12 Marketing Tips for Restaurants

Are you looking for ways to give your restaurant marketing a boost? Whether you run a franchised restaurant, a friendly cafe or a local eatery, marketing is a vital part of bringing in new customers and encouraging others to return. If you feel that your current marketing strategy is growing a little stale, it’s probably time to add some fresh ingredients. Here are several ideas to help you get started.

1. Use Social Media for Promotions

Social media is not only a handy marketing tool for communicating promotions, it’s a great way to reach customers for a restaurant. Posts, Tweets and other notifications about your foods are visceral: They can lead to immediate decisions about where to go for lunch or dinner, creating positive customer decisions in real time. That kind of value is hard to find through other channels, so make sure you create and maintain a strong social profile for your restaurant. You should post about far more than promotions, however: News about new foods, restaurant changes, and special events make your social news feed complete.


2. Modernize Your Deals

What sort of deals do you offer through your restaurant? Discounts and deals offer a chance to get truly creative in how you generate buzz for your services. Hand out coupons in inventive ways, or run a contest that offers free meals for winning participants. Try to use the latest technology in your offerings, too. Do customers learn about special deals through limited QR codes on your menu? Do you tweet random free meals for the first five customers to claim them? Do you unveil specials available by specific request through your website? There are dozens of possibilities, thanks to our modern devices, so get inventive.


3. Create Discussions

With a social media profile and updates about your restaurants, you should start seeing comments (comments also tend to pop up on restaurant review networks, but you have less direct control over these). Embrace these comments as opportunities to start discussions. Thank customers for particularly polite comments. Use questions as an opportunity to let customers know about the details of your dishes or cooking process. Answer complaints politely. If you find it easier to avoid comments, you are probably sensing a weak spot in your restaurant brand that deserves further examination. Your tone should be one of confidence, happiness, and pride in your product.


4. Use Photos

Photos have several benefits when it comes to your marketing. They are great at connecting the imagination to the taste buds, making customers all the more willing to take a trip to your restaurant or cafe and try one of the meals you have posted. Additionally, photos help prove to wary customers that you know how to cook, serve and display your food, showing your expertise and giving them the confidence to try out your products. Photos are also a great way to show specific changes in your menu. They make especially good posts on social media. In fact, photos are such a strong, proven driver of social media attention that you should try to include a high-quality photo in most if not all your posts.


5. Update the Menu

Updating your menu can be a tricky prospect. Bringing in new ingredients and developing new meals can be expensive, and a rotating menu may drive away some customers who do not like change. But the benefits outweigh the problems. New menu items are excellent for creating buzz about your business and giving past customers a reason to stop by again. They also allow you to keep on top of menu design and constantly improve your menu’s readability. If you have too many menu items to highlight a specific “new” item, this points at another problem: The item-heavy menu is a thing of the past. Customers these days are drawn to simpler, minimalistic menus that are not afraid to change as the restaurant experiments and finds new strengths. Success lies in adaptability.


6. Follow the Trends

Speaking of making menu changes, do not be afraid to jump on board the local trends in your area to win over new customers. The food industry is subject to a lot of market forces, and there’s nothing wrong with using those forces for inspiration. The trend toward organic foods is a great example: Tapping into sources of local ingredients and proclaiming organic ingredients on your menu is a great way to garner new attention and boost your restaurant’s reputation in the eyes of consumers. But there are many other options in addition to green trends. Think about all the new interest in artisan dishes, or unique hybrid combinations that fuse ingredients from different cultures together.


7. Use Seasonal Events

No matter where you live, certain events happen around the year that provide fertile ground for marketing efforts. Sports events, especially local sports events, are a common example, since they inspire a lot of grassroots excitement and are easy to tap into. Think about offering free meals for a limited time after a home team scores a certain number of points, or a similar promotion tied into team activity (offering free food is not a requirement, but pick a promotion that is exciting for sports fans). Harvest, summer and spring festivals are another chance to get creative.


8. Create More Upselling Options

Upselling in the traditional tactic of making more profit by selling a baseline product, then selling several accessories that go along with that product. This is particularly simple in the food industry…if you offer the necessary options. Create upselling opportunities for all your main dishes. Extra chicken or fish – special homemade syrup – the chef’s own white wine sauce – served with fresh fruit – the ideas are nearly endless, and can be customized across a wide variety of restaurant styles. Don’t forget to train your servers to ask about these upsells and tailor your menu to highlight the possibility.


9. Build New Website and App Features

Food websites and apps have evolved quickly in the last several years: The result are a number of new customer-friendly features that make buying meals easier than ever before. A phone number to order takeout is one thing, but what about an app design to help you order takeout with just a few taps of your fingers? Many mainstream restaurants, especially pizza places, already have these apps. Likewise, think about creating a simple “reservation” or “order” button for your website. Anything that can get customers to make a purchase without needing to dial a number will help increase your orders.


10. Encourage Customers to Return

Repeat customers are an excellent source of revenue for restaurants…if you can convince them to keep coming back. In addition to offering great food, consider promotions that target customers who are coming back for more. A common strategy is a loyalty program that offers everything from a punch card (get your fifth order free, etc) to more complex point systems. Loyalty programs also allow you to collect a lot of customer data and study their behavior. If you want a simpler technique, offer discounts on customers’ next meals through coupons available at the restaurant or your latest QR codes. You can also do a lot to make your restaurant an inviting, hospitable place where people will want to bring their friends and come back for more: Do not underestimate valuable tactics like remembering people’s names or offering free WiFi.


11. Create Good Local SEO

You’ve probably noticed that much of this advice focuses on stirring up local interest for your nearby customers. One of the most important local efforts you can make is creating good local SEO for your mobile and desktop sites. These days, consumers and the apps they use tend to report searches based on nearby results, allowing them to quickly make a decision based on what is closest to them. The more local SEO you use, the better your page rankings when it comes to these searches. So remember to provide your full address on every page of your website, use keywords that include the name of your town, and tag pictures and articles with information that includes local data.


12. Use Happy Hours Wisely

Happy hours are not just a way to attract customers through promotions – they are also a way to create more sales during traditional low-activity parts of the day. Even if you do not serve alcohol at your restaurant, consider a happy hour (or hours, of course) devoted to meal specials to help boost orders during the quietest parts of your day. Do not be afraid to make these savings remarkable: Sometimes encouraging repeat customers is more important than pulling profit margins into the black.


Come into the ChefZone Entree’preneur center to learn about marketing seminar dates and additional resources!