For many restaurant owners, marketing can be a scary element of restaurant operations marked by subjectivity and a lot of grey area, but aren’t all new things scary at first?
By the end of this restaurant marketing guide, you’ll be equipped with the tools and tactics needed to create a following of loyal and loving guests.
A restaurant marketing plan is a chronological timeline of a restaurant’s intended marketing activities, across all marketing channels, for the upcoming calendar year.
An effective restaurant marketing plan will provide an at-a-glance view of past, present, and upcoming marketing campaigns with important marketing campaign data included, like:
Campaign goals: What you are trying to accomplish by conducting this campaign? Are you trying to increase your social follower count? Sell more of a certain menu item? Drive sign ups to your loyalty program? It’s vital to the success of your campaign to have a goal outlined from its inception.
Campaign duration: How long will this campaign be live for? E.g. a discount that is redeemable for the next two weeks or a radio ad that will air once a day for the next 10 days.
Intended marketing channel: Where will you be conducting this campaign? E.g. on social media, via your loyalty/rewards program, on a discount/promotion site like Groupon, etc.
Budget and spend: How much money will you devote to this campaign? For example, if you’re planning to sponsor a local little league team (and get your name on their jerseys) it may cost you a few hundred dollars, whereas an ad on YouTube will cost you per click.
Key performance indicators (KPIs): KPIs are metrics used to gauge the success of a marketing campaign. Examples of marketing performance metrics include sales/revenue increase/decrease, total tickets, loyalty/rewards sign ups, or social follower increase.
The most common restaurant marketing channels are:
Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
Search Engine Ads
Review Sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor)
Sponsorship and Events
Discount and Promotion Sites (Groupon, RetailMeNot)
Video (Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook Live, Instagram Live)
Radio and TV Ads
Food Festivals, Farmers Markets, and Food Halls with rotating vendors
Here are some lesser-known restaurant marketing channels and restaurant promotion ideas worth exploring:
Third-party delivery sites with a discovery tool (UberEats, Doordash, Grubhub, ToastTakeout)
A loyalty/rewards program
One-time-use ride share codes (Uber, Lyft, Bird, Lime)
Cars, buses, trains, pedi-cabs, etc.
Over-head ad space on public transit
Mall and shopping center directories
‘Welcome to the Neighborhood!’ coupon books for new residents
Light-Up/neon host stands
Low-cost wearables, like sunglasses, hats, coozies, croakies, etc.
Entering a cooking competition
Transforming your staff into brand advocates
Phew, that was a long list. So, how do you decide which of these restaurant marketing channels are right to reach your target customers? Lean on the research and analysis you and your team put toward developing your restaurant’s buyer personas. As we said at the beginning of this guide, restaurant marketing is all about meeting your customers where they are.
For example, if you own or operate a sports bar and want to attract the younger game-day crowd, your target demographic is likely men between the ages of 25 and 45 who follow blogs (and social media accounts) like Barstool Sports or Bleacher Report, participate in fantasy leagues, send their friends funny memes on Instagram, and love beer — both craft and domestic.
Connect with your distributor and run a Sunday game-day promotion with a well-known beer brand — like Bud Light or Coors Light — where guests are given freebies and swag. Advertise this promotion on your Instagram account, as well as via Instagram ads using the logo and beer's branding.
After tracking your collective restaurant marketing initiatives in your restaurant marketing plan, you need to analyze the success of your campaigns.