Restaurants and pubs are the heartbeat of many local communities – they bring people together, provide a place to eat and celebrate, and become mainstay businesses for many customers. As a small hospitality business owner, you’ll be aware of the importance of initially getting your brand name out there to kick-start this journey to becoming a community company. You want to create a place that is loved and valued by customers – but this isn’t an overnight process.
In this handy guide, we’ve pulled together plenty of handy tips and tricks to help you on your way to successfully marketing your restaurant. From creating the initial restaurant marketing plan, to executing it effectively – read on to get started.
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How to create a marketing plan
Creating a restaurant marketing plan is the first step on your journey. Now, you can find plenty of templates for this all over the internet – which is a good place to start, but these plans are not a ‘one size fits all’ tactic. It’s fine to use them as a base from which to work, but you need to make sure that your business plan is flexible, adaptable, and fits your brand like a glove.
Your plan should include:
Unique selling points (USPs) – what makes your brand special and different from your competitors?
Distribution plan – how will you put your products and services out there and how will customers access them?
Finances – this one’s pretty simple: what does your budget look like? How much profit do you plan to make and where is your money going on marketing resources?
Marketing tactics – how will you promote your business? Plan out how you intend to utilise local advertising, social media and online etc.
There are plenty more key sections to include here, but these will act as the fundamental groundwork to the beginning of an effective plan.
Pub and Restaurant Marketing Ideas
Stay on top of social media marketing
Social media marketing for restaurants is a vital tool for any business type and size. Put simply – everyone uses social media, especially when looking for local recommendations and venues. Hospitality brands who aren’t active across multiple online channels, especially those new to the market, will be losing out on a huge amount of traffic.
Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are perfect for both keeping existing customers aware of your brand, offers, and events, while also marketing towards potential patrons. Social media is, first and foremost, a collaborative community.
As a local business, capitalising on user-generated-content (UGC) is a fantastic way to increase engagement with your brand. This type of content is created by customers in relation to your business and could come in the form of reviews, photos, videos and more. All of this also acts as ‘free’ advertisement for your business. Of course, customers will trust your word, but they are much more likely to trust the experience of fellow consumers.
Offer loyalty programmes
Although your venue, atmosphere, food, and all the other great aspects of your restaurant are enough to entice many customers back, loyalty programmes will also never go amiss.
This restaurant marketing tactic inspires, as the name would suggest, loyalty to your business and incentivises repeat custom. Everyone loves deals, discounts and offers and, if your business is in the position to provide this, it creates more active B2C relationships.
Give a little thanks to your customers to show you appreciate them. These programmes can be easily integrated into your restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system with Square, for example, meaning you can keep offers and customer information all in one place.
Create a marketing campaign
We’ve spoken about utilising social media, but this tool is useless if you haven’t got a solid marketing plan to implement. Decide which of your products and services you want to push and promote and create a cohesive campaign across multiple channels to entice people through your doors.
When marketing for a restaurant, take notice of what people love about your business and utilise UGC to really put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What would they want to see? Every campaign needs to be visually attractive and enticing, though. So, while customer photos may be great, it’s also worth getting a few professional shots of your business, your food, and your staff in action to stand out on all platforms.
Leverage customer insights
Trawling through UGC can be time-consuming. Luckily, there’s an even easier way to use valuable customer insight to inform your marketing efforts. Square for Restaurant’s OpenTable integration not only gives you a comprehensive reservation and table management system. You’ll also have access to a wealth of precious data. Discovering which customer ordered what, at what time, how often they come in and what else they bought allows you to tailor your marketing, offers and events based on real order history and past spending.
Partner with other businesses
Fellow businesses should be regularly observed and learnt from - they’re technically your competitors, after all. However, collaborating with other brands is also a great way to attract custom and build community.
Think menu collaborations, special dishes and drinks that are only available for a certain amount of time. Could you team up with your local bakery to provide a special dessert menu? Or perhaps you could lend some of your own services to pop-ups and food vans in your local area?
Integrate promotions and offers
Alongside your loyalty programme, being consistent with promotions and offers is also an important part of showing customer appreciation. If you are able, providing regular offers and discounts on food and drink are always a great addition to any business plan. For example, 2 for 1, buy one get one for £1, or even the ever-popular happy hour can capture the attention of your customers.
You could also extend this to ‘special event’ offers. Don’t just consider Christmas – make it personal with discounts and freebies on customer birthdays too.
Optimise content marketing and SEO
There’s much more to online restaurant marketing than social media channels. Your website, blog, email marketing and SEO strategies are all vital building blocks in your overall marketing plan. As a local business, a consistent presence across multiple channels is a necessity. This means ensuring that your SEO processes ensure you’re visible on local Google searches and recommendations.
You could sign up for a Google My Business profile, for instance, ensuring that all your information – from contact details to menus, are up to date everywhere. This increases your chances of showing up organically on search engine results pages (SERPS).
Keeping an open and active channel of communication between you and your customers is important here. So, utilise email marketing strategies and reply and act on reviews – both positive and negative.
Invite local food bloggers and influencers
Staying aware of trends is something that influencers do best, and something that all businesses should use day-to-day. Make the most of others’ social media reach by inviting well-known and local food bloggers and influencers along to events, or just for an evening.
They will produce vital and well-presented UGC content and will be trusted as an external reviewer by your wider customer base. This tactic also helps situate your business as a local mainstay, especially for foodies!
There’s a wealth of restaurant marketing tactics ready and waiting for you when it comes to finding ways to attract and retain customers. Whether you’re new to the industry or not, these tips will help you enhance the customer experience and run your business seamlessly – before people even step through the door.