There are over 100,000 restaurants in the U.S., from dive bars to Michelin five stars, fast food to fusion, sandwich to steakhouse, I could go on for days.
In other words, competition among restaurants is fierce, so you need a bullet-proof restaurant marketing plan. Well, my friend, you’re in the right place because this all-in-one restaurant marketing guide is going to provide all of the creative, strategic, and competitive inspiration you need to attract, gratify, and keep customers coming back.
It also means keeping this information accurate and up-to-date. Eaters love to do research online – in fact, 89% of consumers research a restaurant online prior to dining. This is why it’s of vital importance that all your restaurant details are online and up to date, including address, phone number, hours, your current menu, etc. The stronger and more accurate your online details are, the better.
4. Turn your Facebook business page into a community
Businesses with a strong social media presence are the ones that fare the best, and in the competitive food industry, ignoring social media is a death sentence. We already mentioned creating a Facebook page above, but not about leveraging its power to market your restaurant. Here’s how to do it:
- Treat your page like a listing: Facebook is a business directory! Fill out all fields, encourage reviews, and keep it updated.
- Post regularly: customer photos, upcoming events, special offers, hours updates, etc.
- Engage with your followers: Inspire discussions, respond to comments, follow them back.
- Change out your cover photos seasonally.
Also check out this list of easy Facebook marketing ideas for any type of business.
5. Loyalty programs
Partnering with online apps encourages visitors to check out your restaurant through gamification and customer loyalty programs, which offer visitors a free purchase or discount for visiting a certain number of times.
Popular foodie apps that offer integrated loyalty programs include:
You could also kick it old school and hand out punch cards. They aren’t quite as cool as apps, but they still show that you value customers and appreciate their loyalty.
6. Local SEO
While Google can infer your location based on your online information, and a searcher’s location based on their IP address, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank in local results for every relevant search. In other words, you need to do your local SEO:
- Get listed on the top local listing sites (we’ve touched on this already).
- Embed a Google Map of your location in your Contact Us page.
- Publish content specific to your location regularly.
- Get online reviews (the number one ranking factor in local SEO)
- Make sure your information is as identical as possible across all your online assets. Google doesn’t like inconsistencies!
7. Invest in paid ads
Running paid ads on platforms like Google and Facebook will get your restaurant in front of large volumes of qualified eyes. For help incorporating paid media into your restaurant marketing plan:
Mobile ads tend to be cheaper than desktop ads, and mobile boasts impressive conversion rates. What’s really cool is that Google Ads allows for all kinds of mobile customization and targeting options that let you get the most out of your bids. For example, you can increase your bids around dinnertime, when users are often looking for fast food on their mobile phones. Boosting 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 pie-hungry users are on the search for a slice. If you’re a restaurant marketer, don’t miss out on digging into a slice of the mobile ad pie (we’re talking deep dish).
8. Start a blog
Starting your own blog is a great way to build community and engage with your customers. Blogs offer the chance to experiment with your restaurant’s voice and personality. Share your successes and struggles, funny stories, recipes, and anything else you think might interest your customers.
A blog can be a huge project, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep your blog as simple or complex as you’d like. You don’t have to be constantly posting (quality over quantity), but it’s good to have your restaurant blog set up for when you have an announcement or news you want to get out to the world. If you’re serious about taking over the world, check out more blogging tips here.
9. Offline marketing strategies
Don’t forget about the physical world in your restaurant marketing plan! These tactics are still effective, especially if you’re a local restaurant.
- Care packages
- Free samples
- Local newspaper, radio, and TV
Restaurant marketing ideas
Let’s take these strategies one step further with some easy and creative restaurant marketing ideas.
10. Foodie photos
If you’ve ever logged onto Instagram, you’ll understand that food porn is alive and well.
Arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, drool-inducing 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.
Be warned though – taking really great food photos can be tougher than it looks, as lighting is often a key factor. Consider hiring a pro to take some top-notch photographs, or try it DIY style with your smartphone (you can use our product photography tips!).
11. Offer coupons & discounts
Providing coupons and discounts for your restaurant is always a surefire way to bring customers running. Offer a free dish to your new email newsletter subscribers (we can show you how to get more of those too).
Alternatively, you can try advertising a discount through Groupon or Living Social – if you go that route, you’ll get a TONS of exposure, but you’ll end up paying a hefty portion of sales to the deal website, so keep that in mind.
12. Share your reviews
Not only does the quantity and quality of reviews impact how high you rank in results and whether customers click on your result, but also, the content of those reviews makes for excellent marketing material. Sync them to appear on your website, share them on social, and even incorporate reviews on specific dishes into your menu.
13. Be an Insta-ham
Instagram marketing for restaurants is a no-brainer.
Show off your storefront, get up close with your top dishes, and use this social media main stage as a place to play around with your brand identity. For example, an all-natural health food store might try snapping pics of people kayaking, cooking, farming, or other activities you think your fan base will enjoy.
Also be sure to have some fun with hashtags – whether jumping on the hype of existing popular Twitter hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or inventing your own, hashtags are a great way to have some fun with fans.
Instagram is a no-brainer for those in the food business – learn even more about Instagram marketing here.
14. Food blogger outreach
When you’re a new restaurant, you may find it difficult to generate reviews and hype about your business. One great way to get reviews and press on the web is to invite food bloggers to your restaurant to give you a try, and consider offering a free meal or appetizer to get them in the door. Politely ask if they’d be willing to review your restaurant and share their experience online.
You can’t outright ask for a positive review, as that would be dishonest, but it’s fine to simply ask them for an objective restaurant review. Some bloggers might decline your offer, but the more you ask, the better your chances are of getting some positive feedback and generating more interest online.
Some food bloggers have big followings, and getting their attention can have a huge influence on your restaurant. Even just one write up or mention from a major foodie can be a huge for restaurant promotion efforts.
15. Show off your staff
In an age of robotic customer service reps and soon to be self-driving cars, the human element is severely lacking. Show off your 5-star staff doing what they do best! Seeing happy, smiling employees does wonders for your reputation, as customers long to be served by joyful workers.
Showing off your pleasant employees also provides major reputation points – happy workers say a lot about a business, and fans are sure to take notice.
16. Share positive press
Another major restaurant marketing tip – when you’re mentioned in a news outlet or magazine, be sure to show off your good publicity on your website and via social media. Fans will spread the word, and newcomers will be encouraged to visit in person when they see trusted sources celebrating your restaurant.
17. Social media contests
The key to Facebook and Instagram giveaways is to have an appealing prize. Don’t do a boring gift card, offer something specific like, free sides, an extra pizza, dinner for two, swag, free delivery for a month. and more. Have people enter by posting about and tagging your business and/or using your hashtag on Instagram. This is a great way to increase your followers and bring in your local audience. More local social media marketing tips here.
18. Source local ingredients
Customers love to hear that they’re eating local, and sourcing local ingredients from nearby can do a lot to boost your fan base and give you a positive reputation in the community. If it’s not out of your budget, definitely consider this option!
19. Partner up with delivery services
In today’s online-driven environment, ease of use is the name of the game. Many online delivery services streamline the ordering process, and internet-savvy patrons often love taking advantage of such delivery services.
Consider partnering with services like:
Some customers may even discover you for the first time through services such as these!
20. Trivia nights
Weekly or monthly trivia nights are always a hit with restaurants. Offer great prizes to the winners, good in-between music, and promote it on social media and your newsletters to spread the word.
21. Fishbowl business card giveaways
Let customers drop their business cards into a bowl for a raffle. The reward can vary – a lunch for the winner and 10 friends, a 2-hour happy hour with discounted drinks, whatever you feel like!
Not only are these raffles fun, but you can also make use of those business cards by emailing customers. Let them know that while they didn’t win this time, they can sign up for your newsletter to be notified of their next chance to enter, plus the opportunity to hear about discounts and other offers they’d enjoy. Then tadaa – you’ve got yourself a bunch of super valuable new newsletter subscribers!
22. Start a food truck
Starting a food truck isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s a tremendous endeavor and, depending on the kind of truck you want to buy, it can be very pricey. However, starting a food truck enables you to dish out your food to folks you might never normally come in contact with. You can greatly extend your reach, build more press, and acquire new fans who might love you so much that they become patrons of your brick-and-mortar location as well!
23. Get creative with national days
There are dozens of awareness causes and observance days throughout each month of the year that are restaurant-friendly. Here are some, just to name a few:
- National Food Safety Month in September
- National Pizza Day in February
- International Beer Day in August
- National Baked Scallops Day in March
- National Picnic Day in April
And the list goes on. And on. And on. We’re talking, National Corn Chip Day, National Glazed Spiral Ham Day, Chicken Tetrazzini Day. You can have a field day with these. Here are some local marketing ideas based on months of the year (with plenty more to come):
Final restaurant marketing tips
We’ll leave you with some final tips to help you save time, maintain a positive reputation, and make the most of every penny and minute you spend marketing your restaurant.
One of the most important things to know in restaurant marketing is that there are countless places online where customers can review and talk about you—even if you didn’t set up a listing on that platform! As a part of your reputation management, you can:
- Google yourself regularly to identify any auto-created listings that need to be claimed so you can control their information.
- Set up Google Alerts to notify you when your business name (or other designated keyword term) appears in a new piece of content on the web.
- Invest in paid social media management tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to stay on top of posts, mentions, and direct messages.
How to market a restaurant [summary]:
Here are the steps on how to market a restaurant:
- Develop your restaurant’s brand identity
- Get a website
- Establish your mission statement
- Set up your socials
- Get listed on restaurant apps
- Set up your Google Business Profile
- Have a sleek, functional online menu
Here are the best restaurant marketing ideas and strategies:
- Ask for reviews
- Respond to reviews
- Send out an email newsletter
- Turn your Facebook business page into a community
- Loyalty programs
- Local SEO
- Invest in paid ads
- Start a blog
- Offline marketing strategies
- Foodie photos
- Offer coupons & discounts
- Share your reviews
- Be an Insta-ham
- Food blogger outreach
- Show off your staff
- Share positive press
- Social media giveaways
- Partner up with delivery services
- Trivia nights
- Fishbowl business card giveaways
- Start a food truck
- Get creative with national days
- Final restaurant marketing tips
- Promote user-generated content
- Online reservation tools
- Time those Tweets
- Online reputation monitoring
That sums up our restaurant marketing guide. Hopefully you can put these restaurant marketing tips to good use!