Restaurant marketing is one of those disciplines where effort really does equal reward. There have been countless books written on the topic, but it essentially boils down to understanding who your customers are and what you can do to attract their attention.
Using a combination of offline and online methods, there are a number of ways to draw people through your door.
How are people expected to eat at your restaurant if they can’t see or find you? A new exterior sign can work miracles, and strategically placed directional signage in your neighborhood helps catch the attention of those who might otherwise pass by.
Is there an organization with whom you could create a mutually beneficial arrangement? Perhaps there’s a business networking breakfast that you could cater or a local charity that you could work with to host their next event.
Word of mouth
Internet-enabled influencer campaigns — the treacherous road of engaging with food bloggers — have changed word-of-mouth marketing. Still, anyone saying positive things about your restaurant is good, and this is a practice you should subtly encourage.
Public Relations (PR)
Could you be the focus of a media story? Maybe it’s your 10-year anniversary, or perhaps a celebrity chose to dine in your restaurant. Some stories you can engineer, while others happen by chance. The media are always on the lookout for content, so don’t miss out on the opportunity when one presents itself.
Nothing attracts people quite like the opportunity to win! The prize is important — you could offer a free meal, or even a free meal a week for a year to really grab your audience’s attention. Competitions are also a great way to collect guest information so you can market effectively to everyone after the competition has closed.
Food festivals and street fairs
If not managed effectively these can become both a distraction and a burden, but taking a stand at a local event can reap huge rewards if you’re able to wow a few people with your food and service.
How to connect with customers at live events
Get out there and connect with your customers.
Three types of food events
Opportunities to increase word of mouth.
Increasing profits with private events
Attract valuable long-term customers.
What else does a restaurant have to offer?
In addition to being able to dish up delicious meals, think about all the skills and knowledge your restaurant employees might share with the community. You may have a deep well of experience to tap for your restaurant marketing efforts. You also have a space, which is an asset that should be used to its fullest potential.
Recipe books – could some of your dishes be recreated at home? Rather than being a threat to return visits, this is a way to get a constant reminder of your restaurant inside people’s homes.
Hobby sponsorship – is your sous chef a part-time Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast? Has your waitstaff formed a band? See if you can get your branding and logo involved in some way.
“How to cook” videos – over 21 million people subscribe to the top five YouTube cooking channels, but they haven’t covered every recipe. Find a dish your chef excels at and get them to record an instructional video.
Pop-up shops – could you dedicate a corner of your restaurant to a local craft maker, such as one of your suppliers? Their marketing efforts will in turn become yours.
More traditional restaurant marketing methods
There’s still a lot of value to be gotten from offline restaurant marketing through flyers, direct mail, newspaper ads, and transportation ads (for example bus benches and subway trains). If they’re working for you, that’s great, but see if you can gather data on exactly how much they contribute.
Include unique website links on each piece of offline advertising and monitor traffic to see how it compares to the online activity. This is a far from foolproof method as you’re relying on the actions of the public to give you your data, but it will give you a rough idea.
Ever seen someone out shopping in a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt? Branded merchandise isn’t just for huge restaurant chains. Think about ways you could get your name out there by giving branded balloons to kids as they leave your restaurant, or making your coffee cups stand out from the crowd.
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