can expect on the daily. The cons: you risk overwhelming the kitchen on a critical night. A full menu gives you slightly less control than tapas samplings or a prix fixe.
Tapas samplings: Give all attendees a taste of your menu. Tapas gives the media a broad sweep of dishes to write about. They also have a chance to taste the full flavor of your menu. As a plus, everyone is sharing.
Prix fixe: No patron will leave hungry, and you have greater control over the course of the evening. Your kitchen can prep according to more appropriate portions. Plus, prix fixe menus are less stressful on service staff and back-of-house operations.
Grand opening ideas
Hire a live band
Is there a loved local band in your neighborhood that aligns with your concept? Invite them to play during your grand opening.
Platters and hors d’oeuvres
No matter which menu strategy you choose, distribute free food and drink.
Partner with a local charity
Go back to your charity partnership and support them during your grand opening. Donate some of your grand opening proceeds or raise funds through a raffle.
Make a short speech
There’s no better way to connect with your guests than to say a few brief words about how excited you are that your doors are open.
Thank guests for coming
Share your hopes for the future
Share why you opened your restaurant
Thank your staff
Encourage continued feedback
Make it a week long
Instead of limiting your grand opening to a day, have a grand opening week. Promote something different each day, and spread out your invitations.
Host a private dinner for media
After your opening night, host an exclusive dinner for media alone. Give them a tour of your restaurant. Introduce them to your chef. Explain your story. Provide them with personal attention and a lunch or dinner service all to themselves.
Post-grand opening tasks
Give your guests a swag bag filled with some of the following items:
A takeaway food item
Merchandise, like a branded pen.
A business card
Inform your guests of upcoming events
To keep your attendees coming back, make sure you’ve got another event or special night on the horizon. It doesn’t have to be anything big, even live music or nights that feature a discounted food item will do. The point is to inform them that you’re keeping the ball rolling.
Ask guests to join your mailing list
It’s important to capture their information when you’re still top of mind after your grand opening.
Post and tag images on Facebook, and start filling your Facebook and Instagram pages with relevant content. Respond to social media any comments, tags, or mentions, and follow up with media thanking them for their attendance. Send an email thanking all guests for attending and provide them with an incentive to return. In your email include your social media information and any upcoming events.
Remember that marketing is flexible, creative, and customizable to your concept. In this section we covered the basics of your restaurant website, social media, PR, promotions, campaigns, your soft opening, and your grand opening – but feel free to get creative and research other marketing tactics that may work for your concept.
Marketing is an ever-changing field that’s worth learning about, but the most important thing to remember about great marketing is that it’s about building relationships. Whether that’s through word of mouth or online, you should always be focused on building relationships with as many customers and prospective customers as possible. You never know where those relationships may take you.
Silvia is the former Digital Marketing Manager for TouchBistro. During her time with TouchBistro, she managed and coordinated content for the RestoHub blog.