Promoting your restaurant is a crucial step in ensuring its success. When it comes to great restaurant marketing ideas and trends, even the most far-fetched ideas can have a substantial, positive impact on your bottom line. But most of the time, small changes make a huge difference in effectively marketing your restaurant.
But where should you start? And which restaurant marketing ideas and trends should you draw inspiration from?
In this post, we cover some restaurant marketing ideas and trends worth considering, as well as three strategies to start with.
Restaurant Marketing Plan
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1. Get to Know Your Audience
One of the most effective ways to tailor your marketing efforts is by simply getting to know your target customer.
Who are you trying to reach? Who does your restaurant serve?
You might say “everyone!” But if you take a closer look, that’s likely not the case. The more specific you can be about who you’re serving, the better — and it can lead you to greater effectiveness (and profit). This is also known as identifying your restaurant’s target customer.
A few things to consider:
What kind of area is your restaurant in? Are you in the middle of a college campus, a busy city downtown, or a small-town suburb?
Do people visit your restaurant for a quick lunch and a leisurely dinner? Or just one or the other?
When are they spending the most money? What are your most popular items? Does that data shift throughout the day or on different days?
Your point of sale system can measure how popular certain dishes are, how long customers generally stay in your establishment and generate valuable data and metrics that can lead to actionable insights. They’re simple, non-invasive ways to understand exactly what your customers are and aren’t enjoying, and what they might be looking for.
The more you know, the better you can target your marketing efforts, curate your menu, and improve your operations to ensure your happiest customers remain your most loyal customers. This can help you better target your restaurant SEO, your Facebook advertising, and stay up to date with what your guests are looking for.
Planning your restaurant promotions with a budget in mind will help streamline your success now, and later.
2. Mix Up Your Menu to Keep up with Trends
A restaurant’s greatest asset is its menu.
If you’re on the hunt for restaurant menu ideas, doing some research and incorporating culinary trends on your menu will make your restaurant the go-to destination for what’s hot right now. It shows that your restaurant is paying attention to what eaters want while keeping the menu interesting for those regular customers.
There are plenty of culinary trends to keep your menu fresh and new without you needing to try to start something completely out of the blue. So, what restaurant menu ideas can transform your menu into a marketing tool?
Here are a few culinary trends worth considering:
Plant-based items have grown in popularity in response to lactose-intolerant customers and dairy-free lifestyles. The popularity of alternative milks like almond, oat, and cashew milk is growing, and experts don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
Expanded to-go menus are essential to any restaurant in 2021. While dine-in will recover as things return to the “new normal,” it's likely that takeout and delivery will continue to make up a greater percentage of overall restaurant revenue in the future, according to recent Toast data. Make sure your takeout menu is reflective of your greater concept.
Take out alcohol is a great way to increase your average check size, even as guests aren’t dining in. A third of off-premises customers say they included an alcoholic beverage with a takeout or delivery order since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a study by the National Restaurant Association.
If your restaurant doesn’t include alcohol on your takeout menu, you might be missing out on a huge revenue booster, as well.
Comfort food has become more and more popular over the past year. A third of fine-dining operators surveyed from the National Restaurant Association said they are adding more comfort items to their menus, such as burgers, pasta, soups, sandwiches, pizza, and noodle dishes.
3. Build Your Brand
You can probably picture the classic TV restaurant ad: The whole family gathered around a table overloaded with curiously uneaten appetizers and entrees, evidently too engaged in gleeful familial connection to eat their food, when the waitress approaches with a smile to confirm that everything is a-okay. There’s some happy music playing and the ad ends with some kind of memorable slogan.
That was then. The era of Norman Rockwell-esque imagery in ads has been replaced, and it’s time to create your own brand and unique messaging.
And once you know your audience, this is even easier to do.
In 2021 (and beyond), the restaurant landscape has changed. What will set you apart is how your restaurant brand and customer journey: How you promote your restaurant, communicate with customers, and deliver the best overall experience.
Your brand goes beyond your logo or your font. Your brand expresses who you are, what you stand for, and what guests can expect from you. And it extends beyond your four walls: Your online presence needs to reflect your unique positioning at every touchpoint.
Think of it this way: A guest searching for you online is equivalent to them walking in your front door. So the key thing to keep in mind: What will they find there? Creating a consistent end-to-end brand experience — on your website, social media, email, and more — is critical to your marketing efforts.
Here are a few places to start:
Your Website: 89% of diners research restaurants online before visiting in-person. Because of this, your website is often the platform for your guests' first interaction with your business.
It is essential that your website is well designed, easy to use, and efficiently and clearly conveys critical information about visiting your restaurant.
Let your customers get to know your story, your food, and your brand online so they know what to expect when they come to pick up their dinner. Learn more about website design here.
Social Media: Keep your social media pages true to your brand, menu, and culture — no matter the channel. Your social media strategy should make sense as a whole, but you can also fine-tune the content so that it makes sense for the platform. Keep Instagram visual with beautiful photos, create short and authentic videos about your restaurant team culture and food on TikTok, and use Facebook to share updates and create and promote events.
You should also embed your online ordering link directly on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, making it easy for guests to explore your menu and order from you when they’re actively searching.
Email Marketing: Email marketing is a great way to show your restaurant's personality while building customer relationships and encouraging guests to come back again and again.
And again, be consistent across all touchpoints. Add sign-up links as guests make a reservation; call it out on your restaurant’s social channels; add a place to add their email at the bottom of the check or a card presented after the meal; and especially, add a sign-up box on your restaurant’s website.
As far as content, you can be creative. Weekly emails showcasing new items and discounts are a great way to sell, and a monthly newsletter is perfect for connecting with guests and building relationships. Learn more about how to send a restaurant newsletter here.
Create a Great Guest Experience that Adapts to the Times
The restaurant industry is rapidly changing and marketing ideas and trends are changing right along with it.
When considering whether a trend could be a suitable restaurant marketing idea for your business, do your research – not all trends will make sense for your guests – and don't be afraid to take a leap.