Business is good, but you want to make it better.
Here are some restaurant promotion ideas to get more people in the door or visiting your website. Some are obvious, and some are outside-the-box. Either way, they have worked for various restaurants on the NetWaiter Network, and are valuable tips to keep in consideration as you look to take your restaurant to the next level.
1. Visit Companies in Your Neighborhood
Personal contact with potential customers is very important and keeps your restaurant’s visibility up, which is increasingly important in an ever-crowded market. Visit the companies in your area and offer special promotions personally. You can drop off a handful of coupons, special offers, or maybe even a plate of appetizers. Let them know you offer catering and that takeout and delivery are also an option. The key is showing them you care and that you want their business. The personal touch, in that regard, goes a long way. Just think of how much you’ve been affected when someone has made the personal effort to win you over.
2. A Sparkling Restroom
You would be surprised at the word-of-mouth you’ll get if you having a spotless restroom, some wallpaper, a nice mirror, some distinctive pictures, and fresh flowers. People from out of the area who happen to drop by will make it a point to visit again, just to make sure you keep it that way all the time. Customers expect to see terrible bathrooms at independent restaurants. Surprise them with something nice. By the way, this will be a big hit with the ladies, and they typically make the decision on where to eat.
3. Open Mic Nights
This is a great way to get an extra-large crowd into your place one or two nights a week. These events are often standing room only, and all it costs is a couple of microphones and a set of speakers. Open it up to music, poetry and stand-up comedy. A word of warning: Have someone set up with a pad of paper and start a list an hour before show time so there is a way to funnel the performers. Soon you will have a reputation as a happening place.
4. Special Events
Does your restaurant have something no one else offers – a unique selection of soups, salsas, marinades, or a chef with special training? Organize special closed-door events where you give your customers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the unique features of your restaurant. We know of the owner of a Mexican restaurant who holds tequila tastings. He charges $30 a head and they are sold out weeks in advance and there is always a waiting list. The buzz is unbelievable!
5. More on Special Events
Lots of communities have special events throughout the year that are good opportunities for restaurants. Summer concerts in the park or movies in the park are very popular. Sponsorship of these events often includes being able to have a booth at the venue and getting mentioned during the introduction. Another tactic is to target cars in the parking lot with special offers, suggesting that before coming to the next week’s event, they should drop by your restaurant for a special event package that they can take with them.
If you do any of the above – open mic or special events – or anything else that heightens awareness and boosts the reputation of your restaurant, you may find that your restaurant gains status as the “cool” place to go. If so, sell them t-shirts, hats, mugs, pint glasses, and other apparel. Your customers will be transformed into walking billboards. Better than that, you charge for these items, so they are paying you for the privilege.
7. Birthday Marketing
Do you collect customer information – names, email addresses, etc.? You should also collect birthdates. Send out a mailer or email a week ahead of their big day and let customers know a special offer is waiting for them. It’s a great feature to recognize your customers and build more customer loyalty. Plus, it’s always nice to hear “Happy Birthday.”In fact, NetWaiter, one of the premier online ordering services for restaurants, offers restaurants the ability to automatically send customers a Happy Birthday message with a tailored promotion.
NetWaiter automatically triggers the promotion, emailing it to each customer before their birthday. The promo can be a simple discount or something more complex, pre-configured to expire at a specified time. The best thing about the system: restaurants can “set it and forget it.” NetWaiter manages the promotions and redemptions automatically.
8. A Food Truck
Food trucks have become very much in demand. There are some fundraiser food events now that specialize in offering samples only from food trucks. Some menus lend themselves to catering. Others do not. Burgers are great when they are hot and juicy, right off the grill, but not too much when they are catered. With a food truck you can prepare food on the scene, and adapt to different seasonal events. You can offer services for special events such as golf tournaments, fundraisers, and other functions. It’s a mobile billboard and a great way to reach customers that might not otherwise sample your food. It’s not inexpensive though, so analyze your market and determine whether a food truck is a good investment for you.
9. A Branded Online Ordering System
Many industry experts hail online ordering as the greatest innovation to hit the restaurant industry since the advent of the drive-up window. The total market for takeout food at restaurants in the U.S. is an astounding $70 billion per year, according to Business Insider, an international business publication. Currently, about $9 billion, or 13% of takeout business, is ordered online. Based on the current growth rate, however, experts predict that amount of business done online will surpass offline ordering within the next 10 years. Of course, these online ordering figures are heavily skewed by major U.S. pizza chains. Some of the top pizza purveyors already do 40% of their total takeout volume online, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nevertheless, the power of the online market can’t be ignored.
10. More on Online Ordering
Many restaurant owners rely on multi-restaurant sites, or portals, to bring in their online orders. This can be a costly mistake. Portals position your restaurant along with dozens or maybe even hundreds of others, with no guarantee that you will get the business. They also charge as much as 20% out of each order. A branded, online service that can be designed to match your website, such as NetWaiter, is the best way to go.
11. Partnering with Delivery Services
You’ve no doubt heard about Uber and Lyft and what they’ve done to the taxi industry. Thanks to similar technology, we are seeing a trend in the restaurant sector for delivery services, and customers are willing to pay for it. Research a delivery service in your market. With NetWaiter, you can work with these services so they receive a copy of each delivery order automatically, making it easier for them to complete the delivery on your behalf.
12. Social Media
According to Statista.com, Facebook has 1.44 billion users. The same source has Instagram at 300 million. Those are your customers. Maintaining social media sites, promoting them, and using them to communicate with customers, should be an integral part of your business. Also, pay attention to who your customers are. The average age of a Facebook user in the U.S. is 40.5 years. Twitter is 37.3 years. The largest share of adult users of Instagram is in the 18 to 29-year-old bracket, and two-thirds of those are women. Food trucks have been using social media for years to let their customers know where they are on any given day or evening. Make social media work for you too. Many of these Phoenix restaurants use social media to engage with their customers.
13. Online Photography
If you are using social media, you should also have nice, mouthwatering photos of your menu items. Professional food photography is expensive, but you can do wonders with a good cell phone. Use those same photos on your website too.