Owning a restaurant is not an easy job. You make it look that way to your patrons, of course, by providing a great environment and even greater food. But if they only knew! Getting people in the door and turning them into loyal customers takes creative restaurant marketing. You have to stay in front of people, online and off.
You have to stay with it, too, no matter how famous or busy you become. There are competitors all over town just waiting to lure your people away. To help you brainstorm ever-more-productive restaurant marketing, we offer the following 13 tasty, tempting ideas:
- Refresh your website. When was the last time you changed the pictures? Is your menu – or all your menus — posted and up to date? Next to your hours and location, this is why people visit your website.
- Use an online reservation system such as OpenTable. It’s more convenient for everyone.
- Mouth-watering photos. There is no substitute for showing people what they’ll get when they eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at your place. It’s fun when customers share phone shots of their meal, but for your website and official marketing, invest in the highest quality professional photos. Composition and lighting make a huge difference.
- Use those taste-bud-tingling photos for direct mail postcard campaigns – a very affordable way to introduce your restaurant (or new menu items) to new audiences. Be assertive – why wait around for people to find you online or via word of mouth?
- Post photos of new menu items – or this week’s hottest selling selection – on your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages.
- Create a loyalty program. Track customer visits and after 5 or 10, email them a gift certificate.
- Encourage reviews. New patrons will flock to your restaurant when they read on Yelp, Trip-Advisor, Google+, UrbanSpoon, etc. about your insanely delicious food and fabulous, friendly staff. (Restaurant marketing side tip: you need both great food and great staff to build and retain clientele.)
- Make sure your presence on review sites is fully fleshed-out, with the obvious details (hours, directions, contact info) and plenty of those stunning photos. Include an exterior shot, to reinforce branding and help first-timers recognize when they have arrived.
- Hook up with food writers, either bloggers or those associated with the local newspaper or TV news. Invite them for a complimentary meal to introduce your restaurant to them, and ask if they would consider writing a review. Ask for their opinion, whether or not they formally review you – make friends rather than thinking of them as a tool. Or the potential enemy. If you get a positive review or other publicity, share it far and wide.
- Try some geo-targeted ads on Facebook, Twitter or using Google Adwords.
- Support the community (and they will support you). Sponsoring a local event can bring multiple rewards, plus it’s fun.
- Do you cater, too? The next time you cater a luncheon or dinner, ask if you can provide every attendee with a discount coupon. Before you faint at the thought of the volume, consider how many new customers you might attract (they swooned over your catering, didn’t they?) and multiply that by your typical customer lifetime value.
- Hold a contest where customers can submit photos – favorites, themes, etc. – to any or all of your social media sites. Let them vote on the best ones, and offer prizes – more prizes of lesser value will garner more “thanks” than a single hefty prize. Not only are you engaging more with customers, every time one of them posts a photo of your restaurant or food, it’s tantamount to another third-party recommendation.
Think local. Be a good neighbor. Have fun. If you do all those things – along with sustaining your reputation for amazing food and service — your restaurant marketing will always be a success.