Restaurant Ads: 13 Creative Advertising Ideas to Inspire You

By Katie McCann

Illustration of a laptop screen surrounded by illustrations of mail, chats, megaphone, and article

Build it and they will come…. or so they say!

Running your restaurant is only half the battle. You need to regularly remind people of your restaurant’s existence in order to drum up consistent business. Advertising keeps your restaurant top-of-mind for customers so that they keep coming back. 

If you think advertising is out of reach for your restaurant, think again. From DIY restaurant marketing to hiring an ad agency à la Mad Men to work their magic, you can find a way to spread the word about your restaurant on any budget. 

In this article you’ll learn:

  • Why you need to promote your restaurant through advertising
  • How to create an advertising campaign
  • How to measure the success of an advertising campaign
  • 13 ideas for restaurant ads – including print and digital 

Ready to make your restaurant the talk of the town?

The Importance of Advertising Your Restaurant

Whether your restaurant just celebrated its grand opening or its 25th anniversary, advertising is necessary at every stage.

New restaurants advertise to put themselves on the map. It helps people find out your business exists and shows potential customers what to expect from your restaurant.

If your restaurant has been around for a long time, advertising ensures customers keep coming back, a constant reminder that you’re open for business. Advertising can be used to boost sales during slow periods and spread the word about new food promotions. Digital advertising also helps established restaurants target very specific demographics.

staff member welcoming you into open restaurant door

Mad Men 101: How to Execute Your First Advertising Campaign 

Advertising is so much more than clever slogans. 

A lot goes into a successful ad campaign, but your dollars don’t always have to be one of those things. In fact, casual restaurants spend only about 5% of their revenue on advertising. Once you understand the components of creating an advertising campaign, you’ll be able to determine where to spend your budget most effectively. 

What Is an Ad Campaign?

An advertising campaign is a set of promotions (print, digital, or delivered in other ways) that help a business achieve a specific goal. The campaign targets a specific audience and runs for a finite period of time. Success is measured by key performance indicators that are determined as part of the ad strategy.

For example, let’s say that a vegan fast casual restaurant is opening in New York City. The owners want to run an ad campaign with the goal of getting people in the door for the grand opening. The campaign targets vegan Millennials living in Brooklyn and Manhattan and runs for three weeks prior to the opening of the restaurant. They get posters printed to place on street poles in the area and are running Facebook ads. The owners decide that their campaign will be successful if they are able to generate $5,000 in revenue on the first day.  

Now that you understand what an advertising campaign is holistically, let’s explore the components of an ad campaign in more detail. An advertising campaign consist of:

  1. Strategy
  2. Creative
  3. Distribution
  4. Analysis

Here’s a look at what each step includes and where you can go to outsource certain components.

1. Strategy

What is advertising strategy? An advertising strategy should include, at the bare minimum, a business goal, target audience, and timeline. Your goal will help you determine your audience and distribution channels (e.g. print vs. Facebook ads).

How to commission an advertising strategy: You can outsource your restaurant marketing strategy by hiring an advertising agency ($$$), a freelance advertising strategist ($$), or an advertising student ($).

2. Creative

“Creative” is advertising speak for the words and visuals that are part of your ad campaign. Here’s a breakdown of these two crucial components.


What is copy? Copy is a fancy way to say the words or messaging in your ad campaign. Copy can be as short as a slogan or as long as an advertorial article. Copy should always be focused on executing your campaign’s goal.

How to commission copy: When you hire an ad agency to create your campaign, their team will take care of your copywriting needs ($$$). If that’s out of your budget, work with a freelance copywriter ($$) or college student with copywriting experience ($). 


What are visuals? Unless you’re doing a radio or search engine marketing (SEM) ad campaign, you’ll need a visual accompany your copy. Be creative with the use of images or graphics, but stick to your restaurant’s branding to make sure customers recognize you.

How to commission visuals for an ad campaign: If you choose to use an ad agency, they will provide visuals as they work your campaigns ($$$). You can also hire a photographer or graphic designer ($$), or choose to buy stock imagery($). 

3. Distribution

What is ad distribution? Once you’ve prepared your campaign’s visuals and messaging, you need to get your ads where you want them to go. Today there are so many distribution channels for advertising – from traditional media like TV, radio, and print, to digital media like Facebook and blogs.

How to outsource ad distribution: If you’re working with an ad agency, they’ll handle distribution for you ($$$). If you want to hire a freelancer to help, search for a “media buyer” ($$). If you’re placing ads through traditional media outlets, you’ll need to contact the advertising department at the magazine, newspaper, TV station, or radio station directly for instructions on how to submit. Prices for each outlet can vary, so determine how much you want to spend before you ask. Your budget can help dictate which type of ads to go after.

4. Analysis

What is ad analysis? Analyzing your ad campaign helps you determine how successful it was. After all, if it didn’t do what you wanted, you wouldn’t want to do it again. This helps inform your advertising decisions.

How to outsource ad campaign analysis: If you worked with an ad agency, they’ll include reporting in their package ($$$). If you executed your restaurant ads campaign yourself, head to the next section for tips on how to measure its success (free).

two staff members analyzing marketing reporting

Measuring Restaurant Ad Success

The last step of your advertising campaign – analyzing if it was successful or not – is key to informing your future advertising efforts. 

But how do you know if your ad campaign was successful? 

Here are some simple methods for measuring the success of your restaurant marketing campaign. We’ve divided the methods into two: one set for digital ads and one set for traditional advertising.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is advertising that is mainly distributed online. Examples of digital ad platforms include Facebook Ads Manager and Google Ads. Here are some ways to track your success on digital advertising: 

  • Most online advertising platforms have robust analytics reporting dashboards. You can see how many people saw your ad, clicked on it, and converted.
  • Share a promo code and track how many times people use it at your restaurant (ex: use code WELCOME to get 10% off your first online order) 
  • Ask new customers how they heard about you in an email newsletter, and see if any answers trace back to your ad campaign.

Traditional Advertising

The success of traditional advertising platforms, like TV, radio, or print, is more difficult to track. Traditional media ads don’t let you track the direct action taken from seeing your ad the same way digital does. For example, you can see an exact number of people who viewed your Facebook ad through Ads Manager. You can’t find out exactly how many people heard a radio ad.

Here are some ways to make tracking the success of traditional ads more effective:

  • If you mail coupons to customers, keep track of how many of them are redeemed by collecting them when they are used. 
  • Share a specific discount code in TV or radio ads and keeping track of how many customers use the promo code when they dine in.
  • Track when you’re running traditional ads, and if you notice an influx of new customers or an increase in sales after running an ad campaign, you can likely attribute those upticks in business to the campaign. 
  • And the simplest method – ask customers how they heard about you.

The more information you gather about the success of your campaign, the better you will be able to optimize your strategy and creative to run an even more successful restaurant ad campaign the next time around.

13 Restaurant Ad Ideas to Spread the Word 

Now that you know why running ads is important and you understand what it takes to run and analyze an ad campaign, it’s time to create one for your restaurant. 

Here are 13 ad ideas to help build buzz around your restaurant.

Digital Restaurant Ad Ideas

1. Facebook Ad Campaign

Advertising on Facebook can help you gain more followers, get more calls, send people to your website, and more. Facebook’s Pixel lets easily you track how many people click through to your website, while the platform’s audience targeting lets you be very specific about who sees the ads.

2. Review Site Ads

Forty-five percent of diners check a restaurant’s online reviews in order to decide where to eat. Advertising on different review sites can give you exposure to a completely new customer base.

3. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine traffic is responsible for 88% of web traffic. Use Google Ads to help your restaurant show up at the top of search engine results when people search for “best pizza near me” or “Chinese food delivery Chicago.”

customer taking photos of two dishes

4. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a digital era celebrity endorsement. It involves engaging an influencer – someone who has a popular blog or lots of followers on Instagram – to share your restaurant with their audience in exchange for payment or goods.

5. Native Content

Also known as “sponsored content” or “advertorials,” native content is advertising – like an article or video – disguised as editorial content. Native content can be more effective than display ads because it is educational instead of salesy and doesn’t interrupt the user experience.

For example, if you own a cocktail bar in Atlanta, you might reach out to the Infatuation Atlanta’s advertising team to create an article sharing the recipe for your bar’s best-selling cocktail.

6. Coupons

Coupons are no longer just something you receive in the mail or clip out of a newspaper. Offer potential customers coupons for your restaurant through social media ads, Groupon, or your loyalty program.

Traditional Advertising Ideas for Restaurants 

7. Print Ads

“Print” refers to ads in magazines or newspapers. Local publications, like Edible Boston, are great for independent restaurants to reach their local audience. 

Ask the publication’s advertising department for information about their readership to make sure that their demographics match your campaign’s target audience. 

8. TV Commercial

TV commercials are probably the first things that come to mind when we think of ads. Nowadays commercials aren’t limited to TV. You can distribute multimedia commercials through cable networks, streaming services, and even YouTube.

9. Radio Ad

Call your local radio station to find out how you can get their DJ or announcer to read a message about your restaurant on air

Ask for information about listener demographics and consumer behavior to ensure a smart investment. 

10. Host an Event

If your restaurant is in an area that doesn’t get a lot of car or foot traffic, you may need to bring your restaurant to your customers by having an event. You could host a pop up at your neighborhood’s block party, rent out a food truck for a limited time, or even organize a picnic.

11. Partnerships

Partner with a complementary business to cross-promote each other’s offerings to your customers. 

For example, if your restaurant is health-based foods, partner with a local gym and give them coupons for a discount  to their members. In exchange, offer to distribute coupons for a free trial day at the gym to your customers. Win win!

12. Direct Mail Ads

Send existing customers (ask for their addresses through loyalty programs) or potential customers (by buying mailing lists) promotions in the mail in the form of postcards, letters, or brochures.

13. Billboard 

Billboards are hard to miss! They’re a great way to get the attention of locals who are driving near your restaurant or out-of-towners looking for a great place to eat.

Running restaurant ads is an important part of keeping your business afloat. Now that you understand the components of a successful campaign and know different methods for restaurant advertisements, decide what works best for you and conquer the world of advertising!

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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