At its most basic, restaurant marketing is the set of activities you engage in to communicate your value to potential guests, and to entice guests to return often. You want to tell them about your food, of course, but also about how the experience of dining at your restaurant is different. Depending on the size and reach of your establishment, this can include anything from dropping flyers door-to-door to mobile advertising. In today’s world, it inevitably includes some kind of social media presence as well as “in real life” engagement with your community.
What are the most effective restaurant marketing techniques?
Things have come a long way since the “Mad Men”-era of lunchtime whiskeys and magazine ads. Your customers are continually bombarded by marketing messages on an ever-expanding number of devices telling them what to wear, watch, buy, and eat.
Consumers have developed a sort of natural defense, often called ad- or banner-blindness. Essentially, this means that the more promotions people see, the less susceptible they become to the message.
So, you need to find innovative ways to increase your restaurant’s visibility. And since each restaurant concept and restaurant type has a different target audience, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A successful restaurant marketing strategy often boils down to data — the more you know about your customer, and the more personalized you can be in your approach, the easier it is to attract their attention.
We’ve put together a series of expert guides covering how you can take advantage of the major digital marketing channels at your disposal.
Marketing is usually seen as a positive activity, going out and attempting to find new customers. But there are two sides to every story. Understanding the risks is just as important as knowing the potential benefits.
Are you set up to handle a successful campaign?
If your marketing works as expected, you’ll open the floodgates and have a stream of new customers at your door.
But is your current staff capable of handling the onslaught? Where’s the threshold for when you’d need to hire extra staff and how long might that take? How about your suppliers? Could they cope with an overnight increase in orders?
Wanting more customers and actually having more customers are two very different things, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Could you alienate your current customers?
If you’re always pouring your efforts into trying to bring in new business, are you in danger of forgetting about those who got you where you are today?
Updating your offerings and adapting your concept may seem like a good idea, but not if it ends up meaning your “bread-and-butter” customers decide to take their business elsewhere.
Make sure whatever promotions you decide to put together are available to everyone, and that you survey your customers on any major changes to your model.
Can you get into legal difficulties?
Very much so!
There’s a lot of regulation in the marketing industry governing what you can say and how you can say it. It’s there to protect customers first and foremost, but also to protect businesses from each other, and put them on a level playing field.
A lot of it is common sense, but if you’re doing anything even bordering on controversial, speak to a lawyer before it goes public.
Could you be wasting your money?
Small businesses are often concerned that marketing is expensive and useless, with the underlying thought that all those customers might just turn up anyway.
This is especially true for restaurants that have invested a lot of time, money, and energy in their location, staff, and menu. That should be enough to attract customers, right?
All you have to do, however, is look at some of the biggest brands in the industry and how much they invest in marketing to know whether it’s worthwhile or not.
Could competitors copy or sabotage the strategy?
There’s no place to hide in marketing, and if your competitor sees you doing something well, there’s little to stop them copying you.
This is tough to take when you’ve put in all the hard work to do the research and develop the creative ideas, but you should take it as a compliment rather than a threat.
There’s a lot to be said for being first. But you need to keep innovating and staying one step ahead of the game.
Can you be blinded by data?
Digital marketing lives and breathes by data and analytics, and as soon as you start tracking your campaign, colorful graphs will be just a click away telling you where to invest your next dollar.
But the restaurant industry is built on human interaction, and all the stats in the world can’t beat some personal feedback from a customer.
So understand and listen to the info, but let it rationalize your usual thought process and instincts rather than replace it.
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Rewards Network® does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.