The 14 Best Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Written on July 31, 2020
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No matter what kind of restaurant you have, and how well-regarded your food is, it’s important that you develop a marketing strategy that will boost your profile. These days, it’s not enough to simply open a restaurant and hope that foot traffic and word of mouth will drive people through your door. That’s especially true when your competitors are taking advantage of creative restaurant marketing ideas to get people to dine with them.

Below, we’ll go through 14 of the best restaurant marketing ideas, all of which are meant to help people know about you and what you offer as well as raise your local profile. There are a range of ideas—some more time-intensive than others—but if you want to leave a mark, you’ll want to consider implementing at least a few of these. 

The Importance of Marketing Your Restaurant

Competition among restaurants is high—especially as delivery is surging and the economy is strong. So, like any other business, you want to take advantage of marketing to stand out.

There are plenty of different ways for you to market your business, and a variety of restaurant marketing ideas can help you excel in certain areas to go above and beyond your competition. Or, you might not even be competing with someone, and simply want to try to generate more revenue.

Strong marketing can not only help you drive foot traffic and grow your revenue, but it can also help you ensure that your target audience knows about your restaurant and will return again and again.

14 Great Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Whatever the reason you want to look into restaurant marketing, there’s an option for you. As you’re considering these ideas, think about the place in which you want to excel and the audience you want to reach, and you should be able to home in on the best idea for you. Also remember that you can—and should—pursue multiple ideas at once.

1. Set up Google Ads

Online advertising can be a tricky thing to get the hang of, but it’s very rewarding once you learn how to take advantage of it. One platform whose juice is very much worth the squeeze is Google Ads.

For instance, say someone is searching “best coffee shop in Dallas,” which exactly matches the description of your business. You can advertise “against” this term, meaning that every time someone searches it, your coffee shop will come up. This can help drive consumers directly to you.

Another major advantage of using Google Ads is that you can use “geotargeting,” which means that you can target your ads specifically at consumers in your area—a great local marketing strategy.

2. Build a Stunning Website

Your website says a lot about you. And, unfortunately, it’s common among restaurants to have lackluster sites where customers can’t even get a sense of your menu. Building a great website says that you care about not only your business but also your customers. Among the pages you build, make sure you have a comprehensive, updated menu. If you’re considering offering online ordering for your customers, your website is even more crucial.

Luckily, building a website doesn’t have to be an epic exercise in coding. You can use one of the best website builders for small business and whip up a personal site in no time.

3. Promote Your Dishes on Instagram

As a visually oriented platform, Instagram for business can be a treasure trove for restaurants. If you can learn to take excellent photos of your food, you can really showcase your offerings and drive people into your restaurant who want to have the experience you’re advertising. Remember that the better the images, the better results you’ll have, so take the time to really make your photos shine. 

4. Take Advantage of Direct Mail

While direct mail might seem like an old-school tactic, it’s especially useful for restaurant marketing. Look into whether your local area has coupon circulars, which can be a boon for restaurants looking for exposure. These can expose your restaurant to customers in your area who may not have otherwise heard of you, or who’ve been looking for a convincing reason to eat with you.

5. Participate in Festivals

A great way to market your restaurant is to put your food in front of people instead of making them come to you. One way to do this is to be a participating booth at food festivals or other markets that showcase vendors. There may be a fee to have a booth, but it’s very possible that the revenue you’ll make back not only from sales at the event but also future sales from return customers could offset what you’ll be paying.

And if there aren’t event options in your area, you can also consider a food truck to bring your food to the people. Office parks are an especially great place to park to cash in on the hungry lunch crowd. Plus, as you drive your branded truck, you’re essentially advertising your restaurant at the same time.

6. Give Away Samples

Another way that potential patrons can taste your food is through sampling. You can do this with a few different approaches: outside of your store if you happen to be in a high-traffic area; at the counter in order to incentivize impulse buys; or even by leaving samples in partner retailers, which can expose a different client base to your restaurant.

7. Seek out Partnerships

On a similar note, you can pursue partnerships like the one mentioned above—leaving samples in another store—that can help you gain visibility. You can also consider creating a unique product for a partner—for instance, a special tonic that you can only purchase at an exercise studio—and look into a profit-sharing model.

Another partnership idea can involve co-hosting an event with a complementary business. The goal of this marketing idea is to increase your brand visibility by tapping into the customer network of your partner. 

8. Set up Loyalty Programs

There are a whole slew of restaurant loyalty programs that incentivize customers to eat with you and then keep coming back. Your customers will receive rewards every time they make a purchase at either your restaurant or a restaurant in the loyalty network (again, another opportunity for a partnership). After a certain number of visits or dollars spent, you can decide what kind of reward your customers will receive—such as a discount on a future purchase or free item or upgrade. 

9. Create Business Profiles

When someone searches for your restaurant, you want the first results to provide them with accurate information—especially if they’re trying to find out where you’re located or what your hours are. One way to do this is to create a Google My Business profile. Not only is this free to do, but it’s also a great way to ensure your customers have the most accurate information about your business. You can also add photos and reviews.

And speaking of reviews, you should also create a Yelp profile. Again, this is a way to provide potential customers with information about your restaurant, as well as a forum for customers to review your restaurant. 

10. Display Your Awards

Have you racked up accolades? Make sure your audiences see them. You have a variety of platforms on which to do this, including your website, social media, door stickers, and any advertisements you place. These awards can be very convincing to discerning diners who want to find the best food available.

11. Participate in Delivery Services

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to add the option for delivery, you might want to lean toward it. The food delivery market is growing exponentially,[1] which means consumers will expect to see your brand on online ordering platforms including Grubhub, Seamless, Doordash, and Uber Eats.

Remember that offering a delivery option isn’t simply about catering to your customers who might not want to dine in. It’s also about bringing in new customers who are searching for delivery options by location and cuisine. It’s a low-lift way to expose your restaurant to customers who have never dined with you, or maybe have never even heard of you.

12. Offer Coupons and Discounts

If you’re trying to incentivize new customers to come into your restaurant, offer them discounts and coupons to sweeten the deal. You can advertise coupons in local media or offer them on your social media accounts.

Coupons aren’t only for new customers, however—consider leaving a discount card for a future meal in a diner’s check to encourage them to come back for a second time.

13. Engage With Your Reviewers

There’s a funny saying to “never read the comments,” but it’s important that restaurants do read their reviews. You not only want to acknowledge good reviews and make customers feel welcome to come back, but you also want to see if there are any complaints, and respond to them directly.

While every business owner hopes for nothing but glowing reviews, remember that negative reviews can be useful for your business as well. Just remember to address the negative comments and try to make good on the experience—other potential customers will see and appreciate this too. After all, unaddressed negative reviews can put off new customers from coming in.

Remember that this method only works to market your business if you’re kind, even to reviews that aren’t so nice to you. As they say, kill them with kindness.

14. Seat Customers Strategically

Part of convincing customers that your restaurant is busy is making sure they see it’s busy. As you seat your patrons, seat them by the window first so passersby can see that you have diners inside. The best marketers are your own customers.

The Bottom Line

This is by no means an exhaustive list of restaurant marketing ideas, but you should hopefully feel inspired by the range of ideas. Also, allow yourself to get creative. Use these examples as a foundation, and come up with variations that serve your specific restaurant.

Don’t forget that the best marketing ideas sometimes come from trial and error. You also may find more latitude in one idea over another. You simply have to try and be willing to make changes as you go in order to find your sweet spot.

Article Sources:

  1. Mckinsey.com. “The Changing Market for Food Delivery

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner is the editorial director at Fundera and the editor-in-chief of the Fundera Ledger. She has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines. Sally has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English and history from Columbia University.  Email: sally@fundera.com.
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