Restaurant marketing has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. With the rise of the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, the vast majority of marketing efforts are concentrated online.
But there are still effective marketing channels available offline too. We’ve compiled some of the most effective restaurant marketing tips to help you win your market.
1) Produce A Food-Prep Video
Video is all the rage these days. All you have to do is look at the popularity of YouTube to get an idea of how popular video is. Get in the game by producing a high-quality video of your chef preparing her signature dish.
People love to see behind the scenes. Post it on every social media channel you can think of. Make this a weekly feature to highlight your offerings.
2) Shoot Some Finished-Product Food Photos
There’s nothing like high-quality photos of food to whet your customers’ appetites and get them in the door.
Hire a professional photographer to snap some mouth-watering images of your food. Then, like the video you shot, display them on all your social media channels, on your website, and in your blog posts.
3) Keep Customers Happy With Text Message Restaurant Marketing
Text message marketing is a great way to gather customer information and keep them thinking about your food.
Set out a table tent that offers a free dessert if the customer texts a certain word (like “dessert”) to your number. Use that contact information to send out weekly specials to keep customers coming back.
4) Become A Master Of Social Media
Social media is everywhere these days because billions of people are using it. So if that’s where your customers are, that’s where you should be too.
At the very least, you should have an account on Facebook and update it once a week, if not once a day. Other excellent social media options are YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
5) Extend Your Reach With A Food Truck
Operating a food truck can be a pricey restaurant marketing road to take, but the results can be amazing. A food truck enables you to extend your reach, generate positive press and word-of-mouth, and expose new customers to your delicious eats.
Consider offering a limited menu from your food truck while promoting the expanded menu at your brick-and-mortar location.
6) Go Old-School With A Fish Bowl Business Card Giveaway
In the age of data sharing, social media, and custom apps, the fish-bowl business card giveaway may seem like a waste of your time. Trust us, it’s not.
People with business cards are always looking for ways to hand them out. It’s only natural for them to drop one in the giant fishbowl on your counter for a chance to win a free appetizer. You can then use that information to expand your text-message or email marketing list.
7) Get Your Listing At The Top Of Local Search Results
There’s nothing like topping the list when your customers search for local restaurants. Make this a priority and watch your business soar.
Key things to work on include optimizing your listing on Google Maps and making sure your Yelp! Profile is complete.
Not sure how to get your website on page one? Contact a local SEO business or go the DIY route instead.
8) Invite Local Media To A Special Event
Is your anniversary or other special occasion coming up? Organize a VIPs-only special event and invite local media to attend.
People love to party and if you make the event fun and memorable, attendees will remember your restaurant for some time to come. It may even generate positive press, which is always a good thing.
9) Get Your Restaurant Online With A Custom Website
If you don’t already have a restaurant website, that should be your priority. A digital footprint, regardless how small, is paramount in this age of smartphones and tablets. And your custom website is the foundation of that digital footprint.
Does the thought of making a website feel daunting? Try Squarespace or WordPress. They’re both quick and easy ways to put together a professional-looking website.
10) Run Short-Term Social Media Specials
Everyone likes to be an “insider” so give your customers that opportunity. Offer specials via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook that reward followers for being engaged.
One-day-only deals and specials that only last an hour are great ways to keep customers checking their feeds for your information.
11) Start A Blog
Starting a blog is a great restaurant marketing tip that can pay huge dividends over time.
For one, a blog is an outstanding way to develop your restaurant’s personality, engage with customers, and build community around your food. For two, if you incorporate SEO best practices (and you should), you can acquire readers who may become patrons.
12) Don’t Forget About Local Newspapers
Yes, people still read newspapers. These outlets — be they print, online, or both — can be a great way to reach demographics that aren’t fully plugged in to the online world.
Most local papers have a coupon section. This can be a great place to offer 25% off an entree or the opportunity to get a free appetizer by mentioning the ad.
13) Partner With A Delivery Service
Delivery can be a big deal, especially in larger markets. Consider partnering with a delivery service like GrubHub, Delivery.com, or another local company.
Offering delivery can tap a market that you didn’t even know existed and expose first-time customers to your food.
14) Build Your Brand Identity For Targeted Restaurant Marketing
Developing your brand identity can help you target the right audience in all your marketing channels. Do you cater to more upscale clientele looking to get dressed up and dine in style? Or do you cater to the sports-wings-and-beer crowd?
Understanding your target audience — and building your brand around them — can help you focus your marketing to where these people are.
15) Make Sure Your Digital Details Are Correct
Make sure that your digital details like address, menu, phone number, and hours are correct. This is on par with having a working website — it should be one of the first things you do.
Eighty-nine percent of diners research a restaurant before actually going there. If your contact information is incorrect, you’ll likely lose customers you didn’t even know about.
16) Reach Out To Overlooked Local Media
Media outlets like TV and radio can still be highly effective ways to market your restaurant. If you’re hosting a special event, invite a radio station to do a remote broadcast.
If you’ve got a compelling story, contact a local magazine to get the story out.
17) Get Food Bloggers On Your Side
Food bloggers can be a powerful voice for your restaurant if you let them. Many of these foodies have huge followings and can do wonders for your reputation. Consider offering a free meal or dessert in exchange for reviewing your restaurant.
18) Ask Customers To Rate Your Restaurant
Asking customers to rate your restaurant on social media sites like Google+, Yelp, and Facebook can do wonders for your online reputation. You might even offer a free dessert if they do it right there in the restaurant.
19) Show Off Good Publicity
Good publicity can go a long way toward making your restaurant marketing successful. Be sure to keep track of any and all publicity you receive (paid or otherwise) and broadcast it through every channel you have available.
20) Brag About Your Staff
Good service can make or break a restaurant these days. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Consider highlighting a stellar employee through your blog or a video post to show off your exceptional service.
21) Develop An Email Newsletter
Like the text message, an email newsletter can be a cheap and easy restaurant marketing tool. Consider broadcasting your newsletter once a month so your message isn’t lost in inbox clutter.
And don’t neglect to include plenty of pictures, videos, and upcoming special events to keep the customer involved.
22) Geo-Target Your Online Ads
Geo-targeting allows you to target consumers in certain cities or within a specific area. This is the gold standard for restaurants that rely solely on local customers because they can get their best ads in front of the customers who matter most.
Google offers geo-targeting (through AdWords) as do Facebook and Twitter.
23) Start A Customer Loyalty Program
Customer loyalty is the measure of a consumer’s willingness to do repeat business with your company or brand and is an essential part of making your restaurant a success in the 21st century.
The best way to generate repeat business and forge a bond with your clientele is to start a customer loyalty program.
Not sure how to go about creating your own program? Here are some of the best ideas to get you started.
- Set up a loyalty points system
- Offer preferred seating
- Establish a secret menu
- Allow repeat customers an opportunity to skip the line
- Implement a tiered reward system based on the number of orders
For more details on these restaurant marketing strategies, and for more ways to improve customer loyalty, check out these articles from the Sling blog:
- 5 Effective Restaurant Loyalty Programs, Plus Tips For Success
- 7 Ways To Improve Customer Loyalty | A Guide For Businesses
24) Perfect Your Online Menu
Diners want to know what they’re getting before they visit your restaurant. Make it easy for them to find out.
Post a high-quality, easy-to-read, up-to-date menu on your website and your most-visited social media outlets.
Need tips for creating the best menu possible — both in-house and online? Check out these helpful articles from the Sling blog:
- Menu Engineering: What It Is And How It Can Increase Profits
- Restaurant Menu Pricing: 7 Tips To Maximize Profitability
- How To Design Your Menu | Free Restaurant Menu Template
25) Get Involved With Community Events
Getting your business’s name attached to community events is a proven restaurant marketing tactic and a great way to spread goodwill and good feelings among potential customers.
There are dozens of ways to involve your business with community events. Keep your eyes open, be creative, and choose the opportunities that are right for your restaurant.
Here are some suggestions for ways your restaurant can get involved with community events:
- Donate to a fundraiser
- Donate prizes to a raffle
- Volunteer your time to a cause
- Sponsor a sports team
This last idea — sponsor a sports team — is particularly effective. Generations of kids-turned-adults remember playing t-ball or pee-wee football for their local Dairy Queen or Pizza Hut.
We still have fond memories of ice cream bars after a hot day’s game or a pizza party at the end of the season — and still frequent those restaurants to this day.
Your restaurant can be those good memories for a whole new generation when you tailor your restaurant marketing with the community in mind.
26) Create A Contest
Everyone loves a good game. Your current customers — and potential customers — are no different. Creating a contest of your own is a great restaurant marketing tactic to get people involved in your brand.
Simple and effective ideas include:
- Scavenger hunt
- Endurance events (e.g., the last person left touching the car wins)
- Boardgame tournament
- Cornhole tournament
- Offer rewards for following your restaurant on a social media platform
- Offer discounts for using a specific hashtag
Whether you choose to run your games in real life (IRL) or online, they’re a fun way to reach a whole new level of customers.
27) Make A Surprise Appearance
This restaurant marketing tip may take a bit of work to complete, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Take your restaurant on the road by setting up a booth at a local craft festival, farmer’s market, or music festival. With the right mix of tasty treats and brand advertising, you’ll entice new customers to visit your permanent location.
A “pop-up restaurant” like this is also an effective way to promote your grand opening and build excitement even before you open your doors.
28) Make Pets A Priority
No, you can’t allow pets into a formal dining establishment, but you can show your customers you care about their furry friends as well.
Take a page from some of the big-name franchises and offer a special menu just for pets or “doggie bags” your customers can take home to the four-legged members of their family.
People love their pets. And when you show that your restaurant cares too, you create a powerful bond that goes a long way toward creating life-long customers.
29) Harness The Power Of Music
Music has a way of attracting people’s attention and piquing their curiosity. That makes it an ideal — and inexpensive — restaurant marketing tactic.
Pipe family-friendly, on-brand music through an outdoor speaker to catch the ears (and eyes) of people walking by. If you want to get a little more involved, schedule some live music at your restaurant (either indoors or outdoors).
Not only will you entice regular customers to come back for the special event, but you’ll also attract fans of the band who then get a chance to experience what you have to offer.
The Best Restaurant Marketing Happens In-House
When it comes right down to it, the best restaurant marketing happens in-house between your customers and your staff.
That’s why it’s imperative that you don’t forget the power of super service and the buzz it can provide to your restaurant marketing efforts. To get the best from your service staff, schedule the right mix during peak traffic hours.
Schedule your most efficient team members when time is at a premium (i.e., lunch). And schedule your most personable team members when diners are more likely to linger (i.e., dinner).
Having trouble scheduling to highlight your super service? The Sling restaurant scheduling app can simplify and streamline the process like never before.
No matter the size of your business, Sling helps you build your team’s work schedules in minutes rather than hours.
With Sling’s powerful suite of tools, you can:
- Manage time off
- Coordinate availability
- Organize shift trade requests
- Stay on (or under) budget
- Reduce absenteeism
- Minimize late arrivals
- Allow your employees to sign up for available shifts
- Consolidate and streamline internal communication
- Control labor costs
- Simplify time tracking and payroll
- And much more…
The built-in artificial intelligence will even notify you of overlapping shifts, double bookings, and other mistakes in your schedule.
Sling truly is an all-in-one, turnkey solution for creating perfect employee schedules every time and improving your restaurant marketing in the process.
Right now, you can get everything you need to schedule employees and handle internal communication for an unlimited number of users and locations for free by creating an account on our website.
And for more resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.