Whether you’re starting a new restaurant venture or looking to gain more traction for your existing business, your marketing strategy will make all the difference. Customers are the foundation of any restaurant and making the right moves could give your place the exposure it needs to expand, especially as many restaurateurs have suffered major blows from the pandemic.
Let’s take a look at what marketing game plans can turn the tide in your favor and start bringing people back in droves.
We know you’re proud of your product because you need to be in order to be passionate about what you do. Believing in your food and the unique treat you bring to someone’s palate will show through your menu.
We also know that every restaurant owner has a deep love for the dishes they serve, so marketing your food in a creative way will give you an edge. Not only will marketing methods help with capturing new customers, but they will also help you retain the ones you already have. Loyal customers will flock to your business when you launch something new, especially when it looks so delicious on foodie pics.
Marketing also allows you to extend your hospitality to existing and potential patrons, get attention from brands and other businesses for collaborations, and increase overall brand awareness.
How does marketing for a restaurant vary from any other industry? The concept is the same - showcasing your product to potential customers. The method of how it’s done is where it differs. For example, fast fashion clothing chains hire models to display their products. All the fall ‘fit ideas and OOTD hashtags you scroll through on Instagram are a brand’s tactic to get eyes on their stuff.
You can’t exactly don your signature spaghetti carbonara on a night out, snap a few photos and call it a day. No, you can’t, which is why restaurant marketing needs to take a different route, one that engages with customers more often with social media photos that solely focus on the food (although a pretty or handsome model eating it won’t hurt either).
There isn’t a universal marketing method to reach the goal, so we’re going to dive into a few that work well with any type of restaurant.
Just how much should you spend on your advertising and marketing budget? There are low-budget ideas that can get a lot of attention such as hashtags for features or special discounts, but there are also more expensive options such as allocating thousands of dollars into social media ads.
There really is no budget limit, but spending money on marketing is unavoidable. It is our suggestion to combine free methods, like taking advantage of posts on social media, with more costly options like paid posts.
To reach the desired number of people, most restaurant owners should expect to reinvest at least around 5% to 10% of their revenue into marketing campaigns.
By simply setting up an Instagram, you can reach even more people than just relying on organic traffic to your website. Social media marketing platforms include Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, which all give access to millions of users around the world.
Instagram - You can choose to pay for sponsored ads on Instagram, which is easy to select once you set up a business profile. You can choose the post to boost, the period the ad runs, and how much you would like to pay.
Instagram is also an excellent marketing channel to use for free exposure. We’re talking about the foodie photos that are everywhere. Even fashion, beauty, fitness, and other influencers in unrelated niches post food photos from time to time. You can reach out to impactful food pages on Instagram and offer deals, discount codes and promotions for your product in exchange for posts, tags and audience outreach.
Tapping into your existing customers by giving them an incentive to post, tag and give good reviews during or after dining is also another effective way to gain publicity.
You should also fully utilize your restaurant’s Instagram page to showcase your food by taking professional photos with excellent lighting that can really capture the essence of each dish. Take advantage of Instagram highlights, reels and stories to engage with your audience and even give them an inside look at how the food is prepared.
Do live streams to interact with your followers and give them the impression that expensive high-quality food can also come from a personable chef who is down-to-earth and ready to answer questions and even share some food knowledge.
Facebook - A Facebook page is very similar to your website and can link all your social media information on the About page. Like Instagram, you can run ads, create stories, posts, and videos to market your restaurant.
Research what hashtags get the most views in the restaurant niche. Post at advantageous times of the day when people are most active online where you’re located. This way, you can get the most views right when you post.
Get tags by reaching out to food bloggers who are willing to feature you on their site. While digital ads are very worthwhile, they can also get very expensive. Make sure to monitor the analytics to see if you’re getting your money’s worth. If not, then turn them off and try a different approach.
Twitter - Twitter is a great way to get buzz and hype about a hot new restaurant or one that has revamped its menu. Retweet influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, and anyone else you think would love what you have to offer.
Nothing comes free and you may need to offer compensation in return, but it won’t always have to be monetary. Some bloggers will settle for a free appetizer during their next visit, and others may like a personal discount coupon for their followers.
How Curate the Perfect Page
Social media is such a great way to get your brand out there in many creative ways. Don’t hesitate to experiment with what works and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of handing out flyers to passersby. Sometimes we all need a good dose of human interaction for promotions instead of just digital ads. When you hand out flyers or business cards, you can also engage in conversation with potential customers, answer their questions immediately, and even seal the deal by creating a rapport.
Having a website instantly makes your business seem more legitimate and professional. The website should also follow a specific theme and very clearly showcase what you have to offer. Customers shouldn't need to look too hard to find your menu or research how to reserve a table.
Keep all the relevant information up to date and everything important on the front page. Your office hours, menu options, contact info and address, and booking and ordering methods should be displayed clearly.
You can even consider incorporating an SEO-optimized blog to engage with your community. It’s here where restaurateurs can share insights, knowledge, and funny stories about each dish and how it came to be.
A blog is also a great method to document your restaurant’s growth throughout the years and organize photos into archives. Those who are interested can revisit previous posts and really feel like they were a part of your company’s journey.
Speaking of integrations, you can also link online reservation platforms to your site or partner with the likes of Take a Seat, which provides everything your restaurant needs to create a formidable digital presence. There are integrations such as digital menus with QR codes, and online reservations to improve the customer experience.
Keeping the customers’ dining experience and your business at the forefront of their minds means reaching out to your audience outside of your venue with email marketing and weekly newsletters. Having customers leave their email contact info is a great way to keep in contact and update them on new launches, promotions, discounts and share important news.
Email marketing campaigns serve to highlight your business and drive more customers to your restaurant. Restaurant chains usually hire marketing teams specifically to create email marketing campaigns, so don’t forget to work this into your budget.
You can also choose to attempt this on your own. We have a few tips that can help you create more effective targeted emails.
Loyalty programs work for retail stores and restaurant chains alike. Aside from trying to draw new customers, you also have to value your loyal patrons. The best way to do this is to craft a loyalty program. Don’t underestimate the influence of a loyal customer. Word-of-mouth advertising alone could bring you tons of business.
Make your customers feel valued with discounts, promos, giveaways and other incentives for their continuous business. A lot of small-scale places utilize punch cards that end in a free appetizer or meal after however many visits. Get creative with the rewards you want to offer your biggest supporters.
In the modern digital age, a user review holds a lot of weight. Positive reviews can guarantee continued business and attract out-of-towners to your establishment thanks to platforms such as Yelp, Google Reviews, and TripAdvisor.
Encourage customers to leave positive reviews by gentle suggestion or with incentivization. Amassing thousands of reviews will definitely help your business, but going a step further and leaving heartfelt replies to each one will really reflect exceptional customer service.
Conversely, you must also learn how to handle negative comments with grace. Going into a keyboard debate with a customer isn’t a good look. Instead, try addressing the customer’s concerns by asking how the restaurant can improve and provide them with a better experience next time.
Some sites out there suggest ignoring negative reviews, but we feel that addressing them and taking the criticism constructively reflects better business ethics.
Become active in your community. Take social responsibility to the next level by sponsoring holiday events, activities and local groups. Sponsorships will get you a lot of positive press and publicity, especially if you select a good cause or charity.
Use your presence to spread awareness to notable causes. Holidays and monthly observances are also great opportunities to engage with your local community. You can even create seasonal specials in your menu to entice customers.
Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, are all great examples of holidays where set menus and customized desserts can be released.
Take a more active role and volunteer at local shelters, donate what you can to food drives, and even lend your venue for certain events such as after parties, weddings, and office parties.
Events that can help you showcase your top dishes to drive more customers are ones such as farmer’s markets, food fairs, and seasonal festivals. Locals and tourists love to attend these festivals and markets and you can use them as a way to extend your reach.
We’ve mentioned deals, discounts and promos throughout this article because they never fail to provide the necessary incentive for “free” exposure. Here are some examples of deals customers won't want to miss!
Not making something readily available or accessible is a psychological marketing tactic. It somehow makes the product seem rarer and more special. For example, daily and chef specials are not staples on the menu, which means diners are more likely to make an effort to head into your restaurant on those special days.
These specials are also a great way to test out new dishes without having to commit to having the ingredients permanently in your kitchen. Judging by how the diners respond to a new dish, you can easily remove it or make it a permanent addition to your menu. It’s also a great way to maximize seasonal ingredients and make the most of what local ingredients are available at the time.
Anything time-based creates a sense of urgency in the consumer. Time-based discounts, such as X% off for a limited amount of time or between certain days works well, as does a flat rate off the meal of a certain total.
As we mentioned, loyalty programs work incredibly well. A great example of this is Starbucks Reward cards. You are rewarded for your patronage by collecting stars, which can then redeem free food or drinks depending on how many you have. Of course, you can customize a reward program that works better for your audiences, such as free items or merchandise.
We don’t know anyone that says no to Happy Hour deals. In fact, a lot of restaurants make a good portion of their revenue during Happy Hour. Select a miniature menu priced at a lower cost during a certain time of the day. You can switch up the items if necessary. Feel free to play around with different ideas - the world is your oyster!
Over 50% of diners search for coupons. Give coupons for referrals, a percentage off, or redeem menu items. This is where you can let your inner creativity shine.
Special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries deserve to be celebrated. It’s an honor to have your establishment chosen to host such milestones, so make it worth the customer’s while by offering free items.
BOGO, or Buy One Get One deals are an age-old marketing tactic that works in any day and age. You can shake things up with buy two get two deals or anything else that works within your budget.
Host special events or activities year-round. For example, have karaoke night on Fridays where the average working person can cut loose, sing their favorite tunes and fill up on BOGO deals. Look into planning holiday events as well such as Christmas costume contests. Special events are a great way to combine multiple promotions into one.
If it works with your restaurant, offer certain combos for a cheaper price. For example, sample platters are great deals for customer because it allows them to taste more items on the menu without having to commit to full-sized dishes and their corresponding prices.
Lastly, get your brand out there via social media posts by asking the customers to take photos of the food, geo-tag your restaurant, and get free food in return.
RetailMeNot conducted a survey that showed 80% of diners will frequent a restaurant or try a new one that offers some sort of deal. Crafting the perfect promotion that suits your restaurant will increase lifetime consumer value and boost sales.
Your employees are excellent promotional assets. The first step is to make sure they’re happy. Create the best working environment that encourages customer-staff relations, fosters communication and compensates them well for their time. Include your staff members in your social media posts.
When customers see happy employees, it automatically creates a positive association with your restaurant with thoughts such as - “Hey, the staff here looks like they enjoy their job! It must be an awesome place to be.” You will be surprised by how much smiling hostesses, waiters, chefs and customers you include in your social media posts can boost your reputation.
There is no magic ingredient to restaurant marketing. You need to figure out what works best for your restaurant that doesn’t make a big dent in your monthly revenue. Try to put your best foot forward with well-curated social media pages that highlight your brand’s unique selling points. Marketing takes money, but the long-term benefits from the right strategy will pay big dividends.
Your Take a Seat team