Having a steady influx of new and repeat customers is every restaurant owner’s dream. With a healthy mix of awesome service, quality food, memorable ambiance, and solid restaurant marketing, you can achieve that.
But the ugly truth is that 60% of restaurants fail within their first year, and 80% fail within five years.
Having a constant stream of new and repeat customers is key for restaurants to have staying power and not be just another flash in the pan.
While there are many restaurant marketing strategies for attracting customers, this blog will focus on seven tactics that won’t cause your customer acquisition cost (and marketing expenses) to skyrocket.
Restaurant Marketing Tactics To Attract More Customers
- Get your restaurant online
- Get social with your customers
- Don’t forget about online reviews
- Turn your restaurant into event central
- Participate in local events
- Reach out to the press
- Inspire customer loyalty
1. Get Your Restaurant Online
Approximately 92% of consumers use the internet to search for restaurants. This should come as no surprise as Google has become the go-to method for finding nearby restaurants, reading reviews and more.
More importantly, 75% often choose a restaurant based on what they find in SERPs—so make sure that your Google my Business (GMB) listing is compelling and includes your restaurant’s contact information, website URL, address, images and reviews.
Setting up a GMB listing is free and pretty straightforward. While building your listing, consider the following:
- Download the Google My Business app to make quick changes on-the-go.
- Add photos to your listing to visually display your brand, food, and restaurant.
- Respond to all reviews, even the negative ones, as this can be a big driver in whether a guest returns to your property.
- Customize your reservation link with a tracking parameter, so you always know which reservations are coming through Google.
- Edit your one-sentence description for guests who want to know more about your restaurant.
- Ensure all your restaurant information is correct—from phone number and address to hours of operation—so your guests know exactly how to reach and visit you.
2. Get Social With Your Customers
The best part of social media is that, when your customers share pictures and videos of their dining experience with their followers, that user-generated content is incredibly potent for attracting new customers.
According to a Nielsen study, 77% of respondents say recommendations from family and friends is the more persuasive than other forms of marketing.
So, how can you get your customers to post more social content featuring your restaurant?
- Create picture-worthy opportunities at your restaurant. Whether it’s a funky wall or a crazy cool bathroom, set up original, great-looking areas to inspire people to take pictures and share them.
- Have picture-perfect food plating. If there’s something Instagram has taught us, is that people love documenting their meals. By presenting beautifully plated dishes, you’re indirectly incentivizing customers to take pictures and share. After all, it’s edible art!
- Turn your customers into stars. Make a habit of checking out the pictures that are taken at your restaurant (just perform an Instagram search for your restaurant and hit the Tags tab) and sharing the nicest ones on your restaurant’s Instagram account. Of course, always ask the photographer for permission to share first.
3. Don’t Forget About Online Reviews
Online reviews can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and as such they deserve your undivided attention.
84% of consumers trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As such, today’s consumer will likely look at online reviews before making an online reservation, so make sure you’re actively responding to them—both the good and bad ones.
A Harvard Business Review report even stated that responses to negative and positive reviews can lead to improved restaurant ratings. Whether you’re thanking them for their generous review, or responding to a bad review, staying on top of reviews is necessary for managing your restaurant’s online image.
The key takeaway here? Make a habit of visiting popular restaurant review sites and replying to reviews.
4. Turn Your Restaurant Into Event Central
Events are a great way to get new potential customers to discover your restaurant. Whether it’s hosting a holiday event, or a Superbowl watch party, you can attract new customers on a day they’re looking for somewhere to celebrate.
Some ideas include:
- Hosting holiday related events like New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
- Taking advantage of local events. Is your local sports team playing an important match? Make sure to offer certain specials or host a viewing party that day for sports fans in the area.
- Planning theme nights or other special events like happy hours, food & wine tastings and live music nights.
- Becoming a part of your local restaurant week. Restaurant weeks happen in cities around the world and highlight certain restaurants throughout that week. Participating restaurants have special pricing and menus during that week and get marketed to customers.
5. Participate In Local Events
By getting involved in local events, you can get more exposure with the people that are most likely to visit your restaurant.
Community events can take many forms, from charity events like food drives to participating in food festivals like MTLATABLE, which is organized by Tourisme Montreal. Participating in events like this can lead to more people trying your establishment and, if they liked their experience, coming back again and again.
6. Reach Out To The Press
Fostering great relationships with online and traditional media outlets (like food blogs, social influencers and local newspapers) can help put your restaurant on the map.
Nothing generates a buzz around your restaurant like content created by a popular food blogger or food critic. For example, in Montreal, publications like TASTET are seen as an authority on the local food scene. Getting mentioned by them is big time local publicity.
Want to get featured? Start by researching popular food critics and food blogger’s in your area and inviting them for a meal at your restaurant. Make sure their experience is memorable and you’re well on your way to getting a nice piece written on your restaurant.
Host Food Blogger And Influencer Nights
Another great way to generate some press around your restaurant is to host a food blogger and influencer night, where the hand-picked guest list can mingle, try out different meals and get the best experience your restaurant can offer.
Review websites like Yelp host events like this all the time at different restaurants for their Yelp Elite Squad. They work with top reviewers and food bloggers so that participating restaurants get maximum visibility.
7. Inspire Customer Loyalty
It goes without saying that loyal, repeat customers are won through consistently great service and food, but you can also leverage tools like loyalty programs to further incentivize repeat visits.
Loyalty programs have come a long way from the old punch card. For one, now there are digital options that users can access via a branded mobile app.
Digital loyalty programs come with a ton of advantages. For one, restaurants can collect their diners’ sales data (like what meals they buy, which wines are their favorite and how often they visit) and use that to launch hyper-personalized emails featuring rewards that they actually want. The more they spend at your establishment, the more rewards they get access to.
For example, you can easily create a customer segment for your best customers—the ones who visit your establishment at least once a week. Next, send them an event invite for your latest seasonal menu pre-launch. They’ll love feeling like an exclusive club, and you can get valuable feedback on your new menu items before launching it for the greater public.
A referral program is a great way to incentivize happy customers to suggest your restaurant to friends and family. For every customer they refer, they get more rewards points, which they can use to get a discount on their next meal, for example. It’s a low-cost way of bringing in new customers.
Getting New Customers To Your Store
Bringing in new customers can be costly, which is why you should focus your efforts on tactics that have a relatively low cost and a high return on investment.
Leveraging restaurant reviews, hosting events, developing relationships with local food bloggers and influencers and loyalty programs are all great ways to attract new customers (and more repeat business) without a huge marketing budget.
Plus, unlike expensive Facebook marketing campaigns, these tactics have a longer-lasting impact without necessarily costing you money indefinitely.
Your restaurant’s success depends on your ability to keep existing customers coming back while attracting new ones. While the tactics that we mention in this article are certainly a step in the right direction, if your restaurant experience isn’t memorable, you’ll likely fall flat.
Want to make your restaurant experience personalized, efficient and memorable for guests? It all starts with your restaurant point of sale. Learn how Lightspeed can help you create unforgettable restaurant experiences today.
Author Bio: Tess Bemporat Paiewonsky – Tess is a Content Marketing Specialist at Lightspeed, a leading POS for retailers, restaurateurs and eCommerce merchants. With five years of combined experience in international relations, marketing and technology, Tess enjoys writing content that’s both entertaining and educational. When not writing, you can find her concert-hopping, binge-watching the latest Netflix show or singing at home. Find her on LinkedIn here.
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