With such a focus on food, customer service, and costs, it’s easy for restaurant managers and owners to overlook one of the most important parts of running their business – restaurant marketing.
Marketing is vital, whether your restaurant is just opening its doors or you’re working on a third location. It helps you get more diners through the door and builds loyalty so that you can boost sales and profits.
The thing to keep in mind is that restaurant marketing is always evolving – from digital methods to more traditional ways. When these ideas are always changing, it can seem tricky to pick the best way to spread the word.
But it doesn’t have to be!
Restaurant marketing is a powerful tool to drive more business, so you want to make sure it’s a part of your everyday efforts. Read on to learn about:
- What a restaurant marketing plan is
- Why you need one
- The top marketing ideas for your restaurant
What Is a Restaurant Marketing Plan?
A restaurant marketing plan is what you use to prepare any marketing initiatives for your business. Your restaurant marketing plan should include:
- A competitive analysis and market research
- Your goals and milestones for getting more customers, retaining them, and boosting sales
- Defined roles, responsibilities, and marketing ideas to promote your business. These include everything from traditional methods like events to more modern marketing methods like Facebook advertising (you’ll learn more about these later)
- Your budget for implementing these marketing ideas
Why Do You Need a Restaurant Marketing Plan?
Your restaurant marketing plan provides you with a detailed plan to promote your business. If you take the time to create and follow your plan, you will get more customers, drive repeat business, and increase profits.
11 Restaurant Marketing Ideas to Boost Sales
Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are nine simple marketing ideas to start with that will help you grow your business.
1. Build a Website and Optimize it
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 website, you can reach new customers who are searching for a delicious place to eat. And new customers mean more money in your pockets!
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. That’s why you need to create a website that includes your menu and other key information, as well as make sure it’s optimized for the right keywords.
To build your website, follow these four steps:
Step 1: Prepare by browsing the Internet for inspiration and finding similar sites.
Step 2: Decide on the colors and layout, then start collecting your copy.
Step 3: Create your site by choosing a website name, using a website builder, and adding a reservation 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 think of these simple restaurant SEO best practices:
- Make it mobile responsive – people will be looking up your restaurant on their phones just as often as they are on a desktop or laptop computer!
- Optimize for speed – don’t add a ton of plugins that slow your website down.
- Select the right keywords – if you own a vegan restaurant in New York, you may want to optimize a website page for terms around it, like “vegan restaurant in New York.”
2. Use Restaurant Reservation Apps
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 serves as a marketing tool – and a great way to pull in 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. If you’re not there and your competition is, you don’t even have a chance to book that table.
To make sure you’re getting the most exposure possible from restaurant reservations apps, focus on the following:
- Your restaurant description: Briefly describe your venue by mentioning the type of food you serve, atmosphere diners can expect, and dishes you’re famous for.
- Tags: Create suitable tags so the app recommends your restaurant to customers who search for certain types of foods, venues, and locations.
- Location: Diners need to know where to find you!
- Photos: Add high-quality images of your venue and dishes to entice diners to eat there.
- Availability: Make sure people know when you’re opening – is there anything worse than going to get something eat to be greeted by a “closed” sign?
- Reviews: Monitor any customer reviews and make sure you respond to them right away.
- Advertising: Certain food apps will offer advertising, which may prove useful if you’re new to the app and looking to get in front of potential new diners.
3. Create Business Profiles on Major Directories
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, Facebook, Apple Maps, and Trip Advisor will naturally improve your chances of getting listed in these top three results and benefit from more bookings and more money. Then, optimize your profiles. Here are two of the top tips for doing that:
- Make sure all your business details are the same across all platforms. Details include your operating hours, location, business name, and phone numbers. If they’re different, Google will likely penalize you.
- Monitor and manage any reviews you receive. Your local search rank can be impacted by how quickly you respond to reviews, your volume of reviews, and your average rating.
4. Create Your Social Media Profiles
Social media is only growing in popularity, as both a platform for personal expression and a method for businesses to communicate with potential clients.
More often than not, guests are using social media to:
- Find restaurants through recommendations
- Connect and interact with restaurants that share the same values
- Write negative comments if their experience wasn’t up to snuff
You’d be wise then to set up your own social media profiles so that you can:
- Be easily found by guests looking to make reservations.
- Connect with these guests and respond to any negative comments promptly. By responding swiftly, showing you care, and resolving their problems, you can convert a disgruntled diner into a happy one who now raves about their experience with family and friends. This, in turn, drives even more business to your restaurant.
But choosing the right platforms can be difficult as there are so many – and new ones popping up constantly. Do you simply just keep creating profiles on all platforms?
We recommend starting with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – and making them shine.
Your social media strategy will differ between platforms. But to get going, create your profiles, and focus on these social media tips across platforms:
- Use high-resolution photos to grab your followers’ attention.
- Check-in on Facebook for free advertising and use geotagging on Instagram to group all posts under one map-point. This means that people who stumble across your posts on Instagram will know exactly how to get to your restaurant.
- Use unique hashtags on social media to track conversations. Unique hashtags are simply those hashtags you create, whereas niche hashtags are those that already exist.
- Engage! If people are commenting on pictures of leaving reviews, make sure to reply (or at least like their comments)
5. Send Direct Mail
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!.
If done correctly, direct mail can be highly effective in driving sales.
For example, you could hand-write a postcard and send them to customers in the neighborhood of your restaurant, inviting them to a special event like a menu launch. Alternatively, you could try:
- Flyers that feature your menu items, especially new ones
- Printed versions of your menu that highlight the latest specials or signature dishes, to introduce them to new audiences
- Coupons, discounts, and other special offers diners can only redeem when visiting your restaurant
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.
6. Loyalty Marketing
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 loyalty 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 with you that can go towards free drinks or food. What’s more motivating than earning a free latte?
7. Try Wi-Fi Marketing
If you’re a restaurant that already offers free Wi-Fi, then you can take advantage of Wi-Fi marketing.
Wi-Fi marketing is the process of collecting a customer’s name and email in exchange for free Wi-Fi 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:
- A guest will visit your Wi-Fi enabled restaurant.
- To connect their device to the Internet, the customer accesses a splash page.
- The guest signs in via social media or with an email address.
- You can now market to that guest because you have their details. For example, you can send coupons, promotions, or other personalized marketing campaigns. The only way for them to take advantage of any offer would be to actually re-visit your restaurant.
To get started with Wi-Fi marketing and drive more repeat customers, follow these steps:
Step 1: Contact your local Internet service provider and set up a Wi-Fi connection.
Step 2: Find a provider to manage your Wi-Fi marketing campaigns. The provider should offer reporting features, campaign execution, and a social media connection. Examples of providers include Aislelabs or Social Wi-Fi.
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.
8. Reach Out to Influencers
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 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 they’re followers buy. Over years of good content and engagement, they’ve built up their following and their credibility – people trust their recommendations.
But influencers go beyond just products and brands. Arguably, there’s nowhere that the influencer trend is more apparent than in the foodie scene. Just think about all the food porn you see on Instagram and the growth in the number of food critics and bloggers.
You can benefit from this trend and fill more tables in your restaurant by getting influencers 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 influencer marketing:
- Monitor social media for the top food influencers in your area by searching on relevant keywords or tags. Ideally, you’ll want to partner with influencers in your local area and those who share the same values as you. For example, if you’re a vegan restaurant, find a vegan influencer. If you don’t do this, your authenticity and that of the influencer will come into question.
- Reach out to these influencers when you’re ready. For example, if you’re launching a new menu item, ask them if they’d like to pop in for a tasting. Or, if you’re opening your doors, ask a food blogger to pop in and experience the service and food. Once they’ve visited, all you can do is wait. Assuming you’ve delivered great food and an amazing dining experience, expect to receive a glowing recommendation and some new customers to follow.
- Have a budget decided: Like any other marketing channels, this isn’t free. Most influencers with a decent reach on Instagram charge a fee to share about your restaurant. You’ll want to do some digging on the average price per post – and know how much you’re willing to spend on this type of marketing going into it.
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 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.
10. Turn Your Staff into Restaurant Advocates
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 sangria 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.
11. Try Out Events
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.
Make sure to promote these events early, and you’ll have a packed house in no time.
As you saw, there’s no shortage of restaurant marketing ideas – from a more digital focused reach to some more offline promotions. 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 where you want to start.
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