65 Tips and Tactics for Effectively Marketing your Restaurant
By Hiba Amin - December 7, 2018
Here it is. Restaurant owners, this is the list you have been waiting for.
This is the ultimate list of tips and tactics that you can use to market your restaurant. If it will help you get guests in the door, it’s on this list.
Well, not quite. Since marketing is an ever-evolving field with new strategies being developed all the time, it’s impossible to publish the end-all, be-all in restaurant marketing. But we have to say, this list comes pretty close.
So pick a place to start, and begin putting these tips to use. Your restaurant’s growth potential is limitless with this kind of a toolkit at your disposal.
Master the art of social media marketing
More and more, people are exploring and learning about where they will get their next meal on social media. It’s the modern version of the recommendation from your neighbor next door. Social media has supercharged the abilities of restaurants to reach potential guests, so be sure to get savvy with it and put it to good use.
One thing to note is that you don’t have to and shouldn’t be on every social media platform out there. Focus on one or two and put a lot of effort into building your following.
1. Share photos of your food on social media, so potential guests can see firsthand what a delicious meal they can get if they stop in.
2. Geo-target your social media ads for people who live in your neighborhood, because many people want to visit a good restaurant that’s close to home.
3. Curate a Pinterest board with recipes similar to what you serve. Hungry guests can try making food like your restaurant’s at home, then stop in for a bite to compare.
5. Develop video content to give guests a behind-the-scenes look by featuring your kitchen, staff and events on social media. It’s not always just about your food.
6. Embrace Snapchat. 60 percent of Americans under 34 are using this photo-sharing social media platform. Be sure to post your Snapchat handle somewhere that your guests will see.
7. Create a fun hashtag just for your restaurant, and use it on social media. Track it over time to see when and what people are posting! Be sure to always use that hashtag with each of your own posts as well.
8. Use social media to educate your guests about what your restaurant stands for and where your ingredients come from. People love and appreciate this kind of transparency.
9. Use Facebook and Instagram to post daily content encouraging potential guests to engage with you. It also helps with keeping you on people’s minds more frequently.
10. Use Facebook’s marketing tools to identify your best performing posts. Do people engage more when it’s food related content or behind the scenes? Do they like your burger dish or your salad dish more? Use this information to learn more about your guests and their interests and apply that knowledge to your overall restaurant strategy.
11. Research relevant hashtags that are popular in your area, and start using them in your tweets and posts. Keep in mind that when doing this research, think about the hashtags your guests will most likely be following.
12. Twitter still works in real-time, so carefully time your posts for mealtimes, happy hour and other times when guests might be swayed to come by.
13. Embrace user-generated content, and repost photos and reviews from your guests. They’ll appreciate the shout out and will be more likely to come back to eat.
14. Interact with your guests on social media! Respond back to them when they tag or message you. This is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your guests and show people that there’s a human behind the screen. Wendy’s does an amazing job at this and have built a very strong marketing brand as a result.
15. Encourage guests to use your restaurant hashtags to help spread the word. Offer a free appetizer or dessert if they share their experience on social media during their meal.
17. Know the difference between each social media platforms; learn the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, and then use that information to post the right type of content.
18. Offer guests a free dessert if they take a picture of your restaurant and tag you on Instagram.
19. Create shareable Facebook event pages whenever something cool is happening at your restaurant. This could be like wine tastings, bar nights, and so on. If guests are interested, they’ll invite their friends to the event!
User generated content is key
User generated content is generally created by unpaid “users”, or in your case your guests. It’s a great way to boost your social reach and build up buzz for your establishment. However, there are some things that you can do to make it easier for guests to create some user generated content on your behalf!
20. Make sure your lighting is on point. Taking a picture of a meal or drink in dark lighting is pretty hard and the picture isn’t going to turn out great. Use some bright lighting to help your guests take the perfect, shareable picture.
21. Have a cool, instagrammable wall design. Guests love “iconic” city spots and will generally visit a restaurant if they can share a cool picture of themselves at your place on social media.
22. Make sure your location is available for guests to tag a location on Instagram. A lot of times people will click on the location tag of an Instagram post that they’re interested in to see if it’s located in a convenient location for them to visit.
With restaurant marketing, social proof matters
Beyond the tricks of the trade with social media, what people say about your restaurant (particularly on the internet) can matter a great deal to potential guests. Before they text their friends to see if they’ve been to your establishment, they’ll ask Google or Yelp. They will read what others have said about you with great interest.
Like it or not, these perspectives on your establishment are a hard-to-ignore “pre-first impression” that can often dictate whether that potential guest ever walk through your doors. In short, do the work to make sure the buzz out there about your place is not just positive, but enticing too.
23. If you get any good press, like a great food critic’s review, a news article or even a particularly glowing Yelp post, share it on your social media.
24. Take advantage of Google Business, and claim your local listing so you get to control how your restaurant looks in Google search results.
25. Respond to negative reviews online, and try inviting spurned guests to give you another try with a special offer, like a discounted meal or free dessert. Check out Yelp, TripAdvisor, YellowPages, or Zomato.
26. Reach out to local foodies and bloggers and invite them to try out your restaurant’s food. They have an engaged audience that’s constantly scrolling through their feeds so this is a great way to get your food in front of new guests. Ideally, look for influencers with 5,000+ followers.
Build loyal guests through word-of-mouth marketing
Much like social proof, word-of-mouth marketing can make or break your restaurant. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to get guests talking about your eatery with their friends and family. Here are some tips on developing a loyal following of guests that keeping coming back and bringing others with them:
27. Host contests or giveaways. Guests love them, and it’s a great way for you to collect their contact information for future marketing efforts. This strategy will help you gain new followers, engage with your guests, collect more user-generated content and have a little fun!
28. Launch a loyalty program (like Kinzie Chophouse in Chicago—housed on their app), if you don’t already have one.
29. Respond to every message and comment you receive. We mentioned this earlier, but this can go far beyond just a social media strategy. Make sure you do this, always. Whether it’s a comment card with contact information, social media, or a Yelp review.
30. Keep your staff happy and treat them well. They’re going to be a big driver for word-of-mouth marketing to bring in new and returning guests.
31. Offer gift cards as a way to let your guests spread the word for you. A free meal or a discount is a pretty great incentive for people to try out a new establishment.
32. Send out a regular email newsletter, and encourage diners to sign up for it. This could include your weekly food and drink specials, events or contests that you’re running and so much more.
33. Attend local events at other restaurants. Learn what they’re doing and build up your network. It’s great to bounce around ideas with another individual that’s in the same industry as you.
34. Sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to volunteer to be quoted in all kinds of publications as a restaurant industry expert.
35. Subscribe to Google Alerts for your restaurants name, so you know when people are talking about your restaurant online.
36. Be charitable. Invest in your community with a donation or by hosting an event. Some Chefs within the ChefHero network, for example, volunteer with NGOs that are aimed at teaching children from lower-income households how to cook with nutritious and healthy ingredients like beets, rice, lentils, etc.
Freshen up your digital footprint
Face it: guests will judge your restaurant based on your online presence before taking a single bite of your food. If they see you haven’t invested in how you come across on the internet, they’ll assume the same is true about the menu items you’re offering even if that’s not the case. Taking the time to make sure your restaurant’s digital face reflects the quality of your dishes can be the difference in a potential guest making a reservation at your place or competitors on any given day. Don’t miss the opportunity to put your best digital foot forward.
37. Have a website that’s well designed and contains your complete address, contact information and menu.
38. Post your menu on other sites like Yelp and Facebook. Convenience is key so make it as easy for your guests to access information as possible.
39. Allow online reservations. Sometimes guests just don’t want to talk to another person on the phone. A great service for this would be OpenTable.
40. Keep everything consistent and up-to-date, on your website and social media. Do regular checks to make sure nothing has changed (like prices, menu items or hours) that needs to be changed on your marketing materials.
41. Start a blog on your website. You can post cool recipes, recaps of events you’ve hosted, really anything.
42. Make sure your restaurant can be found on Google Maps.
44. Make your website mobile friendly. Google will love you for it and so will your guests.
45. Set up a Google Adwords campaign. It’ll cost a little upfront, but it will help more guests find your restaurant online.
46. Develop a brand and a strong identity. This could include things like your logo, colours, fonts, messaging, writing style and so on. Use them in your marketing and day-to-day operations so your guests have something to relate to.
49. Track your advertising results, and focus money on efforts that are getting more clicks, page views and orders.
50. Build an app. So many consumers are mobile savvy now, and having an app where they can order, pay online, and pick up offers and discounts will likely get more in the door.
Make Marketing Part of your Customer Experience
Think of every moment that a guest is in your eatery as a potential marketing opportunity. Let them enjoy their meals in peace of course, but don’t hesitate to add little flourishes here and there make their experiences unforgettable and get them talking about it with friends. Remember, customer experience is a form of marketing too. Make it count.
51. Source local ingredients, and make freshness a part of your marketing vernacular.
52. Focus on your guest service. Collect information about guests so you can personalize their experiences. For example, if you have a guests birthday on file, then be sure to say “Happy Birthday” before they get a chance to tell you that it’s their birthday.
53. Experiment with your background music. Studies have shown certain music in a restaurant can boost sales significantly.
54. Revisit your menu pricing and design to see if you can be selling yourself better.
55. Offer coupons and discounts in-house as well as digitally. It’s old school, but it works.
56. Offer something for free, like a bread basket or some infused water.
57. Surprise your regulars with a free dessert or a round of drinks once in a while to let them know you appreciate their business. As a result, this will also help build up loyalty.
58. Host a regular event, like weekly live music or trivia nights.
59. Train your employees to up-sell and cross-sell. This could be little things like, “the spicy mayo is delicious with the sweet potato fries” or “would you like to start off with an appetizer today?”
60. Have a separate dessert menu that servers can drop off after mains are finished, with detailed descriptions and mouth-watering photos. Better yet, put some samples on a tray and wave it in front of your guests. This adds to the experience of the meal and likely increases their chances of purchasing a dessert.
61. Offer meal deals or bundles. Guests will often spend more if they feel like they’re receiving value.
62. Include photos in the menu of the items with the highest profit margins. This provides guests with a better experience because they can visualize their meal and know exactly what to expect.
63. Limit guests’ choice. Give them a smaller menu full of high-quality dishes you can do well, consistently.
64. Make items seem less expensive with a few tricks, like placing high price items with other high price items, and removing cents and dollar signs from your menu.
65. Start a food truck or catering service and show up to serve food at local events and festivals.
The Final Word on Restaurant Marketing
The most important thing when it comes to marketing is to test an idea out. It might not always work, but at least it will give you a better sense of what works for your audience and what doesn’t.
Start with a handful of these ideas. Over time you’ll have a better understanding of what makes the most sense for your region, guest demographic, and your budget. Your team will thank you for the extra effort to fill those seats using these tried-and-true marketing tactics.