Getting more customers in the door to increase sales is no easy task, but with these tips and tricks we hope you are inspired to try something new. Here are 17 restaurant marketing ideas for your restaurant to increase sales, boost loyalty, and encourage repeat business. You might have already tried some of these and others might be completely fresh. Take a look and see what could work for you.
1. HAVE A VIP NIGHT FOR LOCAL INFLUENCERS
Inviting local bloggers, press, and other media influencers can bring some high-profile attention to your restaurant and give your staff a chance to put on a show, delivering the best impression of your dining experience. This is a great way to tap into the local scene and score some cheap marketing (a few free meals), while accessing new niche audiences that may be otherwise hard to reach.
To find these influencers, try searching through related posts using geo-filters (ie. Santa Monica) to narrow in on the top influencers to reach out to based on your location. Invite them to participate with you and even make it into a joint-promotional event for their base of followers, which may even help bring in new customers from the get-go.
2. 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.
3. COMMUNICATE WITH LOCAL CUSTOMERS
To make things easy, NetWaiter has integrated its Social Widget with Facebook and Twitter. Restaurants can use NetWaiter to easily post messages to multiple platforms at once – Facebook, Twitter, their individual NetWaiter site, and the NetWaiter Network.
This can provide solid traction for garnering and increasing sales. After concluding a six-month study, it was found that on average, visits to a restaurant’s site increased 23.3% on days when a restaurant made a post using their Social Widget, compared to days when they did not make a post. For restaurants using NetWaiter’s premium services, which include online ordering, the number of orders and the volume of sales increased significantly. The number of online orders at a restaurant increased 76.4% on days when at least one post was made using NetWaiter’s Social Widget. Total online sales also rose 84.1% during days restaurants made at least one post.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST
An email list is a wonderful way to stay in regular contact with your customers, deliver updates, and share new offers. Inviting customer feedback and signing up for special promotions are great ways to build up your list and receive your customers’ email addresses. When sending out to your list, make sure to keep the content fresh, concise, and always with a taste of something leaving them wanting to come back for more. Staff stories, behind-the-scenes photos, community involvement activities, and recipe inspirations are great types of content to build into your email campaigns, offering new angles and topics that will resonate with your customer base.
NetWaiter offers email marketing tools to make it easy for you to reach out and manage updates easily, equipping you with even more tools to bring in new orders.
7. START A BLOG
People love a behind-the-scenes look at how things work. Starting a blog is a strong restaurant marketing technique and an excellent way to give potential customers the inside scoop. Post a larger piece once a week about a menu item, 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.
8. 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. You can also win favor and garner attention by commenting, interacting, and guest posting to local food blogger sites. Most bloggers are inundated with a heavy content schedule and would appreciate a guest post from a respected local restaurant offering some fresh perspective and insight into the day-to-day running a restaurant.
9. VERIFY YOUR RESTAURANT’S ONLINE DETAILS
One of the other things this chain did was to update their directory listings. Each store did a search of all the directories they were listed in, correcting erroneous info and made updates. Google algorithms like correct, consistent information. Clickthrough rates skyrocketed after that data was corrected and accurate. One of the more important listings for a restaurant is their site on the NetWaiter Network – NetWaiter’s customer-centric site that allows visitors to view local restaurant info, find locations that deliver to them, and get updates from their Favorite places.
10. SHARE STORIES
Everyone loves a good story, and in the food service industry, funny and insightful stories are abound. Sharing funny happenings, near misses, and even challenges can be a fantastic way to connect with a customer and make them feel a more intimate sense of what goes on in the restaurant. When people know the personalities behind the business, they are almost always more likely to come back, and feel a stronger bond with the restaurant. These stories can range from the inspirations that went into the opening of the restaurant, to staff hobbies, to the everyday things that come up in the life of the restaurant.
11. 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, like restaurant marketing magic. There may be no such thing as a free lunch…but free Wi-Fi will get the people talking. 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.
12. GET MOBILE
We live in a world that is constantly moving now, and that means more and more people are deciding what and where to eat via their mobile devices. This means that a tiny 3.5”-4” window is the first door your customers are going to walk through; you want that impression to be the best it can be. Make sure your web developer (if you have one), or the services you use to display your website are using mobile-friendly, responsive designs. This may require some investment to update your site using these practices, but any more nowadays this is a step that restaurants need to take in order to stay relevant and not get passed over.
13. THE RIGHT MUSIC
Another way to keep people in your restaurant longer is offering the right music. 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. Maybe your business formula is based on moving people through the restaurant quickly. Put on something with a more upbeat tempo.
14. TEXT-BASED MARKETING
This is one of the oldest forms of reaching out to prospective customers, but it is a tried and true approach. It has been shown to reach 98% of the population, and is the favored communication channel for 18-34 year olds, which is an all-important base to have tapped into your restaurant. For Millennials in particular it can be especially effective, where 83% open a message within the first 90 seconds of receiving it. Off-premise, on-demand coupons that accompany restaurant’s messages have an impressive redemption rate of 30-50%, while on-premise coupons are shown to have an even higher redemption rate of 70-80% once customers arrive at the restaurant. This can be a great medium to delivery Birthday offers and exclusive, time-sensitive offers.
15. POST A POLL ON SOCIAL MEDIA
It takes only seconds to make, and can be a great way to engage your customers while creating an opportunity to align your offering with their desires. Open-ended questions like “What discontinued items would you like to see reintroduced on the menu?” or “What is your favorite seasonal item?” give customers a chance to contribute their views, while giving you relevant feedback to design a better experience for them. It also shows that you are always looking to evolve and learn, which will earn loyalty and respect, which is critical to earning an increase in sales.
16. 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.
17. 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 an online 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, so it’s not hard to imagine why they flock to online ordering. It’s fast, easy, and helps fit into the pace and craziness of life much easier for those who constantly live on the go.
NetWaiter offers a suite of online ordering and marketing services designed at maximizing impact for restaurants online. These make it dead simple to update and maintain so you can focus on tending to your customers now that you have them in the door.
Have some fun with it. There is no one-size-fits-all, and just as your restaurant is unique so too should your tactics to get more people into the door. Just remember to iterate and keep trying, listen earnestly to the feedback of your customers, and watch closely to see what is working. This will be a constant evolution, but hopefully the beginning of a new chapter of growth for your business!
Have other ideas for increasing sales? Share in the comments below!