The restaurant business is a difficult one. Your margins are low, you need to consistently innovate your menu, and one poor service may cause customers to leave in droves. If you’re struggling to bring customers in and you know for certain that your food isn’t the issue, then you could try to have Gordon Ramsay pay you a visit… or you could put in some work on the marketing end of your business.
It all begins with the exposure your food has to your local neighborhood. A community won’t support a restaurant if they don’t have a relationship with the business. In order to begin building that relationship, you’ve got to get your food out in front of people so they can begin to enjoy it. Get outside, offer samples, and engage people so they’ll want to try it. If they like it, they’ll stop by. If they don’t, you’ll get the feedback you need to fix the problem fast.
Creative Marketing Ideas for Restaurants to Boost Sales
1. Market To Specific Demographics
Each neighborhood or community has a specific majority demographic that will frequent restaurants on a regular basis. Target this majority demographic with your marketing efforts in some way to reach the most amount of people possible.
2. Be Current
If you’re restaurant is stuck in 1992 in any way, you’ll be driving your customers away, one by one. Make sure you get your interior updated to be fresh and inviting, make your menu match, and understand what the price point is that your community can support.
3. Be Functional
More people use the internet to research your restaurant more than any other method today. If you don’t have a useful website that gives people the information they need to know, you won’t get their business. From menus to ingredients to pricing information, even a simple map with directions to find you may be the one missing thing you need.
4. Get To the Top
Implementing an effective SEO plan for your website is one of the most effective ways to get noticed. It’s not just about having specific keywords on your website or having a phone number – you need targeted, local content that will drive local searches to your cuisine first.
5. Have a Great Food Blog
Restaurants ultimately need to establish value in some way for people to engage with them. One of the easiest ways to enhance the value you provide is through a useful food blog that can help people to cook at home, give them access to recipes, or just have a fun method of engagement. The more value you provide here, the better your overall SEO efforts will be, and you’ll open up other opportunities here as well.
6. Get To Guest Blogging
Having unbiased reviews of a restaurant that are positive is critical to the modern restaurant’s success. You can sometimes get these on websites like Yelp, but you can guarantee a blog post on your website by engaging with local food bloggers. Offer them a free meal in return for an honest review of your food and service and you’ll establish a reputation for honesty that will go a long, long way toward your success.
7. Speaking of Review Sites…
You need to monitor all of the review sites regularly to see what people are writing about you. This is your online reputation and a bad one can dramatically affect your business. Set up alerts for new reviews, respond quickly to negative experiences, and you’ll be able to proactively keep your reputation positive.
8. Stay In Contact
Feedback is always critical to success, but so is staying at the top of a customer’s mind. Use email addresses, direct mail campaigns, or even targeted online advertising to keep your branding in front of your customers so they’ll want to keep coming back time and time again.
9. Be a Master of Social Media
You’ve got to be where your customers are in order to have an effective marketing campaign. That means having some sort of presence on social media. Although many restaurants will benefit from a basic Facebook page, not every demographic utilizes Facebook as their primary social outlet online. Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and even SnapChat are all viable options depending on the customer base for your restaurant.
10. Provide an Incentive
Just because you have an online presence doesn’t mean your customers care or will follow you. You’ve got to give them an incentive so that they have a fun experience engaging with you! Use dynamic specials for your online outlets, offer direct mail coupons, exclusive email opportunities, and make implementing these opportunities easy to do. Offering 1 free meal after someone has bought 12 isn’t going to be as successful as a 2-for-1 deal.
11. Contests Are Great
People love to win free stuff and you’ve got an affordable marketing opportunity by running contents for free meals. You could co-op with other local businesses for other prizes if you wish as well, but make sure it gives someone a benefit in their wallet for good success.
12. SMS Marketing Must Be Done
Text marketing has an open rate above 95% in many instances and those are results that can’t be ignored. Email open rates are often below 20%. Direct mail campaigns can often be below 5%. Get phone numbers, start texting out offers, and you’ll start getting more eyes on your marketing efforts.
13. Be Professional
Your greatest marketing efforts will always be the appearance of your restaurant. Make sure you’re regularly cleaning your facilities, greeting people with a friendly smile, and never, ever blaming the customer for things like a dish that has been sent back. Invest into your menus. Have a reliable POS and ticketing machine. Most importantly, keep your standards high and don’t risk taking a shortcut anywhere if you think it’ll save you a couple bucks.
14. Make Your Menu Shine
You might have great food, but without a great menu it is virtually useless. You don’t need to spend a lot on a menu, but at least have a good presentation that isn’t torn, ripped, smudged or has typos in it. A bad impression here leaves a bad taste in a customer’s mouth that even good food can’t always remove.