Who said succeeding in the restaurant industry was easy? Like any business, developing the right marketing strategies takes time, thought and consistent effort. As a business owner, you know that marketing is essential to the success of your company. But what are the best ways to market your restaurant? And how can you be sure that you’re using the right strategies?
In this restaurant marketing guide, we’ll explore 28 different marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more customers and boost your business. Most restaurants will have employed at least some of these tactics, but with a bit of luck, there is some inspiration in this article that will help you kick off a new campaign to attract new customers.
Restaurant Marketing – Getting Started
First of all, before we dive into various different marketing ideas, it’s important that your restaurant is set up with the basics. There are some essential components of your marketing strategy that you simply must have in place before branching out with lots of different restaurant marketing campaigns.
These are some of the fundamentals that you must have right before you try and embark on more advanced restaurant marketing tactics. If you’re just setting up a new restaurant venture, you’ll want to make sure you’re covering all these bases.
1. Write a Marketing Plan
First things first, it’s worth committing to a written plan of how you intend to market your restaurant. Some initial areas to consider will include:
Who are your ideal customers?
Consider exactly who is in your target audience. Your food might influence this – a vegan restaurant, for example, will clearly be targeting a different demographic to a steakhouse. Where are you based? Is there a steady stream of tourists to your location – or should you be trying to focus your efforts on getting repeat business from local customers? Age, spending power, interests and social status are all factors you should consider when drawing up your customer persona – and of course, you may well have more than one type of target customer.
What is your brand identity?
Once you know your target audience, you can then decide what your restaurant’s brand identity is. What are your values? Consider how you want to get these across to your customers. How do you envisage your brand voice? Cheeky and friendly? Formal and luxurious? This will play a big part in your messaging and how you communicate with your customers.
What are your key marketing goals?
Again, these will be specific to your restaurant. Do you want to focus on driving up bookings for dinner service? Getting people through the door for lunchtime? Encouraging customers to order dessert or buy more drinks? Once you know what your aims are, you can start thinking about how best to achieve them.
What is your marketing budget?
You don’t need to spend a fortune on marketing to be successful, but you do need to be realistic about what you can afford to invest. As well as considering things like advertising spend, you need to consider if you will need to subscribe to marketing tools to help run your campaigns. Things like social media management platforms, SEO software or CRM systems will all come at a cost. Being aware of what you’ve got to spend on marketing will help you to decide which strategies will work best for you and where you should focus your efforts.
What channels will you use for your marketing?
There are a huge range of options available to you, from traditional print and TV ads to more modern digital marketing techniques. You’ll need to decide which channels will work best for you, based on your target audience and your budget. Some popular channels used by restaurants include:
- Outdoor advertising
- Print advertising
- Broadcast media (TV and radio)
- Social media
- Your website
- Email marketing
By picking the channels that are most appropriate for your target audience, budget and marketing goals, then you can ensure your marketing strategy is as focused as possible.
2. Get a Website
A website is a must-have for any restaurant and will be one of your key marketing channels. Not only does it give customers a place to learn more about what you do, but it also allows them to make reservations and view your menu. Plus, a website provides a great opportunity to showcase your restaurant’s atmosphere and personality.
When setting up your website, be sure to include the following information:
- Your restaurant’s name, address, and phone number
- The type of food you serve
- Photos of your restaurant and food
- The hours of operation
- Your menu
- Information about any special promotions or discounts you’re offering
- Your contact info (including an email address and social media accounts)
It’s also vital that you make it easy for customers to reserve a table with you. So if that’s a clear Call To Action (CTA) on the website that highlights a contact number or email for reservations, then that’s at least a start. But ideally, you should use one of the many online reservation tools available today (e.g. OpenTable) to enable a seamless online booking experience for your customers.
Websites today need to be fast, optimised for mobile devices and visually appealing. It’s important that you don’t cut corners with your web design – your website is your shop window to the world, so it’s well worth putting in the time and money to get it right.
3. Make Sure Your Menu is Available Online
In addition to setting up a website, you should also make sure that your restaurant menu is available online. This way, customers can view it before they come to your restaurant and decide what they want to order. Not only does this save time, but it also acts as a great marketing tool – by giving customers a flavour of what they can expect when they come to visit.
4. Set Up a Google My Business Profile
If you want people to be able to find your restaurant easily online, it’s important to have a listing on Google My Business. This platform allows you to manage your business information across Google Search and Maps, making it easier for customers to find you.
In addition to providing essential information about your business, such as your opening hours and contact details, you can also use Google My Business to share updates, photos, and special offers. This is a great way to keep your customers informed and encourage them to visit your restaurant.
Finally, a Google My Business profile lets you engage with customers by encouraging and responding to online reviews and exchanging direct messages.
5. Get Listed on Restaurant Directories, Websites & Apps
Online directories and review sites are a great way to increase your visibility and reach new customers. When people search for restaurants in their area, your listing will come up – and if you have good reviews, this can encourage them to choose your restaurant over others. These sites can help boost your online reputation and can be a valuable source of online reservations.
Some of the most popular online directories for restaurants include OpenTable and TripAdvisor. To get started, simply create a profile for your restaurant and make sure all of your information is up-to-date. You should also encourage customers to leave reviews, as this will boost your ranking in search results.
If you offer takeaway food, it’s also worth exploring which of the many online delivery services apps are appropriate for your business. Read more about introducing a delivery service model here.
6. Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
Social media is a powerful marketing tool, and it can help you reach new customers and build relationships with existing ones. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all great platforms for sharing info about your restaurant, such as photos of the food you serve or special events that are happening at your venue.
To get the most out of social media, be sure to post regularly and engage with your followers by responding to comments and questions. Make sure you’re set up on the social media platforms that reflect your target customer demographic.
Social Media Marketing for Restaurants
Once you’ve set up your social accounts, it’s now time to think about your social media marketing strategy. If you’ve already created your restaurant marketing plan, then you’ll know your ideal customers, your brand identity and your key marketing goals. So now it’s a question of keeping them in mind when deciding which of the restaurant marketing initiatives below to use when promoting your establishment on social media.
7. Set Up a Facebook Business Page
Having a Facebook Business Page is a great way to connect with potential and existing customers. You can use your page to share information about your restaurant, such as news, events, and promotions. You can also use it as a platform for answering customer questions and responding to feedback.
To get the most out of your Facebook Business Page, be sure to post regular updates and engage with your followers. By building a strong relationship with your customers, you’ll encourage them to keep coming back to your restaurant.
8. Promote User-Generated Content
It’s well worth encouraging your customers to speak well of your restaurant by actively promoting user-generated content. If your customers do generate content about your venue, be sure to embrace it. Engage with your customers on social media. Cross-promote content by sharing across social channels or other platforms, e.g. by using an Instagram feed on your website. And encourage diners to leave reviews of your restaurant on directories, apps or Google.
By promoting user-generated content, you’ll not only make your customers feel more engaged with your restaurant, but you’ll also be able to reach new people who might be interested in what you have to offer.
9. Respond to Online Reviews
In addition to promoting user-generated content, it’s also important to monitor and respond to online reviews. These days, potential customers will often check out reviews before deciding whether or not to visit a restaurant. So, if you’re getting good reviews, be sure to share them on social media and other platforms.
If you receive negative reviews, try to address the issues that have been raised. Respond with empathy and appreciation in your authentic voice. Don’t use automated or copy-and-paste responses that gloss over the issue. If you can show an understanding and compassionate response to a negative review, you can turn it into a small piece of positive online PR.
By monitoring and responding to online reviews, you’ll show potential customers that you’re committed to providing a high-quality service – and you should be able to maintain a good online reputation.
10. Make Your Food Instagram-Friendly
People love taking photos of their food, and if your dishes are photogenic, you can try and capitalise on the trend of sharing “food porn”. Encourage customers to take photos of your food and share them on social media, by using specific hashtags on your social media channels – maybe even a dedicated hashtag that you create for your restaurant. This is a great way to generate buzz and get people talking about your business.
Of course, this marketing strategy will only work if you’re serving delicious food. Be sure to focus on creating high-quality dishes that will leave customers wanting more. In addition to taste, consider the presentation of your food and make sure it’s appealing enough to photograph and share on social media.
Some tips to make your food Instagram-friendly include:
- Make sure your tableware is interesting and in good condition.
- Plate food in interesting and novel ways
- Use colourful ingredients
- Involve edible flowers if suitable
11. Create an Instagram-Worthy Backdrop
In addition to making sure your food is Instagram-worthy, you could make the effort to create an Instagram-worthy backdrop in your restaurant. This could be a mural, a flower wall, or a unique piece of decor that makes for a great photo opportunity. By creating a visually appealing space, you’ll encourage customers to take photos and share them with their followers.
Again, by capitalising on hashtags, this tactic can be a great way of promoting your restaurant on social media.
12. Embrace Influencer Marketing
Food bloggers. Instagram influencers. YouTube stars. These are just some of the people who can help you promote your restaurant to a wider audience. If you can get them to talk about your business, whether it’s through a blog post, social media shout-out, or video review, you’ll reach new people who might not have heard of your restaurant before.
Of course, influencer marketing does come at a cost – but it could be worth it if it means reaching a larger audience and generating more business. For those on a more modest budget, consider working with micro-influencers – those with a smaller or more niche audience. They might be local food bloggers or minor celebrities who are well known in your local area. Although they might not have huge follower numbers compared to A-list stars, sometimes micro-influencers can actually have a more loyal or engaged following, which means any influencer marketing campaigns you run with them may have more bang for their buck.
In recent years, influencer marketing has become one of the most successful form of marketing and is often preferred over more traditional marketing methods. Today, there are various apps you can use in order to tap into influencer marketing without needing to liaison with influencer marketing agencies. For example, ttagz app is a unique marketing tool that puts restaurants on the digital map in an organic and cost-effective way. It allows you to harness the influence of every customer that walks through your door. This is a great tool if you are looking to do influencer marketing for restaurants. You can create and monitor incentives for your customers to redeem in exchange for them tagging your venue on their Instagram stories. In a nutshell, they get free items and your business gets free influencer marketing and user-generated content.
More Online Restaurant Marketing Strategies
13. Start a Blog
If you’re looking for a way to reach more potential customers and promote your restaurant, starting a blog is a great option. A blog is an excellent platform to share your story, showcase your menu, and give people an inside look at what it’s like to run a restaurant. It can also give you a great way to get across your personality and brand values to potential customers.
Plus, a blog can help improve your rankings in search engines and attract new visitors to your website. If you’re writing a food blog, this guide from Yoast could be a big help.
To get started, you’ll need to create a blog and decide on a content strategy. Once you have some quality content, you can start promoting your blog through social media and other channels.
14. Embrace Email Marketing
Email marketing is a great way to reach potential customers and promote your restaurant. You can use email to send out discount codes, announce special events, or even just keep people up-to-date on what’s going on at your business.
To get started with email marketing, you’ll need to build a list of potential customers. This can be done by collecting emails at your restaurant or through an online signup form. Once you have a list of email addresses, you can start creating and sending out emails.
One important thing to keep in mind with email marketing is that you need to make sure you’re sending out quality content that people will actually want to read. No one wants to receive a bunch of spammy emails, so make sure your content is interesting and relevant.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources and templates available online to help you create great email marketing content. Read this guide from Neil Patel for some great email marketing tips.
15. Invest in Paid Advertising
A popular online marketing strategy for restaurants is running paid online advertising campaigns. By using platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, you can reach people who are specifically searching for businesses like yours. These platforms enable you to define your audience demographic quite specifically, to ensure you are displaying ads to your ideal target customers.
Paid advertising can be an effective way of driving traffic to your restaurant website or generating calls to your venue. However, it’s important to note that these types of marketing campaigns can be expensive – so it’s important to consider your budget. With Google Ads and Facebook Ads you can set daily budget caps on ad spend, and it’s well worth doing so to keep your advertising spend under control.
16. SMS Marketing
SMS marketing is a great way to reach your customers directly. You can use text messages to send information about your restaurant, such as news, events and promotions. SMS marketing is also a great way to encourage customer loyalty by sending discount codes and rewards.
To get the most out of SMS marketing, it’s important to personalise your messages and make sure they’re relevant to your audience. Try to give extra value to customers who have given you their mobile number – and don’t intrude on them by messaging too often. By doing this, you’ll be able to build a strong relationship with your customers and encourage them to keep coming back to your restaurant.
Offline Restaurant Marketing Strategies
17. Offer Discounts or Promotions
One way to drive more business to your restaurant is to offer discounts or special promotions to your customers. This could be something as simple as a “buy one, get one free” deal on a certain meal, or it could be an ongoing promotion like “10% off for all seniors.”
Whatever type of discount or promotion you choose to offer, be sure to promote it in various ways. For example, consider posting about it on social media and including discount codes or links in your email newsletter. You may also want to consider printing vouchers that your restaurant customers can bring into your venue, which can help increase sales by enabling customers to try out new items at a lower price point than usual.
18. Make a Big Deal of Special Occasions
When taking reservations, ask your customers if they are celebrating a special occasion. If they are, make a big deal of it!
Some of the best restaurant marketing ideas are free, and small touches like getting your waiting staff to wish congratulations to a couple on their anniversary, or sing happy birthday to one of your customers will go a long way.
Of course, you could go the extra mile and offer free drinks or a special birthday dessert too. The key point here though is to be authentic, make the whole evening a special and memorable one for your customer(s) – and they will be likely to repay you with repeat business.
19. Create a loyalty programme
Another effective restaurant marketing hack is to create a loyalty programme that rewards your customers for coming back. This could be something as simple as a punch card, where each visit gets them a stamp that they can redeem for a free meal after a certain number of visits. Or it could be an online programme, where customers receive points or special offers when they use your restaurant’s website or mobile app to make purchases.
There are many different options when it comes to loyalty programmes, so you’ll want to take the time to think about what will work best for your business. By offering incentives like discounts and free items, you can encourage more diners to visit your restaurant and become loyal customers over the longer term.
20. Give customers something to talk about
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools restaurant owners have at their disposal. When people have a good experience at your restaurant, they’re likely to tell their friends and family about it – a massive boost for your marketing efforts.
To give customers something to talk about, focus on delivering excellent customer service. This includes everything from providing friendly and attentive service to ensuring that your food is of the highest quality. If you can exceed your customers’ expectations, they’re more likely to sing your praises to others. Having customers advocate your business to their peers is a sure sign of restaurant marketing success.
21. Offer Gift Vouchers
Another great marketing strategy for restaurants is to offer gift vouchers for sale. This is a great way to attract new customers, as vouchers that are given to customers’ friends or family might bring in new visitors to the restaurant who wouldn’t otherwise have come. Gift vouchers can also be used as prizes in competitions or given out as rewards for loyal customers, with a good chance that they bring in more spend than their original value.
You can promote your gift vouchers across your other restaurant marketing channels. It’s worth setting up an ecommerce function on your website so customers can buy vouchers for your restaurant online. This creates an easy way for customers to buy a gift for their family and friends, without making it reliant on them being in your venue to make a purchase.
By offering gift vouchers, you can encourage more new customers to visit your restaurant and try out your food – which could lead to more regular business down the line.
Local Restaurant Marketing Strategies
No matter how big or small your restaurant is, local customers can be a huge part of your restaurant marketing efforts. With a little creativity, you can reach new customers in your local area and build relationships with existing ones. Most importantly, focus on making your restaurant a local business that people are proud to support.
22. Source Local Ingredients and Suppliers
One way to make your restaurant more appealing to local customers is to source your ingredients and supplies from local businesses. This not only helps to support other businesses in your community but also shows that you’re committed to using high-quality, fresh ingredients – and it’s better for the environment.
There are a number of ways to find local suppliers, such as through online directories, networking or by attending trade shows and events. Once you’ve established relationships with local suppliers, be sure to promote them on your restaurant’s website and social media pages. This will show potential customers that you’re invested in the community and that as a restaurant owner you care about where your food comes from.
23. Try Direct Mail
Direct mail is a tried and tested marketing method that can be a very effective way to market a restaurant. This involves sending physical letters, flyers or postcards to people in your target market by post. If you’re looking for a tool to help you design flyers for your business – you could consider Adobe’s Free Business Flyer Maker.
One of the great things about direct mail is that it allows you to be very geographically targeted with your marketing. But you can also target by demographics, for example, only choosing to send mail to more affluent postcodes.
Direct mail is of course a great way to get special offers in the hands of prospective customers – why not give it a try.
24. Improve Your Local SEO Ranking
Local SEO is the process of optimising the rankings of physical business locations in search engines. As a restaurant owner, an important digital marketing goal should be to improve your local SEO ranking. This will help ensure that your business comes up as one of the top results when people search for restaurants in your area.
There are many factors that go into local SEO, but some of the most important include having a strong online presence, optimising your website for local keywords, and building up positive reviews.
By taking the time to improve your local SEO ranking, you can attract more customers to your restaurant and ensure that it’s one of the first businesses they see when they’re searching for a place to eat.
25. Sponsor a Local Sports Team or Community Event
Sponsoring a local sports team or community event is a great way to promote your restaurant and get your name out there in the local area. Not only do you get to show your support for the community, but you also get to reach new potential customers who may be interested in what you have to offer.
When choosing what to sponsor, be sure to consider the interests of your target audience. For example, if you’re targeting families, you may want to consider sponsoring a local kids’ sports team. Or if you’re looking to reach young adults, you may want to sponsor a local music festival.
No matter what event you choose to sponsor, be sure to actively get involved. This could include putting up posters in your restaurant, handing out flyers to help promote an event or giving away free samples at the event itself. By getting involved with what’s going on in your local area, you can show potential customers that you’re more than just a place to eat – you’re a part of their community.
26. Offer Cooking Classes
Cooking classes can be a great way to attract customers to your restaurant. They offer a unique and interactive experience that can help you stand out from the competition.
When planning cooking classes, be sure to consider the following:
- The type of food you want to teach
- The level of difficulty (beginner, intermediate, or advanced)
- The price point
- The duration of the class
- The maximum number of students
Once you’ve decided on these details, it’s time to start promoting the class. You can post about it on your website and social media channels, and you may also want to reach out to local schools and community groups to see if they’re interested in getting involved or hosting a class.
27. Host a Special Event
Hosting a special event is a great way to bring in more customers and promote your restaurant. There are many different types of events that you could host, so you’ll want to choose one that fits your restaurant’s personality and the interests of your target audience.
Some ideas for special events include:
- Hosting wine tastings. Design a special menu to pair with a range of wines. If you’re not confident in your wine expertise then bring in a sommelier or partner up with a wine supplier.
- Themed menu night. The type of menu themes you could consider will depend very much on your individual restaurant. But some to consider could be national cuisines, vegan or vegetarian options, tasting menus, BBQ etc. Be creative, and make it an event!
- Pop-up / street food. Are there food festivals near your local area? If so, you may want to pay for a pitch and serve up some street food for your local target market.
- Live music performances. If it suits your brand identity and your target customers, you may consider hosting live music performances in your restaurant. Local artists might entice new customers into your venue, and the special atmosphere on these nights could turn first-time visitors into repeat customers.
By hosting a special event, you not only give people a reason to visit your restaurant, but you also get to promote it in a fun and festive way. Be sure to publicise the event well in advance, and make sure to have plenty of food and drinks available
28. Partner With Other Businesses in Your Area
Partnering with other businesses in your area is a great way to promote your restaurant and reach new potential customers. For example, you could partner with a local hotel and offer a discount to guests who eat at your restaurant. Or you could partner with a nearby business and offer lunch specials to their employees.
Why not offer to host meetings with special menus for your local chamber of commerce, or other business networks?
By partnering with other businesses, you can tap into a new customer base and promote your restaurant in a way that you may not have been able to do on your own. Plus, it’s a great way to build positive relationships with other businesses in your community.
When deciding on your restaurant marketing strategies, the key is to be creative and think about what will work best for your restaurant’s unique needs and goals. Whatever route you choose, just remember that a successful marketing campaign requires thoughtful planning, consistent effort, and a willingness to adapt as needed along the way.
No matter what marketing strategy you choose, be sure to make a plan and track the results to see what’s working and what isn’t. This will help you focus your efforts and get the most out of your marketing budget.
Ultimately, the key to a successful restaurant marketing campaign is to be creative and flexible. By using these tips as a starting point, you can create a strategy that works well for your restaurant business and helps you reach your goals of increased sales and customer loyalty. Good luck!
How do you create a marketing plan for a restaurant?
To create a marketing plan for a restaurant, you will need to:
1) Decide who your ideal customers will be and target your marketing accordingly.
2) Establish your brand identity and make sure your marketing messages communicate your identity consistently.
3) Outline your key marketing goals. Once you know what your aims are, you have a better chance of achieving them.
4) Set a marketing budget. Being aware of what you’ve got to spend on marketing will help you to decide where you should focus your efforts.
5) Decide what channels you will use for your marketing. Picking the most suitable channels for your target audience, budget and marketing goals, will ensure your marketing strategy is as focused as possible.
What is the best way to market a new restaurant?
A new restaurant needs to get as much visibility as possible. So, aim to get as much exposure as possible on the channels that you’ve decided are right for your restaurant. You may want to invest in a new website, build out your social media profiles, run some local advertising campaigns and run a launch event.
Rob combines many years of experience in publishing with a keen interest in small business, entrepreneurship and hospitality.