If you can successfully run a restaurant, with all its moving parts, you can definitely run a successful marketing campaign. All you need is the right tools, and that’s what we’re here for. We’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to restaurant marketing.
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Step 1: Identify Your Target Market
First things first, you need to know who you are trying to reach, and what your target market wants most from a restaurant. You want to consider a niche, as this will set you apart from the rest of the restaurants that serve your type of food.
For example, Chipotle doesn’t just advertise food, it advertises Mexican cuisine with a fresh, sustainable attitude. Likewise, McDonald’s doesn’t simply advertise food, it advertises fun, fast, familiar food. So, what is your angle?
Have your ideal customer in mind when answering this question, and always consider them when making marketing decisions.
Step 2: Create and Optimize Your Website
Now that you’ve found your niche, it’s time to create and optimize your website.
If you want people to find your restaurant when researching places to eat online, it is crucial that you have a dedicated website for your restaurant. While it’s possible that people will be able to find you through your social media pages or from online review sites, a website is the online place where you have full control over the content. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have an additional chance of ranking on the search engine results page.
If you have not created your website, you will want to check out this guide on how to setup a website in less than 60 minutes using the website builder Weebly. You can easily create a really nice looking, search friendly website for your restaurant without any coding knowledge with this drag-and-drop tool.
The next step after creating your website, is to make sure that it is optimized for search engines. Optimizing your website’s content increases the chances that your site will rank on the search engine results page when someone is looking for your type of restaurant in your location. Learn more about how to rank highly in Google in our guide.
Step 3: Get Online Reviews To Build Social Proof
People are much more willing to visit an establishment if they see multiple positive online reviews for it. This is especially true for restaurants. According to the Local Consumer Review Survey, only 13% of people are willing to try a business with a 1 or 2 star rating. Therefore, it’s not only important to have online reviews, they need to be positive (generally over 3.5 stars).
Here are 4 top review site that you want to make sure you have a profile on:
- Yelp – With over 145 million unique monthly visitors, it’s likely that your potential customers are reading reviews on Yelp before deciding to visit a restaurant. If you have a profile with few reviews, your target audience may decide to visit your competition instead. View our guide to Yelp for business to learn how to create a desirable Yelp business profile.
- Google + – Though not as popular as Yelp amongst consumers for reading restaurant reviews, reviews on Google + have a chance of showing in the local results when someone searches for your type of restaurant. You will need to set up a Google My Business page in order to get these types of reviews.
- TripAdvisor – Tripadvisor caters to travelers. If your city is tourist destination, it’s important to maintain a presence on Tripadvisor, as well. Here’s an article on how to setup and manage your Tripadvisor business listing.
- OpenTable – OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation service where users can easily search for restaurant in their area, read reviews, and make reservations all in one place. You may want to get your restaurant listed on OpenTable, especially if many of your competitors are using the site.
After you have set up your restaurant profile on these sites, it’s important to get your existing customers to leave reviews for you. This can be tricky, however there is software available to make this process easier for you. Find out why we recommend ReviewTrackers in our reputation management software buyer’s guide.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
You can have the most amazing food and the best customer service, and people can still find something to complain about. The most important step you can take after someone leaves a negative review is to respond, and do so quickly.
If a customer posts a negative review, it’s not the end of the world. However, it’s important that you are keeping an alert eye on the most popular review sites. Whenever someone posts a comment, good or bad, you can follow up with an attentive response. Oftentimes, a quick and meaningful response will diffuse anger and totally transform the situation.
We did a thorough guide on how to respond to negative online reviews. Be sure to check it out so that you’re prepared to handle negative reviews if they are posted.
Step 4: Use Social Media To Reach a Wider Audience
Now that you have your website and online reviews squared away, it’s time to spread the word about your restaurant. Social media is a powerful tool that gives restaurant owners the opportunity to connect with thousands of local users that they would not have been able to get in front of without the platform.
People love to post about food, watch food videos, and share food related content with friends. By creating engaging content – such as recipe videos, pictures of your delicious looking food, and sharing events that your restaurant will be apart of, you increase the chance of users sharing your posts.
Remember that it’s key that you work on your online presence before you start marketing on social media, as users who hear about you through Facebook or Instagram are likely to look to your online reviews and website before deciding if they want to visit your establishment.
Step 5: Leverage Your Relationships in the Community
While social media is a great way to reach a wider audience, the heart of restaurant marketing is local.
“The adage – ‘All politics are local’ is also true for restaurants. 80% of business comes within 6-8 miles of a full-service restaurant. Thus, it is extremely important to be active in the community.
— H.G. Parsa Ph.D., Professor, University of Denver
One way to be successful with local marketing is to get involved in local events. It’s not necessary that you organize them yourself, just sponsoring one or showing up to sell food is a good start for making your restaurant known in the local community.
You will also want to form relationships with other local businesses that appeal to the same target market. For example, get in touch with realtors in your area. They have access to new people moving into town, and can do things to spread the word about your restaurant such as including a coupon for your restaurant in a welcome packet.
If your customers are mostly corporate, get in touch with the office managers and offer to give a free lunch to the office. You can also ask around to see if you can leave a pamphlet with your restaurant information and menu in local businesses around town. Offer to have their pamphlets in your restuarant in return.
If you want even more local marketing tips, check out our 35 local marketing ideas from the pros.
How To Get The Attention of Local Press
Getting the media to notice your restaurant may seem difficult, but not if you follow this rule: Always have the reporter and the audience’s goals in mind. Develop the relationship with your reporter before you need a story, then tell a meaningful story when you do.
Opening a restaurant may not be news, but giving away one year of free pizza to the lucky raffle winner at your grand opening may be.
Step 6: Turn Newcomers into Repeat Customers
You’ve gotten customers to come to your restaurant, great! But your marketing efforts should not stop there. Repeat customers are invaluable to restaurants, plus a raving review from a current customer to their friends goes a long way. You also want to make sure that your menu is set up to be as profitable as possible.
Training is the Ultimate Fulfillment of Your Marketing Promise
Your hosts, servers, bussers, prep and line cooks, chefs, even the dishwashers must know what your brand is about and why guest service and an excellent experience count. They must know what to say, how to say it, when to say it. They must know how to treat each guest with the utmost respect and courtesy and with the right attitude/approach for your brand.
You must clearly demonstrate to your employees, your commitment to the guest experience and hold them accountable to do the same. Investing in marketing without backing it up at the table is like leaping from a plane without a parachute.
View our ultimate guide to customer service training to learn how to train your employees to provide stellar customer service.
How To Get The Most Out of Your Menu
Most independent restaurant operators don’t know the easy techniques to make the most money from their menu. Guests in your restaurant are there to buy, not browse. Make it easy for them to spend their money, have a great experience and be profitable for you at the same time.
Five menu power tips:
- No leader dots………………………………………………………………… to prices. Leader dots make your guest treat your menu like a price list. They’ll immediately be focused on price and select as such.
- No $ signs. Doesn’t this: $ make you think of money? Don’t make your guests think of money. Your price should say 13.99 instead of $13.99.
- Descriptions sell: “Our large, delicious omelettes are prepared with four farm fresh eggs, whipped to fluffy perfection then folded with locally sourced freshly prepared vegetables, hand-sliced meats and hand grated cheeses.” This is far better than, “Four eggs, vegetables, meat and cheese.”
- The upper right hand corner is the single most valuable piece of real estate on your menu. Research shows this is the first place a guest’s eyes go. Use the top right corner wisely to highlight and feature your highest profit items.
- In addition to great descriptions, pictures are critical to your success. Full color, excellent food photography makes items fly off your menu. Choose your most profitable or highest dollar contributors to feature with food close ups!
View these 25 restaurant menu templates to help you get started creating your menu.
With a great menu and excellent customer service, you are well on your way to driving repeat business. However, there is no harm in giving your past customers gentle reminders of why they should return. We’ll cover the best way to do this in the next section.
Step 7: Keep Marketing to Your Best Customers
You’ve already got guests coming in your door, you want to get a second date, a third date, your goal is to establish a long term relationship. Getting your existing guests to opt-in is critical.
You want to be top of mind when a guest is considering where to go eat. You get there by communicating with them continuously via postcards in the mail, newsletters, email, text messages and rewarding their loyalty by offering them valuable promotions, exclusive offers and benefits for joining your club, VIP program, house list.
Our recommended restaurant POS system, Toast, offers many of the customer relationship functions we mentioned above so you can easily maintain contact with customers. Read more about why it’s our recommended provider in our restaurant POS system buyer’s guide.
Spreading the word about your restaurant takes time and effort, but after reading this guide, you should have the information you need to get started!
Interested in even more restaurant marketing ideas? Check out these 50 restaurant marketing tips from the pros.