Restaurant Marketing Basics for the Busy Restaurateur

The life of a restaurant owner is often busy and chaotic. From managing day-to-day restaurant operations to personnel, menu changes, and more, it’s difficult to find the time to also promote your restaurant online and offline.

But without marketing, your restaurant won’t succeed in the highly competitive restaurant industry. So, let’s see what you can do to promote your restaurant without neglecting your other tasks or breaking the bank.

Restaurant Marketing 101: Simple Tips & Tricks for Restaurant Success

1. Learn how to attract new customers to your restaurant

One of the main goals of restaurant marketing is to help you attract new customers to your eatery. If you’ve just opened a new restaurant, make sure the neighborhood knows by distributing flyers in your area.

To increase the chances of customers actually paying attention to the flyer rather than throwing it away the moment they get it, print a discount coupon code for a first visit.

First-order discounts are an excellent way to motivate customers to visit or order from your restaurant.

To attract passersby, set up a menu and promotions blackboard in front of the restaurant to persuade them to come in. Additionally, leveraging a high-quality menu maker can enhance your marketing efforts both online and offline.

Drawing attention to your entrance with decorations, posters featuring menu specials, and other eye-catching décor elements will increase the chances of them giving your restaurant a chance.

Organizing a grand opening event will attract publicity and word-of-mouth, especially if you promise all-day discounts, promotions, and live entertainment.

2. Promote customer retention for long-term success

Once you’ve convinced customers to dine with you once, your job is to keep them coming back for return visits or to order from you online.

To succeed long-term, you need a loyal group of regulars that will choose your restaurant over others.

There are many ways in which you can ensure customer loyalty, from the delicious food to the impeccable service and small gestures such as greeting them by name or offering a complimentary bottle of champagne on their birthday.

Another way to increase customer retention is to offer regular discounts and promotions to clients who haven’t ordered in a while. A simple email reminding them they have a 15% discount on their next order can do the trick.

Email reminders designed to prevent cart abandonment can also help you reengage customers.

3. Make your restaurant stand out online

There’s only so much offline promotion you can do when most of your customers spend their free time online.

The solution is to go where your customers are, starting with a website that’s optimized for search engines. What that entails is making your website easy to find when customers search for your cuisine in their area.

Look at your website as you would a digital business card. You can link it in your social media bios, press releases, Google Business Profile, and anywhere else that might bring you traffic.

It’s a place for customers to discover your menu, learn more about your cuisine, reserve a table, or place an order online, without having to go to different third-party websites or directories.

4. Explore new revenue streams like pickup and delivery

Offering more than dine-in services can really boost your success in the community. Not everybody is up for going out to eat, especially if they have a short lunch break or are tired after a long day’s work.

Offer takeaway to reach a larger audience and increase revenue without having to expand to a new location or hire more staff.

All you need to do is create a restaurant menu with built-in online ordering that enables customers to place orders for pickup and delivery from the comfort of their homes.

The more options they have, the more they’ll rave about your restaurant to friends and family. From multiple fulfillment options like no-contact delivery or curbside pickup to various methods of payment such as credit card, PayPal, or Apple Pay.

You can also promote your takeaway services in the restaurant by displaying a flyer on each table letting customers know they can also order your food online, complete with your website address and any existing promotions you have in place.

Having promotions that can only be redeemed online will also encourage customers to order. Make sure they know they’re only available for a limited time to create a sense of urgency.

5. Encourage online reviews

Online reviews are the bread and butter of a restaurant trying to gain recognition online and attract new and recurring customers. Most people check online reviews before they visit a restaurant, so you need to make sure that what they see is going to encourage them.

Start by creating restaurant accounts on the main review platforms: Google Business Profile, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

Then, monitor those reviews daily and reply to all, be they negative or positive. Addressing complaints publicly will show potential customers you care about the experience they have at your restaurant and are willing to apologize and make up for past mistakes.

Your Google Business Profile is the most relevant out of these because it’s what displays the business cards that appear on the right side of Google search results.

Encourage dine-in customers to leave you a review on Google by displaying a QR code menu on every table redirecting the user to where they can write a couple of words about their experience.

6. Be active on social media and collaborate with food influencers

Social media is an excellent tool for any restaurant owner looking to promote their business online without spending a fortune.

At their core, all social media platforms are free for businesses to use. Create a business account on platforms that your target audience uses.

For example, if you’re targeting a younger demographic, you should be active on Instagram and TikTok. An older audience might be more active on platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Once you settled on your go-to platforms, post often and try to engage followers with contests, polls, questions, menu sneak peeks, and more.

If you want to increase your social media following and the number of customers visiting your restaurant alike, consider collaborating with local influencers to promote your food.

Small influencers with a local following are enough for what you need, and they won’t cost you a fortune. In fact, some might even give you a social media shout-out in exchange for a free meal.

7. Partner with other local businesses

As a restaurant owner, you need to forge connections in the community if you’re hoping to be there long-term. That includes other businesses.

Not only will that improve your reputation, but it can genuinely help you promote your restaurant through cross-promotion.

For example, you can reach out to hotels or Airbnbs and ask whether they’d be open to leaving flyers from your restaurant at reception for hungry travelers to check them out. You can even provide them with an exclusive discount for their customers.

In return, you can offer to also display flyers of their hotel and services in your restaurant and recommend them to customers who walk through your door.

8. Speed up service using innovative technology

If there’s one thing that will recommend your restaurant to potential customers, it’s your service. Speed is a huge factor in restaurant customer satisfaction.

If people have to wait a lot to get a table or the service is incredibly slow, that might deter others from giving your restaurant a shot.

Consider implementing technology that will enable you to serve more customers every day, such as a table booking system that also allows customers to pre-order their food, or a QR code menu for dine-in ordering.

That way, you cut off a lot of waiting time, which is good for your customer service, as well as your profitability.

9. Open your restaurant up for events

Offering the same type of service day in and day out can become monotonous for you and your customers alike. Spice things up with special events, live entertainment, or fun parties.

You can organize the event yourself, such as a 90s-themed party, karaoke night, or live jazz evening, and promote it on your website and social media.

Alternatively, you can also open your doors to customers who are interested in organizing an event at your restaurant, such as a corporate get-together, bachelorette party, or anniversary

10. Start initiatives customers care about

Finally, to become a staple of the community, you need to show customers you care about being involved and making a difference.

For example, customers love restaurants that show they care about the environment by recycling, switching to environmentally friendly packaging, and composting.

Be sure to proudly display your eco-initiatives in the restaurant and online, and you will gain the respect and admiration of the community.

Similarly, you can also get involved in fundraising events and charity fun runs supporting local causes.

Closing Thoughts

There you have it – you don’t need to invest a lot of time and resources in marketing your restaurant for it to work. 

Focus your attention on customer service, community partnerships, and free tools and technology that can help you advertise your restaurant to new and returning customers.

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