Restaurant Marketing can be a minefield, so let’s have a look at some handy ways you can navigate through the challenges.

What a wonderful thing it must be to own a local restaurant! And if you are a restaurant owner, wow! You have all our admiration for the hard work you must do.

In this article, we’d like to offer you some advice on restaurant marketing– not just to add customers to your base, but also to strategise ways to help all your customers truly experience your restaurant, not just eat there.

What follows is a list of possible marketing ideas for restaurants that you can either try or check off the list of things you’ve already done.

Restaurant Marketing 1: Know Your Niche

Be the Hometown and Source Locally

If I were thinking about how to advertise my business locally, I’d go all in. I would be the hometown. I would be the anti-McDonald’s. I would be their everything.

Regardless of what your menu items are–no matter how common or unique–you have to figure out how they fill a niche that no other local restaurant does. If you can think of a niche, promote it. If you can’t, have a look at your competitors and find a gap in the market that you can fill and promote.

And you need to be present at events that matter where you live–that is you personally as well as your restaurant and its brand. Attend local events and donate food for local fundraisers.

It’s also important to source your ingredients locally—at least to the extent you can. In our opinion, local sourcing is one of the best moves a restaurant could make. It’s the epitome of restaurant advertising, plus a lot more.

Local sourcing:

  • Builds the local economy.
  • Supports job growth.
  • Gives people pride in their communities.
  • Demonstrates food quality to customers and potential customers.
  • Is something you can publicise in all sorts of ways, as we’ll discuss.

Local sourcing takes some effort, but we believe it’s worth it.

Help Your Employees Be Informal Brand Ambassadors

restaurant ambassadorSpeaking of restaurant promotions ideas…

You should treat your employees so well that they’ll have nothing but good things to say about you and your business. Pay them a decent wage, try to work with their scheduling needs, and remember to thank them periodically for their work.

Go above and beyond, too. If an employee has a birthday coming up, give them a free appetiser or dessert. If one has accomplished something significant at school or with an organisation, do something to recognise that.

And give them some branded gifts from time to time. If they wear a tee shirt with the restaurant’s name and logo, for example, they’ll be asked about it and have an opportunity to do some informal promotion.

Always think of your employees as people who want to do their best work for you. If you think of them some other way, they’ll sense it and might not perform as well.

Did Someone Say Coupons?

We recommend offering coupons for free appetisers or desserts. Many customers will decline one or both of these courses, so giving a freebie doesn’t necessarily lose money for you. But it does get customers to come in for a full meal.

Everyone likes to get something for free!

Restaurant Marketing 2: Build Your Brand

Your brand is your marketing identity. It should be easy to associate with everything your restaurant business does.

Use an Excellent Graphic Design Firm or Freelancer

This firm or individual would be your “go-to” for things like:

  • A logo.
  • A website.
  • Design and formatting of newsletters and flyers.
  • Menu design.

Try to find a firm–or a freelancer–recommended by colleagues in other small local businesses.

Make a Critical Hire: A Restaurant Marketing Manager

This should be someone with lots of marketing and digital media experience. She or he will wear many hats!

Qualifications:

  • Excellent writing and editing skills
  • Experience with business marketing
  • Experience with social media marketing
  • Ability to work knowledgeably with graphic designers
  • Possibly some design experience as well
  • Business savvy and a great work ethic

Responsibilities:

  • Recommending and managing social media outlets
  • Working with the owner and graphic designers to brand the restaurant
  • Working with owner and chef to develop menu copy
  • Liaising with other local businesses and organisations
  • Creating marketing copy
  • Creating weekly blog articles

Start a Blog if You Don’t Already Have One

Possible Topics:

  • Featured employees and their stories. Be sure some of these are “Meet the Chef” and “Meet the Owner.”
  • Entree (or dessert, appetiser, etc.) of the month. Feature an excellent photo of it (i.e., “food porn”) and have a detailed, mouthwatering description.
  • History of the restaurant and/or its building.
  • Stories of the inspiration behind certain menu items.

Restaurant Marketing 3: Understand Your Technology

restaurant marketing social mediaThis might be the least glamorous part of running a restaurant, but it’s also one of the most necessary nowadays. For each program, you will want to train a few employees in its use so that there is back-up if one person is absent.

Use an SEO Firm

The goal of search engine optimisation (SEO) is to get the best possible keywords in front of Google’s scanning, crawling “eyes.” If prospective customers are searching for restaurants with Google (or another search engine), you want them to find you.

If you don’t feel you have the needed skills to do SEO well, use a professional SEO firm.

Restaurant Marketing by E-mail

Use Constant Contact or an equivalent program to send those on your mailing list enticing newsletters, flyers, and/or blog posts designed by your marketing manager or your design firm.

If the messages are engaging enough, people will want to spend time with them.

Do Online Reservations and Consider a POS System

There are many software programmes or services available to help you with reservations–if your restaurant does them, that is. And of course, each claims to be the best. Here are some popular favourites.

If you’ve been thinking about integrating point of sale (POS) software into your restaurant business, it would probably help you a lot. A POS system can organise various business functions under one umbrella.

And Now for Dessert

What a list! You’ve earned this “dessert” even if we didn’t give you a coupon for it. Hopefully, you’ve learned a few new marketing strategies as well.

restaurant marketing superstarRemember, when revamping your restaurant marketing plan, creativity is key. If you’re not the best at thinking outside the box, find someone who is and hire that person.

Restaurants come and go. Running one is logistically challenging and exhausting. But the right mix of creativity, great food, and excellent business sense will make it work.

If you’re already running a restaurant successfully, good for you! The next step is to give it local superstar status!