10 Smart Ways to Promote Your Restaurant

You’ve built your restaurant from the ground up, amassed the perfect team, and found your target audience. Now all that’s left is to design marketing campaigns that will spread the word of your endeavor to a wider audience, and get you the loyal customer base you deserve.

Successful restaurant promotions increase sales and profits and help retain guests which leads to repeat visits from loyal parties. Studies show that 80% of customers are more likely to try out a restaurant for the first time if there’s a deal or special going on. More than half of Millennials specifically look for coupons and deals before exploring a new restaurant.

What do you need to make a great promotional campaign?

What You Need to Know

You can’t run successful marketing without first identifying your intended customer base. Talk to the neighbors and find the average age and demographics of those around you, learn your current customers’ hobbies and interests, and uncover their motivations so you can run promotions that they’re encouraged to take part in.

Look at general industry trends, too. It’s not just your own community that gives you leads on what’s important but relevant, industry-wide shifts in consumer interests help you see the bigger picture. You can understand what promotions work well, popular discounts, and rising customer trends around the country which are good predictors of what will come to your own audience next, so you can get a jumpstart on up-and-coming ideas before your guests even know that they want it.

Then analyze the personal challenges facing your restaurant. Talk to your staff about operational challenges you face, and take advantage of the technology on hand to automatically run reports and analyze your best and worst selling menu items, off-peak hours and more so you can discern what promotions will most effectively boost sales. Know your profit margins to stretch out your inventory appropriately during these discounts and deals.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to make the most of press opportunities. The best marketing campaigns aren’t short-sighted. Rather, they involve a long-term plan to generate sustainable traffic; they bring in customers for more than just one happy hour. Connect with local reporters and seek out press opportunities throughout the year to stay in the papers and repeatedly kindle advantageous relationships with the general public. All of this solidifies a good reputation.

Promotional Ideas

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to effective marketing. What works best for one restaurant won’t necessarily work at all for another, so it really depends on your individual style, customer base, and values. Here are ten ideas to get the brainstorming process started.

  1. Loyalty programs. First and foremost, set up a rewards program to incentivize return trips to the restaurant. This will build on all further marketing campaigns you run in the future.
  2. Holidays. Everyone loves a chance to celebrate the big days If you host events, which can last anywhere from a Christmas dinner to a week of Thanksgiving meals to a whole month of Halloween, you’ll drive in a happy, hungry holiday crowd.
  3. Charities and celebrities. Attaching yourself to big-name projects or people will drive their supporters in the door. If you don’t like hosting charity events, it can be as simple as donating a portion of your proceeds to a good cause.
  4. Local events. Good causes don’t have to be big in order to matter. Even teaming up with local organizations will connect you with their base—plus you can latch onto their marketing and let them do the advertising legwork for you.
  5. “Get them in the doors.” Heavily discounting items that usually aren’t eaten alone, like sides or drinks or desserts, will encourage customers to come in, and they’ll usually add more to the ticket once they’re already seated.
  6. Bundling and fixed price. If you combine medium-priced food items with more expensive meals or bundle fixed-price dishes with sides, then you can encourage bigger ticket sizes while customers still feel like they’re getting a deal. Add up the price of the combined dishes if they were sold separately, discount it 10-20% and you’ve got a good basis for the bundled sales price.
  7. Buy in bulk and upsell. Just like it pays for you to buy massive amounts of inventory rather than smaller batches of product, you can use the same idea with your customers. Offer a discount or free product if they spend slightly more money than they usually would, like any other buy-10-get-one-free offer.
  8. Downtime. If you have particular hours or days of the week that don’t usually do very well, you can specify host promotions to encourage more traffic during those times.
  9. Launches and openings. Always make a big deal out of adding items to the menu and opening new locations. You might be able to quickly make back some of what you invested in the endeavor, plus your customers will feel like they’re part of the team’s celebration.
  10. Decide on your deals. From BOGO to happy hours to free desserts or referral programs, figure out what will be most profitable and effective for your restaurant.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on new marketing campaigns, but don’t let them limit you. Really, you should leverage what you already have. Get creative; chat with your staff and the community to see what they suggest prioritizing in your campaigns. That will give you a basis of where to start so you can create the best promotions specifically tailored for your restaurant, and watch your profits and customer loyalty soar.

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