Are you looking for fresh restaurant marketing ideas for your business? How fortuitous. You’ve come to the right place. For this post, we reached out to top restaurateurs and marketers and asked them for their favorite restaurant marketing strategies. You can see their answers below, or check out our Complete Guide to Restaurant Marketing for more info.
Restaurant Marketing Ideas from the Pros:
Marc Prosser, Publisher, Fit Small Business
When people look up restaurants online, you want to be one of the first names that comes up. One of the first steps to getting there is to build citations for your business, which means making sure your restaurant is accurately listed in as many online directories as possible. If you haven’t done so already, click here to scan your listings and find out how well your restaurant shows up in local searches.
2. Offer a special via social media.
– Alessandra Pollina, Pollina PR & Communications
One of my favorite ideas for local restaurants, is to offer a special of some kind for social media followers that takes place that same day, or even within an hour. It rewards followers by giving them insider invitations to something they find valuable, thereby building a stronger relationship (and encourages new followers so they’ll be in the know next time), and it gets customers through the door and sales made during a certain day/time that the business knows will otherwise be quiet.
CLICK HERE To Get a Handy Printable PDF of these 50 Ideas
– Jeremy Marsan, Business Technology Expert, Fit Small Business
Does your restaurant have a website? If not, you need to set one up. A Yelp or Seamless listing isn’t enough: you want potential and existing customers to find you regardless of how they search online. A dedicated website also gives you an opportunity to share information that might not appear elsewhere. A Yelp review might not highlight your gluten free options or catering services. Plus, it’s no longer difficult or expensive to set up a website. We’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to get your website up and running in no time – click here to check it out.
4. Get your customers to help.
– Nikki Fica, Social Media Facelift
There are so many opportunities for user-generated content. My favorite was a contest we ran on social media, mixing it in with customers in the restaurant. We announced the contest on social media and also created cards to put in each checkbook to hand to customers when paying the bill. We asked the customers to take and post pictures with their favorite waitress or waitresses, including the specific hashtag. It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of photos to use for guest appreciation Friday’s on social media. We gave out gift cards, sponsored prizes, etc. and increased traffic through the contest and word of mouth.
Most of your customers are already on Facebook every day. That built-in audience makes Facebook one of the best ways to reach new customers. It’s easy to create an ad – just put in your phone number here and Waymark will create an amazing looking ad in seconds. Click here to try it!
6. Offer a deal in the local paper.
– Dorien Morin, More in Media
I work with a tearoom whose audience is mainly 55+. Magazine ads, word of mouth… they all bring in some clients. The best marketing idea we had was working with a local newspaper where they have a DealSaver section. We advertised the $25 high tea for buy-one-get-one. The newspaper estimated we would sell 40-50 of these coupons. We sold over 200 of them, meaning we served high tea to 400+ women!
We also love making kitchen videos! When the owner of the tearoom is baking a quiche, or an apple pie, she’ll make a quick video telling her audience what she is doing. I then will do a quick edit, upload before the tearoom opens and she usually sells out of that item at lunch.
7. Invite local influencers Over.
– Jess Herbine, Editor, Philly PR Girl
Philly PR Girl has found great success in hosting special media nights for our restaurant clients. There are plenty of excuses to invite local press, bloggers, and other media influencers out to your space – for example, perhaps your restaurant’s birthday is coming up, a seasonal menu change is taking place, or you recently acquired a new head chef.
Facilitate a special evening just for VIP guests to experience your dishes, visit your space, and meet and interview the staff. Depending on the environment, a media night may mean communal dining, a classy cocktail hour, or huge party! Whatever the event, be sure to send your guests home with plenty of memories so they keep your client top-of-mind for future restaurant reviews, roundups, and other food-related features.
8. Text message marketing.
I’ve worked with several restaurant clients, and my favorite tactic is SMS (Short Message Service, or Text) Marketing. Here’s how it works:
Restaurants come up with a carrot offer, to get customers to subscribe. A table tent or menu could tout an attractive offer, such as, Get Free Dessert with today’s meal. Just text ‘dessert’ to 12345 and show server your coupon.
The customer signs up. A reply text welcome’s them to the program, and provides a coupon, which they show to their server. They enjoy free dessert (or 20% off today’s meal, free appetizers, or whatever).
Then, the restaurant sends out weekly specials via text to their growing list of subscribers. This drive customers back to the restaurants to enjoy great deals on great food. Of course, customers can unsubscribe any time, but more often than not, they look forward to receiving the deals.
There are several SMS marketing services available, with different levels of investment. The learning curve isn’t that steep and the ROI is solid for biz owners who create a plan and execute it consistently.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have an app on your client’s phone? The challenge with getting valuable screen space is providing a reason for them to put your app on their phone. That’s why a loyalty program makes sense: they earn loyalty points each time they come to your restaurant. Every time they look at the app, they will be reminded that they are coming closer earning a free side or drink. Surprisingly, a custom app doesn’t have to be expensive. Our recommended provider, Shoutem will help you set up a custom app for as little as $20 per month. Click here to get started.
10. Hand out branded items at big events.
– Mark A. Warner, Lead Analyst, Seo4anyone.com
Give out plastic (branded) spoons at festivals and events. Anyone who brings one into the restaurant gets their dessert free. Getting folks back to the restaurant from events is a huge challenge but fruitful opportunity.
11. Go superlocal and grow your ingredients in the dining area.
– Chris Michael, Director of Growth & Happiness, Bright Agrotech
I think without a doubt my favorite restaurant marketing idea is letting customer dine right next to their food. The folks at Page at 63 Main in Sag Habor came up with the innovative idea of growing food inside their dining room with vertical ZipGrow Towers using fish waste as an organic nutrient fertilizer.
As they mention on their website, they are The Hampton’s First Seed-to-Table Restaurant which gives them the ability to combine ingredients from local farms and fisheries, along with their own grown-in-restaurant produce. In a world who is increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, this is a genius, well-timed marketing idea.
– Maggie Aland, Marketing Expert, Fit Small Business
If you have an restaurant that serves Greek food, you want your place to appear when a person searches on Google for “Greek Food” or “Greek Restaurants” or perhaps even certain signature dishes. The listings that you see on the top of the pages are usually paid ads. Click here for our guide on how to set up search ads that drive local traffic.
12. Make sure you offer gift certificates.
– Jim Herst, CEO, Perceptive Selling Initiative, Inc.
Use Gift Certificates not (Ho Hum) Discount Coupons. Gift certificates are treated as cash by most.
Gift certificates MUST be carefully worded!
13. Reach out to the local community.
– Brett and Rochelle Bohannon, One Happy Restaurant
Community + Local Outreach can be used as an extremely effective marketing tool to authentically reach a target audience and have a tremendously positive impact on the local community. This method appeals to the consumer of today, who leans more toward the support of a business that actively displays heart and soul. Your neighbors – the people who live down the street from your restaurant and drive by on a regular basis – they are the ones who support you day in and day out. Target customers that live in the area with special discounts, coupons or even new menu tastings. Partner with local organizations and boldly support their cause. The organic, word-of-mouth spread will provide an undeniable business boost.
14. Build buzz with the local media.
– Rahul Alim, CustomCreatives.com
Call local magazines, newspapers, news stations, etc. to come for a free meal and do a piece on your location. Build local buzz. Reviews will appear on their publications for their entire circulation/audience.
You can also post those reviews in your restaurant and on social media for a little proof that experts and critics love your place. Even if people have been eating there for ages, statistics show the psychological effect (confirmation bias) produces more money getting spent there.
Fair warning: do a little research and be selective on who you invite. A gourmet critic will probably not bother with a tiny little hot dog stand, but if he does – watch out!
CLICK HERE To Get a Handy Printable PDF of these 50 Ideas
15. Try advertising on Facebook.
– Joy Ugi, Digital Marketing Manager, Orderly
My favorite marketing channel and strategy for restaurants is Facebook ads. You can target Facebook followers in your area, as well as user types, e.g. Foodie. Plus you can design ads to encourage a variety of actions: follow your Facebook page, give you an email address, or go to your website to take an action. Best part is, it’s cheap. Just five dollars a day can get you in front of a huge audience.
Are free Facebook ad coupons for real? Find out in our guide on How to Get a Free Facebook Ad Coupon.
More Restaurant Marketing Tips:
13. Create a website
Create a website for your website and list all relevant information. This includes your address, your phone number, your menu (make it printable along with prices), and a place to reserve or order.
14. Buy paid advertisement
For example, let’s say you run an Italian restaurant, and you’ve purchased three types of ad spaces: one for pizza in your city, another for lasagna in your city, and another for gelato in your city.
When a Google or Bing user searches for this term and your ad comes up, they can then click on your ad and be taken to a specific page. Instead of just going to your main website, they’ll go directly to the pizza menu. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it.
15. Get active on social media
You should be every social platform that your customers are on. This most definitely includes Facebook, the undisputed king of social media with approximately one billion users worldwide. Consider getting on Instagram where you can show photos of your delectable food and fun images of your restaurant’s staff and customers. You may find success on Snapchat if your customer base is 21 and younger.
16. Build an email list
You have a website, now you need to build your email list. An email list is a collection of email addresses. Your site visitors opt-in to your email list in hopes of getting valuable information from you (in other words, coupons and special promotions). Create an email list and offer coupons right away and regularly to those who subscribe. It’s a way to drive traffic back to your restaurant.
17. Get active on review sites
Are you managing your profiles on third party online review sites? Sites like Yelp and Google for Business allow your customers to leave reviews about your restaurant. You should set up a strong presence on those sites. Claim your profile, promote your profile, respond to reviews (good or bad), and dictate the conversation.
18. Create lunch specials
Rotate lunch specials every month to drum up interest in your restaurant.
19. Send coupons through the mail
Use a direct marketing service like Valpak to send your coupons and menu to customers in a specific neighborhood or city.
20. Host charity events
One way to raise your profile is to get active in your community. Partner with a charity or a local school and host a special night each month where you donate a portion of your proceeds to the charity/ school. It’s a great way to get more people to come to your restaurant and do something positive for your community at the same time.
21. Host all sorts of events
The sky’s the limit. You can host a dad and daughter night, a wine and cheese tasting, or a tour of France. The key is promoting these events ahead of time on your social media channels. After you’ve done a few of them, you can also share pictures of the previous event to get your followers excited about the upcoming experience.
22. Distribute flyers
Canvas the neighborhood with flyers of your menu or a monthly event. You should have one standard flyer that includes your menu and prices. But, if you’re hosting a special event (or multiple ones) for the month, create a flyer showcasing just your event’s calendar.
23. Host a contest
Along with hosting events, you should host regular contests where you give away a meal or even a larger prize.
24. Create a loyalty program
Create a program where you reward customers for loyalty and repeat business. Promote new products and offer coupons based on customer behavior.
25. Offer delivery
26. Use a daily deal site
Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial can do advertising for your restaurant. They’ll expose your restaurant to a group of people that you may never have reached otherwise.
CLICK HERE To Get a Handy Printable PDF of these 50 Ideas
Ready for more? We’ve included 25 more useful marketing resources for restaurants below.
Even More Restaurant Marketing Resources
By Jacqueline Thomas. Our complete guide to restaurant marketing, from your menu to your website to advertisements and social media.
By Victoria Devine. You may not believe it, but social media is important to local restaurants. Why? Many customers connect with local restaurants over social media. Victoria gives us the skinny on what we need to know.
Shannon shares videos on YouTube about marketing your restaurant. I couldn’t pick out just one, and I recommend that you view them all, but some stand outs include Best Way to Market My Restaurant and How Do I Get More Customers.
By Kathryn Cudemo. If you have a restaurant, you’ll eventually encounter a negative review. How you respond determines whether you can successfully bounce back and impress your customers with stellar customer service.
By AJ Kumar. Love it or hate it, Yelp is definitely important to local business, especially service-oriented ones, such as restaurants. Use AJ’s guide to help your business rank on Yelp.
Bing is the second largest search engine in the world and can drive a lot of traffic to your business. Because most advertisers are focused on Google, you may also be able to acquire clients on Bing at a lower cost. Try Bing Ads Today With a Free $50 Ads Coupon.
Yelp is crucial to your online marketing strategy. Not only can you accurately share your restaurant information, you can interact with your customers. Follow this guide to start a Yelp account.
By Michael Stelzner. Yelp can’t have all of the fun. Facebook is an important part of your marketing strategy. In this plan, Michael takes you step by step into engaging with your customers over Facebook.
By Pat Parkinson. Pat takes you through all 50 states to shop you different restaurants on Facebook. He includes a screenshot, and explains what works and what doesn’t.
By Blaise Lucey. Anyone interested in a case study? Download Constant Contact’s free guide on the matter. You’ll learn how real restaurants, like yours, grew subscribers and expanded their network.
By Corey Eridon. Pinterest and restaurants are a match made in heaven. Because Pinterest is a visual medium, post photographs of your food and pin them to your boards. It’s a delicious, yet indirect, way to sell your foods.
By Laura Briere. Laura’s advice features some of the most actionable information, such as retooling your menu to show that you’re cutting edge. My favorite tip is #4, where you ask local food bloggers to review your restaurant in exchange for a free meal.
It’s easy to will attention is which a discount. Provide a discount of 20%.That way, you still make a profit, and customer feels like they’re getting a deal.
By Susan Burns. Susan shares a great list of marketing ideas, but my favorite is the chef in action. Take a video of your chef making a popular dish. It’s all about connecting with your audience on a human level.
By MatthewY. Video marketing is just starting to take off. Here’s a list of ways that you can leverage YouTube to help you market your local restaurant.
By Mike Gingerich. Mike gives you options on how to make the most of your social media platform. Use social media to ask for feedback.
By Ramon Ray. Ramon gives us a short and sweet overview of how to successfully interact with your Facebook page.
By Krista Bunskoek. Krista takes a look at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and details how to use certain strategies to drive more traffic to your restaurant.
By Brandon Hull. Brandon gives amazing insight into this social media marketing. For example, simply visiting your restaurant should not be your call-to-action. Brandon goes over what you need to know in setting results-oriented goals.
By Guy Holmes. Guy discusses the four basic ingredients that a restaurant owner needs to develop their own marketing plan.
By Tyler Barnes. Did you know that 33% of people search more restaurants on their mobile device? Visit Tyler’s article for more amazing insights about restaurant marketing.
Not enough reviews? Train your staff to identify and ask highly satisfied customers for their review. Use this strategy to get positive reviews on third party sites, like Yelp and Google+.
General tips but good ones, especially staying current with your marketing plan. You need to keep an eye on your competitors, as well.
By Kathy. Google+ is here to stay, and it’s just good practice to embrace it. Customers who use the Google search engine will definitely see Google reviews, so Kathy shares how to maximize this to your advantage.
Most local restaurants face a tight (or non-existent) marketing budget. This article shows you how to make the most of the amount you have, and stretch a dime into a dollar.
By Vee Popat. Facebook and Yelp aren’t the only social media platforms you need to focus on. Take a serious look at Twitter. In this article, Vee shares the reasons why restaurants use Twitter, and how it can improve their marketing efforts.
If you’re looking for more, feel free to check out the following guides from Fit Small Business:
- Restaurant Marketing Made Simple
- Grand Opening Ideas, Goals, and More
- Local Marketing Ideas & Resources From the Pros
Thanks for everyone who contributed to this list. Do you have a favorite restaurant marketing idea you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.