Are you looking for fresh restaurant marketing ideas for your business? We reached out to top restaurateurs and marketers and asked them for their best restaurant marketing strategies. Check out the list below or take a look at our Complete Guide to Restaurant Marketing for more info.
Here are 25 restaurant marketing ideas and strategies from the professionals to help bring in more customers and make your restaurant a success.
Did you know that customers in loyalty programs return twice as often? By creating a rewards program, you’ll encourage repeat customers and build a rapport with your clientele. A punch card loyalty program is a great incentive for customers to continuously return to your restaurant. Instead of traditional paper punch cards, save a trip to the print shop and go with a mobile solution. CandyBar.co offers a digital loyalty punch card program with a small business friendly platform that is completely online. Try it free for 30 days – no credit card required.
2. 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.
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!
Maggie Aland, Marketing Expert, Fit Small Business
If you have a 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. Learn how to set up search ads that drive local traffic.
4. Look Ahead at the Events Happening in Your Local Area and Get Involved.
Laura Hall, Marketing Executive, Shiply
Give the locals and visitors a reason to choose you over their favorite chains. Is there a 10k race on Sunday? Why not offer a discount on lunch if people show their finisher’s medal? If there’s an election, why not offer a discount if they show a photo of themselves outside their polling station? Small businesses need the support of people that not only live locally, but people and those that visit the local area too.
Marc Prosser, Publisher, Fit Small Business
When people look for a restaurant online, you want to be one of the first names that comes up. Make sure your business is listed in as many online directories as possible so more customers can find you. Yext is a free tool that lets you scan local listings across multiple sites so you can see where you show up and make sure all of your information is up to date. Click here to scan your listings for free.
6. 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.
Jeremy Marsan, Fit Small Business
Over 80% of Americans look up restaurants online before going out, so it goes without saying that a website is important. What many restaurant owners forget is what customers actually use websites for: They need to view your menu, hours, address, or phone number. As interesting as your backstory or vegan Sumatra-inspired dishes may be, they are less essential. A user-friendly website will have the most pertinent information presented right away.
Read our article about creating your own professional restaurant website in under an hour, at a cost of less than $3/month. Having a great website is what your customers expect, and while it may seem like a monumental task we’ll give you all the information you need. Click here to learn how to set it up.
8. Partner with Like-minded Businesses and Cross-Promote Each Other.
Jennifer Peterson, Chief Marketer, J Peterson Marketing
Like-minded could be a business that is near the restaurant or it could be a business that has a similar audience. For example, one of my clients’ restaurants attracted a number of customers who biked to the restaurant. They worked with a local bike shop to offer a discount to the bike shop’s customers and the bike shop offered a discount to the restaurant’s customers.
9. Write for Industry Publications.
Alex Reichmann, CEO, iTestCash
One of the best ways to get coverage without spending a penny (besides for possible writing costs) is to propose content for publications that cover the food and restaurant industry.
This can be both online and offline depending on where your customers read. The topic to propose depends on what type of a restaurant you are but it can be about anything from how you keep your business efficient to how you are utilizing all new recipes to please your customers.
The idea is to be creative and come up with a topic that publications would accept and readers could find impressive. If you do this as a regular thing it can potentially get your restaurant very popular over time.
Give your customers an amazing ordering experience right at the table. Lightspeed’s point-of-sale system lets you create customizable digital menus in minutes with photos, descriptions, and additional dish details, like ingredients for those with food allergies, or wine pairings. Orders are displayed in the kitchen so staff can begin preparing them as soon as they are received. Try Lightspeed Restaurant free for 14 days.
11. Promote User Generated Content.
Nikki Fica, Social Media Facelift
My favorite marketing campaign 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.
12. Keep Your NAPs in Order.
Keith Baumwald, Founder, LEVERAG Consulting
Your NAP is your name, address and phone number. Google scours the web looking for your business information and it is critical that these 3 elements are the same wherever your restaurant appears on the web. The more consistently your business information is presented across different websites, the more weight it will receive from Google and this should help your chances of ranking higher.
13. Monitor and Respond to Online Reviews.
Jacy Cochran, Public Relations Director, The Loomis Agency
Small restaurant owners frequently overlook, ignore or respond inappropriately to their online customer reviews on Google, Yelp!, Trip Advisor, and more. Reviews can have a big impact your business; even one bad review might turn away new or returning customers. A good start is to set up a Google alert for the restaurant name so that you can monitor what is being said about your business.
When a negative review occurs, reply quickly to the reviewer in a friendly tone. Replying with negativity will only make things worse. You can apologize for the negative experience or ask the reviewer to contact the restaurant directly so that you have the chance to redeem the situation. A thoughtful reply can turn a critic into a fan and it demonstrates a level of customer care that we all hope to experience when dining out.
14. Setup and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing.
Barrie Smith, Digital Marketing Consultant, Receptional Ltd.
Google’s My Business has taken over from Google+ Local and Google Places and has expanded over the past year or so. It’s designed to help people locate your store, usually from a mobile device on the go. It’s the big business listing that appears on the right-hand side of a search result. You can include location, opening hours, phone numbers and it includes customers’ reviews out of 5-star ratings. Basically, it’s an easy way for people in the local area to find your restaurant.
Whether it’s updating your menu board to a digital menu board or using TVs to showcase your promotions and social media accounts, you can’t go wrong by incorporating digital signage into your space. Mira Screen Signage makes it easy to grab your customers’ attention and offer them a much more dynamic and interactive experience. With free hardware and easy to use templates, you can turn any TV into a digital menu for as low as $24/month per screen. Click here to request a demo today.
16. Have a Mobile App.
Kevin Schrage, Director of Marketing, Bizness Apps
Mobile apps are becoming easier and more affordable for small businesses. Big brands like Starbucks and Dominos have built mobile solutions that are core to their growth strategy. The rise of mobile app builders gives restaurants the ability to create a mobile solution without a big brand marketing budget. They allow your customers to conveniently order directly from their phones and cuts down on operation costs.
You can also increase customer loyalty with an easy to use mobile loyalty program. Match these features with push notifications and you will enhance your customer experience that becomes part of your core business.
17. Advertise 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.
18. Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Wright, SEO/SEM Specialist, Americaneagle.com
Join your local chamber of commerce and connect with other members. Not only will this allow you more access to the local community but you will be able to host more events and parties for members. By joining, you often get a link on their website which helps with search engine rankings.
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
Instagram can offer multiple marketing benefits when done correctly. Since people love to take pictures when dining or celebrating with friends, encourage customers to take photos and share their experience in your establishment. Learn how you can maximize your restaurant success on Instagram.
Jillian Ilao, Fit Small Business
Advertising your restaurant on search engines is a great way to get in front of potential diners when they’re looking for a new place to eat. Although most people stop at advertising on Google, you shouldn’t overlook other search engines like Bing. With over 30% of the search engine market share and 5 billion monthly searches, Bing can help you reach even more potential customers. Click here and get $100 advertising credit when you spend $25.
Brandon Hull, Next Restaurants
Brandon gives amazing insight into 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.
22. Try Text Message Marketing.
Nikolas Allen, Author, Heavyweight 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. The customer signs up. A reply text welcome’s them to the program and provides a coupon, which they show to their server. The restaurant sends out weekly specials via text to their growing list of subscribers. This drives customers back to the restaurants to enjoy great deals on great food.
23. Use Your Most Loyal Customers as Influencers.
Annie Pryatel, Owner, AMP Brand Studios
Consider creating an influencer marketing program for your restaurant to help spread the word. Make your loyalists excited to post pictures of your food and encourage others to visit your restaurant. Their reward can be as simple as giving them swag or a monthly gift card.
24. Deliver Remarkable Customer Experiences.
Wes Marsh, Director of Digital Strategy, On Target Web Solutions, Inc.
Word of mouth, and by extension social media interactions, are one of the best drivers of new customers to a restaurant. When your diners have a great experience, they may share it others. And when they have a poor experience, they’re even more likely to share it. When restaurants recognize and embrace this reality, they can focus on creating a great experience, both through their food and their service. Consistently deliver great experiences and you will succeed.
25. Using Restaurant Marketing Software to Better Understand Your Customers
Ryan Andrews, Marketing Manager, Restaurant Manager by Eat
In today’s increasingly complicated restaurant marketing landscape it’s crucial to be where your customers are. Successful restaurants are using technology to drive bookings across the web, build detailed customer profiles and execute targeted multi-channel campaigns. Today’s diners demand a personalized experience. Table Management systems enable restaurant staff to give the best customer experience throughout the diner journey, and opens up new marketing and communication channels that improve retention and repeat business.
Hope you enjoyed our post! Check out the restaurant section of our website for tips on how to choose your location, get a restaurant loan, obtain a liquor license, and more.
Thanks to 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.