Restaurant Marketing Plan: Ideas & Strategies
By Silvia Valencia
In the last section, we described how to use your website, social media, PR, and campaigns to promote your soft opening and your grand opening. In this section, we’ll show you how to create a restaurant marketing plan with ideas and strategies to keep up the momentum and promote your restaurant well after it opens its doors.
While restaurant marketing is a big topic, there are some general principles and mechanisms you can employ to focus your efforts on strategies that will yield results.
Depending on your budget, you’ll want to test a few of the restaurant marketing strategies we mention here and repeat them if they’re effective. Not all restaurant marketing ideas will be a slam dunk, but you’ll need to take some leaps to find out what does and doesn’t work for your concept, target market, and location.
You’ll walk away from this section with:
- The knowledge you need to write a restaurant marketing plan
- Restaurant marketing strategies for your website, social media, email, SMS, review sites, and more
- Traditional restaurant marketing strategies for direct mail, contests, and events
- A list of festivals and events for your restaurant
When you read through this section, have your business plan, budget, and priorities close at hand. Note which restaurant marketing strategies you think will resonate the most based on the research you’ve already done on your target market and concept.
How to Write a Restaurant Marketing Plan
So when it comes to drafting your restaurant marketing plan, there’s good news: you’ve sort of already done it with your business plan .
For your restaurant marketing plan, you’ll just need to pull together relevant pieces from your business plan in a way that will translate into a succinct, actionable restaurant marketing plan. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Solidify your brand.
Before you begin brainstorming marketing activities, revisit your brand’s mission statement, vision statement, value propositions, and positioning statement. These should already be in your business plan, but it’s important to revisit them with a restaurant marketing lens. Here’s a reminder of what these components should look like.
Mission statement: A mission statement is the reason your restaurant exists. Mission statements are usually one to three sentences and approximately 50 words. They should:
- Describe your restaurant’s value
- Inspire your customers, staff, and stakeholders
- Be plausible and realistic
- Be specific and to the point
Vision statement: Your vision statement should answer the question, “What does your restaurant hope to create in the future?” Make it inspirational and motivational. Announce your goals and how you intend to impact your customers and the restaurant industry in the future. Use the future tense.
Value propositions: In one sentence, describe the unique value your restaurant provides to customers. Feel free to break down this sentence further into three or four value propositions that are unique to your restaurant. You will use these statements to describe how your restaurant stands out from your competition.
Positioning statement: In one sentence, describe how you want competitors, customers, and the rest of the marketplace to perceive you.
Step 2: Remind yourself of your target audience.
Your target audience was defined based on the the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of your customer segments. All restaurant marketing strategies you develop should speak to one or more segment of your target market .
Run through the following questions for each customer segment:
- Do they communicate on social media or review sites?
- What do they do before choosing to dine at a restaurant?
- Do they prefer to dine in or take out?
- What kind of events do they enjoy?
- Are they influenced by coupons or discounts?
Feel free to add any concept-specific questions that address the behaviors of your customer segments. You’ll want to determine the motivations behind choosing one restaurant over another, so that you can properly speak to your target audiences in ways that will resonate with them.
Step 3: Perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors.
Refer back to the competitor analysis you completed based on How To Do A Restaurant Competitor Analysis . Choose your top three to five local competitors.
For each competitor, perform a SWOT analysis:
- Strengths: What are your competitors doing right? By understanding what your competitors are doing right, you can do it better.
- Weaknesses: What could the competitor do better? Learn from your competitors’ mistakes by identifying holes in their operations.
- Opportunities: How can you exploit your competitors’ weaknesses and do better?
- Threats: Do your competitors offer something unique that you can’t?
Check your competitors’ website for the most current promotions and campaigns. Log coupons or freebies, deals, and daily recurring specials. Note special events like live music, karaoke, games night, etc.
Visit your competitors’ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blog. Evaluate their follower numbers and content
Step 4: Define your market differentiators.
Repeat the SWOT process on your own restaurant, and define your market differentiator in a single statement. This statement should describe your advantage over the competition.
Examples of a unique selling point are: lower pricing, unique location, specialty dishes, more engaging service, the atmosphere at your restaurant, or the culture you’re creating.
You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.
Step 5: Craft your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is how you would describe your restaurant to a stranger in 60 seconds or less. It’s important to keep this in mind as you craft the messaging behind promotions later.
In your elevator pitch, state:
- Your restaurant’s name and concept
- The type of cuisine you offer
- What you do for your target audience
- How you do it uniquely
Example: The Burger Bank is a gourmet burger fast casual restaurant. Our burgers fuse traditional Americana with flavors from around the world. Located in the heart of New York’s financial district, Wall Street professionals choose us to satisfy their quick service needs, without sacrificing gourmet taste or breaking the bank.
Step 6: Define and prioritize your restaurant marketing objectives.
Your restaurant marketing priorities at the beginning of your restaurant’s life will change as you develop. In general, however, all restaurant marketing initiatives will serve at least one of these three purposes:
Your brand precedes you. It’s your reputation – and you want to have a good one. Your brand will be reflected in everything you do as a business, including your marketing materials, decor, etc. Promoting your brand is vital to capturing the attention of your target audience and sticking out in their memory when they’re deciding where to eat.
Example initiatives: social media, PR, events, blogs, partnerships
- Customer acquisition
This is your obvious objective: to fill seats, fill bellies, swipe credits cards, and collect cash. These are the marketing campaigns that will get customers in the door.
Example initiatives: promotions, coupons, advertisements
- Customer retention
Customer retention campaigns are the marketing efforts you use to secure return business. Customer retention strategies involve capturing customer information and mixing branding and acquisition strategies. Customer retention initiatives make sure you can easily lure customers back in with incentives.
Example initiatives: social media, email marketing, loyalty programs
Step 7: Choose your promotional strategies.
Based on your budget, target audience, and goals, choose a few of these strategies to implement first (see below for detailed descriptions of each):
Digital restaurant marketing strategies
- Website and SEO
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Email marketing
- SMS text messaging
- Review sites
- Loyalty programs
Traditional restaurant marketing strategies
- Direct mail
- Contests and giveaways
- Leagues and events
When you’ve chosen your strategies, define the following for each:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Quantifiable goal
- Campaign details
- How you’ll measure success
Digital Restaurant Marketing Strategies
Now that you know how to write a restaurant marketing plan, it’s time to start filling it in with restaurant marketing ideas and campaigns.
Digital restaurant marketing refers to all marketing initiatives that you perform online. Traditional restaurant marketing refers to all the marketing initiatives that involve hard copy promotional materials. There will be crossover between the two, and there will be times when you’ll execute traditional and digital marketing in isolation of one another. A well-rounded marketing strategy includes elements of both.
Here’s what you need to know about digital restaurant marketing strategies.
Restaurant Marketing: Website & SEO
In When to Start Promoting Your Restaurant , we explained the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and how to optimize your website for search engines.
To recap, SEO is the practice of optimizing your website for search engine results, particularly Google. Your goal is to rank the highest on search engine page results (SERPs) when people use search terms that are relevant to your restaurant’s concept, type of food, and location.
There are several ways you can develop your website so that it’s optimized for Google’s indexing algorithm. Here are some basic best practices when you’re thinking about SEO.
Content : Don’t plagiarize content because Google will know . Use original copy on your website that keeps people browsing. As you develop the content on your site after you open, post relevant videos, images, and links to reputable websites to improve your SEO ranking.
Keywords : Research keywords that are relevant to your restaurant. Use Google Keyword Planner to get started. Enter your city and the term “restaurant”, click on your product category, and browse the results. Once you’ve researched relevant keywords, use them (naturally) into your web copy.
Title tags : In the backend of your website, you’ll see a field for title tags. Title tags are what appear in Google search results, and they should be between 20 and 60 characters long. Be as straightforward as you can when using title tags. For your restaurant’s homepage, for example, use your restaurant’s name and your location for your title tag.
Meta descriptions:Your meta description is the brief description of text below the title tag displayed in search results. In your meta description, summarize your page in 150 characters or less. Use relevant keywords within your description.
Backlinks to your website : Note that when a “high authority” website links to your website, your SEO ranking improves. So if you can get media coverage, blog coverage, etc. from other websites that Google has already ranked highly, your website’s ranking will also improve.
Now that you know the basics of SEO, here are two common best practices to follow when building your website.
Responsive design: A website is “responsive” when its design adjusts for smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Responsive design allows users to comfortable view and navigate a webpage on any device, without compromising the page’s text or functions. Most website templates and providers now use responsive design tactics. When you’re choosing a template for your website, make sure it supports responsive design.
Your website as a hub: Your digital restaurant marketing efforts should drive traffic to your website, and your website should include links to all your digital promotional assets. Make sure you include the following assets on your website:
- A e-newsletter submission form to capture visitors’ email addresses
- Social media pages
- Take-out and delivery apps
- Reservation apps
Restaurant Marketing: Content
Content marketing uses blog posts, videos, images, and SEO to:
- Improve your search ranking
- Reinforce your brand
- Remind your followers you exist
- Establish your restaurant as an authority on your concept
Your main tool for a healthy content marketing strategy will be a blog. If you enjoy writing, have a great story to tell, or your concept is interesting enough to explore in a blog, content marketing may be a crucial part of your overall marketing strategy.
Here’s how to create and maintain a great restaurant blog.
Host your blog on your website : Hosting your blog on your website can increase your SEO ranking because you’re producing more material for search engines to crawl and generate links.
Build a content calendar : An ideal posting cadence is three times per week, but we understand this is a lofty goal for a busy restaurateur. The most important thing is to create a content calendar so you can plan content and stick to a regular schedule that you can manage.
Generate content that is easy to create : Here are some restaurant marketing ideas for content to get you started:
- New menu items
- List articles (ex. 8 Ways to Serve Beer-Roasted Chicken)
- How-to articles
- Interviews with your staff
- History of your cuisine
- Special events
- Customer profiles
Hack the news : If something in the news relates back to your restaurant, feel free to write about it in your own words. Since the topic is trending, news hacking has the potential to bring more traffic to your site.
Distribute the workload : Ask staff and your business partners to write guest blogs, and feature a variety of subject matter experts.
Use keywords : Produce content that people are search for in the first place. Use Google Keyword Planner to plan content, and use keywords in your blog post’s title, the opening line, and throughout the body of the post.
Proofread your content : Re-read your content (out loud helps). Check for spelling and grammatical errors.
Repurpose content : Make sure you’re featuring your blog content across multiple platforms. For example, if you created a video of your chef explaining how to braise beef, write a blog post about it and post a shorter version on social media.
Cross-promote : Share all blog posts social media pages, in your e-newsletter, etc.
Restaurant Marketing: Social Media
While there are multiple social media platforms you can sign up for, here we’ll focus on the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Use it for: maintaining customer relationships, announcing new items, promoting events and specials, customer service, marketing incentives, and attracting new customers.
Post a maximum of two times per day to avoid inundating your audience. Here are some ideas for content to post to Facebook:
- Special dishes and menus
- Promotions and coupons
- Job postings
- Event photos
- Partner content
- Media coverage
When you post something to Facebook, you’ve created an organic post. You should know that organic posts by businesses are not served up to followers as much as they were in the past. If you really want to increase reach and engagement on Facebook, you’ll need to pay for Facebook advertising.
Facebook advertising allows you to:
- Boost your posts
- Promote your whole page
- Advertise an offer
- Send people to your website
Here are some campaigns you can run on Facebook based on which goals you’re trying to meet.
Brand awareness: Showcase your Facebook ad to as many people as possible. Use an awareness campaign for content that teaches people about your brand or area of expertise. Use this type of campaign for foundational, high-level marketing pieces like a brand video.
Store visits: Focus on acquiring customers to your location. Facebook uses your location to target appropriate users.
Local awareness: Create brand awareness based on your location. If you’re creating high-level content that speaks to your neighborhood, for instance, you may want to use this campaign.
Website conversions: Get traffic to your website and encourage people to take an action. Use this campaign to promote subscriptions to your e-newsletter, event attendance, or promo sign up.
Clicks to website: Drive more traffic to your website through a content piece. Or use this campaign to direct users to a third-party review, for instance.
Event ads: If you’ve created an event through your page, promote the ad to users beyond your network.
Offer claim ads: Customize a call-to-action that sends users to a sign up form on your website where they can claim a discount code.
Form fill ads: Facebook enables you to create a form for users to fill out without making them leave Facebook. The user clicks the ad and is brought to a pop-up. They can then submit the form and redeem their offer, while you get the information they fill out.
Page likes: Get more users to like your page. This is especially useful if you’re regularly posting content to Facebook and want to generate more reach.
Post engagement: Showcase content to broader audiences by expanding the reach of single post. This ad serves the dual purpose of generating more activity (likes and comments) on your posts and exposing your page to new likes.
When you run a Facebook ad, you’ll need to create an “ad set” – a target audience – based on a set of criteria. Use the target audience you’ve identified in your marketing plan as a guide to creating your ad sets.
When creating ad sets, Facebook gives you the following criteria to filter:
- Location down to the street, neighborhood, city, and country level. Drop a pin, presumably your restaurant’s location, to determine the amount of Facebook users you’d like to target within that vicinity. You can target as close as a kilometer from your restaurant.
- Interests (competitor restaurants, cuisine type, menu items, etc.)
You can also exclude certain interest groups and narrow your search by including “must-have” interests.
Use it for: showcasing mouth-watering menu items, cross-promoting content, spreading awareness of your brand and culture, promoting contests and engagement.
Instagram is where restaurants shine, with mouth-watering pictures of food. Feel free to post at least once or twice a day to Instagram. Here are some ideas for content to post to Instagram:
- Images of food (professionally taken)
- Timelapses (plating meals, creating drinks, the front door on a busy night)
- Behind the scenes pictures
- Customer and partner profiles
- Snippets from blog posts
Here are some tips to posting high-quality Instagram content.
Post great photos: Use professionally curated images or ones that you’ve taken yourself under great lighting. Download an easy-to-use photo editing app to your phone, such as Snapseed , A Color Story , or VSCO .
Share more than food: Feature content about your customers and partners, share community news about your restaurant, and feature images of local entertainment that will be playing at your restaurant.
Always respond to comments: The more you engage with your audience, the more Instagram’s algorithms will believe your content is relevant. When Instagram perceives your content as relevant, your posts will appear in more feeds.
Engage with customers and partners: Don’t wait for them to comment on your posts. Stay top of mind by commenting on their posts first.
Use Instagram Stories: Instagram allows you to post 15-second videos and photos that are visible to audiences for 24 hours. Feel free to post non-professional, in-the-moment material.
Use unique hashtags: Create a hashtag based on the name of your restaurant, a contest, campaign, or promotion. Use the # sign and add the theme or campaign name. By creating a unique hashtag, you’re creating a conversation thread that tracks any post using that hashtag.
Use niche hashtags: Use hashtags that already exist. They might be geographical, industry related, or event driven. Niche hastags allow you to join in on a conversation so that potential customers can find you when they search the hashtag. Search #WingWednesday on Instagram to see how niche hashtags work.
Use geo-tags: Always geo-tag to your content by tagging the location of your restaurant or the city you’re in. Geo-tagged content has a better chance of being featured because Instagram indexes this information when suggesting promoting relevant content to their users.
Similar to Facebook, you can create ads on Instagram. Instagram advertising allows you to:
Create ads through Facebook: Facebook owns Instagram, therefore the platforms are linked. Create an Instagram ad at the same time as a Facebook ad. Do this to cross-promote a campaign and increase its impact on multiple social media platforms. Before you place the order for your Facebook ad through the Ad Manager, check off Instagram in the “Ad Preview” section.
Create Instagram Story ads: Using Facebook’s ad manager, upload one photo or a 15-second video. Facebook will serve your Instagram Story ad to relevant audiences in between stories. Note that you can only use 9×16 vertical images and video for Story Ads.
Promote a post quickly: Sponsor posts on-the-fly using the Instagram app. Simply click the “Promote” button and select an eligible post that you’ve already published. Then determine your audience, budget, and the ad duration.
Use it for: Promotions, moment-to-moment updates, customer relationships, and customer service
Post to Twitter as much as you’d like! But three or more times daily is a common standard.
Note that marketers have been questioning the value of Twitter. With that in mind, we suggest prioritizing other social media platforms over Twitter, especially as you’re starting out and you’re short on time.
Here are some best practices to posting to Twitter:
- Post links to blog posts, videos, events, and websites
- Engage by retweeting your partners
- Search hashtags to participate in conversations
- Limit hashtags to two hashtags per tweet
Restaurant Marketing: Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective way to:
- Deliver educational information and great stories to people who are interested in you
- Entice an engaged audience with promotions
- Promote special events
- Encourage customer loyalty
To get you started, here are a few email platforms you can use to create attracted and effective emails:
- Constant Contact
Here are some ideas for the types of content you can send via email.
Newsletter: Send a monthly newsletter with new menu items, special menus, and upcoming events. Include successful blog posts, videos, and any contests. Offer incentives to your email list to get return business, whether that’s a coupon or a promo code.
Dedicated email blasts: Send a dedicated, follow-up email to the emails you collected during a contest or event. Do this within a week of receiving their email. Capture their attention – and hopefully their business – while the event or contest is still fresh in their mind.
Here are some best practices for email marketing.
Build up your email database.
- Run contests that require entrants to submit an email address.
- Include an email address submission form on your website.
- Provide an e-newsletter sign up sheet at all events.
Follow your country’s opt-in requirements.
American Anti-SPAM Law (CAN-SPAM)
You can send promotional emails, but you must include the ability to opt-out of communications.
Emails must clearly identify your restaurant as the sender. Emails must contain an unsubscribe link and your postal address.
Canadian Anti-SPAM law (CASL)
Recipients must opt-in to email communications and give express consent before you can send promotional emails to them. You must maintain a record of consented addresses. Consent is implied when the email contact has purchased a product, service, or made another business deal, contract, or membership with your organization in the last 24 months. Emails must clearly identify your restaurant as the sender. They must contain contain an unsubscribe link, postal address, and your contact information.
Know your ideal email frequency.
- Send an email once a month at minimum and once a week at maximum.
- A monthly newsletter is a great way to share your most valuable content. If you oversend content or sent pointless content, you’ll risk losing the attention of your recipients.
Measure your success.
- Open rate: the percentage of recipients who opened the email based on the total number of emails sent
- Clickthrough rate: the percentage of people who clicked on a link in the email
- Soft bounce: The number of recipients who did not receive the email due to an out-of-office or full inbox
- Hard bounce: The number of recipients who did not receive the email because their email no longer exists or there is an error in the address
- Unsubscribe rate: The percentage of recipients who unsubscribed from your email list after they received the email
According to MailChimp’s Email Marketing Benchmarks , here are the average numbers for the restaurant industry.
Restaurant Marketing:Text Messaging
SMS/MMS text message marketing sends a text directly to someone’s phone. Text message marketing has a higher open rate than emails, but note that the practice is still new and may feel invasive to some people.
Here are some providers you can look to if you’re considering SMS text message marketing.
- AT&T’s Mobile Marketing
Here are some ideas for content you can send via SMS:
- Offers and promotions
- Waitlist notifications with opt-in asks
Here are some SMS marketing best practices.
Keep it short: Text messages are limited to 160 characters. Keep your text short.
Include a clear call-to-action: Tell customers exactly what you want them to do, whether that’s to redeem an offer code or visit your website.
Identify your restaurant: Recipients are easily put off by a text from an unknown number. Make it clear that the text is coming from your restaurant.
Opt-in messages: Both U.S. and Canadian companies need to obtain permission to send marketing messages. You can do so with an initial text message or a web-based form-fill. It’s also a best practice to set expectations by telling contacts the type of material you intend to send them and the frequency.
Opt-out messages: Notify the recipient of the ways they can opt-out of communications. It’s better to have a contact opt-out before they start receiving messages, rather than send materials that could provoke a negative response toward your brand.
Restaurant Marketing: Review Sites
You may think of review sites as a place to manage customer complaints, gather intelligence, and showcase your menu. But review sites are also incredibly effective advertising platforms. In fact, review sites have optimized their platforms to give restaurants an opportunity to tap into the diners who are looking at reviews.
You’ll want to start by claiming your page on all review sites. Once you claim your business page, you should:
Add photos: Optimize your page by adding professionally curated photos of favorite dishes and your space.
Update information: Update any contact information and ensure your location information is accurate. The majority of people on review sites are looking for contact information.
Manage feedback: Both positive and negative reviews require a response. Think of your response as good customer service, so make sure you’re cordial when responding to negative reviews. And invite guests who have had a positive experience to leave a review – more reviews mean a higher ranking in results. But don’t pay or offer incentives for reviews. You could get suspended from the site if you’re found out.
Each review site has marketing tools for restaurant owners. Here are some of the most common review site marketing platforms.
Yelp for Business Owners
Yelp Ads feature your restaurant in Yelp search rankings. Target local audiences and place an ad on competitors’ business pages. You can also:
- Restrict competitors from advertising on your page
- Add a slideshow to your page
- Use Yelp to take reservations
- Access a call-to-action button to highlight a promotion
- Receive account management support
- Gain access to a videographer who can create a video promo for your Yelp page
FourSquare for Business
Foursquare uses consumer behavior, preferences, and location to advertise your business to the correct target audience. Foursquare ads feature your restaurant at the top of their search page. The ad itself is free, but you pay when a user clicks on your ad.
TripAdvisor Premium for Restaurants
TripAdvisor comes with three tools beyond its free business page:
- Storyboard: A tool that combines your best photos, reviews, and tags into a preview of your restaurant. Here’s an example .
- Top 3 Reasons to Eat Here: This feature adds a layer to your TripAdvisor restaurant listing. The layer enables you to showcase your differentiator using photos, reviews, and your own words.
- Spotlight Favorite Reviews: Pin your best review to the top of your review page, so that the review is the first thing guests see.
Zomato for Business
Zomato has two advertising models. You can use customized banners on Zomato’s website and mobile platform, or you can advertise within the collection of restaurants where you’re already featured.
Zomato also has widgets you can add to your website. These widgets prompt users to rate your restaurant on Zomato or order from your restaurant on Zomato.
OpenTable for Business
OpenTable ads: Like other review sites, OpenTable ads make your listing show up higher in search results, across all mobile and web platforms. OpenTable follows a pay per click model, so you only pay when diners take action on your ad. The cost is $5 per seat cover.
Gifts: You have the option of sell gift cards through OpenTable.
Bonus points: On OpenTable, users can collect points and get rewards when they book a table through the platform. OpenTable enables you to hijack this feature. Offer bonus points during slow times to incentivize diners to choose your restaurant over others.
Private dining: OpenTable’s Private Dining pages are essentially premium pages. They promise to increase your Google SEO and have more space for visuals and lengthy descriptions. OpenTable also actively promotes restaurants with private dining pages in their seasonal emails.
Restaurant Marketing: Loyalty Program
The goal of loyalty programs is to generate repeat business using incentives and gamification.
The benefits of loyalty programs include:
- Higher average check size
- Customer referrals
- Better customer communication
Here are types of loyalty programs to explore for your restaurant.
Punch cards: The concept is simple. When a customer purchases a menu item, they receive a stamp. After they have acquired a specific amount of stamps, they earn a free meal. Apps, however, have made it possible for customers to collect points digitally.
POS loyalty programs : A POS system allocates points to guests based on the amount of money they spend or the items they choose. The system can distribute discounts based on the customer’s activity. Usually the customer is working towards a points goal that results in a free or discounted meal.
Referral programs: Referral programs are a great way to get satisfied customers to engage their networks. When a customer refers a friend to your restaurant, you reward them based on the new business they send you.
Food Delivery and Ordering Apps
A 2016 statista study found that 26% of people order food online at least once a week, and another 24% order food online three times a week.
By having a presence on take-out and delivery sites, you get your brand and your menu in front of a larger audience. Here are some food delivery and ordering apps you should consider being a part of.
GrubHub / Seamless / Eat24 (Yelp)
- Services: Pick-up and delivery
- Where: Available across major U.S. cities and London, UK, GrubHub is used by 55,000 restaurants. Seamless is available in some large U.S. cities, with a major presence in New York.
- Differentiators: Use Seamless for professional target markets. Use GrubHub/Eat24 for everyone else, including students.
- What they do for you: GrubHub and Seamless list your menu items, process orders, and accept payments from customers and deliver your food using a delivery driver. Eat24 does the same, except you’re responsible for food delivery.
- Where: Available in major Canadian cities
- What they do for you: List your menu items, process orders, and take card payments from customers. You’re responsible for delivery.
- Services: Delivery
- Where: Major cities across North America, South America, and Moscow.
- What they do for you: List your menu items, process orders, accept card payments from customers, and deliver your food using a delivery driver.
- Where: Available in Toronto, Quebec, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton
- Services: Online ordering
- Where: Anywhere
- What they do for you: ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly through your website, Facebook page, Yelp page, or a customized smartphone app for your restaurant. Unlike other apps, customers don’t have to go to a third party site.
Traditional Restaurant Marketing Strategies
While digital marketing efforts have become the cornerstone of most marketing plans, the power of traditional marketing should not be overlooked.
Face-to-face interaction, word of mouth, and endorsements are tried-and-true marketing tactics that still work. Be sure to bolster your digital marketing efforts with traditional marketing as well. This dual strategy makes for well-rounded marketing that leaves no stone unturned.
Restaurant Marketing: Contests
Contests are an effective way to engage your audience and tap into their networks. They offer entrants a reward in exchange for their submission. Entrants are more willing to give up their contact information and share the contest because they want free stuff.
The key to a successful contest is making sure the reward is worth the steps to enter, whether that’s giving their email address or tagging friends.
There are three subcategories of contests:
- A skills contest: You choose a winner based on skill or merit. There’s no random draw; instead the entrants must submit something that can be judged. For example: a photo contest would require guests to submit pictures for judging.
- A sweepstakes: You choose a winner at random. Entrants participate for free.
- A lottery: Entrants must pay a fee in order to participate in the contest.
To run a contest, you’re responsible for putting together rules and guidelines. These should include:
- Your restaurant’s name
- Your restaurant’s website
- Your restaurant’s address
- Contest start and end dates
- How to enter
- Who qualifies as a winner (minimum age, eligible countries/states/cities)
- How many times entrants can enter
- Disqualification rules
- How a winner will be chosen
- When and how you’ll notify the winner that they won
- Prize and price value
- The date the prize must be claimed
Also be aware of Facebook and Instagram contest rules. You’re responsible for “the lawful operation of that promotion” including:
- The official rules
- Offer terms and eligibility requirements
- Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered
- A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant
- Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Instagram
Both sites have some substantial differences in their guidelines.
Facebook Promotion Guidelines
In essence, you cannot use any of Facebook’s features to host a contest. That means you can’t say “like/share/tag this post for a chance to win.” You’ll instead need to use a third-party app or link to an external page.
The legalities of Facebook contests can get murky really quickly. Third-party apps make it easier to navigate this process. As a bonus, they also provide you with a set of contest analytics.
Here are a few providers:
- Contests for Pages
- Instagram Promotion Guidelines
Instagram lets you use content engagement for contests, but be aware that: “You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).”
Here are some contest ideas for Instagram.
- Photo contest: Ask entrants to take a photo at your restaurant and submit it for a chance to win.
- Submit a recipe: Feature the winner’s recipe on your menu or run it as a special.
- Nominate a winner: Ask entrants to post a picture of someone they think deserves an exclusive three-course meal and why. This would be a great contest to hold around Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when people are feeling sentimental about their loved ones.
Here are some contest best practices for Instagram.
- Be clear on your goals. If your goal is to get more followers, build a tag or follow request into your contest rules. If your goal is to collect email addresses for your mailing list, have participants submit a form. If your goal is engagement, require entrants to interact as a part of the contest rules.
- Announce your winner publicly. This shows entrants that you followed the contest rules and indeed chose a winner. It also gives the winner an extra little bit of praise.
- If applicable, showcase the winner receiving their winnings in your restaurant. If their prize was a dinner for two, ask permission to take their picture when they claim their prize. Post it to social media.
Restaurant Marketing: Direct Mail Campaigns
Direct mail campaigns use your post office’s business program to send marketing materials to specific zip/postal codes. While you can’t weed out recipients who don’t match your target market, you can market to people who may try your restaurant due to proximity alone.
To get the most out of your direct mail campaign, include an incentive for the recipient. In the design, make sure you’ve included your logo, address, phone number, links to social media pages, and your website.
- Flyers: a one-page, double-sided paper that features menu items
- Take-home menu: a printed version of your full menu
- Invitation: an invitation to an exclusive event for your neighbors
- Coupons: Deals, promotional codes and special offers
Use the following services to distribute your direct mail campaign:
- United States Postal Service Advertise by Mail
- Canada Post Direct Mail Services
Restaurant Marketing: Events
By becoming involved at local festivals, you have the opportunity to:
- Gain brand recognition
- Connect with local businesses
- Expose a large group of local consumers to your menu
While many events and festivals charge vendor fees, you may be able to make up your costs if you can successfully capture future business from the event. How do you do this? By providing incentives, making personal connections, and capturing festival-goers’ email information to ensure future correspondence.
You should also be aware of the risks. The success of outdoor events can be compromised by inclement weather. Some events might look enticing on paper, but in actuality fail to attract a relevant audience. With this in mind, approach the event with a clear goal in mind and a way to measure that goal.
Your goals could be any of the following:
- New customers
- Brand exposure
- Event revenue
- Number of meals sold
- Expanding your email database
Ways to measure success include:
- Use a promo code on coupons specifically designed for the event, to track conversions.
- Convert new event contacts in your email database to customers. Run an email campaign to that specific list of event attendees. Use a promo code to track conversions.
- Calculate the revenue made from the event against your vendor costs, food costs, labor costs, and equipment costs.
Tips for choosing and attending festivals:
- Ask the event coordinator about the expected number of attendees.
- Research past vendors and inquire about their experience. What return on investment did they get?
- Determine whether your target market will be present.
- Determine if you need to acquire permits. The festival should provide you with this information.
- Consult with an insurance broker to make sure you’re covered.
- Ask about the other vendors locations and determine an ideal placement.
- Create a custom menu using low food cost, high popularity items.
- Create an inventory list of all the items you’ll be selling and the number of orders you anticipate.
- Portable cooking equipment
- Promotional materials
- A banner for your booth and other signage with your logo on it
- A menu board
- An email sign up sheet
Or, if you don’t want to participate in a festival, you can always host your own event.
Special events take on many forms. You could celebrate the cultural holidays that match your restaurant’s cuisine. Or you could partner with a local charity to raise funds.
Especially when running in partnership with other businesses, events have the power to bring in new business. They allow you to interact with your local business community and tap into the network of your business partners.
Consider the following event types:
- Holidays and celebrations (e.g., everything from Mardis Gras to Thanksgiving)
- Fundraising for a local charity
- Silent auction (using auction items from neighboring businesses)
Your event checklist:
- Determine the theme of your event and the date you will hold it.
- Double check that there are no conflicting events in your neighborhood or city on that day.
- Pitch local partners to get involved.
- Choose a food item strategy: create hors-d’oeuvres, tapas, or a prix fixe menu.
- Create invitations: digital, print, or both.
- Create a registration page. Use a web form that includes a field for email. This way you can send guests specific information closer to the event day. You have the added benefit of obtaining their email information with their reservation.
- Update the event on your webpage.
- Create and distribute a press release.
- Create a blog post about the event.
- Invite local media and businesses.
- Include the event in your monthly newsletter.
- Send out an email dedicated to the event.
- Promote your event on your social media pages. If necessary, create an advertisement.
- Pass along promotional material for business partners to distribute to their networks.
- Create a Facebook event.
- Determine advertising platforms and budget.
- Create a swag bag for the event. Include a coupon or discount card as an incentive for event guests to return .
City-run events also have huge marketing potential. These events tend to draw large crowds because they’re backed by the city and local tourism boards. They also garner a lot of press and consumer attention. Thus, getting a piece of the local event pie can do wonders in getting exposure and generating new businesses for your restaurant.
Here are just a few local foodie events for restaurants.
Summerlicious / Winterlicious
Hosted by the City of Toronto, Summerlicious is a food festival that runs for two weeks every July. Its counterpart Winterlicious runs for two weeks every January.
Each restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menu at a set price. The goal of the festival is to expose Torontonians to new restaurants.
To be eligible, restaurants must fill the following criteria:
- Be an existing, full service restaurant
- Be located in the city of Toronto
- Possess a current Dine Safe Green Pass issued by Toronto Public Health
- Demonstrate that the average price of a three-course meal on the restaurant’s regular lunch and/or dinner menu meets the minimum requirements.
Every year in Toronto, various cultures celebrate their cuisines in burrows around the city. These include:
- Taste of India Festival
- Taste of the Danforth (Greek)
- Pan American Food Festival
- Giro d’Italia
New York City
NYC Restaurant Week
New York Restaurant Week is an event held twice a year. Participating fine dining restaurants in New York City offer prix fixe lunches and dinners for a set price that is less expensive than their normal menu.
You must fill out a registration form, indicating NYC Restaurant Week as your main point of interest. Fill out the form here .
Chicago Restaurant Week
Chicago restaurants offer special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for brunch and lunch, and $33 or $44 for dinner.
Purchase participation and register here . The cost to participate is between $350 and $500.
Restaurant marketing is what you make of it – while you likely won’t be able to implement all of the suggested restaurant marketing strategies we have here, you should be able to choose a few that will be most likely to work for your concept. Restaurant marketing is a constant work in progress. You’ll try a few tactics, succeed and fail, and fine tune your overall strategy based on what you’ve learned.
The most important thing to remember about restaurant marketing is to prioritize properly for the budget you have. But don’t be afraid to take risks: you may just find that your restaurant shines after testing a marketing tactic that you didn’t think would work. Just be aware of your limits so you can take smart risks rather than breaking the bank.
Silvia is the former Digital Marketing Manager for TouchBistro. During her time with TouchBistro, she managed and coordinated content for the RestoHub blog.
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Blog / June 22, 2023
A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Restaurant Marketing Plan (Free Template)
Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or promoting your existing concept, a restaurant marketing plan can help guide your promotional efforts so that you reach the right customers, and keep them coming back.
Providing customers with a memorable dining experience can get them hooked. However, it’s getting them in the door for the first time, or encouraging them to place that initial online order, that’s the tricky part. Fortunately, our guide and free template to creating a restaurant marketing plan is designed to give you a head start on your marketing efforts.
Keep reading to discover:
- What a restaurant marketing plan is and why you need one
- What to include in your marketing plan
- Restaurant marketing strategies to consider
What’s a Restaurant Marketing Plan and Why Do I Need One?
A restaurant marketing plan is a document that outlines and informs your marketing strategy. It typically covers topics like who your ideal customers are, how you’re going to reach those customers and how you’ll compete with your competitors.
Creating a restaurant marketing plan is a helpful exercise in understanding how your business compares to other similar businesses in your area, including your competitive advantages. While you don’t need a restaurant marketing plan, having one can help you be deliberate – and more successful – in your marketing initiatives.
If you plan to grow, a marketing plan is also an asset if you’re seeking investors. Any smart investor will ask you for your marketing plan in addition to your business plan . Together, these documents prove that you’ve thought through the ins and outs of operating and promoting a restaurant.
Going through the exercise of creating a restaurant marketing plan helps you take all of the creative promotional ideas you have in your head and put them in writing so that you can share your vision with collaborators and hold yourself accountable.
What Should be Included In a Restaurant Marketing Plan?
Here’s a detailed look at what information your restaurant’s marketing plan should contain.
Write a brief introduction to the business that covers the basics, like your restaurant’s name, location, service style and concept.
Then, summarize highlights from the rest of the marketing plan. We suggest writing this part last, so that you can reference the rest of the document.
Explain your restaurant’s marketing goals and what key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll be using to measure success.
Need inspiration? Here are some sample goals to get you started:
A restaurant’s mission and values are a large part of your brand identity — it informs your business decisions, branding, voice and processes. Simply put, a mission statement explains why your restaurant exists, and it needs its own space in your restaurant marketing plan.
Unique Selling Proposition
Write down your restaurant’s unique selling propositions (USPs): what makes it different from the competition. Keep your USPs in mind when crafting your marketing strategy; they should inform everything from branding to your social media posts. It might also help to refer back to your mission statement when defining USPs.
Who is your ideal customer?
While you may be tempted to answer with “anyone who eats,” having such a broad client base isn’t conducive to crafting a marketing strategy.
Get really specific. Think about who would get very excited about what only your restaurant can offer. Knowing who you want to target with your marketing efforts will help you create marketing campaigns that resonate with that audience.
For example, you might want to target suburban families that are looking for a quick meal for dinner at a good price. Or you may want to serve high-paid, urban professionals looking for an exclusive restaurant at which to entertain clients.
Pro Tip: The more you know about who’s dining with you and why, the better you can deliver personalized experiences that keep them coming back. SevenRooms’ restaurant CRM can help you build out guest databases — like Brodeur’s Bistro did, when they added 9,000 guest profiles to their CRM in just six months with SevenRooms.
Guest Data: The Restaurant Marketer’s Secret Weapon
Research your market. Get to know the competition to source ideas from them and understand how to make your business stand out.
Answer questions like:
- What similar businesses already exist in the area?
- How does your restaurant differ from them?
- How can your restaurant improve on what similar restaurants are doing?
Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to identify what you’re doing well now as well as strategies for how to improve in the future.
Consider the following:
This exercise will help you be more aware of advantages you should leverage and obstacles you need to overcome.
Include your restaurant’s branding guidelines in your marketing plan.
Incorporate key branding assets, such as:
- Your logo and an explanation of what it means
- Your brand’s colors
- Your restaurant’s mission, vision and values
FYI : Take inspiration from burgers. beer. bourbon. , which makes its branding guidelines publicly available online.
Pricing and Positioning Strategy
Explain how your restaurant’s prices compare to competitors’ and how you’ll position your business among the competition.
Let’s say, for example, you run a healthy fast food restaurant chain. Fast food restaurants aren’t known for having healthy options. You can leverage your higher prices to show that you use better ingredients and position yourself as the leader in healthier fast food.
List any and all digital and physical marketing channels that your restaurant uses or plans on using, and explain how you’ll use each channel to achieve your marketing goals. Feel free to borrow these ideas:
- Social media : Use Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter to share updates and encourage customers to make reservations and place online orders. Link to your direct booking and ordering platforms in your bios.
- Email : Use restaurant marketing automation software that can send customers hyper-personalized marketing offers, automatically.
- Printed flyers : Reach customers at home by mailing them your menu or a special offer.
- Your restaurant’s website : Optimize your website to convert visitors into guests through online orders and reservations. Pop-ups and prominent buttons will help.
- Google listings : Maximize your Google My Business and Google Maps listings by adding buttons that allow visitors to place orders and make reservations.
Pro Tip : For marketing channels where you own your presence, like your website and Google listing, push direct booking and ordering instead of third-party platforms. (SevenRooms has a solution for this.) There’s no reason to have a middleman on channels that you have control over!
How to Shift from Legacy Reservation Apps to Direct Booking
Your marketing calendar should identify holidays, events, and other important moments. Every season offers a unique opportunity for restaurants to engage customers and drive sales — if you plan ahead and track every date. Create a simple marketing calendar to help ensure you celebrate every important, revenue-generating milestone.
FYI: Need help coming up with new ideas for timely events? Check out our UK Marketing Calendar and our Australian Marketing Calendar to get the creative juices flowing.
Restaurant Marketing Strategies
Use this final section to synthesize all you’ve discovered about your business by writing this restaurant marketing plan and come up with marketing tactics. This is the heart of your restaurant marketing plan, so don’t skimp on the details here. Brainstorm actionable strategies like long- and short-term plans across specific channels.
As you strategize your marketing plans, know that confining yourself to one channel alone won’t work. To reach today’s guests, you must be where they are, which means expanding into multiple channels and creating a consistent brand experience. This is called an omnichannel marketing strategy. Read our omnichannel marketing guide to learn how to implement it.
Whatever channels you decide to leverage (and you should choose several), remember to create a consistent brand experience. Here are some ideas to get you started on a successful omnichannel marketing approach:
- Email Marketing: Convert first-time customers into regulars by collecting guest data and then using marketing automation software to send targeted marketing messages to guests. Events that might interest them, loyalty program invites, review requests — it’s all fair game.
Playbooks & Guides
The Ultimate Email Marketing Guide for Restaurants
- Social Media by Channel: Some restaurant owners might focus all their time on one channel, while others have the bandwidth to promote across all platforms. No matter where you decide to live online, commit to a consistent posting schedule to generate awareness. Better yet, hire a social media consultant to work with influencers to promote the restaurant.
- Loyalty Programs: Even a small loyalty program can boost sales significantly. Brainstorm ways to build a loyalty program unique to your business that caters to your most loyal customers and offers incentives to return.
- Press Releases: If you’ve recently opened or rebranded, plan a grand opening event and invite family, friends, press, and influencers to spread the word.
- Website/SEO: Hire a digital marketing agency or SEO company to help you optomize your restaurant’s website and drive more traffic.
- Paid Ads: A successful social media marketing strategy includes paid ads . While, you don’t need to boost every post, it’s wise to promote your business across specific demographics (this is why guest data is important), to advertise new menu items or take-out options. Hashtags can also help ensure more people see your post.
- SMS: Texts have a higher open rate than email. After collecting phone numbers through online booking processes, send targeted text messages advertising offers, promotions and even waitlist notifications.
- Events: Whether you host events for all customers or reserve special occasions for your VIPs, celebrations at your venue help generate excitement and word-of-mouth.
- Direct Mail: Sending coupons, takeaway offers and event invites to a select group of people in the mail is still an effective marketing strategy. But before you send mailers, be sure your website and other POS systems are prepared to track the success of your campaigns.
- Video: TikTok and Instagram are great social media channels for engaging potential customers and maximizing online presence . Reels have high open rates , so it’s worth dedicating some time to posting on these channels.
Pro Tip: As you build out your marketing strategies, remember to track the success of your campaigns to determine what’s worth allocating more time to and what isn’t. Digital marketing tracking links will help to determine the return on investment (ROI) of each partnership.
To continually engage with and respond to your guests via social media, paid ads, events and via email, you’ll need to establish a marketing budget you can stick to each month or quarter. You don’t need a lofty budget; you can maintain social media platforms for free, or pay to boost your most impactful posts. There’s no set amount we’d recommend, but we do suggest allocating it across your most profitable channels.
Stay Focused With a Restaurant Marketing Plan
Restaurateurs have a lot on their plates. If you don’t develop a marketing plan, it can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations and neglect promoting your business. Take the time to put together a restaurant marketing plan. Then, schedule time for regular reviews of your marketing efforts.
SevenRooms’ marketing automation and email software help you put your marketing efforts on autopilot. Request a demo to see how.
Restaurant Marketing FAQs
How do you promote a restaurant using digital marketing.
A successful digital marketing plan for restaurants requires a well-defined mission and target audience. Once you know who you want to target, you can develop strategies to promote your website across social media channels, Google listings and your website.
What Should Be Included in a Restaurant Marketing Plan?
Your marketing plan should list marketing goals/KPIs, deadlines, budgets, long-term objectives, target audiences, core marketing messages, and ways to track your metrics. The plan should be detailed and written to evolve as you grow and learn. Most importantly, your marketing plan should clearly identify your venue’s strategic vision and the action steps you’ll take to achieve them using various marketing efforts.
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2022 Restaurant Marketing Ideas And Strategies: 4 Ideas
"Wait, what's the name of your restaurant? Never heard of it."
Small restaurant owners run into this situation regularly. The restaurant industry is crowded and competitive. If you're going to stand out and grow, you need to seriously consider your marketing plan-including Valentine’s day promotion ideas for restaurants . With the rise of social media marketing and new technologies, this can feel overwhelming. That's why it's vital to know how to use social media and restaurant SEO to boost awareness of your dining establishment. It'll even help offset the cost to open a bar or restaurant.
We'll run you through the ins and outs of restaurant marketing. We will also give you some tools to help you develop a marketing plan and increase restaurant sales . You should also look into using a QR code menu to make your customers feel safe and give you another tool you can use for QR code marketing .
Restaurant Marketing Plan: How to Market a Restaurant
Randomly choosing marketing ideas won't lead to success, you need to make a marketing plan first. The more robust and well-thought-out a plan, the more likely it is to succeed.
Here are the steps to come up with your marketing plan:
- Determine intentions. This is the “why” of your marketing plan. Do you want to attract new customers? Encourage customers to return? Increase customer average check size?
- Define marketing goals. Set definitive, quantifiable goals. For example, you may want to increase sales by 20% in six months. Setting specific targets gives you a way to measure your restaurant or bar profitability and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.
- Create personas. This means you need to define your target customers. They may be in a certain income bracket or like to go out to eat and watch sports. Defining these customers lets you make more targeted plans.
- Set a budget. To avoid over- or under-spending, budget appropriately. This helps you avoid investing in efforts that eat up a large portion of your capital. Instead, invest in smaller, more effective ones.
- Identify your unique qualities. Your marketing should revolve around the things you offer that set you apart. It could be the food, the service, the location, or something else. Use this aspect in your marketing to make your restaurant stand out from the crowd and maximize the impact.
Restaurant Marketing Plan Examples
Since marketing plans seem daunting, we've thrown together two simple examples for you below. Feel free to take one and make it your own.
JJ's Diner - Sample Restaurant Marketing Plan
- Target Market - Local 20-40 year old business people seeking breakfast on weekdays
- Goals - Increase breakfast sales by 25% within six months.
- Budget - $15,000
- Strategies - Use business event catering to get in front of more prospective customers. Advertise in a local paper and on local morning radio.
- Competitors - Scott's Breakfast Nook, The Eatery, Route 66 Diner
The Tipsy Dog Pub - Sample Restaurant Marketing Plan
- Target Market - Local college students
- Goals - Sell 15% more beer per week. Increase Friday night sales by 30%.
- Budget - $30,000
- Strategies - Start happy hour on Fridays from 7-8 PM. Advertise this program via Instagram and Facebook ads.
- Competitors - Slackers Pub, The Monkey Bar, Murphy's Tavern
Restaurant Marketing Strategies
There are more avenues for marketing than ever before. This makes strategizing more complicated and more important.
Here are a few strategies to get the most out of your marketing:
- Use social media. More people 35-and-under get their information from these platforms than any other. They also provide great word-of-mouth traffic. Post some photos of your best dishes and engage with current and prospective customers online.
- Optimize for local search. In the modern era, the single most effective marketing tool for small businesses is Google's local search results. Tourists and locals use this feature to discover nearby restaurants. Ensuring your restaurant is one of the first seen dramatically increases business.
- Create an email plan. It costs less to market to current customers than it does to attract new ones. Create an email program to help drive repeat orders and stay on the minds of your customers.
- Build a loyalty program. Entice your customers to order more food and more often. Loyalty programs are proven to build relationships with customers and drive repeat orders.
- Use online reservations and delivery. Phone calls are on the way out. Give customers the ability to make reservations and order food online. If you don't have the infrastructure to run this yourself, partner with a company like GrubHub, DoorDash, or others.
Restaurant Marketing Ideas
There are many great ways to market your restaurant and drive sales including digital and personal marketing efforts.
Here are 11 restaurant marketing ideas to make your restaurant stand out:
- Respond to online reviews. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, engage with them. Positive reviewers will feel a connection with you and return. Negative reviewers will feel heard and may give you a second chance. They may tell you that your beer pricing is too high and give you something actionable.
- Take food pics. Instagram and Facebook are full of food pictures for good reason. These images drive engagement and bring in new customers. Make it a habit to document your most beautiful dishes.
- Go to networking events. Local chambers of commerce and business organizations hold networking events regularly. Attend these events to promote your business and make valuable connections.
- Use Google Ads. Pay to get your business to the top of local search results and outrank your competitors. Focus only on a few terms that your restaurant best fits and build your presence.
- Steal your competitors' customers. If your competitors use loyalty cards, offer bar promotions , or have LTO food on certain days, match them. You will draw in new customers and lower your competitions' bottom line.
- Buy and sell local. Purchasing locally-grown or raised products does more than lower your cost of goods sold . You can use this as a marketing tool to show you're invested in the community. This method is particularly effective with younger generations.
- Start menu engineering . Cutting your unpopular offerings is a great way to cut your restaurant's food cost and pour cost (see liquor cost calculator ). It also makes it easier to market your menu because it seems more focused and refined.
- Add a food truck. Investing in a food truck is a great way to make extra revenue and get your business in front of more people. Send the food truck to local events and festivals and get more local exposure.
- Revamp your website. Modern consumers judge businesses by their websites. If yours seems old or clunky, you will lose prospective customers. A small investment every couple of years will keep it fresh.
- Try catering/business events. The more people that eat your food, the more people tell their friends how great it is. Catering brings in extra revenue and builds relationships with businesses that will be your advocates.
- Make your digital menu ADA compliant . ADA remediation for menus is expensive. But if you partner with a technology company to make your digital menu ADA compliant for you, it can save a lot of money. The structure needed for ADA compliance is also beneficial for restaurant SEO .
Frequently Asked Questions On Restaurant Marketing Ideas
Restaurant marketing ideas will forever be an important part of keeping your bar or restaurant growing in a good direction. As marketing grows, you can always be shaping your restaurant marketing ideas in new ways. However, there will always be the constant main goal of marketing your place in a way to draw in great returning customers. As you learn more about restaurant marketing ideas and tips, there are a few more questions you may come across. These common questions include:
What is the best restaurant marketing?
The best restaurant marketing highlights the best qualities of the particular restaurant. This will mean something different for every restaurant. That said, common marketing practices like encouraging word of mouth, sharing on social media, and advertising on multiple channels will be great for every restaurant. For your restaurant in particular, lean into your strong suits, and the marketing tips and ideas will lead the way.
How can restaurants improve their marketing?
Restaurant marketing ideas need to improve with the moving times in the same way as any other marketing plans. For owners and marketers, improving marketing practices means staying on top of new marketing trends and bringing in fresh ideas. From attending marketing conventions to hiring new marketers to bring new ideas, improving restaurant marketing is all about keeping up with the fast-paced marketing world.
How do you market a restaurant and bar?
Marketing a restaurant or bar is as simple as leaning into the strengths of the establishment and relying on tried and true marketing practices. With creative restaurant marketing ideas, fresh insight from new people, and constant evaluation of the market, any restaurant or bar can have some great marketing that leads to great, continuous customers.
Market So, Number One
Using these marketing tools and tactics will make your business more well-known and profitable. You can invest as much as you like or aim for cheaper, effective methods. You might even just bolster sales through pricier happy hour drinks . There are many ways to market your business, so try some and figure out what's best for you.
Don't let your restaurant become a statistic in the high restaurant failure rate , invest in your growth! We recommending checking out some of the best restaurant management books for more advice.
JD enjoys teaching people how to use ZoomShift to save time spent on scheduling. He’s curious, likes learning new things everyday and playing the guitar (although it’s a work in progress).
- Jun 23, 2023
How to create a restaurant marketing plan [+ Free template]
Your food can be the best anyone’s ever tasted and your service can be impeccable, but if you don’t have any customers, your restaurant will only last as long as an ice cream cake in the sun. That’s why you need a marketing plan.
To truly wow customers, create lines and open up the possibilities of franchising or opening new restaurants, you need a rock-solid marketing plan. We explain exactly how to create one that gets people talking about your restaurant and excited to visit and come back again and again.
What is a restaurant marketing plan?
A restaurant marketing plan is a document that outlines your plans to market your restaurant , bring in new customers, and enhance your guests’ experience. Shorter forms can be part of your business plan, but since it’s a working document that focuses on a specific time period, it may be best to keep it as an addendum to make editing easier.
With new restaurants opening every day and one of the highest risks in small business, it’s imperative that you have a plan to fill tables every day of the week. Your restaurant marketing plan helps you do just that so you can keep filling bellies for the long haul.
How to create a marketing plan for a restaurant
Before you start working on your marketing plan, you’ll want to ensure you already have your business plan and annual budget handy. You should create your marketing plan before opening your restaurant, but then update it as your restaurant grows.
Follow these steps to make a strong restaurant marketing plan.
1. Set measurable goals
The first step of any strong marketing plan is identifying what you hope to accomplish with your marketing. So spend some time brainstorming a mixture of short- and long-term goals. Maybe you want to increase your business during the lunch hour, or maybe you want to expand your repeat customer base. Don’t worry about making them specific or whether they’re achievable at this point — just get all your dreams down on paper when you brainstorm.
Once you’ve got a list, review it and pick the goals that seem the most important, and rewrite them as SMART goals:
- Specific: explain exactly what you hope to achieve and how you’ll do it
- Measurable: describe how you will track progress toward this goal
- Achievable: ensure your goals are something that you can achieve with your current resources
- Relevant: connect the goal to the big picture
- Time-bound: identify a deadline for the goal
2. Define your brand
If you’ve crafted a business plan already, review the following:
- Mission statement : a formal statement (usually 1-2 sentences) that defines the restaurant’s purpose for existing
- Vision statement: a formal statement outlining where you want your restaurant to go in the future
- Value proposition: a concise explanation of why a customer should choose your restaurant over the competition
- Positioning statement: a brief description of the benefits of your restaurant
If your restaurant marketing plan is separate from your business plan, it’s worth restating them. Otherwise, just refreshing your memory will help with the following steps.
However, if you haven’t written your business plan yet, now’s the time to draft these.
3. Identify your target audience
Put yourself in the shoes of your target customers. Who do you envision will be your main customers? Look into their demographics (objective facts about a person or group of people), psychographics (objective data about a person or group), and behaviors.
- Are they active on social media? If so, where? And how do they use it?
- Are they likely to consult online reviews before they eat somewhere? Will they write reviews?
- Would they rather dine in, order take out, or use a delivery service?
- What events do they participate in?
- Are they motivated to choose a restaurant based on coupons or special offers?
Once you know the answers to those questions, you can start thinking about what marketing strategies fit your target audience.
4. Research your competition
Choose three to five competitors in your community and conduct a competitive analysis to learn what works and what doesn’t. Look at their websites, social media channels, etc.
A SWOT analysis can help you do this quickly and accurately. Look for your competitors’:
- Strengths: What do these restaurants do well?
- Weaknesses: What do these restaurants need to improve?
- Opportunities: How can you take advantage of their weaknesses?
- Threats: What do these restaurants offer that you can’t?
Once you know the answers, you’ll better understand the marketing you’ll need to do to compete with the other restaurants in your area.
5. Analyze your restaurant
Repeat the SWOT analysis on your own restaurant. Use that information to identify your advantages over competitors and draft a unique selling proposition that capitalizes on it. Maybe your restaurant has lower prices or a more appealing atmosphere. Whatever it is, capitalize on what makes your restaurant stand out.
The SWOT analysis will also help you identify potential areas of weakness. Craft a plan to proactively address those weaknesses.
6. Solidify your strategy
Once you’ve done your research, look back at your goals, audience, and budget. Then identify one to three marketing strategies to make a priority for the next period. Describe what you plan to do and how you’ll accomplish it.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the different marketing strategies you’ll want to consider.
Website and SEO
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to prioritize creating a website. Most people Google restaurants to find their address, phone number, or read reviews. Without a website, many people will assume you don’t exist or you’ve closed.
At the very least, your website should include your menu, address and contact information, and hours. A blog with original content can also drive traffic to your website and increase conversions.
Whatever you put on your website, ensure it is optimized for mobile and desktop browsers and satisfies targeted keywords for the restaurant business.
Social media marketing
37% of restaurant patrons consult social media when looking for a new place to eat, so getting active on social media should also be a priority. It can be overwhelming to jump into social media , so concentrate on the channels your audience is present on. The big three are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Use Facebook to create customer relationships, post announcements, and share promotional materials. New menu items, contest information, videos and photos are all great content to share on Facebook, and you can also experiment with paid advertising on their platform.
Instagram is best for sharing photos, engaging with customers, and spreading your brand or culture to potential customers. Show off your delicious food with images, behind-the-scenes and time lapses videos. Share customer and partner profiles and show off your restaurant culture with video and event photos.
Twitter makes a great customer service and communication tool. Share promotional information, link to blog posts and other content, and engage with your followers, especially regarding any customer service-themed comments. It’s also great for sharing timely updates, like if you have to close unexpectedly due to a power outage.
At first glance, restaurant review sites may seem like a place for customers to talk about their experiences, but they actually function more like advertisements. People often visit review websites before deciding what restaurant to eat at, and even a half-star difference can cost you 27% in sales.
So it’s important that you establish your restaurant on review sites like Yelp and FourSquare and engage with your customers. Claim your business page, optimize it with photos and updated information, and respond to reviews. Say, thank you to people who write positive reviews and be respectful to people who leave a negative review. Engaging in this way shows potential customers that you care about people’s experiences at your restaurant.
Email marketing is the new version of direct mail. Use it to send newsletters updating recipients about what’s happening at your restaurant and share incentives like coupons. It’s also a great way to follow up with customers and ask for a review after they place an order online.
But don’t overdo it — aim to email at least once a month, but never more than once a week. You want to remind customers you’re there without annoying them with spam.
You’ll need to figure out a way to collect customers’ email addresses to do this effectively. Be creative — run a contest asking them to leave their business card (which usually includes an email address) or ask them for their email to get a unique discount code.
Instead of emailing customers, you can also text them. Messages will need to be shorter and you’ll need to include a very specific CTA, such as an offer code or a link to your website. Text messaging is a great strategy to share offers and promotions and waitlist notifications, but some people may consider it invasive, so keep the texts to a minimum and always clearly identify yourself as a restaurant.
Another popular marketing strategy for restaurants is a loyalty program. Whether you use an old-fashioned punch card system or connect the loyalty program to a card you scan at POS, loyalty programs create repeat customers. Your loyalty program can offer free food (always a popular reward) or a specific discount over time.
As long as you keep providing great service and delicious food, they’ll come back often enough to outweigh the costs of any rewards you provide.
Identify where your customers live, and then send targeted direct mail to those areas. The mail, which can be anything from flyers to invites to special events to coupons, should also include a CTA, whether it’s to check out your website or use a discount code on their next order.
Direct mail isn’t as targeted as other marketing strategies, but you’ll be able to reach people you didn’t think fit your ideal customer profile who actually do.
Events and community engagement
Don’t underestimate the power of engaging with your community. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sponsor a local sports team.
- Sponsor a local peewee team.
- Bring a meal to a local school for the staff room.
- Drop off food to your local first responders’ station.
- Host a booth at a local festival.
Community engagement allows you to reach new customers while also building relationships with other local businesses. It also helps create brand awareness while also showing the community what you value.
Restaurant marketing plan template
Creating a restaurant marketing plan from scratch doesn’t have to be hard! Use our step-by-step restaurant marketing plan template to guide you through the process.
With our template, the most challenging part of creating a restaurant marketing plan is finding the time to develop it. Once you have one in place, you can easily update it annually so it grows as your restaurant does.
ZoomShift is there to help with all your restaurant needs, from getting your restaurant license to managing your restaurant and scheduling your employees .
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32 Best Restaurant Marketing Strategies (2023 Updates)
Restaurant marketing has become much more complicated in the past few years.
Those in charge of promotions and generating new business at restaurants face both tough and interesting challenges. People looking to fill their stomachs now have a dizzying array of possible options, and restaurants must compete for customer attention beyond location.
To help you navigate this new marketing reality we put together an up-to-date list of 30 restaurant marketing strategies and tactics.
Unlike the majority of the posts on restaurant marketing currently at the top of Google, this one gives you up-to-date ideas and information for your next promotional initiative!
- Develop a comprehensive marketing plan with online and offline strategies.
- Utilize social media, email marketing, promotions, and collaborations to enhance online presence and engage with customers.
- Optimize website, menu, and online ordering for a seamless customer experience.
- Utilize targeted advertising, SEO, and local search strategies to drive traffic.
- Offer unique dining experiences and foster positive customer relationships.
- Monitor and analyze marketing efforts for continuous improvement.
Do refer to the original blog for a more detailed understanding of the discussed strategies.
But first, from the list below, here are the ideas we think have the most impact:
Top restaurant marketing strategies
- Add reservation links to Google Business
- Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable"
- Improve local discovery online aka SEO
- Use the restaurant marketing framework
- Send email marketing that works
- Focus on loyalty
- Collect and use guest data
Now, before we start with the list above let's take a look at what a restaurant marketing strategy is and why it's important.
What is a restaurant marketing strategy?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">How would you describe a restaurant's marketing strategy?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">A restaurant marketing strategy is a plan that helps restaurant owners to increase their sales and profits. The goal of a restaurant marketing strategy is to attract guests who will then choose to dine at your restaurant.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">Restaurant marketing strategies include advertising, promotions, events, focusing on guest loyalty, customer service, menu design, pricing, and location. These are some of the ways that restaurants can promote themselves.
Why is a restaurant marketing strategy important?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index">A restaurant marketing strategy is essential part of a business plan aimed at ensuring success. If you want to attract guests, you need to promote your restaurant. The good thing is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to start advertising your restaurant. In fact, there are several ways to promote your restaurant without spending too much money.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index">Restaurant marketing strategies include social media marketing, SEO, and email marketing. These methods are affordable and effective.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index"> Let's continue to view the full list of restaurant marketing ideas below.
The 32 best restaurant marketing strategies
1. add reservation links to google business.
Are you still obsessing over your Yelp reviews? The reality is that Yelp is becoming increasingly irrelevant as Google dominates online food searches more and more. Google's domination of local restaurant discovery was one of Skift's Megatrends.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already have a Google Business account that shows your location, some pictures, website link, etc. For restaurants, this is Google Business 101. Once you've done this, and started taking advantage of Google's Open Graph and local discovery, you want to start thinking about how GMB can start bringing in more revenue.
This link gives you a frictionless way for people to place a reservation with you from your Google profile. Some restaurants see a 20% increase in online reservations when they do this simple technique.
Interested in adding a "Reserve a Table" button to your restaurant's Google profile? Click here to sign-up for to Eat App for free and instantly activate your button.
2. Send email marketing that works (ie. personalized and automated)
Almost all articles about restaurant marketing suggest sending an 'email newsletter' as a way to get more customers. But as email marketing is used by pretty much every company under the sun, just sending out a general email once a month will usually have no impact.
Email is still a great marketing channel if you know how to use it - just remember you are competing with almost all of the biggest brands in the world for attention in people's inboxes. So how do stand out from the crowd? By sending an email that is targeted to the recipient based on their history with your restaurant.
What would you send to someone who has only dined with you once in the past 3 months compared to someone who has come in once a week?
By using your customer data and combining it with email marketing automation you can create email marketing that is relevant to customers rather than just 'spraying and praying' To get started with upgrading your email marketing, start by researching CRM for restaurants as well as restaurant automation solutions like those provided by Eat App.
3. Send birthday reminder emails
Related to the tactic above but this one deserves its own section. It's that important!
Birthday's the single most important dining day for most people in the year. Restaurants want to capture these diners as usually, the party size is large and the total spend is high.
Smart restaurants focus on these guests as a fundamental marketing strategy.
- Record your guest's birthdays You can ask them over the phone, run survey's or ask them when they are making an online booking.
- Store and manage the information in a customer database or CRM
4. Connect your front-of-house to your website with live chat
Have you ever been on a website and seen a little live chat pop up from the corner of your screen?
Recent advances in live chat tech mean that it is fast becoming the go-to way of communicating with customers online. After all, you love texting your friends, so why not do the same with businesses? Having your live chat operated by your host stand or reservation staff gives people direct access to your restaurant as well as a human touch. Potential diners can ask questions and you can grab those all-important bookings directly from the chat box.
It's another way to get diners interacting with you, and something your competitors probably aren't doing. So use it to stand out. There are loads of options to get started for free - Google Free Live Chat for Website.
5. Try the online reservation platforms
Online booking platforms are pretty much a requirement for fine dining restaurant marketing. They give you access to millions of diners looking for places to eat each month.
In the US, OpenTable used to be the only player but in the past few years, diners now have plenty of other options like Resy and Reserve. (It depends on which country and city you are located in.)
These types of online platforms provide websites and apps that give customers tools to book online. People find the convenience and ease of reservation discovery platforms irresistible so consider tapping them as part of your strategy.
Most upscale restaurants add the cost of these services as part of their yearly marketing budget. But you should work out if these platforms are cost-effective for you as you may benefit from a free reservation system instead, like Eat App.
>>> Download our free guest acquisition strategy eBook
6. Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable"
'Instagrammable dessert' is a relatively new phrase in the world of restaurant marketing. The basic idea is that the plating and presentation of a dish encourage people to take photos and share them online - especially on Instagram where hashtags like #foodporn are extremely popular. (We're talking millions of pictures.)
Creating Instagrammable dishes is a super powerful promotion tactic because it leverages user-generated content to spread the word about your restaurant rather than spending ad dollars.
You can create the same dish over and over again and each time it is potentially spread to a whole new audience through social media for free. Mastering this technique involves coming up with a unique idea that isn't twee or traditional.
Get it right and you can create a viral effect online for your restaurant. When it takes off this could be the highest impact strategy of all.
8 ways to make "Instagrammable" food
- Consider using ingredients with matching colors
- Create an experience and a spectacle to be video recorded
- Create dishes that match each other when photographed together
- Make the dishes bright colors
- Use restaurant lighting that shows dishes in a flattering light
- Make sure plates are as clean as possible
- Consider not just the plate but also the table surrounding it
- Add other decorative elements in the dining that people want to take pictures of
More Instagram post ideas for restaurants.
7. Run coupon and discount campaigns
Coupons and discounts are always an option to get people through the door. Offer free dishes, 10% discounts, or the ultimate of all restaurant discounts - the buy one get one free offer.
BOGOF offers are usually the best performing because offering something for free motivates people more than % discounts.
For higher-end restaurants, discounts can often lower the tone of the brand. Do them too much and customers can begin to expect them from you.
Learn more about the types of offers restaurants can use for marketing.
8. Focus on customer loyalty
Loyalty - getting customers to come back again and again should always be one of the main parts of restaurant marketing.
Loyal customers cost the least in marketing to get them to come back and are also more likely to tell their friends. ie. They are great for word-of-mouth.
Loyalty often results from simply having an awesome dining experience - great food, enjoyable interior, perception of value from the customer, etc.
But you can also actively encourage loyalty through loyalty programs and reward schemes for repeat customers. You can administer the whole thing in-house or team up with an app provider that deals specifically with loyalty.
Upscale restaurants can focus on free upgrades to the dining experience like free champagne or dessert. More casual restaurants might want to just straight up offer a discount to loyal guests.
9. Local online ads
Unless your restaurant is based on a remote island, the vast majority of your customers will be local. This of course means you want to direct your marketing spend to your local neighborhood.
Online ad platforms give you the ability to 'geo-target your advertising. In the ad platform, you simply use your city or zip code and tell the system to only target people in your nearby location.
For most restaurants, geo-targeted online ads are essential if you are going to run advertising at all. All the major ad networks like Google Ads, Facebook, Snapchat, etc offer geo-targeting so make sure it's up and running if you are running ads online.
10. Improve local discovery online aka Restaurant SEO
Every day people search for things like 'Italian restaurants near me' thousands of times.
Fun fact: Did you know that across the globe people search the terms 'restaurants near me' 20 million times every month? Astonishing.
A modern restaurant marketing plan needs to consider how your restaurant will be found for these types of local searches online. This is a huge topic for restaurants looking to dominate in SEO .
Get started by looking at the following:
- Claimed and updated Google Business profile.
- Accurate location info on your website. The so-called NAP.
- Reviews on Google
- Location keywords in your website URL structure
- Optimized website pages for SEO.
11. Have an awesome online menu
Your menu is the most looked at the thing on your website and it should be part of your marketing strategy. Having an easy-to-read and well-designed online menu helps people pull the trigger and make a reservation. A few tips for online menus . Don't bury the menu on a subpage put it on your home page. Make sure it's mobile-optimized so people can easily read it on their phones. And use a font that people can easily read online. (No crazy cursive text styling!)
12. Retargeting ads
What are retargeting ads? In a nutshell, retargeting is an ad system to show advertising to people who have visited your website but have not made a transaction. For restaurants, this is usually an online booking or a phone call.
90% of website visitors never make a purchase, and retargeting is a way of following up with those people who don't convert.
Retargeting is available on all the major platforms. It requires a little bit of setup but once set up it is a very powerful ad channel. Perhaps the best.
13. Build an Unstoppable Brand
Your restaurant's brand identity has a very direct impact on customer loyalty. When you have a strong brand this is an effective promotional tool in itself and building a brand can happen in the restaurant but also on your social media and other marketing channels.
Strong restaurant brands are based on a firm grasp of your restaurant's target market. Are they health food freaks? Are they obsessed with outrageous desserts? Are you targeting people looking for an exceptional first-time date?
Your brand should be built around your target market and appeal to their design tastes and aspirations. Consistency is very important and your promotional material should represent your restaurant brand everywhere - especially on social media. Learn how to find your restaurant's target market
14. Collect and use guest data
Guest data has the power to unlock your restaurant marketing strategy.
Keeping track of how often guests visit you, what their preferences are, and when they celebrate key events like birthdays (see above) gives you the power to send your customers targeted marketing that has a much higher chance of success than just blasting them with random messaging.
The name of the game here is personalized restaurant marketing and customers are increasingly expecting this next level of service and hospitality.
Collecting data requires a restaurant CRM.
15. SMS marketing
Can SMS marketing work for your restaurant? That depends on whether you get the target market and messaging right. SMS tends to have a very high open rate which is great news but on the flip side, it also has a low click-through rate.
This means getting the content of the SMS message right is very important.
A great place to begin is with a discount offer likely to get people excited to visit. Another option is to focus on local events and encourage people to stop by after they've been to the event.
16. Show off your ingredients
On the more upscale side of things, diners are increasingly excited about ingredients.
This means highlighting the provenance of your food. Is it locally sourced, grown organically, from specific farms, or grown specially? Often the key is to show people what you offer can't be eaten anywhere else.
Potential diners are likely to want to dine with you more if you can establish the quality of the ingredients. The best places to show off your food are front and center on your website and as part of your social media marketing.
17. Start offering online delivery
Online food delivery is maybe the biggest thing to hit the industry in the last few years. And for good reason - customers love it! Don't believe us? Look at this staggering graph from McKinsey.
Food delivery apps deal with logistics as well as offer friendly user experiences for consumers. These apps are delivering up to 1000s of local customers to restaurants every month. Potentially a huge marketing win for restaurants.
Different apps operate in different locations so see which ones serve you. The big apps in the US are:
- Seamless (iOS/Android)
- Grubhub (iOS/Android)
- Doordash (iOS/Android)
- UberEats (iOS/Android)
- Postmates (iOS/Android)
- delivery.com (iOS/Android)
- Yelp Eat 24 (iOS/Android)
- Foodler (iOS/Android)
18. Get people engaged with live social media stories
Stories are a newish social media format pioneered by Snapchat. Usually, a portrait-sized image or video disappears after 24hrs. Across Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram hundreds of millions of people engage with social media stories every month.
Whilst your regular social media feeds show the best, most perfect side of your restaurant, with stories you can focus more on the day-to-day vibes at your restaurants such as sharing videos of interesting kitchen prep or quick interviews with the head chef.
More about generating restaurant revenue with social media.
Schedule and plan your social media account ahead of time, with tools like Hootsuite.
19. Get serious about high-quality social media images
Food pictures are huge on Instagram and one of the best ways to get people interested in your restaurant is by posting pictures that make your food look irresistible.
High-quality visual content is a very important part of today's restaurant marketing. Food pictures entice diners like nothing else.
How to improve restaurant social media pictures?
Taking great pictures of food is not easy. Hiring pro photographers is one option that shouldn't be overlooked, even though it is expensive.
If you are going to take them yourself that's cool too, but seek out some training on how to use lighting and angles to make your food shine. We have a guide on taking better food photos but you can also consider taking specialized courses both online and offline.
20. Amplify PR
Write-ups and reviews from trusted media sources send all the right signals to customers. But don't rely just on getting a review published.
You can also amplify any PR you get across your social media and website. If it's a great bit of PR you can also use it in advertising.
21. Encourage and/or incentivize online reviews
For many, online reviews are the most important thing when choosing a restaurant. Having thousands of 5* reviews online makes it very easy for people searching online for restaurants to choose your place over the competition. Try simply asking people to review you if they have had a great experience, or go one step further and just incentivize people to leave positive reviews.
22. Respond to online reviews
How to turn negative online reviews into a marketing opportunity?
You can approach a negative review with a positive attitude and use it to your advantage. Start with the EASE framework for managing reviews.
Empathize : See it from the guest's point of view and emphasize their viewpoint.
Acknowledge: Let people know you accept the problem and that you are listening.
Solve: Take action and resolve the problem for them
Evaluate: Consider how this can be avoided in the future
When replying to negative reviews:
- Don’t reply with copy/paste text: Don't sound automated
- Don’t ask them to contact you directly: This will offend them.
- Don’t just say you’ll ‘look into the problem’: No one believes phrases like this
- Don’t just message them privately: Take full responsibility and solve the problem publicly.
Need more advice on online reviews? Take a deep dive with our online review management guide.
23. Get started with blogging
For the creative-minded, a blog can be a great outlet to promote your restaurant. Blogging can also be a great place to build your brand.
You don't need to write 2000 words every week, but keeping people who visit your website updated with content from your restaurant can engage and encourage them to visit.
Don't feel like writing? Consider focusing on visual content in your blog and use just a small amount of text for context.
24. Get Influencers to post on social media
Influencers are social media accounts that have a large following either in your industry or in your city. The name of the game with influencer marketing is to invite an influencer to your restaurant, give them a free dining experience, and in exchange, they will share that experience with all their engaged followers.
The best place to start with influencers is with local Instagram users with a large following. Do some research to find people with large followings, ideally over 10,000 followers, and also who fit in with the brand of your restaurants.
An example is fitness influencers for a natural ingredient-focused restaurant.
Once you've found some good targets reach out to them in a private message and see if they would be interested.
Restaurants that win at influencer marketing often go the extra mile and provide the Influencer with an outstanding experience that gets people buzzing online. More marketing ideas for restaurants on social media.
25. Use the restaurant marketing framework
An example is the Fine Dine Restaurant Marketing Framework that we built to help restaurants. (It's aimed at fine dining but applies to almost everyone).
In this framework restaurants focus on storytelling, the in-restaurant experience, customer relationship management (CRM), customer journey, and soft launches as the basis for their marketing. These topics are then spread through various channels with a strong technology marketing stack.
Read more about the framework and see the infographic.
26. Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads
Most restaurants have at least considered running digital ads to promote their business.
Online ads have a low barrier to entry - they are easy to set up and you can start with a very small budget just to test the water.
We recommend Facebook ads, Instagram ads , and Google Ads when getting started with restaurant advertising. Each ad platform has its own unique features which you will become familiar with over time. But be warned - in mature markets like the US and UK - digital ads are not so cheap anymore, so monitor the performance closely and turn them off if not performing.
With digital ads, you must master the basics to get good ROI. These are:
Showing your ads to the right people is the most important predictor of success. Read up on how to effectively target people by both location and interest categories.
Having great-looking ads that appeal to your customers is a must. Consider images, copy, and theme of ads. Are you promoting discounts or just the restaurant in general?
Analytics and testing
Monitoring the performance of your ads and continually testing new combinations of creatives and targeting is also a must.
27. Build and promote your tribe on social media
Reposting your customer's content on social media shows you appreciate and celebrate them. This is a simple little restaurant marketing hack that gets customers engaged as well as creating a two-way guest relationship. Spread the love!
More ways to promote your restaurant.
28. Upgrade your website
Menu, opening hours, and location - these are the main pieces of information customers look for from restaurant websites. How easy is it for customers to get this info from your website, especially on their phones? Can it be better?
After you've got the basics covered, how easy is it for people to make online bookings? Is the reservations button clear and easy to find? Is the process seamless and real-time?
Next, consider how your website represents your brand and how it gives them an experience of your restaurant before they've even dined with you. How can this be improved?
29. Don't forget about Yelp!
The truth is that Yelp is a much less important marketing channel for restaurants than it was in the past. Other websites, and especially Google, are now overtaking it in importance for discovery. Restaurant owners are also finding it increasingly tiresome to deal with the reviews and the general perception is that the quality of reviews is dropping. Nevertheless, Yelp still has a lot of users and drives a significant amount of new customers to restaurants. The need to keep a properly optimized Yelp profile hasn't suddenly gone away! Indeed, Yelp now processes millions of reservations every month for restaurants in the US.
According to this study - people use online customer reviews 77% of the time to make decisions. This means Yelp is still very much in the restaurant marketing game.
30. Use restaurant surveys
You can't make good decisions without knowing what your customers think about you.
If you survey your customers regularly this will give you an indication of not just where you can improve but also how what people care about.
With Eat App's feedback and survey feature, restaurant owners can get real-time guest feedback directly delivered to their inbox, as well as live reports that will essentially help staff members improve the overall guest experience.
Download your free guide on guest feedback here.
Addressing these concerns in your marketing as well as promoting what diners say they already liked means you are more likely to impact people's decision-making. Learn more about surveying customers at your restaurant.
31. Give back to the community
If you're a local restaurant, it's important to focus on marketing strategies that will help you win over the community. You can do this by showing your support towards a cause close to your heart.
Show your guests just how much you care for their community, by adding an item on your menu where a portion of the profits is donated to the particular cause. This could either be part of a limited or yearly campaign that's in line with an awareness month or day.
You also have the option to donate your venue for an event and help a charity from the community raise funds on the evening.
32. Define your restaurant brand
This is probably one of the most overlooked marketing strategies, yet it's one of the most effective ways to help a restaurant succeed. Why? If you want a guest to remember you long after they left your restaurant, they need to know and understand your restaurant's brand identity.
Luckily, with a little bit of creativity and a few easy steps, you will be able to define your restaurant's brand identity:
Step 1 - Start by developing your restaurant mission statement that puts together your restaurant's goal and why it exists. To help, we've put together a free mission statement template .
Step 2 - Determine your restaurant's personality by developing a brand voice and design style. This refers to the way to speak and communicate with your guests as well as the designs you use on social media.
Step 3 - It's important to position your restaurant within the market. With that being said, you need to determine what your price is, what promotions you do, and what products you sell to your guests. You can also view how this compares with other restaurants in your area.
Here's the restaurant marketing ideas list in full for easy reference!
1. Add reservation links to Google Business 2. Send email marketing that works 3. Send birthday reminder emails 4. Connect your front-of-house to your website with live chat 5. Try the online reservation platforms 6. Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable" 7. Run coupon and discount campaigns 8. Focus on customer loyalty 9. Local online ads 10. Improve local discovery online aka Restaurant SEO 11. Have an awesome online menu 12. Restaurant Retargeting ads 13. Build an Unstoppable Brand 14. Collect and use guest data 15. SMS marketing 16. Show off your ingredients 17. Start offering online delivery 18. Get people engaged with live social media stories 19. Get serious about high-quality social media images 20. Amplify PR 21. Encourage and/or incentivize online reviews 22. Respond to online reviews 23. Get started with blogging 24. Get Influencers to post on social media 25. Use the restaurant marketing framework 26. Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads 27. Build and promote your tribe on social media 28. Upgrade your website 29. Don't forget about Yelp! 30. Use restaurant surveys 31. Give back to the community 32. Define your brand
Sign up for your free Eat App account and start putting some of these strategies into action today with a suite of features that enable seamless restaurant marketing.
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For the past 7+ years Ryan has been focused on helping restaurants succeed with digital marketing and front-of-house operations. He is Director Marketing at Eat App.
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