Once a customer falls in love with your restaurant, they’ll usually stay loyal for years—sometimes even for life. But they have to find you first, and that’s where your marketing strategy comes in. Getting it right can take a bit of trial and error.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. In this post, you’ll find seven effective restaurant marketing tips you can use to get diners through the door.
Our top 7 marketing tips for restaurants, bars, and cafes
The best restaurant marketing strategies combine at least two or three of these ideas. From creative promotions to getting local customers from Google, give them a try and find what works for you.
1. Create a website for your restaurant
According to a recent study by METRO, 22% of consumers say they would not visit a restaurant if it didn’t have a website with a menu. If you don’t have a website yet, you could be losing nearly ¼ of potential guests to other local restaurants before they’ve been anywhere near your place.
The best thing about your own restaurant website? You can design it the way you want it, with your own colors, fonts, content, and custom logo. Think of it like your online shop window—it should be easy for customers to recognize the minute they “walk” by.
By including a food or drinks menu on your site, customers can check what you offer in advance. Add photos of your restaurant too, preferably on a busy night when your team and your customers are enjoying themselves, so new patrons can get a feel of the atmosphere. You can also encourage customers to keep coming back by posting your latest offers and upcoming events on your “News” page, or take reservations online with your favorite booking tool.
To make sure diners can find your website, it’s important to optimize it for search engines like Google. You can read how to do this in our article on SEO basics.
Tip: Depending on the current coronavirus policies in your city, it’s a good idea to add an FAQ page to your website with the latest social distancing and health rules, and the services you currently provide.
2. Get your restaurant on social media TODAY
If your restaurant website is the main course, social media is the side dish. And thanks to the wide reach of social networks like Facebook and Instagram, you can get pretty good results by creating a profile and updating it regularly. For example, posting regular snaps of your weekly specials or promoting a restaurant offer you’re running can help you attract customers. So, where should you start?
- Facebook is the biggest social network on the planet. Around 2.6 billion people log on every month, so there’s lots of potential there to get free exposure. And promoting your restaurant with Facebook ads is relatively cheap. You can even choose the age ranges, location, and interests of the people who see your adverts. Remember to add a menu to your profile along with a link to your website and all your contact info.
- Instagram is used by 37% of US citizens—and counting. This growing network is particularly popular with young audiences, with 75% of users falling into the 18-24 age bracket. The fact Instagram is an image-centric site makes it ideal for bar, cafe, and restaurant owners. Check out our guides on how to use Instagram for your business and understanding Instagram insights.
- Make your restaurant a check-in hotspot. You’ve probably seen friends “check-in” to their favorite bar on Facebook or tag the restaurant they’re lunching at on Instagram. Encouraging visitors to tag you in their social media posts is a great way to get in front of more potential customers, because everyone on their friends list will see the post too. This works even better if you have a “Grammable” feature in your restaurant, like one of these fabulous flower walls or a well-chosen wallpaper that makes the perfect backdrop for social snaps. For simple yet atmospheric, check out this example from independent Hamburg restaurant, “marta.”
3. Get local customers for your restaurant with “Near me” searches
When you search for shops or eateries in your area on Google (by typing in something like “thai restaurants near me”) this is called a “near me” search. Optimizing your website for these searches is key to successful local restaurant marketing because most people use them when they want to eat or drink right now.
Tip: If you’re only offering food pickup and takeaway right now, you can add the Local Pickup option to your Jimdo website to take orders online.
- Set up your Google My Business profile. This is a free and easy way to make sure all your company info is up to date online, like your address, contact details, and phone number. You can also add photos of your place and most photogenic dishes to help you stand out in “near me” searches. Here’s how to claim your Google My Business listing.
- Encourage customers to leave you a Google Review. You’ve probably noticed that now, when you Google a local business, you can see reviews and star ratings from its customers. The more five-star ratings you can get, the more likely people will be to try your place. Good customer reviews are the best advertisement for your restaurant.
- List your business on TripAdvisor or Yelp. Depending on your country and area, tourists are probably using these platforms when planning their trip. If you want to tap into this market, it’s worth creating a profile to promote your business on multiple online platforms.
4. Organize promotions and events
Offering a regular happy hour or discounts on mid-week dinners are great ways to entice new customers and keep things fresh for your regulars. But have you tried taking things a step further with a themed night?
For example, turning your restaurant into a Festive Wonderland at Christmas with matching dishes, drinks, and decor can help you attract guests from further afield who are looking for a special experience. These people might not have passed by your restaurant ordinarily, and if they like your place, they might like to come back for dinner or a few drinks.
Have you thought about taking your business outside? For example, by taking a stall at your local farmers’ market or street festival, you can pick up customers who may never have heard of you. You can also remind past customers that you’re still serving up delicious food and worth visiting again.
5. Offers vouchers and other promotions
Discounts are always a good way to attract new guests and keep your regulars interested.
The good old gift voucher never goes out of style. But they can be more than last-minute birthday or Christmas presents. Many cities give out vouchers to new residents to help them find their way around and put a few dollars into the local economy. Local tourism offices often offer similar schemes you can participate in, too.
There are also online platforms that specialize in vouchers and discounts, like Groupon and Eat The World, which offers foodies culinary tours in different cities.
Collecting points or loyalty card stamps are probably not suitable for a starred restaurant, but they can work well for bars and cafés. For example, guests can get a stamp when they order their first large (and expensive) cocktail each time they visit. Ten visits and ten cocktails later, that’s a free Pina Colada on the house! Or tempt your customers with a free gift for every ten coffees they order, like a cookie or a muffin—you decide.
With all the advantages that vouchers and discount campaigns bring with them, you should never lose sight of your calculation. After all, your marketing shouldn’t cost you more than it gets you.
6. Tap into email marketing by sending a newsletter
Even with social media, email marketing for restaurants is still a powerful tool—especially if you attract your subscribers with exclusive offers. You can update your regulars on your latest news and upcoming events in your newsletter, share recipes and expert tips, as well as giving them a gentle reminder that you’re still around and that it’s time to stop by again.
7. Treat your regulars right
If there’s one reason that keeps you going back to your favorite bar or restaurant—besides the food and the copious amounts of beer—it’s a good host. So be attentive, friendly, and make conversation with your guests. Make sure they know that you value them not only as a source of income, but as people—members of your local community. And hey, a free dessert or an extra shot every now and then to a loyal customer doesn’t cost a lot, but it goes a long way.
How have you kept your customers engaged during the pandemic? What promos have helped you get diners back in your restaurant? We want to hear your success stories! Share them with us on Facebook or Instagram with a link to your website.