As the economy opens up, it’s time for restaurants to put their marketing into high gear. There’s increased competition from both established brands and new entrants. Customers are also looking for newer options. Only those who consistently invest in restaurant marketing will stand out from the clutter and acquire those customers.
One of the primary reasons why restaurant marketing needs attention is that the rules have changed over the last decade or so. Restaurant brands that survived on word-of-mouth publicity will find it difficult unless they branch out and utilize all other possible avenues.
Millions of people coming out of socially isolated and highly digitalized lives are ready for brands that will engage with them on the relevant platforms. The same old styles of marketing won’t have the desired impact. It’s a new reality with a new set of challenges and opportunities.
If you’re a restaurant owner or manager, you might be understandably tired of the countless articles on restaurant marketing that only provide little nuggets of information. Based on our experience with scores of clients in the restaurant industry, this is EasySignage’s list of 30 ideas to successfully market your restaurant.
In other words, this is the only guide to restaurant marketing you’ll need.
30 restaurant marketing ideas for 2021
1. Use online reservation systems
Online reservation platforms have made it easy for customers to book tables. Being on such a platform puts you in front of millions of people. Consider these as not just booking apps but as restaurant discovery software.
OpenTable was synonymous with online bookings but others like Resy, Wisely, Eat App and TableAgent have entered the picture now. If you’re not there, remember that your competitors will be.
2. Run local online ads
Restaurant marketing is local marketing. All your customers, barring some tourists, will be based in and around your locality. While it would have been expensive and ineffective to target them through newspaper ads, online advertising has changed that.
You can use geo-targeting to reach those prospective customers. Since all digital ad networks enable local online ads, you’ll have several options to choose from.
3. Invest in your restaurant’s local SEO
If you want your customers to discover you, you need to be serious about your local SEO. While a few people might search for your restaurant by name, the vast majority would be searching for “restaurants near me.”
Make sure that you’re listed on Google My Business and other directories. Ensure that your location and all other information are accurate. Add keywords to your website with local SEO in mind.
4. Add reservation links to your Google My Business profile
It’s not enough that you have a Google My Business profile for your restaurant. It also needs to have a reservation link.
That’s because, for anyone looking for a restaurant like yours, the next step would be to book a table.
5. Use automated and customized email marketing
The trouble with email marketing is that most companies do it so badly that they end up as spam. It’s one of the most effective and engaging mediums provided you know how to use it.
Your emails should be customized to the recipient’s history with your restaurant. You should segment it based on their dining or ordering frequency, and average price per order, among other things.
6. Send emails on birthdays
People celebrate birthdays with their family or friends and spend more than they usually do. Start by calling up your regular diners or asking in person about their birthdays. Use a customer relationship management software to store all that information.
You should then send a customized email two or three weeks before the birthday with special offers or discounts.
7. Connect your front-of-house staff to your website live chat
You should have chatbots on your website to answer queries from customers. You can also add value to the process by including your front-of-house staff in those chats.
This makes the interaction human and lets your staff give relevant and timely answers to customer queries.
8. Make your dishes Instagrammable
If you can create visually stunning dishes, people will take photos, share them on Instagram, and the platform will do the rest. How do you get your diners to do that?
By using ingredients that have similar colors, pairing dishes that visually complement each other, using bring colors, and by using the right lighting. Of course, request your diners to tag you in their posts or use your restaurant’s hashtag.
9. Offer discounts and coupons
Have buy-one-get-one offers, discounts, and bundled offers. When launching a dish, run any of these campaigns and publicize it through your digital ads. You can also smartly use email marketing to target your regular customers with relevant coupons.
But don’t overdo it or your restaurant’s brand equity will take a hit.
10. Focus on loyal customers
Loyal customers are the bedrock of any successful restaurant. But far too often the industry takes them for granted or pays them just lip service.
Your restaurant should have a robust customer loyalty program with rewards that include discounts and other offers. Offer free dessert or champagne to your loyal customers if yours is a fine dining establishment.
11. Have an irresistible online menu
Whether on your site or on a booking platform, what customers are most interested in is your menu. Have it on the homepage and not deep in your website. Ensure that it’s readable and the formatting is right for mobile users.
Make sure that your font is legible and the design doesn’t look cluttered.
12. Use retargeting ads
Retargeting is how you reach people who would have visited your website and not made a reservation or phone call. Most digital platforms allow you to use retargeting ads.
Now you can target people who’ve shown an interest in your restaurant. That would make it relevant.
13. Build an awesome brand
Your brand equity is the collective power of the quality of your dishes, your ambiance, customer relationship management, name, and logo, among other things.
To get it right, your brand should be based on the needs and aspirations of your target audience. Make sure it’s aspirational on all fronts, including social media.
14. Collect and use customer data
How you gather and use data will determine how well you understand your customers and can customize your offerings. For that, you should use a restaurant CRM to know the frequency of guest visits, their contact details, and preferences.
It will also let you save their birthdays and anniversaries to customize your marketing.
15. Use SMS marketing
Once you have a viable set of data, you can use SMS marketing to engage with them. Text messages have high open rates but that doesn’t mean you should flood them with SMS.
Offer discounts and coupons through SMS. If there’s a local event or a sports match, encourage them to drop by after the event.
16. Share the story of your ingredients
Move beyond the dishes and talk about your ingredients. Are they locally sourced? Are they organic? Do you source them from any particular farm? Do you have difficulty getting them?
Share these stories through your website and social media. It makes your restaurant transparent and relatable.
17. Offer online delivery
All your customers are using it and if you don’t believe us you only have to check the valuations of these food delivery companies. Make sure you’re on whatever delivery platform is popular in your area.
You can choose between Grubhub, Doordash, UberEats, Postmates, Seamless, among others.
18. Use social media stories
These are images or videos that disappear after 24 hours and millions of people watch them on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook every day.
Instead of your usual social media posts, you can give a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of your restaurant, or do a short interview with your head chef.
19. Share only high-quality photos
The popularity of your social media pages will depend on the quality of your photographs. One of the most effective things you can do, especially when starting out, is to hire a professional food photographer to shoot your dishes, staff, and interiors.
This will give you an image bank to work with. After that, you should learn how to take photos on your own.
20. Invest in PR
While you should attempt the traditional forms of advertising like newspaper and radio ads, you should also focus on public relations. Customers tend to trust reviews from reputed media houses.
Once you get positive PR, share it across your website and social media.
21. Encourage online reviews
Customers check online reviews before deciding to visit or order from a restaurant. So, you should constantly request your diners to review you online. Not just in person, you should also automate review requests through SMS.
22. Manage online reviews
If you get a positive online review, thank the customer and repeat the favorable things they would have said. Make sure that you sign off using your name and not as “staff.”
If you get a negative review, empathize with the customer and if it’s a genuine mistake, apologize publicly, and offer to take the conversation to a private channel.
23. Start blogging
One of the most effective ways to build credibility is through blogging. Start posting short-form content about your dishes, staff members, new launches, etc.
If you’re uncomfortable writing, share photographs with short pieces of text.
24. Use influencer marketing
Is there a local celebrity? A regional sports star? Or someone with around 10000 or so followers on Instagram? Invite them for a free meal and request them to share it with their network.
But ensure that the influencer and your restaurant have a brand fit.
25. Google ads, Facebook ads, and Instagram ads
Social media ads allow you to target by location, gender, age, interests, and other filters. If you use ads on Google, Facebook, or Instagram, you can target people in your vicinity who’re interested in eating out and in the cuisine you serve.
Once you roll out your ad campaign, check its performance and then repeat what works on a particular platform.
26. Build a community
Social media isn’t just about talking to your followers. It’s also about engaging with them and reposting their content. That’s also how you build a community.
With that, you would have brand ambassadors who will vouch for your restaurant and promote you to their friends and followers.
27. Optimize your website
Can people easily find your website? Is the homepage cluttered? Can visitors find the menu with ease? Do the font and design elements make it readable? Can customers easily book a table from the website? Do you have a section for customer reviews?
Regularly asking these questions will help optimize your website.
28. Don’t ignore Yelp!
While Google and other websites may be giving it a run for its money, Yelp is still important for restaurant owners and managers. That’s because it still has a large number of users.
Since online reviews play a crucial role in helping people choose a restaurant, you should optimize your Yelp profile and stay current.
29. Conduct surveys
For your restaurant to be successful, it needs to get feedback from your customers. Using regular surveys will reveal what customers like about you and what they would like to be improved.
These surveys will give you content for marketing and suggestions for new dishes.
30. Use digital signages
Digital signages are a dynamic medium to engage with your diners. You can use them to convey the wait times, latest dishes, promotional offers, discounts, etc.
Beyond that, you can also use them to wish your loyal customers on their birthdays and anniversaries and share social media feeds and breaking news on your displays.
You don’t have to do all 30 of them. Merely focusing on five or six and then expanding to others will do the trick. Importantly, for restaurant marketing to work, you’ve got to be both consistent and patient.