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By Dana Krook
The restaurant industry is a competitive space, and you need unique restaurant marketing ideas if you want your venue to stand out.
Whether you’re opening your very first business or you’ve got half a dozen venues to your name, creative restaurant marketing is vital to attract new diners and to ensure your regulars keep coming back again and again.
The challenge is, restaurant marketing and promotions can take many forms, and not every strategy will resonate with every diner. As a result, it’s important to test out different types of restaurant marketing ideas and trends to see what resonates most with your target audience.
To help you create a marketing strategy for your specific restaurant, we’ve created a handy guide to all the different promotion ideas you can try. In this article, you’ll find 31 restaurant marketing ideas and trends that will help to drive traffic and boost profits.
Everything you need to know about social media, digital marketing, SEO, and more!
Your marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 31 creative restaurant marketing ideas you can put to the test.
Developing a recognizable brand is one of the most effective marketing strategies, and yet many restaurants overlook this process. In order to make sure customers remember your restaurant long after they’ve dined with you, it’s important to define your brand identity.
Though it will take a little creativity on your end, building your brand can be done in just a few simple steps:
Step 1: Develop a restaurant mission statement that sums up why your restaurant exists and what purpose it serves. For example, Sweetgreen’s “mission is to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.”
Step 2: Position your brand within the market by determining how your price, product, promotion, and place compare to other restaurants in your area.
Step 3: Develop your brand voice. This refers to the tone and language you use when communicating with customers.
Step 4: Develop your brand’s look and feel. This includes everything from your logo to your decor. For example, Dunkin’ is synonymous with bright orange and pink font.
Once you’ve solidified your brand’s identity, ensure all your marketing materials have a cohesive look and feel that customers will remember. Align your restaurant slogans and taglines with your brand voice.
Diners now use search engines like Google to find restaurants and review menus online before deciding where to eat. By building an active and updated restaurant website, you can reach new customers who are searching for a delicious place to eat. If you aren’t online, you risk losing that business to competitors that will pop up when people search for where to go to eat.
To build your website, follow these four steps:
Step 1: Prepare by browsing the Internet for restaurant website design inspiration and finding similar sites.
Step 2: Decide on the colors and layout for your site, then start collecting all the information you want to include.
Step 3: Create your site by choosing a website name, using a website builder (i.e. Wix, Squarespace, etc.), and adding a reservation or online ordering widget.
Step 4: Hit publish and inform family and friends that your site is up and running.
While you’re building your website, make sure you’re mindful of where you’re including key business information – your menu, contact information, hours, and location are some important places to start!
You’ll also want to optimize your restaurant website by keeping the following best practices in mind:
These days, people eat with their eyes almost the same way they eat with their stomachs. In other words, if your food photography isn’t top-notch some customers may take their business elsewhere.
To ensure your menu images are top quality, keep the following tips in mind:
Not confident in your food photography skills? Hire a professional to take high-quality images that will take your restaurant promotions to the next level.
Potential customers are hungry and looking to find out what your restaurant has to offer in as little time as possible. In fact, 77% of diners visit a restaurant’s website before they dine at or order out from a venue.
Help customers find exactly what they’re looking for by updating your online restaurant menu. When posting your menu online, just keep the following best practices in mind:
Strategic menu design has been proven to grow profits by 15%.
If you work with third-party delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash, you have a lot of restaurant marketing options right at your fingertips.
Though every company is a bit different, most offer easy advertising options for your restaurant. These tools can help you increase your reach and visibility on these apps, and ensure that your venue appears at the top when customers search for a specific type of cuisine or for restaurants in a specific area. For example, Uber Eats lets you set up Sponsored Listings, which put your restaurant front and center in the Uber Eats feed for a designated period of time. Just keep in mind that these kinds of promotions come with extra fees.
Local searches such as “restaurants near me” account for a large portion of all restaurant searches online. When potential guests type this query into Google, they’ll see three top search results.
Getting your restaurant to show up in these searches doesn’t have to be complicated – the most important step to take is simply having a profile set up!
Having a profile on sites like Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor will naturally improve your chances of getting listed in these top three results and benefit from more bookings and more money.
In addition to adding your restaurant to these sites, you should also optimize your listings by taking the following steps:
As mentioned, Google is one of the top online directories you need to be listed on. So if you aren’t already set up with Google My Business, now is the time to start.
Google My Business is free, easy to use, and allows you to manage your online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. This helps guests find you more easily through various marketing tactics that keep guests engaged.
When updating your Google My Business profile, make sure to check the following:
As mentioned above, responding to reviews – even negative ones – can be a powerful restaurant marketing strategy.
When dealing with positive reviews, always thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave a review. This is also a great place to engage with diners and turn your new fans into loyal regulars.
If you’re responding to a negative review, you should also start by thanking the reviewer for taking the time to submit their feedback. You should then apologize and promise to improve in the future. By playing the gracious host and keeping your tone polite and professional, it gives your restaurant a reputation of transparency. It shows that you’re not afraid to confront your flaws and to use them as a learning opportunity to do better.
You may even be able to win over a customer who had a negative experience by reaching out to them privately and offering them a gift card if they’re interested in giving you a second chance. This can be an especially savvy move if you’re dealing with a food blogger or Yelper with a large following.
More and more customers use restaurant reservation apps like TouchBistro Reservations when deciding where to eat out – in fact, 4 in ten tables served are tables booked through a reservation. Reservation apps let diners search for restaurants in their area and make bookings all in one place. It’s also a great way for diners to find new restaurants to try in their area.
Being on these apps is a great restaurant marketing strategy – and a great way to pull in new business – because of all the exposure you gain. Getting listed on these apps improves your chances of getting your regular customers to book a table and exposure to new ones.
To make sure you’re getting the most exposure possible from restaurant reservations apps, focus on the following:
Social media is only growing in popularity, as both a platform for personal expression and a method for businesses to communicate with potential clients.
But choosing the right platforms can be difficult as there are so many – and new ones popping up constantly. Do you really need a profile on every new platform?
We recommend starting with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – and making them shine.
Your social media strategy will differ between platforms, but to start, create your profiles and then focus on these social media tips across platforms:
While simply having active social media accounts is great for business, an even better restaurant marketing idea is to use those accounts to engage with customers.
Think of your social media accounts as a two-way conversation. Instead of simply telling your followers why your restaurant is so great, you should be inviting them to tell you what they think and then using that feedback to improve the customer experience.
To get the conversation going, you can use polling and question features on Facebook and Instagram. This could be about anything from what people think about your new logo to guessing what a new menu item will be. Asking questions is an easy way to get your followers to engage with your posts and to interact with you, rather than simply scrolling to the next piece of content.
Drive sales and brand awareness with our free social media templates for restaurants.
Another way to engage with your fans on social media? User-generated content.
User-generated content refers to photos, videos, posts, and other forms of social media made by your guests. You can repost any user-generated content about your restaurant that you find online, just as long as you credit the original source in the social media post.
For example, let’s say a popular Instagram food influencer posts a tasty picture of one of your best-selling dishes to their Instagram Stories. Here’s how to repost their picture to your own Instagram Stories:
While Instagram Stories are one of the easiest types of user-generated content to repost, you can follow a similar process for reposting photos on your Instagram feed, Twitter feed, or Facebook page. Regardless of what platform you’re using, reposting user-generated content is an easy form of restaurant promotion because your fans are essentially doing all the heavy lifting of creating great content for you.
User-generated content also can also have a great return on investment. By reposting photos and videos from your guests, it shows that you’re in touch with your community. It also gives other customers an opportunity to hear from their peers (instead of from you) that your business is worth the visit. And with 79% of people saying that user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decision, this could mean a lot of new business for your restaurant.
People are bombarded with emails and online messages via social media. Stand out from the competition and win over new diners by using an old-school marketing method like direct mail.
Direct mail involves using your local post office or courier service to send promotional materials like flyers or postcards to either existing diners in your database or new audiences from an area or neighborhood you’d like to reach – you could even target both!
For example, you could hand-write a postcard and send them to customers in the neighborhood, inviting them to a special event like a menu launch. Alternatively, you could try:
When you send out coupons, make sure there’s a unique code on them (e.g. SPRINGBOGO, COFFEE4LIFE, APPHOUR). If people come in with that specific code, you can track the discount within your POS and get a good idea of how successful the campaign was.
Whether it’s a banner, a sidewalk sign, or even a digital display, in-store signage can be a perfect vehicle for restaurant promotions.
When updating your restaurant signage, keep the following in mind:
Let your customers know how to order takeout and delivery from you.
Loyal customers are the backbone of any business – and a huge boost to your bottom line! A loyalty program can actually increase your sales by up to 30%.
In the case of your restaurant, customer loyalty is a diner’s willingness to come back to the same business again and again. Naturally, to earn their loyalty, you need to provide a great customer experience and delicious food.
But how is this a marketing tactic? Create a restaurant reward program as a way to incentivize return business. For example, you could try offering rewards programs at your coffee shop – people get points when they get their morning coffee and those points go towards free drinks or food. What’s more motivating than earning a free latte or scone?
Of all the restaurant marketing ideas and trends, email marketing might offer the best bang for your buck. A whopping 59% of people say that marketing emails influence their purchase decisions, and email consistently generates the highest return on investment of any marketing channel at $38 for every $1 spent.
And while it may seem intimidating, getting started with restaurant email marketing is actually quite easy. The first step is finding an Email Service Provider (ESP), which is a service designed to help you to build email lists and send emails to your subscribers. Your best bet is to choose a service that’s integrated with your restaurant loyalty program (if you have one), so you can easily reach everyone in your rewards program. However, you can also use a standalone ESP such as Mailchimp, Sendinblue, or Benchmark.
Once you have your ESP up and running, here are some common restaurant marketing ideas for email:
Learn how to set up an email marketing strategy for your business in 6 easy steps.
Speaking of emails, one of the most common types of email marketing for restaurants is a newsletter. A newsletter is an email that delivers the latest news or updates from your restaurant. It can also feature engaging content such as blog posts, staff stories, recipes, restaurant promotions, and more. Your restaurant’s newsletters can take many different forms and be sent at different frequencies (i.e. once a week, once a month, quarterly, etc.).
Unlike sporadic emails, a restaurant newsletter is a great restaurant marketing idea because the regular, predictable cadence of these restaurant emails helps to keep your restaurant top of mind, nurture customers, build relationships, and foster long-term loyalty.
If you’re a venue that already offers free WiFi, then you can take advantage of WiFi marketing for restaurants.
WiFi marketing is the process of collecting a customer’s name and email in exchange for free WiFi so that you can market to them at a future date to encourage them to come back for another meal with you.
Here’s how it typically works:
To get started with WiFi marketing and drive more repeat customers, follow these steps:
Step 1: Contact your local Internet service provider and set up a WiFi connection.
Step 2: Find a provider to manage your WiFi marketing campaigns. The provider should offer reporting features, campaign execution, and a social media connection. Examples of providers include Aislelabs or Social WiFi.
Step 3: Set up an automated email trigger to create your first campaign.
Step 4: Track campaign success by looking at metrics like coupon redemption rates.
In addition to email, your restaurant marketing plan should also include SMS marketing. SMS stands for Short Message Service and it’s more commonly known as texting.
SMS marketing for restaurants allows you to drive brand awareness, amplify promotions, build a database of contacts, engage with customers, and even promote brand loyalty. It’s a convenient, effective, and – best of all – instant way to stay in touch with staff and customers.
If you’re interested in SMS marketing, keep the following best practices in mind:
People often make purchases based on social media referrals. They’re also more likely to buy something if the referral comes from someone they trust. Enter the food influencers.
Influencers are people who have large social media followings, and because they have such a large following, are able to have some type of influence over brands or products their followers buy. Over years of good content and engagement, they’ve built up their following and their credibility – people trust their recommendations.
You can benefit from the work that foo influencers do and fill more tables in your restaurant by getting these influential guests to try – and ideally recommend – your restaurant in exchange for a fee. A positive recommendation on social media will encourage some of the influencer’s followers to visit your establishment and try your food.
To get started with food influencer marketing:
Digital advertising is a form of advertising that lets you target particular demographics online. Two well-known digital advertising platforms include Google Ads and Facebook Ads Manager.
On both platforms, you pay a fee, usually cost per click (CPC), to display an advertisement. This type of ad can drive people to your site, inform them of a new product, help you get their emails, and boost your social media following – all of which play a role in getting more customers and increasing revenue.
However, digital advertising can get pricey. Before you dive into this direction, do your research! There are a ton of great how-to resources available for creating Google or Facebook ad campaigns – it’s worth giving them a read before throwing your time and money into it.
Ever wonder why some restaurants show up in a Google search, while others don’t? It’s all thanks to search engine optimization (SEO).
In the simplest terms, SEO means making changes to your website to ensure it comes up when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines. The goal of restaurant SEO is to get more traffic to your site, and more traffic means more potential customers.
SEO is one of the top restaurant marketing ideas and starting out can be as easy as making these simple changes:
Another popular SEO and restaurant marketing tactic is starting a blog. A blog featuring relevant keywords not only helps you improve your search rankings, but it can also help to drive more traffic to your website and increase brand awareness.
If you have the time to invest in it, consider creating a blog for your restaurant’s website. On your blog you can share everything from news and important updates, to recipes and lifestyle trends. For instance, popular Toronto brunch spot Mildred’s Temple Kitchen has devoted most of its blog to sharing breakfast recipes and answering FAPQs (Frequently Asked Pancake Questions).
Good news is good for business. So whether you finally cracked a top 10 list, won a major award, or made a recent impact on your community, make sure you share it.
As soon as you have positive news about your restaurant, share it directly with the people who report on those kinds of stories. Many newspapers, television, and radio stations have journalists who specialize in pieces on the hospitality industry or “feel good” stories from the community. You can make it even easier for reporters by creating a press release for them to reference.
If you’re really looking to amplify your media coverage, you might even consider hiring a PR firm that specializes in food and beverage businesses.
In 2019, research by BRP Consulting found that 38% of dining experiences now involve smartphones or mobile devices. And this number has only increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In other words, the best way to reach your customers is through their phones, and that’s where a web app comes in. Unlike a mobile app, a web app like TouchBistro’s Customer Web App runs in a browser, which means customers can access it from their phone, tablet, or any other device (without the need to actually download anything from an app store). In other words, a web app is essentially a website with all the benefits of a mobile app.
Creating a web-based restaurant app is one of the best restaurant marketing ideas because it offers a whole host of benefits, including:
Food holidays are a great way for restaurants to drum up excitement for even the most ordinary drinks and dishes. And with a national food holiday for just about every dish, there are countless opportunities to celebrate.
If you want to take advantage of National Pizza Day, National Margarita Day, or any other food-themed holidays, try these creative restaurant marketing ideas:
Who doesn’t love an event centered around food?
Events are a great way to market your business because they get people talking. And people talking about your business is (usually) a good thing. It’s also a great way to reach a completely new audience.
For example, if you’re a sports bar, you could host a “game night special” for people who are into reality TV, like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Throw in a drink special – Will You Accept this Rosé cocktail, for example – and you’re halfway there.
Think outside the box when it comes to holiday specials. For example, you can host an Easter egg hunt to appeal to a crowd of families with kids. There are so many ideas when it comes to Easter restaurant promotions, and holiday marketing in general, to keep the buzz going long after your event is over.
Make sure to promote these events early, and you’ll have a packed house in no time.
Beyond optimizing your website for local SEO, you can also leverage other local networks.
Start by searching for neighborhood and city-wide Facebook groups. These groups come with a built in audience of people who are interested in hearing from local businesses just like yours. Just be sure to abide by the rules of each group and try not to publish your restaurant promotions too frequently.
Beyond social media, you can also leverage more traditional forms of local advertising. Create a press release whenever you have news to share about your restaurant, and send it to any relevant newspapers, blogs, and other local media outlets.
Coupons and discounts are classic restaurant marketing ideas that work just as well today as they did decades ago.
Popular restaurant promotion ideas include:
While these kinds of restaurant promotions are relatively straightforward, just remember to keep the following in mind:
A surefire way to get your customers engaging with your restaurant is to host a contest or giveaway. This can be as simple as a social media giveaway, or as complex as a multi-platform contest with a major prize at the end. No matter what format you choose, restaurant contests are a great way to attract new business and increase customer engagement. In fact, research shows that brands gain an average of 17,500 social media fans and 34% of new customers through contests alone.
To get you started, here are five popular restaurant contest ideas:
Your staff should be more than just chefs and servers – they should be your biggest fans!
You want them to be proud of the work they’re doing, the food they serve, and feel valued. When all of these things line up, your staff will naturally turn into people who spread the word about your business. After all, they know they work at the place that serves the best grub in town and the team is amazing; why wouldn’t they tell everybody they know about it?
This will happen naturally when you take care of your team. Make sure they know their work is appreciated by offering competitive wages, performance incentives, and regular praise and feedback. When you look out of your team, they’ll naturally look out for you as well.
It’s clear that there’s no shortage of restaurant marketing ideas – from social media hacks to more traditional forms of advertising. You can tackle some simpler ones to get started, and as you get comfortable, flex your inner marketer with some more complicated implements. The only thing left to do is choose which restaurant promotions you’ll start with.
Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.
By Tommy Truong
By Katherine Pendrill
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