If you are looking for a few effective ways to market your restaurant, the methods are as endless as your creativity and resources.
Some methods will fit your restaurant better than others, but when I am developing new marketing strategies for clients, I start by looking at the 3 categories all marketing falls into.
While they are all extremely effective, one of these forms of restaurant marketing is going to feel like a better fit for your establishment. Let's look at the different categories and reasons why one method may work better than another for you.
To see what other restaurants are doing with their marketing plan and budget in 2017, download the Restaurant Success in 2017 Industry Report for insight on social media, advertising, and technology trends.
1. Free Restaurant Marketing
The great thing about free marketing is that is FREE. It's also very time intensive, usually not highly targeted, and generally has very low effectiveness. It's free, though, so if budgets are tight, we tend to spend more time in this category.
Free marketing includes online restaurant marketing, social media, community "throw away" papers, and your storefront window. Yep, you can use your window as a marketing vehicle. You get the idea.
Using outlets like social media or writing blog posts for your website may not cost you cash out of pocket so we call it free. However, these efforts take time and that time need to have a return.
You may not need to budget money, but you will need to budget time. Finally, free marketing can be like scattering seed in the wind and letting it blow wherever it goes. That means you might not be targeting your guests, and that can be a waste of time.
2. Paid Restaurant Marketing
Paid marketing is exactly the opposite. It usually takes very little time and is very highly targeted, but it costs you money. Some see it as more valuable, as you have the potential to get right in front of your target market, but if you are short on funds, this may not be an option. Even if you are not short on funds, paid marketing may not be your best option.
Ads in newspapers need to be placed in the appropriate sections and ads on radio must have multiple runs for potential customers to notice your name. Sponsoring certain local programs on TV may be a good idea and in large urban markets the costs may be prohibitive to get a good spot produced and placed.
Especially with paid forms of marketing, be sure whatever you do -- TV, radio, postcards or coupons -- that you make sure you are measuring your spend vs. the return. This type of marketing requires testing and constant tweaking to get your proverbial “bang for your buck.”
3. Community / Partnership Marketing
Then there is my favorite, the third form of marketing. It's highly personable, and while it takes work, it can leave a lasting impression that has a strong potential to generate ongoing word-of-mouth advertising.
Community / Partnership marketing will take time to build and there are some related expenses such as your limited resource of time, but for me, there is no better form of marketing when it come to ROI that is lasting and well worth the costs.
You might not be an outgoing person and you might feel most comfortable caught up in the daily grind of supervising a staff and managing your restaurant, but somebody needs to be in the community as a representative of your restaurant.
Developing a community partnership might require you to get you out of your comfort zone, but it opens an entire new area of opportunity and profitability.
It also just makes sense and is the right thing to do. Restaurants that add value to their community and take the time to sit with business leaders for a meal at your place will get results.
Some Community / Partnership Ideas
Community / Partnerships let you get creative and have fun. Try one or more of these:
- Provide samples of your food at Charity Tasting Events
- Offer gifts for silent auctions
- Invite community influencers in to dine with you
- Host Tip-a-cop Dinners
- Host a Painting & Pinot Class with a local artist
- Host a Morning Yoga session at your restaurant
- Profit share nights / days that benefit local charities and organizations like schools or churches
- Cross promote with local businesses
- Allow associations and charities to use your facility when you are not busy
- Park a blood drive truck in front of your restaurant and give away a free desert with a pint donated
- Allow a local farm to offer their weekly box for pickup at your location
These are just a few of the many ways to get your restaurant more involved in the community and create top of mind awareness. In any marketing you do, remember that you're not just looking for customers, you need to fist offer value to others. You provide a community gathering place, a way for families to build lasting memories, and a dining experience that can enhance people's lives.
Keep that attitude flowing through your three forms of marketing and you'll make a lasting impression that will keep customers coming back for a long time.