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Finding Your Restaurant Target Market — and Thriving in it

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Do you know your restaurant's target market? Here is how to find (and succeed in!) your target market.

How to Find Your Restaurant Target Market

Are you thinking of opening a new restaurant, or wondering how much potential there might be to grow revenue at an existing restaurant? You’ll want to explore what your target market is, how large that market is, and how best to reach it.

For starters, consider how your restaurant location, concept, and hours of operation affect who’s in your target market.  Say that you’re operating a neighborhood restaurant. You can assume that the vast majority of your customers are local to the area - either living nearby, or driving up to 5 miles to regularly dine at your establishment. In this instance, your addressable market would then be the population of people residing within a 5 mile radius of your restaurant. But not everyone in that area will eat at your restaurant all the time. So you can narrow down that group, based on the percentage of local diners you think are likely to become regulars. By making educated assumptions, you can begin to identify your target customer, and estimate how large your target market is.

How to Reach Customers in your Target Market

After you’ve identified your target market, you’ll want to determine how best to reach customers and increase awareness, so they’ll keep your restaurant at top of mind whenever they’re eating out. 

Brainstorm what marketing tactics are most likely to reach your target market, and run experiments to see what works. Here are a few ideas:

  • Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can be a great place to start. Choose a platform or two that many of your customers use, so that you can meet them where they are. By regularly posting updates about your restaurant, and advertising featured menu items and promotional offers, you can keep potential patrons engaged with minimal marketing expense. Social media can also help you figure out what kinds of content gets the most engagement, and perhaps your most liked posts can be repurposed into other marketing activities later on.

  • Loyalty Programs: With a loyalty program, you’ll be able to encourage your customers to return more often and build a steady customer base. Create incentives for repeat visits, such as offering a $10 coupon after 10 purchases, or a free drink in return for trying a new menu item, or having double point days or birthday rewards.

  • Advertising: When it comes to paid advertising, you’ll want to carefully consider where you’ll have the best return for your business. Common strategies include sending mailers or running ads on social media. Wherever possible, test new advertising strategies gradually and track their effectiveness closely (e.g., how many views and clicks on digital ads, how many times promo codes or links from your mailers are used) so that you know where your advertising budget is best spent.

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Restaurant Target Market Examples

Neighborhood Coffee Shop/Bakery: Your coffee shop is in a mostly residential area that’s a few blocks from a commercial area. You’re open from 7 AM to 6 PM, and you’re busiest in the morning. You notice you have a lot of regulars who stop by on their morning commute, but the rest of the day is fairly quiet. You think there could be potential for your coffee shop to attract office workers in the nearby commercial area during their midday coffee break. You might want to implement a loyalty program to engage with your regulars, as well as drop flyers and coupons off at nearby offices.

Quick-Serve in a Busy Commercial District: Your restaurant is one of several quick-serve spots in the span of three blocks. There are a couple of large office buildings and apartment buildings close by. You’re open from 10:30 AM to 8 PM. Lunch is busy, with customers eating in and ordering ahead for pickup, although you don’t see the same customers very often, since they have several other choices nearby. You also have some customers come in around dinnertime, although it’s less busy than lunch. You decide to focus on increasing lunchtime sales, by implementing a loyalty program that encourages customers to return regularly and add more items to their orders. You let your customers know about your new program with signage in your store, and flyers you stick to takeout orders. You attempt increasing dinner sales by introducing a few new menu items, and making them a part of your loyalty program.

Fine Dining in a Beach Town: Your business is highly seasonal, with sales peaking in the summer months when more tourists arrive. Your restaurant is also a favorite spot for special occasions amongst locals. To help ensure more tourists know about your restaurant, you check your listings on review sites and search engines, to make sure the information is accurate, and that you’re responding to customer comments and reviews. You also partner with local hotels to share marketing materials, and frequently post on social media throughout the year, to keep your restaurant top of mind for local residents.

Stand Out within Your Restaurant Target Market

Spend time getting to know your target market, to see where you’re succeeding and where there are opportunities to grow. This research will allow you to generate ideas on how to effectively engage with loyal customers, and attract new ones. There’s no reason to stay in a rut — if a certain tactic doesn’t succeed, try try again! Experimentation and a bit of trial and error is key, when it comes to standing out in your target market.   

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