Feel like you’re shooting in the dark when it comes to marketing your restaurant? With so many ways to promote your restaurant, the options can be overwhelming. To help you get started, our team of restaurant industry experts pulled together a list of marketing strategies for restaurants that we personally have seen work.
From social media and digital marketing to events and pop-ups – plus a few you might not have heard of – here are 13 marketing tactics almost guaranteed to drive more customers to your door.
#1 Social media
Social media works best when you post every day about your restaurant. What we’ve seen work best on for restaurants on social media is what’s called the Hero’s Journey. People love restaurants, people love entrepreneurship, and they love the idea of running a restaurant. We see that everywhere in pop culture, from restaurant reality shows like “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Restaurant Impossible” to general entrepreneurship on “Shark Tank.”
If you are a restaurateur, lean on that popular interest. Share your ups and downs with people. Give a behind-the-scenes about your day or your week. What’s it really like running a sandwich shop or coffee shop? The more you post, the more you’ll see people interacting with your posts and spreading the word about your restaurant.
#2 Email marketing
Do you like it when people tell you about food that you like? Of course! If customers give you their email, then they want to know what’s going on in your restaurant. There’s a lot of different strategies to go with when it comes to email marketing but start where you are and start reaching out to your list with specials, reminding them about your hours, or highlighting staff favorites.
#3 SMS and text message marketing
Most people have a smartphone that is practically glued to their hand. With SMS marketing or text message marketing, you can quickly share specials, coupons, or events with people and almost guarantee that it will get read. Recent studies found that 97% of marketing text messages are opened and read by the recipient, which is MUCH higher than email marketing.
#4 Pop-ups and partnerships
Partner with local businesses that complement your concept and do a pop-up inside or with other establishments. For example, a sandwich shop partnering with a local juice bar or a bbq joint doing a pop-up in a brewery. The goal is to share and elevate each business’s profile by sharing social media followers, SMS marketing audiences, and email marketing as well as in-person guests of both concepts. Pop-ups and partnerships are also great ways to get more active within your community and get more people talking about your restaurant.
#5 Host events
Hosting local events in your restaurant is like rocket fuel for your business. Whether it’s a local business group or a workout class using your front lawn or a school hosting a trunk-or-treat or some other holiday event, hosting events brings people into your restaurant. Create a calendar on your website and post on social media to remind people about the events. Events also give you a ton of social media content that people will love to engage with and share.
If you’re in a college town, some advice that I’ve seen work well is inviting college athletes into your restaurant to sign autographs for 2 hours or something of the like. There’s a few websites you can use to find college athletes and pay them for their time. Some of the more popular athletes might be out of your price range but there’s a lot in the middle that are reasonably priced and will still attract a lot of attention.
#6 Neighborhood promotions
Similar to partnerships, get the neighborhood involved with hyper-specific promotions and co-promotions of your restaurant and a local business. Here are two examples we’ve seen work really well:
- Create a 10% discount for anyone that works on the same street or within the same retail complex of your restaurant. One store we work with named it after their street and folks loved being able to come in and ask about the “Market Street discount.”
- Swap promotions with a business. For example, a local appliance store offered to pay for the first 10 people that came through a drive-through once a week. In exchange, the restaurant partner posted about this “sponsorship” and dropped a card into all orders that morning. It only cost the appliance shop a couple hundred dollars at most but had a much bigger impact than putting up a billboard or a radio ad.
Video is King right now, especially when it comes to creating branded content on social media. At Table Needs, we have a number of restaurant partners that are using TikTok to promote their stores and are finding fun and unique ways of doing things. It doesn’t have to be a big production, no one has to dance, and in fact a lot of the more popular viral videos took off because it’s something fun or interesting. Reels on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube Shorts, there are a lot of ways to share videos that will help grow your audience and get more people familiar with your brand.
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One of the most effective ways to market is by giving away gift cards at local events. Offer a $50 gift card as part of a raffle or as a prize at a local trivia night or bingo. A $50 gift card goes a long way because everyone’s going to hear that you’re giving away $50 and want in on that. Anytime you have any opportunity to give something away and promote your restaurant you should go for it!
#9 Professional food photography
Menu items with photographs sell at a much higher rate than those that don’t. GrubHub and DoorDash know this, which is why they offer a free service for their restaurant partners to come down to their restaurant and photograph their food. They know that you’ll sell more food if you have great images and in turn they’ll make more money off of your restaurant. The downside of course is that you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table when using those third-party online ordering platforms rather than something like Table Needs Online Ordering. Instead, take that money that you would have spent on fees and put it into hiring a photographer and get great photos that you can use on your menu and across social media and other advertising channels.
#10 Update your Google listing
This is a simple but super important tip… Update your Google Business listing to make sure your location and hours are accurate. Few things are more frustrating than a customer deciding they want to try your food, looking up your hours and location, and then discovering that you’re closed.
#11 Offer Wi-Fi
Offer free WiFi in exchange for the customer’s email address. Just like at Starbucks, you go on your phone and a message pops up asking you to enter your email address so you can get onto the Starbucks Wi-Fi. You can set-up the same thing at your restaurant so that you can protect your wifi and collect emails directly onto your email database. Couple this with email marketing and you have a really powerful marketing tool.
#12. Leverage your regulars’ social followings
Your regulars love you – ask them to share that love online! Incentivize your regulars to write glowing reviews, share your menu items with their friends and family, and post about your restaurant on their social media accounts. People love being “in the know” and having a local fan post about your restaurant will go a really long way. Even if they only have a few hundred followers on Facebook or Twitter or TikTok or wherever, a large portion of those people probably aren’t following you so it’s a great way to gain new followers and boost name recognition.
#13 Invite third-party app customers to be YOUR customers
Gain more commission-free online ordering customers by incentivizing third-party app customers to make the switch! If you’re signed up with DoorDash or GrubHub, these third-party apps are promoting your restaurant and encouraging people to order from you. The problem is that these are GrubHub customers – not your customers. So what you can do to regain control and directly serve these customers is to add a card or a sticker to every to-go order that offers a 25% off for customers to order directly from your website. This hack works so well for many of our partners. It will totally transform how you handle online ordering while boosting your online ordering revenue.
Thirteen marketing strategies might be too many to undertake at once for small mom-and-pop restaurants but choosing 3-4 and sticking to it will make a tremendous difference in your business. For more restaurant marketing advice, explore the Table Needs Blog or get in touch with us today. Our team of industry professionals are here to help quick-service restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, and juice bars succeed.
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