Owning a restaurant is hard work, and is also a constant worry about keeping customers happy and bringing in new ones. With fierce competition in the restaurant industry, finding and keeping your seat at the dining table can be challenging.
Thankfully, there are many ways restaurant owners can build their business notoriety and attract new customers. Here is a rundown of 5 marketing tactics that you can start implementing that will not ruin your budget.
It’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone. In today’s world, almost everyone owns a smartphone and it’s hard to live without it. The same goes for your restaurant and claiming your spot in the digital world. Be where your customers are, and online is where everything is happening. This does not necessarily mean having professional-looking profiles and websites from the get-go, but more about making your business searchable and “discoverable” on Google, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and any other platform. The more you are familiar with using the platforms, the quicker you will start feeling more comfortable about sharing content and tailoring your image online.
If you already took your business online, you should ask yourself the following questions: are you posting daily? Are you encouraging your customers to tag you in their content whenever they order from you? Is your website updated regularly? Do you encourage your customers to leave reviews? If the answer is no to any of them, then you should start thinking about it. Let’s put it this way, every day is an opportunity to get discovered and create opportunities to interact with your existing customers and grow your community.
With so much content being shared by the hour, it is extremely difficult to rely only on regular posts and videos to promote your business. Advertising on Facebook and Instagram allows you to expand your reach and gives you more chances to be seen in a rather crowded place. Using Google ads, on the other hand, allows you to reach customers online outside of those social media platforms.
Promoting your business using these ad services increases your chances of landing new customers. By redirecting people to your website and social platforms, you increase awareness of your business, and with repeat exposure to your ads, a percentage of that audience could be converted into new clients.
Get your restaurant on all delivery apps and build your own
If delivery apps keep growing and multiplying, it’s because they are popular among consumers and there’s a high demand for delivery and pickup. Costs and margins put aside, these apps come with the advantage of an established and growing pool of customers you can tap into. By not being on them, your potential customers and even existing ones could go to your competitors who are using them.
As a small business relying on third-party apps for pickup and delivery, it might not be a viable long-term option in terms of costs. Getting your own online delivery app and website could be a good alternative, especially if you promote it and redirect customers to it. The most important advantage of having it is that there are 0 commissions on all orders that come through. And if you’re worried about carrying deliveries in-house, there are delivery services that handle the transportation side for a lesser cost than the regular delivery apps.
Partnerships & Events
No matter what your opinion about influencers is, the truth of the matter is, collaborating with them drives results and it has proved to be an effective way to market a product or put it on the radar of potential consumers.
Nowadays influencers come in all sizes of followership, and recent studies have shown that working with ‘nano influencers’, which means influencers with less than 10k followers, have more authority or influence over their audience because they are perceived as more authentic than larger ones. This category of influencers presents another advantage, they are not as expensive as larger ones, since they are also trying to build a reputation and grow their audience, they are more flexible in terms of compensation, which could be in the form of monetary one or another form such as, a year of discounts, free meals/delivery per week. All these are details to be worked out once the right influencer is selected, but it is certainly a strategy to consider implementing.
Another type of influencer is blog owners and writers from local magazines. You can reach out to them via email or via their social accounts and invite them to write about your restaurant. These influencers help to get the word out about food and beverage establishments and they are always on the lookout for new suggestions and content to bring to their audience.
The pandemic helped shine more light on how important it is to shop locally, and has ignited the desire in consumers to support local businesses. On a business level, joining forces with local businesses is one way of strengthening local economies; it could result in a profitable co-promotion between two businesses. As a restaurant, you could benefit from collaborating with local farmers, local wine sellers, or breweries. If you offer desserts or are looking into adding them to your menu, you could call upon a local pastry shop or caterer’s services. This works even better if both businesses have the same values in doing business.
Events and sponsorships
Events are a great way to advertise your business. They help in gaining exposure and if the event allows it, lets people get a taste of what you serve at your restaurant.
There are several types of events that you can participate in: business/corporate events, music events, sports events, community ones, etc.
Join a cause
In the last couple of years, we have witnessed a surge of people and brands speaking and working together to shed light and bring solutions to various social issues. It turns out that more consumers turn to businesses that are socially engaged and participate in bringing change around them. Joining a cause should not be profit-driven, but it certainly brings brands and businesses closer to people as it humanizes them in the eyes of the public. Any cause you decide to support should definitely be aligned with the values of the business.
Loyalty programs and timely promotions
Everyone likes a good deal and free stuff. Having a rewards system serves as a good strategy to retain existing customers by increasing their loyalty, it is also a good one for attracting new customers to try out what you offer at your restaurant.
The programs could include the classic buy X number of meals and get your next order free. You could also develop a referral program, whenever a client brings in a new customer they get a % or a $ amount off their next order. Loyalty programs come in different shapes and forms, and you could even develop one that better suits your restaurant.
Alongside these programs, you can run timely promotions all year long. Apart from celebrating national holidays and special events, your restaurant can hop on celebrating other special days and occasions. For example, if you are a pizzeria, you can celebrate national pizza day by offering free pizzas to the first 20 customers or discount on the best sellers on your menu. Another example could be national friendship day, where you could offer free pizza slices to groups of friends.
Promotions are a good way to get people to try your restaurant; they are also an effective way to advertise your best-selling items and represent an opportunity to put forward the lesser-known items.
Get merch for your restaurant
This has become a common practice in recent years. It is more than just printing your restaurant’s name and logo on a t-shirt. It is about bringing your restaurant’s concept to life on items that can be purchased by your customers. From mugs/travel mugs and tote bags to classic t-shirt and hoodies, it is a simple way to turn your regular customers into brand ambassadors. The same items can be also used as gifts in giveaways and prizes in contests that you can run online.
Another opportunity to explore could be collaborating with a local artist/designer/illustrator on a limited-time collection. Items can also be auctioned or simply sold to raise money for a certain cause. It really is about adding a new dimension to your business and exploring new ways to reach different audiences and promoting your business.