We all want more customers in the front door—but how? Here are twelve marketing ideas for your restaurant. You might have already tried some of these and others might be completely fresh. Take a look and pick out a selection that will work for you. If you put some of these ideas and strategies to work, let us know what happens down in the comments below!
1. Foodie Photos
Have lots of photos of dishes from your menu posted on your website and on your restaurant’s social media pages, and encourage patrons to take pictures of their meals at your restaurant and spread them around on their social media sites. Be mindful that food photography is not always easy, however. It occasionally pays to have a professional come in and capture images of some of your favorite menu items.
2. Master the Medium of Instagram
Social media is stratified by age, with the youngest demographics—millennials and younger—using Instagram. Master the medium and use it just like you would use Facebook or Twitter, only make sure you speak their language. Is your restaurant in the same neighborhood as a popular concert venue, college, high school, or other place where lots of young people gather? If so, Instagram is a natural. If needed, get one of your millennial employees to show you how to use it.
3. Get Customers to Give You User Generated Content
Bring your patrons into the act. Ask them to post photos of their favorite meals at your restaurant, the night they brought in someone who had never been in your restaurant, or ask them to take a photo of the day their bicycle club had a group ride to your restaurant for Sunday breakfast. User-generated content is a great way to develop engagement with customers. Launch a photo contest, asking customers to share their favorite meal at your restaurant. Award the best ones with a free appetizer. It will make you and you restaurant more popular.
4. Show Off Your Staff
A recent survey of more than 1,200 restaurant consumers asked what guides their choices when they decide where to dine or order takeout/delivery. 83% said that treating employees well is important. Highlight your employee-of-the-month on social media. Did someone get a promotion, graduate from college, or do something great for a customer? That’s more social media material. Showing off employees also earns major reputation points – happy workers say a lot about a business, and patrons will take notice.
5. Start a Blog
People love a behind-the-scenes look at how things work. Starting a blog is a great way to do this. About once a week, make a post about a large item, a new introduction, a recipe or where you source your fish or vegetables. Then fill in the gaps with smaller messages or photos of employees or activities that you sponsor. Was your chef experimenting with new menu items one day? Take photos. Sometimes that’s all you need. Talk about seasonings and special ingredients. You’re not giving away state secrets. Remember, your customers like you not only for the food, but the convenience and the atmosphere of your restaurant.
6. Food Blogger Outreach
Recent articles about a Florida-based restaurant chain focused on how they doubled their online ordering in their restaurant in two months, from 2 to 3 percent of their volume to more than 5 percent. Some of what they did was just good sense. Other things were a bit more innovative.
One of the things they did was to woo influential people. Food bloggers were invited for special events and private tastings. This resulted in a lot of buzz on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and blogs.
7. Verify Your Restaurant’s Online Details
One of the other things this chain did was to update their directory listings. Each store did a painstaking search of all the directories they were listed in, correcting erroneous info and made updates. Google algorithms like correct, consistent information. Click-through rates skyrocketed after that data was corrected and accurate.
8. Offer Complimentary Wi-Fi
The longer customers are sitting at your tables, the more money they spend. Offering free wireless access to the Internet for those customers with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or smartphone will add even more sales to the bottom line and make customers more loyal to your brand. Word spreads, too. This is something that reaches across the demographics, from college students to millennials to business people who need someplace where they can eat and do a little business.
9. The Right Music
Another way to keep people in your restaurant longer is offering the right music; a critical, but often overlooked element of creating an enjoyable atmosphere for you dining experience. Type “music” and “restaurants” into Google and pages and pages of academic studies come up. The information is mind-boggling. Bottom line: softer, easy-listening music makes patrons comfortable and relaxed, keeping them in longer, which can lead to longer ticket items. Maybe your business formula is based on moving people through the restaurant quickly; put on something with a more upbeat tempo. Make sure to keep the overall tone positive and non-offensive. Visit any of these Austin, TX restaurants and you’ll notice the music is always on point.
10. Start a Food Truck
A major hamburger chain in Southern California is famous not only for their burgers, but for their food trucks. They’ve been asked to service special events, including golf tournaments, rock concerts, and biker funerals (that last one even got them mentioned in a television show). One story tells of a mother and father who traveled around town after a major earthquake displaced them from their home. The trio drove through darkened streets, weaving their way around other residents loading their essentials so they could also go seek other shelter. They came around a corner and stumbled upon a medical station, several television vans – and the food truck of this chain handing out free burgers to the displaced. You can’t buy that kind of word-of-mouth. A food truck can give your restaurant the opportunity to serve more people in different areas while promoting your brand and other brick and mortar locations.
11. Special Events
A Spanish restaurant regularly holds special events focusing on specific aspects of their cuisine – tamale making, menudo sampling, etc. The events have a nominal charge. For instance, their tequila tastings are $25 per person and they are regularly sold out. Again, the word-of-mouth these events create is priceless.
12. Online Ordering
Offer patrons the ability to order from their computers, tablets, even their smartphones. PMQ Pizza Magazine recently revealed new data about online ordering. It’s good stuff to review:
- Online ordering has an average customer return rate of 95%. This means you can boost customer loyalty with minimal effort by implementing anonline ordering system.
- The younger generation (i.e. millennials) is much more comfortable online, compared to talking with someone. That’s how they’ve grown up. It’s not hard to imagine why they flock to online ordering.
But wait, there’s more:
- Consumers report that they use restaurant technology, including online ordering, more than they did two years ago:
- 53% of 18 to 34-year olds (Millennials).
- 43% of 35 to 44-year olds.
- 26% of 55 to 64-year olds (Baby Boomers).
If you aren’t offering an online ordering option for your takeout and delivery customers, you should seriously consider it.