The competition among restaurants is fierce, and you’ll need effective restaurant marketing ideas to be successful. Here we’ve listed 10 restaurant marketing ideas and strategies that can help you improve and drive food and beverage sales up, and get the attention from current and new customers in your market! Driving food and beverage sales can be achieved with simple tactics that are available through big budgets and shoestring budgets alike.
10 Great Restaurant Marketing Ideas
1. FOODIE PHOTOS
Arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, close-up food photos. Visual content is in high demand online these days, and having delicious looking photos on your website and across various social media outlets is essential for drawing hungry eyes.
Consider hiring a pro to take some top-notch photographs if possible, but if your budget does not allow, try taking photos yourself. The latest smartphones can take great pictures, just ensure you have good lighting and your food plates look as good as they can. Great photos should be shared in Social Media as well as included in your online profiles like Google My Business profile, Yelp, Facebook, etc. We have more restaurant marketing ideas to boost your marketing here.
2. BUSINESS SOCIALS
You’d be surprised how unreceptive some restaurant owners are to hosting business socials to promote a restaurant. However, if you select the right group to partner with, you can leverage their resources to promote your restaurant, and you can also target your core audience. Host socials where the food is center stage. Arrange photo opportunities that include your displays in the background and submit to local media. Partnering with a business or charitable organization works on many levels and can help you stretch your marketing budget while still delivering higher returns on investment than can be achieved with traditional advertising.
Tasting is believing and having customers sample your food can be very effective restaurant marketing idea. Every public event that draws your core audience is an opportunity to offer samples of your product. Pick the best 2-3 items on your menu that can be easily transported and get some solid representatives of your restaurant out to meet and greet at these off-property functions. You can offer sampling in your location and promote sampling events in Social Media channels.
Discounting is an incentive for customers and prospective customers to try your restaurant. The best coupons offer a value of about 20%. You may want to also consider no strings offers that do not rely on percentages. Examples include value-added perks such as free parking, free WiFi, complimentary item (i.e. appetizer, desert, etc.) merchandise, etc. Offer a loyalty program, where the more they buy, they can earn a complimentary item, meal, etc. Are you currently running coupon ads on direct mail or coupon books, read about a study we did – Do Coupons Work?
5. HOST FOOD EVENTS
Hosting food events such as the “Taste of (insert your town)” is a great way to position your restaurant as a center of the food scene in your market. It allows you to leverage the reputation, profile and credibility of all of the other participants, and it can also help you share the expense of holding the event. Hosting an event also provides your restaurant with the opportunity to recruit additional manpower and resources for promoting the event and gives that added edge with garnering local restaurant promotion.
6. PROMOTE USER-GENERATED CONTENT
User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to develop personal and intimate engagement with users. Host a photo contest by asking customers to share their favorite meal at your establishment, and share the entries on a dedicated content page (and/or share submissions across your various social networks). Consider awarding some random lucky contestants with a free appetizer or other prize! Hosting and promoting user-generated content shows customers that you appreciate them, turning occasional visitors into die-hard devotees.
7. EMAIL MARKETING
Recent research has shown that retention based e-mail marketing is 300 to 400 percent higher than traditional vehicles such as direct mail and flyers. It’s a great way to communicate and manage your restaurant’s promotions. Through email, you can also take advantage of reaching out to your customer base on important occasions, like holiday weekend specials, and birthdays. Email promotions can be executed through new automated tools like those that are available through e-mail marketing service providers or running Facebook Ads (learn how to do Facebook Ads here.) You simply plug in the e-mail address of your customers, their birthday (for birthday promotions), and a secure and nicely designed e-mail is sent to them at a time you determine in advance. The system knows who and when to send the e-mail to and it tracks view rates for reporting that allows you to know how well your program is working. You can also have the e-mail include a redemption code that will allow you to track what percentage of the e-mails are bringing in guests and calculate a return on investment.
8. HAVE A EASY, FUNCTIONAL ONLINE MENU
Users love to do research online before ordering from or visiting your restaurant. Don’t make users scramble to find your menu – publish a high-quality, easy to read menu that is up to date and accurate. Not sure how? Some delivery sites like those mentioned below offer to publish your menu online for free. Open Menu is another great site that can help you get your menu looking sleek and stylish (it even offers some handy social integration, for both paid and free users).
Still, you’ll want to make sure to have your menu published on your website, since that’s often the #1 piece of information users are looking for when visiting your site (along with hours, location, and contact info).
If you don’t have a good menu online and available for customers, most of your other restaurant marketing strategies are much less effective! Customers need to have access to an online menu, otherwise they’ll simply look elsewhere.
9. USE MOBILE ADS
It’s predicted that this year, half of all paid clicks on Google and Facebook will come from a mobile device! Restaurants are one the best candidates for mobile ads, as users are often looking for nearby dining options while on the move. Mobile ads tend to be cheaper than desktop ads, and mobile boasts impressive conversion rates.
What’s more important is that Facebook Ads and Google AdWords allows for all kinds of mobile customization and targeting options that let you get the most out of your bids. For example, on AdWords you can increase your bids around dinnertime, when users are often looking for fast food on their mobile phones. Increasing your bids during the dinnertime period increases your chances for showing up for a specific query. This means you could be the first ad to show up for a “pizza” search when users are on the search for a slice. If you’re not a restaurant marketer, don’t miss out on digging into a slice of the mobile ad pie (get more tips for restaurant marketing here).
10. GEO-TARGETED ADS
For most restaurants, local is the name of the game. Most folks are looking for good eats close to home, and you’ll get the most value out of your online marketing efforts by investing primarily in geo-targeted ads. Geo-targeting ads help you save money, ensuring that only users in certain cities or within a specific radius see your ads (eliminating non-relevant clicks, which can cost you big ad bucks).
Unlike print ads and mailers like Valpak, 2for1 Magazine, etc. which target large geographic areas (sometimes 15 miles wide), digital marketing can be much more targeted. Online advertising services, from Google AdWords to Facebook and Twitter, offer geo-targeting ad options. Be sure to take advantage of these handy targeting features to get your best ads in front of your best customers.
RESTAURANT MARKETING IDEAS: FINAL THOUGHTS
The restaurant industry has been conditioned to believe that using traditional restaurant marketing efforts can be applied to grow sales because it’s what everyone else is doing. Fact is, the restaurant industry is getting more competitive and will continue to do so. In the face of increased competition, the most effective strategy is to differentiate your restaurant from the others and create excitement in a way that reinforces your positioning strategy. Again, the promotions are only gimmicky if they are created that way; it is entirely possible to execute these promotions in a way that is completely in alignment with the image of your restaurant no matter how exclusive.
Remember, differentiation and exciting tactics like the ones described above are particularly potent for your food and beverage operations.
Smart marketing is best achieved through non-traditional techniques that are executed inside your restaurant and among your existing customer base. Restaurant promotion opportunities abound if you look at your situation through the right lens. Use the ideas above to spark your own thinking of similar underutilized programs in your own operation and reap the rewards as other successful restaurants are around the country.
Have you tried any of the above tactics? or something similar before? We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions.