Consider the marketing options. The National Restaurant Association (NRA), a research organization, found that word-of-mouth is still the most effective method of restaurant marketing. A majority of consumers will choose a restaurant that offers table service if they are referred by a friend or family member.
Your marketing plan should include a memorable dining experience that your customers will talk about and want to repeat. Scott Redler, Freddy’s Frozen Custard owner, says that “I believe people will try you” and that it’s the best marketing if they are treated well when they arrive. This has been proven true for us.”
Ask each customer how they learned about you. Keep a record of the information to help you evaluate how effective your marketing efforts are. Then you can decide whether to expand certain programs or eliminate others.
A key component of successful restaurant marketing is being sure your message is consistent with what you are really about. A fine-dining restaurant is not going to place its menus on clear vinyl sleeves and show children eating burgers and fries. The same restaurateur that laughs at this image might be guilty of many other marketing sins.
If seniors are a major market segment, does your signage and menus reflect the changes in their vision as they age? Are your illustrations and photographs relevant to the market you are trying to attract? Do all elements of your marketing package, from decor to menu selections and printed materials, reflect the same marketing message? When designing marketing materials, have you considered societal changes? Here are the best marketing ideas for restaurants.
Look for marketing opportunities
You may not expect marketing opportunities to appear. It pays to be attentive. Maxine Turner noticed a sharp drop in her deli sales when her road was being built one summer. She recalls, “It was very heated, so we put out a flier to all the businesses here in the complex and all around us. Targeting all those who came into our restaurant but were frustrated by the construction making it difficult for them to get there.
“We did a “beat the heat, beat construction, bring a buddy and have lunch on us” campaign. It was a promotion that offered two-for-one — it was just a reminder of our presence and service to the community. It was amazing to see the number of people who came in without the two-for-one card. Our business grew by 30% immediately.
Turner pays attention to what’s happening in her office. She says, “If someone moves in, we send them some complimentary lunch to introduce ourselves to them and welcome them into our business community.”We do everything we can to get our name out there.”
Your website is a modern business card. Your website is where people will find and see what you have to say. You can post photos and menu items and make reservations. Customers can also leave testimonials and review products that were previously published or posted online.
You can also include videos, such as a video of your chef making a favorite dish in your home. It is possible to include information about the history of your restaurant and nearby attractions, as well as trivia. Keep the website updated if you want your visitors to stay engaged. All marketing materials should direct people to your site. It is your calling card.
Social media is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to promote a food service business. Scott Redler says, “We were very excited to get involved in the Facebook community early on. Freddy’s Facebook voice is one person in our office. We respond directly to messages from friends. We created a fan club, which allows guests to sign-up for email alerts or special offers.
You don’t have to stick to one social media platform. Explore all platforms and be open to new trends and opportunities. Social media is constantly changing at an alarming pace. Get someone on your team, either as an employee or consultant, who will keep you up-to-date on the latest trends.
Social media networking is crucial. Redler states, “We are constantly expanding our knowledge of social media and [that allows people to broadcast their locations to their friends] we’re constantly expanding that understanding.” While you cannot make up for bad food quality or poor operations through social media, it is possible to increase the loyalty of your customers.
Learn the differences between sites and how to interact with them. Facebook, for example, is well-known for its ability to make social connections. However, businesses can do great by being friendly, accessible, and engaging in a social manner. Twitter is well-known for its short and to-the-point updates. You can provide quick updates and comments about your business. Pinterest and Tumblr, which are visual-oriented sites, encourage you to think visually. Use great photos of food and enjoy the experience with others, including local celebrities.
Public relations and promotions
Giving away gift vouchers is a great way to promote your food service business. These could be for dinner for two or coffee and bagels for ten or even a free pizza. Your website should feature coupons, specials, and information about upcoming events. Ask local radio stations to reach your target audience to talk to their promotions managers.
For promotions and contests on-air, offer to give gift certificates or coupons. You will likely be mentioned several times during the contest. This will give you valuable exposure. It’s also possible that the winner might become a paying customer.
Other promotional methods to try include:
- Gift certificates. Gift certificates make it easy to gift-giving, especially during holidays. Gift certificates can be given to customers who haven’t tried your restaurant before. Gift certificates can be offered by employers as incentives to employees. People will often try restaurant marketing ideas for free. They will return to you as regular customers if they are treated well. Make sure you include your website, hours of operation, and address in your gift certificates
- Sponsorships. Sponsoring an event or sports team in your area will allow you to promote your restaurant to a new audience. Your name will be displayed on advertising for the event and on the uniforms of team members. Your name will be visible to customers every day through this constant exposure. People are drawn to establishments that they know well. This could lead to customers visiting your restaurant who have never been before but feel comfortable with the place because of your sponsorship.
- discount coupon books. There are many companies in communities that make coupon books that can be used by participating businesses. Schools and non-profit organizations can also use these coupons as fundraising materials. Many people will go to a new place if they can get a substantial discount. If they are treated well, they will return for full payment.
- Join frequent dining clubs. This is not something you would do at fine-dining restaurants, but you could reward regular customers with free food. You can issue a card with 12 spaces that allow you to mark off each visit. Give the customer a free meal if they have purchased 12 entrees.
- Menu promotion. Regular lunch and dinner specials can be appealing to people who have a tight budget or just love saving money. Also, you can offer dinner at a discounted price from 4-6 p.m. or two-for-one specials during specific times. These promotions can not only draw customers but also reduce your stock of obsolete items.
Also read: 4 Ways It Helps Promote Your Business Online
Plan for community involvement
Your community relations activities are an essential part of your overall marketing campaign and should be planned carefully. A recent National Restaurant Association survey found that restaurant owners receive an average of 75 requests each year from nonprofits or community groups.
They then choose to give time or money to 35 projects. Respondents stated that the main reason they participate in these activities is to give back to their community. About half of respondents cited improving their restaurant’s image and two-fifths said helping to recruit new employees is an important reason.
Make sure that the event or organization you are willing to sponsor fits your brand and doesn’t offend potential customers. Avoid supporting controversial or political issues or events. You can still support them privately but it is better to remain neutral when it concerns your business.
Don’t be ashamed to decline to donate to worthy causes because your budget limits have made it difficult to include the amount of your cash, food, or other donations in your financial forecasts for the year.