Restaurants that succeed typically do two things really well:
First they make great food.
Second…they market the HELL out of their restaurant. Restaurant marketing is the key to growing your restaurant!
But you’re probably wondering what are the ways you can market your restaurant.
Today I’m going to tell you. This post is filled with 53 ways that you can market your restaurant. Not every method works for every restaurant but you will find enough marketing methods to make your restaurant a success.
48 Restaurant Marketing Tips, Ideas & Strategies
What’s the one thing that you want your restaurant to be known for?
They say a photo is worth a thousand words and that was never more true than it is with food. There is a reason that you see people snapping pics of their dishes at restaurants and posting them on Instagram or Facebook.
There are two ways you can use food photos for restaurant marketing.
First you can take some “glamour” shots of your food that you can then turn around and use on your website, blog, social media accounts, print advertising, etc.
Make sure that you do a nice job on these photos. You don’t need a $1000 camera or anything, your smart phone should be just fine. Just make sure that you hold it steady and have great lighting. You can build a small light booth or you can just take your food outside and photograph it on a nice sunny day.
You can also use ingredients that are in the item (like whole tomatoes with a picture of pasta in marinara) or some of the implements used to make it (knives, cutting board, spoons, etc.) to make the photo pop a little more than just a straight food photo.
Second you can make sure that people want to take photos of your food. Make sure that your plating and presentation are top-notch. Not only will this make your food taste better (we eat with our eyes as much as we do with our mouths) but it will make people more likely to take pictures.
You could even run a contest where people take photos of food and the winner wins a gift card or some other type of prize.
Loyalty programs are a great way to increase customer retention.
Restaurants have been using them forever and there is a reason…
You can go the simple route with just a punch card or a stamp card. Just simple design a nice looking card and have it printed (make sure you get it on a nice heavy paper so it doesn’t fall apart).
Then whenever someone orders a meal just stamp or punch the card. When the card is full give them their reward (usually a free entrée or dessert) and then give them another card.
As with everything today there is a more hi-tech approach there are apps that you can use for the same purpose. A few examples are:
3-Yelp (and other review sites)
I am just going to lump all review sites in with Yelp since they are by far the king of the hill for restaurant reviews but all of them can help with your restaurant marketing.
First you need to make sure that you claim your yelp listing. Once you have done that set up accurate categories for your restaurant. Some things you want to add to your Yelp profile are:
- Photos – try to get at least 5 and make sure they look nice and are hi-res
- Business hours
- Phone Number
- Provide an accurate description of your restaurant focusing on relevant keywords
Once that is done make sure that you respond to your reviews, both the positive and the negative. Thank those who post positive reviews and encourage them to come back.
With your negative reviews remember when you respond to:
- Acknowledge the negative issue
- Ask them to contact you off-line for resolution
- Be polite
- Use proper grammar
- Don’t respond in anger
If you respond with an angry attack to defend your restaurant it will do more harm than good.
Google+ is one of the newer members on the social media block but it has become popular very quickly.
First you need to set up a Google+ profile and for that you need a Google account. Once that is done you need to set up a Google+ for business page. This lets potential customers find your business when they are looking for a place to eat.
You want to post content on your Google+ page to draw people in. This content can be:
- Blog Posts
Restaurants thrive mostly on customers that live or work in the same area as their location. That means that you want to advertise to those people as much as possible and make them a focus for your restaurant marketing.
The best way to do this is through geo-targeted ads. This means that your ads are only served to people within a certain location that you choose.
Pretty much every online ad network allows geo-targeting by zip codes. Some of these networks include but aren’t limited to:
- Google Adwords
Email marketing is one of the oldest online marketing channels but don’t let its age fool you. The vast majority of digital marketers use email as their most powerful sales tool.
An email newsletter can be a powerful tool for your restaurant. It allows you to tell people about your specials, events and new items while also keeping your restaurant in the front of their mind.
You can collect email addresses for your list in a variety of different ways:
- Business Card Giveaway
- Customer Surveys
User-generated content is a great way to involve your customers in helping with promotion. Basically you invite your customers to create photos or videos and post them.
A simple way to do this is with a photo or video competition. You invite your customers to post videos or photos to your website or Facebook or other social media page. You then hand out a prize to the winner.
8-Share Positive Press
As a restaurant owner or manager you should be looking for any opportunities to get positive press.
Look for opportunities to reach out to local new outlets, newspapers or magazines.
For example if you set up a scholarship fund for your employees towards college that would be a great opportunity to reach out to your local news to tell them about it.
Any time you receive positive press you then need to share it on all of your social media channels along with your website.
Google Alerts is a tool that is generally under-utilized. It lets you monitor the web for any term you choose and then Google Alerts will notify you when the term shows up.
You can use this as a powerful tool to keep track of your brand. You can set up an alert for your restaurant name. This will tell you any time it is mentioned online…good or bad. This will let you follow-up and either tout your accolades or nip any bad press in the bud.
Blogs are the orignal “content marketing” channel. The vast majority of businesses have embraced the blog as a way to generate traffic for their websites but restaurants for the most part have been slow to adopt them.
A blog can be a powerful tool to tell people about your restaurant and help them develop a deeper connection with your brand.
There are a lot of things that you can blog about but here are a few samples:
- New items
- Employee achievements
- Community events
Food bloggers can be a great way to drive a ton of new customers to your restaurant but so many restaurant owners do nothing to reach out to them.
You can and should reach out to local food bloggers and invite them out to your restaurant. Not only can a positive review help bring in new customers but a good relationship with local food bloggers can be a powerful tool.
Remember that you don’t have to be a new restaurant to reach out either. If you are an established restaurant you can still invite them to come, maybe for a new menu item or a re-opening or just to try out your food for the first time.
This is an important point that a lot of restaurants miss. You need to make sure that you claim all of your online info.
This means you want to set up your business profile and claim your listing in as many places as possible. This allows you to make sure that all of your listings are correct and should help local search.
Here are many of the listings that you want to make sure you claim:
Just make sure you claim as many as possible and keep them updated.
Your brand is a great way to market your restaurant but its application is a bit more subtle.
What you want to do is make sure that you have a specific and unique brand that will help you stand out from other restaurants.
I will use a quick example with a restaurant in my local area.
NYPD Pizza is obviously a new york style pizza place. In Phoenix there are countless restaurants that compete in this almost identical space.
One thing that NYPD has done to set itself apart is they fly in all their water from NY so that their pizza has that authentic NY pizza flavor.
This may seem like a small thing but it allows them to really differentiate and that is what your brand is about. So make sure that you really push your brand and use it to set your restaurant apart.
This a simple but smart way for you to increase the efficacy of your social media posts.
Make sure that if you have specials that correspond to either a day of the week or a time of day that those posts go out at the right time or day.
One of the most important things that you should have on your website (and anywhere else that will let you post it) is your menu.
My wife is a bit picky with food so when we are going to eat at a new place we always make sure to check out their site and look at the menu. If they don’t have one we probably won’t eat there because there’s no guarantee that they will have anything on their menu that she will eat.
Make sure that your menu is easy to read and understand online. Stay away from just having a .pdf menu that people download. This is an extra hassle for them and it means that all of those items aren’t helping your site show up on search engines.
Offering delivery is a neat way to help set your restaurant apart and make it easier for people to try your food.
There are some great online delivery services like:
These services may help people discover you for the first time or let people eat at your restaurant when they might not otherwise be able to.
Coupons or discounts can be a great way to entice people to come in and eat at your restaurant. You can always use the traditional mailer but I have found that those are just more and more likely to end up in the trash.
Here are some creative ways you can do a coupon or discount for your restaurant.
Use your social media accounts to run a limited time special that shows up only on your social media account. For example run a special on twitter that in the next 2 hours if you come in and show the discount on your phone you get the deal.
A great way to get people to sign up for your email newsletter is to have them get a discount when they sign up. Not only do they have a reason to sign up for the newsletter but they also now have a reason to come in and eat.
This is one of my favorites. Offer a discount to anyone that brings in a new customer. So if you come to eat and bring in someone with you that hasn’t ever eaten at the restaurant you get a free dessert (or whatever.)
The point with all of these is to be more creative than just handing out coupons.
If you are a sit down that takes reservations you should definitely be offering online reservations.
More and more people are moving towards more mobile and smart phone usage. This means that they are often more comfortable doing something online than they are actually talking to someone. (I literally know people who do anything to not have to call somewhere.)
These are some great apps that easily integrate with your restaurant for online reservations:
Smart phones are here to stay…do you know anyone under the age of 50 that doesn’t have one. Probably not.
You can leverage the shift to mobile in a few ways:
- Responsive website – having a website that looks good on a phone is a must (especially now that Google is penalizing sites that are not mobile friendly)
- Facebook – Facebook seamlessly integrates their ads on mobile devices
- Google AdWords for mobile – Google (and many other ad platforms) lets you set up ads specifically for mobile devices
20-Business Card Giveaways
This is an oldie but goodie. Just collect business cards and then do a weekly/monthly drawing for the winner. Make sure that the prize will get them to come back and spend more money (ie. a gift card for $10 to your restaurant).
As a bonus you can use the emails off of the business cards to grow your email newsletter list. Just make sure that you have it posted that by entering they are opting in to your email list and give them a way to opt-out.
A food truck can be a great way to expand without breaking the bank. On top of that it can be used to increase your brand awareness. You can also use a food truck to scope out new markets where a new location might thrive.
In a world that is becoming more and more global many people are looking to simplify and buy locally. Many consumers like to know that the food they are eating came from the area where they live.
You can use this to your advantage. If you focus on using locally sourced ingredients you can let your customers know that their food was grown locally and that they are helping support local businesses.
A restaurant is at its best when it is part of the community that surrounds it. A great way to make that happen is to put together events for the community. Some ideas for community events might be:
- Block Party
- Food or Wine Tasting
- Kid’s Events
Just be creative and work on creating fun and exciting events that your community will enjoy.
You need a website.
Even if you have a Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or whatever. You need a website.
All of those are other presences are great and important but at the end of the day you don’t own them. Your website is yours and you don’t need to worry that Facebook will change their algorithm and make it impossible for people to see your site.
Here are some features that you can include on your site:
- Responsive design
- Email Newsletter
I could write an entire article just on local SEO (and I will) but let’s just say that you need to make sure you spend some time on local SEO.
Here are a few of the things you can do to ramp up your local SEO.
- Claim all of your online listings and make sure that your information is correct
- List your address on your website
- Mention local landmarks that are close to your restaurant on your website
- List your location info in your Meta Tags on your site
I think it’s safe to say that you know that you can’t afford to ignore Facebook when it comes to marketing and promoting your restaurant.
Of all of the social media outlets Facebook has the widest demographic base. You can reach everyone from teens to young professionals to single moms to seniors.
The first thing you need to do is set up your Facebook page for your restaurant. You want to set it up as a “Local Business or Place” when you create your page. Make sure you put in the correct information here.
As you set up your page one of the things you will get to choose is your Facebook address. The best practice here is to use your business name…if that isn’t available then you should just try to use your business name + location. For example: “joespizzawestlosangeles”.
Once you are done with the initial setup you can customize your page. You want to make sure you include:
- Cover photo – either a nice shot of the restaurant inside or outside or a good food picture.
- Profile photo – logo if at all possible.
- Phone Number
- Price Range
- Menu (this is a .pdf of your menu)
- Website address
- Short Description and Long Description (make sure to use keywords here like food/cuisines and location)
- Public Transit
- General Manager
- Payment Methods
The more fields that you fill in on your Facebook page the more helpful it will be.
Once you are done with the page then you can start using it. You should set up a schedule for your posts so you know what you want to post and when you want to post it.
You can post things like:
- New Menu Items
- Staff Achievements
What you want to do is make sure that your Facebook page isn’t just about one thing (like your specials). You want to make it an interesting page that people want to follow.
You also want to work on engaging with people on your page. Ask for comments or suggestions and make sure you respond.
Make sure you promote your Facebook page on your website and in your restaurant.
While on the surface Twitter seems very similar to Facebook it is a completely different animal.
One is the 140 character limit. This makes tweets shorter and more concise that Facebook status updates.
Another key difference is that the demographics are much different. Twitter is most popular with those under 50 and the college-educated.
Setting up a twitter account for your restaurant is very simple. You just need an email address to sign up. Twitter doesn’t have separate pages for businesses just accounts.
Again you want to make sure that your @twitter handle relates to your restaurant name (the nice thing is that you can change it as often as you like).
Your description will be shorter (again only 140 characters) and there are no separate fields for address, phone number, menu, etc. You should make sure that your description contains keywords about your restaurant. Make sure to fill in the field for web address with your website.
You also have a header photo (a picture of your food or locations) and a profile photo (logo here please).
You should set up a schedule for your tweets so you know what you want to post and when you want to post it.
You can post things like:
- New Menu Items
- Staff Achievements
Make sure to keep in mind the demographics of twitter and tailor your tweets to speak to those people.
You should also follow the people who follow you. Interact with them. If they post something interesting or noteworthy respond or re-tweet (this is sending the same message out to the people who follow you).
Use your restaurant and your website to promote your Twitter page and get people to follow you.
Instagram started out as an apple only photo sharing app. Eventually it was broadened to all devices and its popularity has quickly increased.
Instagram is by far most popular with young people as about 53% of its users are ages 18-29.
The part that makes Instagram the most unique is that it is almost a completely visual medium. Every post is either a photo, collage or short video. This visual slant makes it a great place for restaurants to show off the visual appeal of their food.
An Instagram account is simple to set up. You just need to download the app and use an email to sign up. There are no separate accounts for businesses. You just need a profile pic (probably a logo), a description (use lots of keywords), and of course your website address.
You should set up a schedule for your posts so you know what you want to post and when you want to post it.
You can post things like:
- New Menu Items
- Staff Achievements
remember that the majority of the people who follow your site on Instagram will be younger users. Make sure to make your posts fun and exciting so you can really engage the younger demographic.
Try to follow the people who follow your restaurant and interact with them. Comment on their photos and make them feel like you care.
Make sure to promote your Instagram account on your website and in your restaurant.
Pinterest is one of the youngest social media sites but it has grown rapidly in only a short time period. Pinterest has its greatest strength among women where more than 42% of all women say that they use Pinterest.
Pinterest is a visual social network. It works like an old-fashioned pin board where you would physically pin related images to a board. Pinterest lets you pin things you find on the internet to boards that you create.
For Pinterest you will want to set up a business account. When creating your account make sure to choose “Local Business” for your Business Type. You want to make your username match your restaurant name. Make your profile pic your logo and write a description rich with keywords.
You want to make sure you create a board and a location for your restaurant. Then you can create “pins” to pin to your board. You can pin things like:
- New Menu Items
- Staff Achievements
Make sure to keep your demographics in mind and try to reach out to them with your pins.
You should also look for other content to re-pin. Either popular items or interesting items that other pinners pin.
You should also use your restaurant and website to tell people about your Pinterest account.
Foursquare has changed so much since its inception but it can still be a powerful marketing tool for your restaurant. Gone are check-ins and mayors. Instead Foursquare is now a recommendation engine that helps people find your restaurant.
Odds are that there is already a listing for you on Foursquare and that you just need to claim it. Once you claim it you can:
- Add or choose to photos
- Update your business name, category and hours of operation
- Update your business info
- Add links to your social media, website and menu
On top of that you can also use Foursquare’s business tools that allow you to offer specials and share insider tips about your restaurant.
Make sure that you put as much specific information about your restaurant as you can so that it can be matched up with potential customers.
You should invite customers to use Foursquare and its companion app Swarm so they can check in.
31-Channel Specific Specials
This is a cool way to run specials that can really boost how people follow you.
What you want to do is let people now that you run channel specific “flash specials” on your social media accounts.
This means that you might run a 30 minute special that only shows up on Twitter. So the only way to know about the special is to follow the restaurant on Twitter. You can then do the same thing on your other channels.
Not only does this get people to come in for the specials but it gives them an incentive to follow you on multiple channels and actually pay attention to your accounts.
Everybody loves winning things. Contests are a great way to capitalize on that excitement to get people to talk about your restaurant.
Some contests that you can run are:
- Commercial contest – have customers create commercials and post them on your Facebook page. The most popular wins.
- Name the new menu item contest – have customers come up with names for a new menu item. Choose a winner and let them have the new item on the house.
- Funny picture contest – have customers take funny pics in the restaurant and tag them with the restaurant name.
Be creative and have fun with this. Just make sure to involve your customers as much as possible (and make sure that the prize gets them back in the restaurant).
Videos are one of the fastest growing sectors of the internet. Sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are becoming more and more popular and video posts on Facebook have gained a lot of traction.
Creating a video is easier than ever. You can just shoot it with you cell-phone and then upload it. These videos can help draw in new customers to your website or social media pages.
Some videos you can create are:
- How to prepare a dish on your menu
- A video profile of an employee or chef
- A video tour of the restaurant and food
- Simple instructional videos
Again the secret is to be creative and have fun. Cool videos can go viral very quickly and bring in a lot of traffic.
Hashtags are cropping up more and more every day. You almost can’t watch a tv program without seeing a hashtag that is related to the show. Hashtags used to be a twitter only phenomenon but they have spread to pretty much every social media channel.
Because of this they have become a great way to market your restaurant. There are a couple of different ways that you can leverage them.
Each day of the week has a popular hashtag associated with it. For example “#ManicMonday” or “#ThrowbackThursday”. If you post with these hashtags on those days then you can help get some traffic that will come just from the hashtags.
The same goes for tagging around holidays or events like “#ValentinesDay” or “#SuperbowlSunday”.
Create Your Own
You can also use hashtags in your posts that are specific to your restaurant. For example
When you use tags like this you want to use your accounts, website and restaurant to publicize them and let people know to use them. You can even do rewards or discounts for people who do use your specific tags.
As our world becomes more and more crowded and we use more and more of our resources sustainability has become a very important buzzword.
Focusing on sustainability can be a great way to market your restaurant. You can focus on using things like:
- Sustainable farming
- Sustainable paper goods
- Renewable energy
36-Google Business View
Google business view allows people to do a virtual walk-through of your restaurant. This can be a great way to let people get a feel for your restaurant before they even step in the door.
Also as with most Google products some people have found that using things like Google Business View can help increase your Local Search Rankings (YMMV).
I talked earlier about using videos to promote your restaurant but here I would like to elaborate a bit more about YouTube. YouTube is the absolute king of the online video space.
Youtube videos are a great way to show people the inside of you restaurant, new menu items, or help them get to know your staff. On top of that there are some other things you can do to help YouTube market your restaurant:
- Geotag your video
- Put a link to your website or social media accounts in the description
- Include your restaurant name, address and phone in the video as either text or audio
These simple additions can really help those YouTube videos shine as promotion tools.
Business cards may be one of the oldest promotion tools we have but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful.
A business card is a great way to easily let people know about your restaurant. It should be professional and fit your brand.
At a minimum the owner and managers should have nice, professional business cards for the restaurant. For many restaurants this can extend to the entire staff.
These cards can then be handed out to people when they ask “What you do?” for a living. These cards make it easy for people to know the name and location of your restaurant.
One cool thing you can do is whenever an owner or manager hands out a card they can write a quick note on the back for a free appetizer or dessert. This makes it even more likely that they will come in to try the restaurant out.
Leaflets or flyers are a great way to get the word out about your restaurant. You can get it designed affordably (Fiverr.com) and printed quickly (overnightprints.com). These flyers can then be either delivered, mailed, or just handed out at the restaurant. You can include specials and discounts on them to help bring people in.
Commercials tend to be the playground for the large national chains but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case any more. Most cable networks offer attractive advertising plans that can be targeted very specifically (zip code, age and more) and the cost of getting a commercial produced have come way down.
There seem to be more and more food festivals every year. A food festival can be a great opportunity for you to showcase your food and get it out in front of a very large audience that is specific to your area.
Another way to use a food festival would be to start your own. You could work with other restaurants in your community to put on a local food festival.
When I was a kid I remember putting on my uniform for whatever sport I was playing and seeing the name of a local business on its back.
This may not be the most exciting way to promote your restaurant but it still works. You can sponsor a team or a league so that your name will be on their uniforms. You can also host events for the team or league you sponsor to get them in the door and hopefully coming back for more.
When you hear the word “Happy Hour” do you think of a dark bar with cheap drinks?
Well you shouldn’t…at least not entirely.
While Happy Hour has been a staple for bars and clubs since their inception a “Happy Hour” can be a great way to promote any restaurant.
Just choose a day and time (preferably one that is usually “dead”) and come up with a special for that time period. It can be anything like:
- Half-price drinks
- Half-price desserts
- BOGO Appetizers
- Buy one get one half off meals
The options are really endless. The idea is to promote some specials at certain times to help drive in business when you are slow.
Uniforms can be a great way to promote your restaurant. Places like Hooters and Tilted Kilt have known this for years.
Now I’m not recommending that you just dress your waitresses in short skirts and low-cut tops. But I am recommending that you think about using your uniforms as a way to promote your restaurant.
It can be a catchy slogan, or a unique design. Maybe you can have t-shirts printed that include your restaurant name but that your employees would actually wear them outside of work.
Whatever it is you can be creative with your uniforms and use them to promote your restaurant.
A QR code is a small unique code that can be scanned with an app on your phone. The app then sends you to a website associated with the code.
The cool thing about QR Codes is that you just create them and then point them at web address. This means you can use them to point to things like:
- Online Menu
- Location Info
- Online Reservations/Ordering
- Info about ingredients/nutrition info
- Online Newsletter Registration
So for example you could put a QR code on your print menu with instructions to scan it if the patron wants more information about the ingredients used in each item.
Charity work is great no matter what the business and restaurants are no exception. Working together with local charities offers an opportunity to help those in need, support the local community, and promote your restaurant all at the same time.
You can do fundraisers with a charity or a charity night where some of your proceeds go to a charity. You can also sponsor charity events or donate gift cards to charity auctions.
Working together with local schools is a great way to help out the community while helping your restaurant. Some ways you can work with local schools is:
- Fundraiser night
- Sponsor an athletic team
- Sponsor an event
- Sell gift cards for a fundraiser
The secret here is to contact some of the local schools in your area and see what their needs are and then come up with a way to help them out.
Working together with other local businesses can be a great way to promote your restaurant.
There are a lot of different ways you can work with them that can be mutually beneficial.
- You can run an event for some of the local businesses where they can come out, have a booth and talk about what they do.
- You can host small business networking events where small business owners can mingle and get to know one another.
- You can approach local business about hosting events for them at your restaurant.
So there you have it. 48 ways that you can promote your restaurant.
I know that not every method applies for every restaurant but you should be able to find a few that can really help you out.
Please check back on this article as I will be updating it with more methods when I come across them. If you have any promotion tools that you have use that I missed please share them in the comments.