Looking for innovative restaurant promotion ideas to grow your business? You’re not alone.
The promotional landscape for restaurants is extremely competitive. As a result, restaurant owners are constantly looking for innovative ways to attract new customers and strengthen loyalty with their existing ones.
We hope the following 25 unique ideas and tips to promote your restaurant will help your restaurant boost sales and thrive for years to come.
1. Visiting Nearby Businesses
Personal contact with potential customers is a vital timeless practice. It starts in your own backyard.
Personally visit companies in your area and offer them special promotions. You can drop off a handful of coupons, special offers, or even a plate of appetizers.
Let them know you offer catering and that takeout and delivery are also an option. No matter what you say or do the key is to be authentic and sincere.
2. A Sparkling Restroom
This may not be a “restaurant promotion”, but it’s important to note.
According to a survey by Zogby International, more than 80% of consumers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom. This is a staggering statistic. People assume that if you don’t clean your bathrooms, you probably don’t clean your kitchen either.
3. Open Mic Nights
An open mic night is a more creative restaurant promotion.
Open mic nights are 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 the only costs are a couple of microphones and a speaker. Open it up to music, poetry, or stand-up comedy.
To organize performers, simply offer a sign-up list an hour before show time. Soon you will have a reputation as a happening place.
4. “Internal” Special Events
Does your restaurant have something no one else offers? Perhaps a unique selection of soups, salsas, marinades, or a chef with special training?
Organize special closed-door events and give customers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the unique features of your restaurant.
A huge part of restaurant promotion is using what’s at your disposal. We know the owner of a Mexican restaurant who holds regular tequila tastings. They charge $30/person and sell out weeks in advance. The buzz it creates is unbelievable!
5. “External” Special Events
The most successful restaurant promotions often rely on your willingness to “get out of your building”. A lot of communities have special events throughout the year that are great opportunities for restaurant owners.
Summer concerts or movies in the park are very popular. Get involved with these events. You can try to setup a booth or use a food truck to cater at these events. It’s a great way to drive revenue and boost brand awareness.
Allow others to help you with your restaurant promotion strategy. Selling merchandise, like t-shirts, hats, mugs, pint glasses, and other apparel can transform customers into walking billboards. Additionally, it can be a nice way to generate more revenue. Printful is a great tool for custom designing apparel.
7. Birthday Marketing
Do you collect customer information? If so, taking advantage of birthdays can be a great way to increase restaurant sales.
By using a service, or loyalty program, you automatically send customers a Happy Birthday message with a customized restaurant promotion.
Automatically triggered promotions, emailed to each customer before their birthday, can be really beneficial. The promo can be simple or something more complex. Usually, birthday promotions should be pre-configured to expire on a specified date.
The best thing about implementing this type of system is that restaurant owners can “set it and forget it”. If it’s tied into your online ordering service, the system should automatically manage the promotions and redemptions.
8. Food Trucks
A food truck can give your restaurant the freedom to reach customers where they’re at and increase sales.
Food trucks allow you to easily leverage special events, such as golf tournaments, fundraisers, and other functions. When your food truck is not being used at a special event, you can strategically position it in high-traffic areas.
Buying and operating a food truck can be expensive. But, if done properly, it can generate significant revenue and serve as a great way to promote your restaurant.
9. A Restaurant Promotion with Emotion
It’s easy for customers to focus on themselves. When it comes to marketing and restaurant promotions, create a way to attract customers by pulling on their heartstrings.
Creating emotional triggers will increase a customer’s likelihood of noticing your promotion. Brainstorming these triggers can be fun because it requires you to make a connection with your customers’ inner desires.
Unruly, which ranks the most viral ads each year, found that the most-shared ads rely heavily on emotional content. Specifically: friendship, inspiration, warmth, and happiness. Examples include Android’s Friends Furever and Kleenex’s Unlikely Best Friends.
As you can see, these brands really connect with their customers on an emotional level.
10. Capitalizing on Non-Peak Hours
Many restaurants focus on getting more people in the door for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is necessary, but you should also try promoting non-peak hours.
According to Technomic, more people are choosing to snack throughout the day. Restaurants can take advantage of this by promoting specials and/or discounts for the mid-afternoon and late night dead periods.
11. Collaborate with Delivery Services
The pricing structures for services like GrubHub and DoorDash are often cost prohibitive. Nonetheless, there are instances where you can expand your reach and increase revenue.
As a way to promote new restaurants to their users, delivery services will often run a promotion for a restaurant. If you’re joining a local delivery platform, ask them to run a restaurant promotion for you. It’s an easy and effective way to boost awareness and drive quick sales.
12. Social Media
According to Statista.com, Facebook has 1.44 billion users and Instagram is at 300 million users. That’s a lot of potential customers. Maintaining social media profiles and using them to communicate with customers should be an integral part of your marketing and restaurant promotion strategy.
Create content that people want to see and engage in way that is transparent and real.
13. Targeted Advertisements
Consider using geo targeted digital ads as a part of your restaurant promotion strategy.
Geo targeted ads allow you to dictate the locations where your ads are shown. Therefore, you won’t waste money on ads that are shown to people not likely to visit your restaurant.
You can effectively target people nearby who are likely to visit your restaurant or order takeout/delivery. Facebook and Google Ads are a great place to start your geo targeted ad campaigns.
14. Bundled Items
Try a deal where a customers can order three dinner meals (normally priced at $20) for $15 each.
Bundling pays off in three ways:
Quantity: Bundling increases the number of total menu items sold.
Margins: Bundling makes the supply chain more predictable which can lower overhead and increase margins.
Awareness: Marketing campaigns promoting bundled packages are a highly effective way to strengthen and promote your brand.
15. Meal-Kit Services
Meal-Kits have emerged as a new opportunity in the food industry and could make their way into your restaurant promotion strategy.
A meal kit is a subscription service where a company sends customers curated food ingredients and recipes intended to be assembled into home-cooked meals.
These services save customers the time and energy of planning, prepping and shopping for their meals.
Two of the more prominent meal-kit services, Blue Apron and Plated, both founded in 2012, have raised $58 million and $21.6 million of investments respectively. Hello Fresh, a European company, just closed $126 million in Series E funding.
Should restaurants be concerned about meal-kits eating away at delivery profits? Let’s consider…
Takeout is always going to be the most convenient choice. With respect to convenience, there is a marginal difference that shouldn’t be a threat.
Meals-kits cost about $10 per person and portions are tightly controlled. Takeout offers larger portions with the welcomed benefit of leftovers. Again, we’re going to give takeout a slight edge here.
Meal-kit components must be shipped, prepared, re-packaged, and then re-shipped to the end user. Multiple links in the production and delivery chain can hamper quality control.
It’s hard to tell whether meal kit services will trend into something much larger or fade into darkness. All we can say for now is it’s worth keeping an eye on.
16. Free Product Giveaway
A quick way to get free advertising is by giving product away. Customers love participating in giveaways or any events that involve free items.
A study found that customers who received a coupon for $10 off a product experienced a 38% rise in oxytocin levels. Furthermore, their respiration rates dropped 32%, heart rates decreased 5%, and sweat levels were reportedly 20 times lower than their peers. Consequently, they felt more relaxed and less stressed.
Customers love receiving free items and restaurants benefit from an increase in brand awareness and engagement.
The classic example is a “buy one get one free.”If a customer orders a large pizza, they can receive a free dessert with their order.
Have fun with the process. Try rewarding your best customers with first tastes of new menu items, special discounts, and other incentives. In exchange, they’ll provide you valuable feedback and continued loyalty.
17. Restaurant Promotion by Season
People love celebrating the seasons and you should do the same at your restaurant! Depending on the time of year, offer menu items that match the season. Here are some examples:
- Winter is the time to promote warm drinks and comfort food.
- Spring is for fresh herbs and emphasizing flavor pallets.
- Summer is for delicious poolside beverages and snacks to match.
- Fall is for apple and pumpkin flavors that make everyone nostalgic.
18. Loyalty Programs
“Acquiring new customers is incredibly expensive,” said Logan LaHive, founder and CEO of a loyalty program developer in Chicago. “Because you get 80% of your revenue from 20% of your customers, rewarding loyalty is the best tactic.”
If you use or are thinking about implementing a loyalty program, consider the following:
- A recent study revealed that 33% of consumers view loyalty programs as very important during tough economic times.
- The same study reveals that consumers spend 17% more on visits that include a loyalty program.
- Loyalty programs are not viewed as giving away products or providing heavy discounts, which may cheapen your restaurant in the eyes of customers.
- When a customer enrolls in a program, you establish a relationship. This differs from someone using a coupon that you may never see again.
- Refrain from asking customers for all of their information at once. Start with a name and email address. Later, you can ask for their mailing address, phone number, and more.
- A loyalty program that works in unison with a recognized charity is often viewed favorably by customers.
Loyalty programs have gone digital as well. Using a tool to simply manage these efforts is key to growth and retention with your customers.
19. Online Only Deals
If you are actively posting on social media, try promoting online only deals. Customers can find these deals by following your restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Social media presents an excellent opportunity for restaurant promotion. As many as 61% of customers find restaurants from various social channels.
Try offering a one-time only 25% discount on a customer’s first online order. Play with different promotions. Keep the ones that work and toss the ones that don’t.
20. Complimentary WiFi
Restaurant promotions can happen on a subtle level.
Consider this simple truth: the more time a customer spends at your business, the more opportunity they have to spend money.
Promoting free WiFi is an easy way to keep customers in your restaurant. This is something that reaches across demographics. Therefore, it allows you to attract college students and business people who need a place to eat and do a little work.
21. Local Food Bloggers
Utilizing the community and important local influencers can help restaurants get ahead of the game.
Some of the most experienced individuals in the restaurant industry are local food bloggers. According to TechnoratiMedia, blogs are the third most influential digital resource people use when making purchases.
Before reaching out to a food blogger, do the research to find the best fit for your restaurant. Make sure that you are comfortable teaming up with this individual.
You can brainstorm ideas with the food blogger and offer them a free meal.
A Note on Guest Blogging
Quality content is a never ending need for all business. There are several benefits to posting to another blog. It helps your restaurant’s SEO efforts and allows you to tap into a new audience.
A guest post can potentially translate into sales if you do it the right way. Tap into your network of peers and write a guest post for a popular local blog. Make sure the content is useful and insightful.
Once you post on another blog, it could then get picked up by additional blogs, companies, and businesses. You never know what the butterfly effect could be. In 2017, 66% of marketers reported using blogs in their social media content.
22. Reviews To Motivate Potential Customers
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. Customers are also more confident when they read reviews on a product.
Take the time to set up a process that will encourage customers to review your restaurant. It can feel awkward but it’s vitally important.
Consider having a pop up on your website that asks visitors to review the restaurant (with a receipt as proof). In exchange, offer them 20% off their next order.
Having lots of positive reviews can bring in new customers. Alternatively, you’ll also get negative reviews. However, they’re not something to be afraid of. It’s important that brands are open to constructive criticism, and accept it as an opportunity to improve.
23. Using Yelp To Your Advantage
According to Yelp, during a recent business quarter, consumers called businesses through Yelp’s mobile app 200,000 times a day and asked for over 250,000 directions a day. These numbers refer to all businesses, but as we all know, restaurants represent a sizable chunk of Yelp’s listings.
Find out where customers are hearing about your restaurant
Yelp is the 800-pound gorilla of restaurant searches and reviews. But, there are others – both locally focused and broader reaching apps. For example, TripAdvisor offers travelers dining recommendations when planning a trip. Have your wait staff survey customers to identify your top three sources of referrals. You should monitor your listings on those sites regularly.
Use what’s available to help you promote your restaurant
Each site is different, but many of them allow photos (which you should include). According to Yelp, people stay on a business page two-and-a-half times longer when it has photos.
24. Restaurant Promotion Through User-Generated Content
According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising.
With this in mind, come up with a fun and creative way to take content that is created by your customers and promote it. Do you need a name for a new menu item? Run a “Name that sandwich!” contest.
Are you willing to give away $50 worth of food? Encourage customers to post funny photos and pick the funniest photo as the winner. Running familiar engagement events such as contests and giving away prizes like gift cards can increase social media referral traffic.
25. Little Billboards With Your Logo
Does your restaurant use branded takeout packaging or have you ever thought of using takeout bags with your restaurant name and logo on it?
This a proven and effective way of making sure your brand follows your customers. And, it’s also a nice little billboard for everyone else. Folks in the parking lot, co-workers, neighbors, and others all get to see it.
Good food is always essential to the success of a restaurant. However, many restaurants with mediocre food are successfuly because their branding and marketing draw customers in.
Pictures posted on social media pose an opportunity for restaurants to define their branding.
When a customer takes a picture of themselves or their food at your restaurant, there is a good chance it may end up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
What’s in the background of those pictures?
There needs to be something recognizable and preferably branded. For instance – coasters with your logo might be in the background of a picture showing off your food.
How about on the walls? Is there something recognizable that would stand out in a picture? Think of pictures posted online as little billboards for your restaurant.
It would be great if everyone who saw a picture of their friend at your restaurant could immediately recognize where it was taken, what they were eating, and wanted to be there.
These are important things to pay attention to. Own these micro-moments and your brand will win over the long-haul.
A Concluding Note
We all know restaurant promotion is important, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Allow yourself to integrate a little bit of “you” into your marketing strategies.
Find a style and approach that allows you to effectively communicate your restaurant’s mission, tone, and style. We are all human – let that shine through to your customers.
Adding a certain realness to your restaurant’s brand will pay off in the long run.
Activate Your NetWaiter Site
If you want to attract more local customers and keep them informed about your restaurant and your latest promotions, check out NetWaiter’s marketing platform and network. You can search for, and activate, your restaurant for free here: