15 Ideas to Market Your Restaurant

How to Make Your Restaurant Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

The kitchen is ready. The tables are set. Everyone is ready for service. Throw open the doors and—no one is there.

This sounds like the worst possible nightmare for restaurants, but there is a way to ensure it never happens to you. Putting effort and energy into marketing your business can create a line out the door and all the way down the street.

But where to start? Follow along as we break down 15 ideas to market your restaurant.

Keep Your Instagram Up to Date

In 2023, the first place many people go (even before a website) is to a restaurant’s Instagram page. That means your photo grid will often be the first impression potential customers have of your business.

Make sure to post at least a couple of times each week with new photography of your restaurant. The pictures you share can be simple iPhone snaps, user generated content, or more artistic shots of your signature dishes. There’s no wrong answer here; find the brand voice that works right for you. Are you a steakhouse? Lean into darker, brooding colors that highlight your prime cuts of meat. Are you a taco truck at the beach? Maybe you want to post jokes and bright images of sand and sun.

Also, make sure your hours and menu are easy to find. This information can either be saved as highlights on your account page or through the link in your bio.

Elevate Your Food Photography

Speaking of those artistic shots—a full-production photoshoot might be just the thing to take your restaurant to the next level.

Set aside a half or full day for your chef to work with a professional food photographer. Depending on the shoot, you could come away with as many as several dozen new photographs. These can be used as hero images on your website, as press photos in local newspapers, and more. This is one marketing investment that will be paying off for years to come.

Image courtesy of Eaters Collective

Optimize Your Website

Now that you’ve got your beautiful new photos, it’s time to spruce up your website. Beyond just making your website look good, you want it to be functional and chock full of helpful information. You’ll want to make sure you have your hours, location, and contact information prominently displayed. List out your full menu and include all allergen information.

Speaking of menus, don’t just upload a PDF to your website! You undoubtedly have spent a lot of time designing and perfecting your menu, but you need to create a separate section on your website where all of your menu items are listed out in a neat, organized way. Menus are often hundreds of words (just think about the ingredient list) and socking them away in a PDF takes away all that potential SEO goodness from your website.

Additionally, starting a blog can help if you want to improve the SEO of your website. Topics for your blog can include health benefits of common ingredients, information for events happening in your town or recipes from your kitchen.

New Menu Announcement with Local Influencer

Few things are more exciting at a restaurant than a new menu announcement! Whether your ingredients are changing with the season or you just feel like mixing it up, it’s easy to make an event out of a new menu launch.

One way to draw more attention to your new menu is by partnering up with a local influencer. They can share pictures on their social media or create short videos highlighting the new tasty treats you have waiting for all of your customers.

Run a Gift Card Giveaway

Giveaways are great ways to increase engagement on social media, expand your newsletter email list, boost sales or all of the above!

It’s understandable for business owners to not want to just give away money for free, but it is money well “spent”. A small gift card of $25-50 will get people engaged with your restaurant. Even better, they’ll bring friends or family along and likely spend more than the amount from the giveaway. That’s what we call a marketing win-win.

Dedicate a Budget for Online Advertising

It’s true that Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Google My Business and more are free for users. However, if you really want to crack through the algorithm, you need to set up a Facebook ad account or a Google Ads account, depending on your strategy. Applying a small boost on Instagram, say $5 a day, to already successful posts can make their reach stratospheric.

Case Study: An Instagram Reel for one of our clients racked up 10,000 views in one day. We saw the post was already finding an audience and boosted it right away. Within the week the post climbed to over 500,000 views!

Image courtesy of Austin Distel

Respond to Reviews

Here’s the thing. No matter who you are, even if you’re Gordon Ramsay (maybe especially if you’re Gordon Ramsay) you’re going to get some bad reviews. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Negative reviews give you the opportunity to be transparent with your customers and take constructive criticism.

Set up business accounts on Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, and respond to new reviews once or twice a week.

Pick a Reservation Software

Similar to responding to reviews, you’ll want to pick a reservation or online ordering software so your customers can easily access your restaurant. It might be a little annoying to set up, but the effort will pay massive dividends—no more manually taking reservations when your customers can go to your updated website and make the reservations themselves!

There are several different reservation softwares. Resy, Toast and OpenTable are all excellent; take a look and see which one works the best for you.

Start a Newsletter or SMS Marketing

One of the most sustainable, consistent ways to build an online audience is through a newsletter. With an email or SMS blast, you are not beholden to the constantly shifting algorithms of Instagram or TikTok and you know that subscribers are interested in hearing from you.

You can offer exclusive perks to subscribers, such as discounts on their birthday or other promotional codes, first dibs on special events, and more. Just be careful to not overload your subscriber’s inboxes too much.

Leverage Complimentary Wi-Fi

Are you looking for another way to increase the subscriber base for your newsletter or just want to pump up your follower numbers? Offer complimentary Wi-Fi!

Coffee shops have been using this trick for years. All you need to do is ask for an email address or Instagram handle when people log on to your Wi-Fi. Someone who just needed to use the internet for five minutes instantly becomes a lifelong subscriber to your content.

Offer Merchandise

People love stuff.

Whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a hat showing off their favorite local business, a few pieces of merchandise can turn your customers into walking billboards.

Merchandise can be a great way to make a little extra money, but don’t be afraid to sell gear close to cost—think about it, every time someone puts on a shirt with your restaurant name on it hundreds if not thousands of people will see it that day!

Give the Exterior of Your Restaurant a Facelift

This tip might seem a little out of left field from a digital marketing agency, but presentation is important. Someone may love your website and your social media pages, but if they arrive at your restaurant and see broken chairs or forlorn landscaping they might just turn around right then and there.

Repainting signage or planting flower beds will attract new customers, but it will also encourage people to take pictures of your restaurant and share those photos with family and friends.

Bonus: Add photo-worthy features like an on-brand mural wall, to encourage patrons to pose with. Don’t forget to encourage them to tag you on social media for additional brand awareness!

Image courtesy of Jason Leung

Host Events and Tastings with Local Beverage Suppliers

Special events are a great way to turn one-time customers into loyal regulars at your restaurant.

You can team up with a local beverage supplier or community organization and build an entire evening around their product or cause. Say, for example, you built a tasting menu around a local vineyard. Fans of that vineyard would come to your restaurant and experience the exemplary service and outstanding quality of your food. On top of the revenue generated at the event, they’ll associate your restaurant with a wonderful memory and be eager to return.

Celebrate Food Holidays

From National Margarita Day (February 22nd) to National Hot Dog Day (July 3rd) to Welsh Rarebit Day (September 3rd), there’s always a reason to celebrate. Pick a holiday and then build a discount around one of your existing menu items or create a limited time special!

Case Study: Ben & Jerry’s has been celebrating Free Cone Day for over 40 years. It is estimated that they give away 1 million cones every year—that’s a lot of happy customers!

Meet the Team

We’ve talked a lot about your menu, your website and your restaurant, but none of that would be possible without an incredible team behind it.

If you’re looking for more content, “Meet the Team” posts are a great way to show your appreciation to your employees and connect with customers at the same time. Plus, pictures of faces have been proven to perform better than still life pictures on social networks like Instagram.

Who’s Hungry for More Sales?

With experience in food and beverage, e-commerce, hospitality and more, our team can help you reach your goals. Contact us today for more information on taking your digital marketing to the next level.

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