Restaurant marketing is a process through which you can promote your restaurant and share information about your eatery. A majority of marketing happens digitally through your website and social media, though you can also promote your restaurant in other ways, including the use of outdoor signage and by selling products that feature your restaurant logo. Not only does restaurant marketing keep you on the forefront of your loyal customers’ minds, but it also attracts new guests to your eatery. Restaurant marketing is essential to the success of any restaurant business, so follow along below as we outline the key components to any restaurant marketing plan.

Restaurant Branding

Before implementing a restaurant marketing plan, it is critical to have your restaurant brand fully developed. Your restaurant brand is the personality of your business. Guests should be able to feel your restaurant brand upon walking through your doors, which is why it is important to create an ambiance that reflects your brand. However, your restaurant marketing efforts should also express your brand. For example, your Instagram page should emanate a similar feel and look to your restaurant’s interior. Another important component of restaurant branding is to understand your target demographic, so you can specifically tailor your brand expression and marketing efforts to your intended crowd. 

When updating or developing your restaurant marketing strategies, it’s a good idea to revisit your brand in order to ensure cohesive messaging throughout your promotional efforts. Create a brand guide with information on your restaurant’s color palette, logo, mission statement, and tone. All of this will be helpful when creating content for your marketing efforts, including the following: the look and feel of your social media images, the captions and language used for posts, the font and style of your outdoor signage, and the words and symbols used on your restaurant paraphernalia. 

Restaurant Marketing Plan

Your restaurant marketing plan will include a mix of social media, online maintenance, and community involvement efforts. The ultimate goal is to increase brand awareness, attract guests, and to create an emotional connection with guests and prospective customers. Below we detail the necessary elements to include in your restaurant marketing strategies.

Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful marketing tactics for your restaurant. Not only is it a free form of advertisement, but you can reach a large audience. Many of your guests will choose to follow your restaurant on social media if they had a good experience at your eatery. In addition, people may first be exposed to your restaurant through social media. Below we go through three top social media platforms on which you should promote your restaurant.

  1. Instagram. Create a social media handle that is the same as your restaurant name or very similar if it is already taken. Below are a few tips for using Instagram to market your restaurant.
    • Link to your website or menu in your Instagram description 
    • Add a location to all of your posts
    • Use relevant hashtags pertaining to your brand, demographic, and surrounding location
    • Instagram rewards engagement on the app, so interact with followers by creating engaging stories, asking for opinions, and holding photo challenges 
    • Take high-quality food photos
    • Include candid photos with interesting information about your staff or history of your restaurant
    • Re-post your customer’s content that features your restaurant
  2. Facebook. Using Facebook is a great way to cater to a demographic of guests who may not have Instagram or Twitter. Follow the below tips to best use Facebook for marketing your restaurant.
    • Overlap your Instagram with Facebook so that photos will be shared on both Instagram and Facebook
    • Include information that is not shared on Instagram to appease those who follow you on both platforms
    • Insert a booking button so that guests can easily reserve tables at your restaurant 
    • Include a link to your site and menu
    • Enable the “check in” feature for your business so that guests can tag your business
    • Enable the review features so guests can rate your restaurant on Facebook
  3. Twitter. Twitter is another way to share information about your restaurant and to promote your eatery. An advantage of Twitter is the ability to share even smaller tidbits of information about your restaurant, making it a convenient marketing platform. Below are some other ways to use Twitter for marketing your restaurant.
    • Share your Instagram photos
    • Promote a menu special that is solely for your Twitter followers
    • Post catchy tweets that followers will be inclined to retweet, like interesting facts about your restaurant (What was the most popular dish over the weekend? What is a special ingredient in your newest dish?)
    • Post about relevant topics, and regularly research what hashtags are trending that may be pertinent to your restaurant, such as National Pizza Day or National Ice Cream Day

On every social media platform, it’s important to respond to guests who may comment on your post or message you. This shows that you appreciate your followers and that you are approachable. Use professional language that also reflects your brand’s tone, and ensure that every social media outlet expresses your brand’s aesthetic and mission. 

Online Presence 

Other than social media, there are several other digital platforms on which you should invest your restaurant marketing efforts.

  • Your website. With more people using the internet to find restaurants, it’s critical to have a website that is attractive and easy to navigate. In addition, it’s important to have a mobile-friendly site to cater to the increasing amount of people using their phones to find directions, menu information, and general information about your restaurant. With an outdated website, people may be less inclined to visit your restaurant, as it may not appear modern. Consider hiring a specialist to create your site for your restaurant, or use a platform such as Squarespace or Wix.
  • Review sites. List your restaurant on the frequently visited review forums, such as Yelp, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor. Include your menu or a link to your menu. Respond to customer reviews by thanking them for visiting your restaurant and for leaving a review. Be sure to appease unhappy guests by offering discounts or having users email your restaurant to further discuss the matter. Prospective guests will likely judge whether or not they want to visit your restaurant based on the reviews. They will also see how you respond to guests, so it is important to portray a professional, friendly tone that shows you care about your customers and their experience at your restaurant. 
  • Google My Business. Many people use Google to find local eateries, making it important to update your restaurant information on Google. Make sure to include a link to your site and to fill out your business information, including your hours, business description, and relevant keywords. You should also post updates about menu changes or events, and add high-quality photos of your location. Google also enables guests to write business reviews, so be sure to respond and monitor your Google My Business reviews.
  • Email list. Create an email list by asking people to sign up through any of your online platforms, POS system, or even a handwritten list at your host stand. You can send out promotional emails to offer deals and specials, and you can send out event information as well. Consider creating special “invitations” that are tailored to your email subscribers to exude an exclusive, customized feel that will appeal to guests. 

Signage

While digital marketing is on the rise, physical signage is still an excellent way to attract passersby. As with every component of restaurant marketing, make sure that your signage efforts accurately reflect your brand. For example, if you operate a high-end restaurant, you would not want to include a chalkboard with quickly written specials. Instead, you may want to invest in a professional menu board that holds your menu or a professionally made sign with your logo. Regardless of your type of restaurant, always ensure that signage is legible and emanates your brand. You can include enticing information about your restaurant, menu specials, happy hour deals, or drawings and designs of your logo or menu options.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are an excellent way to increase your regulars and keep guests coming back to your restaurant time and again. Below are 3 types of loyalty programs you can use to market your restaurant and create a loyal customer base.

  • Punch card. Offer cards that servers and staff can “punch” every time a guest orders a specific item. For example, every time a guest orders a dessert, they will receive a punch, and on their 5th or 10th punch, they will receive a free dessert.
  • App. If it is in your budget, consider creating an app for your restaurant on which guests can check in. However, there are also several apps such as Clover or Perka on which you can register your restaurant to create a loyalty program system.
  • POS system. Many popular POS systems include loyalty programs that restaurants and other businesses can subscribe to. For example, with Square, guests can enter their email or number to receive automatic points when paying with their debit or credit card. Over time, guests can receive a discount or free item. You can also enter guest birth dates into your system to send free gifts or deals to attract guests to return to your restaurant.

Attract New Customers

Use promotional techniques specifically geared towards new customers. A great way to spread the word about your restaurant is to create a referral program. Encourage guests to share their experience at your restaurant with friends and family to receive a discount or item. Another way to attract new guests to your eatery is by getting involved in local events. This may be an event such as restaurant week, a yearly local fair where you set up a food stand, or even a charity event through which you can sponsor a gift card to your restaurant. You can also reach out to local news outlets, magazines, local review platforms, and social media influencers to share information about your restaurant. 

Alternative Revenue Streams 

Not only do alternative revenue streams increase your bottom line, but they also serve as a way to promote your restaurant and appeal to a larger customer base who might just be looking to buy your special ketchup, to pick up a gift for a friend who loves your restaurant. You can even tailor your approach to bring in local community members who need a place to work. Below we detail 4 ways to bring in more revenue while also promoting your restaurant and space to a larger demographic.

  • In-house food market. Are there certain items on your menu that can easily be packaged? For example, a farm-to-table restaurant might offer pickled vegetables or house-made jam. Or perhaps your bar offers a special ketchup or sauce for burgers. Consider having a few shelves or dedicated area to offer food items. Alternatively, you might package food or drink items for local grocery stores or farmer’s markets. With a greater number of people that have access to your product, you can increase recognition of your brand and entice people to try the place that made the kombucha they got on Saturday morning’s farmer’s market. 
  • Coworking space. Is your restaurant closed during the day, or does it experience slow spells during certain days or times? Appeal to the growing number of remote workers and freelancers by converting your restaurant into a coworking space. Not only can this bring in extra revenue, but it can attract people to your restaurant in a unique way who may otherwise not know about your eatery. In addition, it can encourage these remote workers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to later try your restaurant during open hours. 
  • Clothing and other items. As long as it adheres to your brand, consider selling anything from t-shirts and sweatshirts to tote bags, water bottles, or beer mugs. This increases customer loyalty because guests are literally investing in your restaurant. On the other hand, it spreads awareness of your brand. 
  • Delivery services. Not everyone always feels like going out to eat, but plenty of people would rather have a meal made for them. Partner with apps like Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats to enable guests to purchase your food without having to visit your restaurant. 

Community Involvement

If you’re looking to appeal to locals, begin by researching the interests of your target demographic. In this way, you can identify specific ways to market your restaurant. As mentioned above, you can get involved in a local farmer’s market, fair, grocery store, or charity event. However, you may also choose to offer specials to certain local recreational sports leagues or high school sports teams. Another way to bring in locals is by teaming up with a favored local brand or artist. Considering hosting a pop-up event at a nearby store, hosting an art show, displaying local art, or hire a local band to perform during happy hour.

Host Events

To encourage guests to choose your spot over another, provide engaging and enjoyable events that promote connection and community. Below are some examples of events that will attract individuals and groups to your restaurant.

  • Live music
  • Trivia 
  • Speed dating nights
  • Food or drink tastings
  • Craft workshops

Food and Drink Promotions

One of the best and most common ways to market your restaurant is through weekly, monthly, or unique promotions. Offer a happy hour special, lunch promo, or discount on desserts. Consider tailoring your promotions to different days of the week. For example, on Taco Tuesday, you can offer a discount on tacos, or on Thirsty Thursday, you can offer discounts on beer flights. 

By investing time and energy into your restaurant marketing efforts, you can increase your customer base, attract new guests, and remain competitive. As long as your marketing strategies adhere to your restaurant brand, your marketing tactics are likely to be effective.