Running your own restaurant is a lot of hard work, and if you don’t see good results, it’s very disheartening and an expensive mistake. According to a somewhat old study (from 2005 by Ohio State University), 60% of restaurants fail within the first year and 80% don’t survive the first 5 years. Restaurant owners face the daunting task of not only cooking excellent meals on a consistent basis but also attracting and keeping employees who provide a great dining experience while controlling costs. Restaurant owners also face challenges marketing their restaurants to diners who have a ton of dining options and face increasing demands for their entertainment dollars, However, while making your restaurant a success doesn’t happen overnight, there are some things you can do to try to help boost your restaurant’s popularity. So, how can you make your restaurant marketing a success?
Succeeding at restaurant marketing
Often, restaurant owners think success is inevitable if you provide a good meal at a reasonable price. However, in today’s crowded restaurant business, diners face a plethora of options vying for their dining dollars and many offer similar value. So, how do you help your restaurant stand out from the crowd?
Yet, most restaurants are in the dark ages when it comes to marketing their brand and local restaurants face the challenge of competing with national chains with marketing budgets a small restaurant can’t hope to match. Plus, few restauranteurs are marketing experts and most relegate marketing to a tiny corner of their business that never seems to get any attention.
Restaurant marketing in many ways is the same as marketing in any other niche. You produce a high-quality product, provide superior service consistently, price your product at a reasonable price to ensure value, and choose a location that wows your target audience. If marketers think of anything beyond location when building their marketing strategy, they think about discounts and loyalty programs rather than marketing strategies unique to the restaurant industry. Many of these marketing strategies work well for restaurants but you need specific marketing strategies built for the restaurant industry if you want to stand out from the crowded market.
To get you started, we’re sharing 4 ways to use the unique nature of your industry to market your restaurant and build success. So, here goes.
5 Ways to market your restaurant
Differentiate your restaurant with unique menu options
Many restaurants offer similar menus and offer little differentiation to attract diners. By adjusting your menu to focus on unique options, you offer diners something they can’t get elsewhere.
Vegetarianism and veganism are increasingly popular dietary choices nowadays, so if you don’t have meals on your menu that fall into this category, then you are excluding a large client base from your restaurant. By including these options on your menu, not only will you likely gain more customers, but your restaurant will be able to try new and exciting dishes to serve customers, which many meat-eaters will also love. Adding just a few vegetarian or vegan options to your menu can make a massive difference to your restaurant and increase your customer base massively.
Adding vegan and vegetarian options also appeals to consumers who wish to reduce their meat consumption for health or environmental reasons so you capture that market, as well. By offering plant-based meal options, you also position yourself as environmentally conscious, which appeals to many consumers these days.
In addition to these plant-based menu options, consider adding ethnic foods to your menu as a means to differentiate from other restaurants.
Digital marketing is a great opportunity for local restaurants to compete with national chains. Using Google My Business, your restaurant shows up when diners search for a restaurant on a mobile device or want a restaurant near them on a desktop device. This enhanced search opportunity brings a lot of traffic to your website. By linking your listing to your website (and, you MUST have a website), you allow prospective diners to view your menu, order online (which has grown dramatically since the pandemic), and get a glimpse of your ambiance before they enter your restaurant.
Paid digital marketing is a very cost-effective tool and using influencers to post about your restaurant is a great way to bring in new diners.
Make your restaurant look attractive
Don’t panic; this doesn’t mean you have to redecorate your restaurant entirely. It just means that you should add nice little touches to your restaurant that make it look more attractive and welcoming to customers. For example, you could include a small bouquet of flowers on each table or upgrade your tables to more modern ones to give the restaurant a more modern feel. Changing the lighting or offering a larger parking lot can dramatically improve your restaurant’s appeal to diners. Making your restaurant look more attractive entices potential customers and looks very aesthetically pleasing on your social media accounts. Introducing an online ordering kiosk service can also be a valuable addition, providing a convenient and contactless way for customers to place orders.
However, if you think that the outside of your restaurant could do with some improvement, consider some upgrades to signage or add some patio furniture to allow outside dining. If you can’t make any permanent changes to the building, you could consider displaying some plant pots and hanging baskets outside to make the front of the restaurant more attractive to people passing by or add a nice awning to attract more attention.
Consult a restaurant marketing agency
It is essential to market yourself well. Otherwise, you will not be able to attract new customers to your restaurant. Therefore, you should make the most of social media and your website because this is an easy way of reaching out to people who have never heard of your restaurant or are new to the area.
A restaurant marketing agency is a business specifically focused on the unique aspects of the restaurant business. They can handle advertising for your restaurant and help it become a success. They can help you create successful advertising campaigns and social media accounts to help you reach out to more potential customers and widen your customer base. They can also help you make an eye-catching website. After all, an unattractive website can easily put off a potential customer, so it is worthwhile investing in a marketing agency if you think that your marketing techniques need a boost and hiring one experienced in your industry offers more potential.
Lots of people enjoy dinner and a show, so why not host some events in your restaurant for guests to enjoy as they eat? For example, you could hire a band for the evening or have a comedian perform on weekends. However, ensure you advertise these events well in advance so you can attract a larger group of diners and warn other diners of these events in case they prefer a more subdued dining experience.
Of course, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Consider partnering with a local theater to offer and dinner and a show package that’s cross-promoted by the theater. Or, work with a convention center to host some of their events at your restaurant.
Restaurant marketing offers some unique tools to attract diners. Remember that repeat business is your goal, more so in the restaurant business than in many other businesses since consumers need to eat 3 times every day. Think about your restaurant marketing as a long-term strategy to build your base.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.