7 Keys to Marketing Your Restaurant

When it comes to food, everyone goes bananas! It’s no secret you have to be on your A-game if you want constant traffic coming through your doors. If you’re looking to spice up ways to come out on top, check out these 7 keys to marketing your restaurant.

This isn’t like Iron Chef America – it’s worse. It’s a food-eat-food world out there, and if you can’t market the heat, get out of the kitchen.

1. High-level branding

Brand awareness is an effective and powerful way to show customers your mission, goals, and basically why you exist. Your brand is what differentiates you from the million other restaurant connoisseurs who are trying to hit it big. What do you have that they don’t? Everyone’s aware of chain fast-food joints like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, and that’s because those companies engage in high-level branding. Establishing a significant brand isn’t just about looking the part; it’s proving you can walk the walk … and then some.

It’s easy to increase brand awareness when you’re in every major city, but when you’re a single restaurant, attracting your target group may be a different story. Define yourself and create an image that stands out and is easily recognizable. Get involved around town and let the smell of freshly cooked bacon tempt your future supporters.

Quick Tip: Establishing a distinct presence with your culture and brand that gets customers in the door and helps retain your loyal fanbase.

2. User-friendly

It’s essential to create an easy-to-use mobile site. Let’s face it: society thrives off mobile applications and would be lost trying to navigate an old-fashioned paper menu. Maybe that’s a little drastic, but you get the point. Customers searching for your location, hours, and menu items, are more than likely turning to their phones to find this information.

In a 2012 study, it was found that 86% of adult smartphone owners used their devices to access just-in-time information, like your address or phone number. More current research shows that 74% use their phones to get directions or other information based on their current location and 52% are more likely to order takeout or delivery straight from their smartphone. You don’t want users turning their backs without giving you a chance, and that’s just what will happen from unfriendly online experiences.

Quick Tip: Find a company to design your site, or do it solo; either way, provide hungry people with the easy-to-access info they need to chow down with you.

3. Operations

What comes to mind when you think of your favorite restaurant? Is it the food, staff, atmosphere? These are the questions to ask yourself when thinking of what will make a difference to your patron’s dining experience. Not only is quality food a big deal, but the ambience, service, hospitality, and cleanliness of your restaurant can make or break a first impression.

  • First, design a space so awesome that even you would go out of your way to make an appearance. Add a pop of unexpected color, a signature piece of art, or classic and elegant elements.
  • Second, use the expensive meat. Cook up something exotic, decorate the plate in a fun way, or make it traditional and spectacular.
  • Third, make sure your customer service is on point. Nobody likes waiting an hour for their food with a beer that’s been empty for 15 minutes. Understand that hospitality with a great attitude is high up on the list of marketing your pride and joy.
  • Fourth, walking into a clean and spotless restaurant keeps the crowd coming back. There’s nothing worse than finding a hair in your chicken alfredo or slipping on day-old spilled milk. Make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building, as Annie’s Ms. Hannigan would say.

Quick Tip: Believe it or not, the operation of your restaurant is the best marketing tool you could have. Word-of-mouth travels faster than any media campaign, so keep your place top-notch.

4. Promote

Make the most of social media. Show off those delicious deals and share tasty-looking photos. Everyone loves a good food picture, right? Whether you’re advertising online or in-store, it allows others to take a peek inside what you have to offer. Start by utilizing what’s already out there, such as coupon magazines. Who can pass up a Buy One, Get One Free meal?

Taking advantage of plastering your menu and name everywhere is a must. Many restaurants also have special events they promote every month or two. These may include specials on meals, tap takeovers, live music, or a movie ticket packages. Come up with other enticing strategies like loyalty programs, user-generated contests, or email marketing. Whichever you choose, be sure to make it personal to your restaurant and how you want to involve your supporters.

Make sure your promotions always provide value to your customer. Instead of just talking about yourself, talk about what your customers will experience while dining with you.

Quick Tip: It’s beneficial to study the promotions your competitors are running – then try to outdo them.

5. Share

Restaurants share their stories in various ways to increase hype and market on a different level. You can share company milestones, special events, and staff biographies in newsletters, Tweets, and Facebook posts. You might include information about your sourcing strategy, chef, and culinary philosophy in your menu, on your website, or in social posts.

Behind-the-scenes stories using photos and short videos are easy ways to share your restaurant’s internal processes without revealing every secret. Everyone loves getting a glimpse into another person’s personal space, and this can be your contribution to reveal what you want others to see.The main takeaway is to share something with your customers to keep them wanting more and feel like they’re part of the family.

Quick Tip: Sharing different aspects of the business opens new doors to set yourself apart from the average restaurant owner.

6. Engage your customers

Using digital tools, smartphone communications, and social media platforms, you can communicate directly with your existing customers and ones you hope to attract. Respond to people’s concerns and praise them to show that you’re interested and truly engaged in making their experience a unique one. This opens up a whole new window of opportunity to let your customers not only interact with you, but also interact with each other.

Encourage customers to write reviews, post photos, and share their experiences online. Host special events, contests, or scavenger hunts to involve your audience, literally. For a different perspective, show your process for preparing food from the time it enters the restaurant until it reaches the customer’s plate or host monthly cooking classes for your most devoted patrons. This kind of communication welcomes viewers and attracts interest from avid media users.

Quick Tip: Directly marketing to your customers means more precise targeting, quicker execution, and faster response time.

7. Differentiate yourself

If you take a look at what comes into restaurants from the loading docks, you’ll find similar ingredients that are common to every restaurant: salt, garlic, eggs, cheese, potatoes, meat, etc. How you transform these ingredients into mouthwatering dishes and amazing customer experiences is part science, part artistry, and 100% flipping through your great-grandmother’s recipe book … just kidding.

You’ve got to be able to tell a story with each dish to differentiate your eatery from the diner down the street. That doesn’t mean make stuff up just for marketing. Showcase a point-of-view that reflects your personal style and restaurant ambience. Using the same meat and potatoes, advertise the Chargrilled 16 oz Ribeye Steak to the hunters going up north, the French Onion soup to the stay-at-home moms, and the not-so-average chicken nuggets to the rugrats who won’t stop coloring on your freshly painted walls.

Quick Tip: Laying out a diverse menu shows you can serve up any customer who walks through the door.

Well, if you’re not hungry by now, I’ve failed you. But if you did learn a thing or two on how to market your restaurant, then I highly suggest grabbing an apron and channeling your inner Bobby Flay.

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