"Wait, what's the name of your restaurant? Never heard of it."
Small restaurant owners run into this situation regularly. The restaurant industry is crowded and competitive. If you're going to stand out and grow, you need to seriously consider your marketing plan. With the rise of social media marketing and new technologies, this can feel overwhelming.
We'll run you through the ins and outs of restaurant marketing. We will also give you some tools to help you develop a marketing plan and increase restaurant sales. You should also look into using a QR code menu to make your customers feel safe and give you another tool you can use for QR code marketing.
Restaurant Marketing Plan: How to Market a Restaurant
Randomly choosing marketing ideas won't lead to success, you need to make a marketing plan first. The more robust and well-thought-out a plan, the more likely it is to succeed.
Here are the steps to come up with your marketing plan:
- Determine intentions. This is the “why” of your marketing plan. Do you want to attract new customers? Encourage customers to return? Increase customer average check size?
- Define marketing goals. Set definitive, quantifiable goals. For example, you may want to increase sales by 20% in six months. Setting specific targets gives you a way to measure your restaurant or bar profitability and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.
- Create personas. This means you need to define your target customers. They may be in a certain income bracket or like to go out to eat and watch sports. Defining these customers lets you make more targeted plans.
- Set a budget. To avoid over- or under-spending, budget appropriately. This helps you avoid investing in efforts that eat up a large portion of your capital. Instead, invest in smaller, more effective ones.
- Identify your unique qualities. Your marketing should revolve around the things you offer that set you apart. It could be the food, the service, the location, or something else. Use this aspect in your marketing to make your restaurant stand out from the crowd and maximize the impact.
Restaurant Marketing Plan Examples
Since marketing plans seem daunting, we've thrown together two simple examples for you below. Feel free to take one and make it your own.
JJ's Diner - Sample Restaurant Marketing Plan
- Target Market - Local 20-40 year old business people seeking breakfast on weekdays
- Goals - Increase breakfast sales by 25% within six months.
- Budget - $15,000
- Strategies - Use business event catering to get in front of more prospective customers. Advertise in a local paper and on local morning radio.
- Competitors - Scott's Breakfast Nook, The Eatery, Route 66 Diner
The Tipsy Dog Pub - Sample Restaurant Marketing Plan
- Target Market - Local college students
- Goals - Sell 15% more beer per week. Increase Friday night sales by 30%.
- Budget - $30,000
- Strategies - Start happy hour on Fridays from 7-8 PM. Advertise this program via Instagram and Facebook ads.
- Competitors - Slackers Pub, The Monkey Bar, Murphy's Tavern
Restaurant Marketing Strategies
There are more avenues for marketing than ever before. This makes strategizing more complicated and more important.
Here are a few strategies to get the most out of your marketing:
- Use social media. More people 35-and-under get their information from these platforms than any other. They also provide great word-of-mouth traffic. Post some photos of your best dishes and engage with current and prospective customers online.
- Optimize for local search. In the modern era, the single most effective marketing tool for small businesses is Google's local search results. Tourists and locals use this feature to discover nearby restaurants. Ensuring your restaurant is one of the first seen dramatically increases business.
- Create an email plan. It costs less to market to current customers than it does to attract new ones. Create an email program to help drive repeat orders and stay on the minds of your customers.
- Build a loyalty program. Entice your customers to order more food and more often. Loyalty programs are proven to build relationships with customers and drive repeat orders.
- Use online reservations and delivery. Phone calls are on the way out. Give customers the ability to make reservations and order food online. If you don't have the infrastructure to run this yourself, partner with a company like GrubHub, DoorDash, or others.
Restaurant Marketing Ideas
There are many great ways to market your restaurant and drive sales including digital and personal marketing efforts.
Here are 11 restaurant marketing ideas to make your restaurant stand out:
- Respond to online reviews. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, engage with them. Positive reviewers will feel a connection with you and return. Negative reviewers will feel heard and may give you a second chance. They may tell you that your beer pricing is too high and give you something actionable.
- Take food pics. Instagram and Facebook are full of food pictures for good reason. These images drive engagement and bring in new customers. Make it a habit to document your most beautiful dishes.
- Go to networking events. Local chambers of commerce and business organizations hold networking events regularly. Attend these events to promote your business and make valuable connections.
- Use Google Ads. Pay to get your business to the top of local search results and outrank your competitors. Focus only on a few terms that your restaurant best fits and build your presence.
- Steal your competitors' customers. If your competitors use loyalty cards, offer bar promotions, or have LTO food on certain days, match them. You will draw in new customers and lower your competitions' bottom line.
- Buy and sell local. Purchasing locally-grown or raised products does more than lower your cost of goods sold. You can use this as a marketing tool to show you're invested in the community. This method is particularly effective with younger generations.
- Start menu engineering. Cutting your unpopular offerings is a great way to cut your restaurant's food cost and pour cost (see liquor cost calculator). It also makes it easier to market your menu because it seems more focused and refined.
- Add a food truck. Investing in a food truck is a great way to make extra revenue and get your business in front of more people. Send the food truck to local events and festivals and get more local exposure.
- Revamp your website. Modern consumers judge businesses by their websites. If yours seems old or clunky, you will lose prospective customers. A small investment every couple of years will keep it fresh.
- Try catering/business events. The more people that eat your food, the more people tell their friends how great it is. Catering brings in extra revenue and builds relationships with businesses that will be your advocates.
- Make your digital menu ADA compliant. ADA remediation for menus is expensive. But if you partner with a technology company to make your digital menu ADA compliant for you, it can save a lot of money. The structure needed for ADA compliance is also beneficial for restaurant SEO.
Market So, Number One
Using these marketing tools and tactics will make your business more well-known and profitable. You can invest as much as you like or aim for cheaper, effective methods. You might even just bolster sales through pricier happy hour drinks. There are many ways to market your business, so try some and figure out what's best for you.