The Best Marketing Advice for Restaurant Owners


Running a restaurant isn’t always the easiest business to be in. Not only do you have to worry about hiring the best and brightest and training them, but you also have to ensure customers are completely satisfied so they’ll want to tell others and visit your establishment again. Add to the mix the necessity of marketing to get the word out about your restaurant.

There are approximately one million restaurants in the United States alone doing about $799 billion in sales. If you want to succeed in a competitive industry, you need to find the right mix of day-to-day operations and marketing.

Below are some of the best ideas for marketing for restaurant owners:

1. Instagram Food Porn

Have you ever exchanged a food photo with a friend or family member? Perhaps you posted a photo of a particularly delicious-looking dish to Instagram. People search for images of food porn, looking for great restaurants to try out. Get ahead of the competition by posting food images to your account. Get customers involved, inviting them to post and use your hashtag.

Instagram Food porn

Russ and Daughters Café regularly posts photos of amazing menu choices, such as the photo above. Note how people interact with the photo and post things such as “mouth watering” or “I’m hungry now.” This type of simple marketing ploy drives customers into your restaurant.

2. Start a Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs have been around for a long time because they work. Customers love to feel they are appreciated and offering them a reward for regularly visiting your establishment is one way to show that you are grateful for them.

You can set up your loyalty program any way you’d like. For example, you could offer a free drink after every five drinks purchased. Or, you can offer a discount after so many entries ordered. Other loyalty programs involve rewards for referring your friends and family or a special discount simply for being on the mailing list.

3. Get on Yelp!

While you need to rely on your customer base to add reviews of your restaurant on Yelp!, you can make your restaurant more attractive by filling in details such as your menu items, prices, hours and adding photos of the various offerings. Be aware that some of your reviews may be negative. However, the way you respond to the review is something others will pay attention to.

Yelp Business listings For food establishments

Take a look at the Rails Craft Brew and Eatery page on Yelp!. This restaurant is located in Seymour, Indiana, which is a fairly small town, yet it has 68 reviews and counting. More than likely, they have asked a few people to share their thoughts on Yelp! and the momentum built from there. Note how they’ve added many photos of their restaurant and the food they offer — 78 photos to date.

4. Automate Your Marketing

Even though it would be nice to reach consumers 24/7, the truth is that you can’t be everywhere all the time. What you can do is invest in some automated marketing to reach as many people as your marketing budget allows. For example, schedule emails and social media posts ahead of time. Then, when you’re too busy to promote, your marketing is on autopilot.

5. Encourage Customers to Share Content

Do you ever wish you could clone yourself? Or maybe just your marketing efforts to reach more people? Fortunately, you can do this by inviting your customers to share content about your restaurant. Run a contest or simply ask them to share their thoughts on social media.

Encourage customer interaction

Pieology encourages users to share content and use the hashtag #MyPieology. They then share and feature posts from their followers. This type of marketing strategy engages users and turns them into raving fans. It also extends your reach as a brand to all of their followers.

6. Use Geotargeting

With social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even via Google ads, you can specifically target who sees your ads and when. This is the perfect advertising solution for local restaurants. You won’t waste time and effort marketing to people who live thousands of miles away. Instead, you can narrow the focus to a specific city and demographic so that only your nearest target audience sees your ads.

7. Take Consumers Behind the Scenes

If you want to gain the trust and interest of consumers, take them behind the scenes of your restaurant. Show them how to recreate a favorite recipe — don’t give all your secrets away, though! Or, just show them how clean and orderly your kitchen is or that you use all natural, local ingredients.

Get customers involved food envy

Chipotle takes customers behind the scenes with a series of marketing videos on YouTube. In the screenshot above, the video goes through the fresh ingredients used in Chipotle’s salsa. Yes, you could easily recreate this recipe at home after watching the video, but it is also reassuring to see the ingredients are fresh and healthy and like something you’d gladly feed your family.

8. Remember Offline Marketing

It’s tempting to focus solely on online marketing efforts. After all, this is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods. However, there are so many companies advertising online that you can get lost in the noise. It’s a smart strategy to use both online and offline marketing to reach customers.

Send a coupon out in the Sunday newspaper inserts or plug your specials on the local radio station. Other marketing ideas that aren’t always on the top of the list include sponsoring local sports teams (the parents are likely to patronize your restaurant) and showing up at local festivals with a small food truck or a booth where you hand out samples as local licensing permits.

9. Partner Up With Others

There are a number of ways you can use partnerships to gain valuable promotions. Sign up for delivery services to give people the option to choose your menu over another. Go ahead and donate a few appetizers to that charity event. When people try your apps and are told you sponsored the event, they’ll be more likely to come into your restaurant and try your other offerings.

Be Open to New Methods

Marketing is a never-ending task. Be open to new ideas to get the word out about your restaurant. Be a guest on a local news show, offer to write a column in the free weekly paper and show up at the farmer’s market from time to time and share your desserts.

If you see another restaurant promoting their business in a unique way, figure out how you can get in on the promotional strategy. The more methods you use to reach people, the more customers you’ll gain!