Between offline and online there's now more ways than ever to promote your restaurant.
Restaurant Promotions: How to Decide
Before you begin brainstorming, selecting and starting any restaurant marketing campaign it's important to understand your unique business requirements and customer profile.
This is because in order to offer discounts or run events, you need to be absolutely sure the restaurant can afford it, and whether your customers will be interested.
From experience we know it's usually not a good idea to simply copy an idea from elsewhere just because it worked for someone else.
With this in mind it's crucial to understand the following areas of your restaurant:
There's an enormous amount of variability when it comes to a restaurants customer base. Amongst other things, location, demographics and cuisine type all play a part in determining restaurant customer behavior.
Understanding customer behavior involves a combination of honestly assessing the position of the restaurant in the local market, informed intuition and existing customer data from both your POS and reservation system.
You want to know, for instance, the percentage of people who make bookings through your website, most popular menu items, and the average repeat visit rates of your diners.
Food and Menu Margins
Optimizing discounts and pricing incentives requires restaurant managers have a firm grasp of the margins on all their menu items, and a thorough understanding of menu engineering. Discounting high margin menu items is a typical restaurant promotion strategy, but there are also others, (listed below) that require detailed understanding of margins.
Now onward to the list of the best promotional ideas for your restaurant. We've split them into general categories to make the ideas easier to navigate.
Restaurant Promotion Ideas
Happy Hours are a tried and tested of way of getting customers into your restaurant at slower periods of the day and week. Typically Happy Hour happens between 4-7pm on weekdays and features a custom list of cocktails and drinks you can sell for cheap. One of the main goals of happy hour is to leave your guests wanting more after it ends.
Depending on your restaurant type, capitalizing on sporting events is an excellent way to get a lot of people into your venue and spending money. You will require an adequate level of infrastructure - large TV’s etc. to capitalize fully on sporting events and compete with other restaurants and bars.
Wine tastings are educational events lead by an expert that give guests a fun and interesting experience. Often ticketed and organized in partnership with either an independent wine store or other related business, a wine tasting teaches the fundamentals of tasting wine and removes certain barriers from ordering wine from a restaurant menu.
Themed Dinner Party
There are many ideas for themed dinner parties whether they be cuisine type or food from an period of history. Successful themed dinner parties rely heavily on decor and experience as much as the food.
Are there local sport or music events happening near you that you can capitalize on by offering special menus or discounts for attendees?
Large holidays - Christmas, Halloween etc
Whilst competition is often fierce over big holidays, it pays to offer guests a great reason to visit your restaurant over the holidays. The best tip for getting the most out of a holiday? Start advertising early!
Launch New Menu Items or Redesigns
When you launch new menu items or redesigns, considering holding a launch event. This is a great way to give your restaurant a bump from something you were already doing.
Buy 1 get 1 free - Gets more guest in the door.
Buy 2,3 etc. get one free - A cheaper version of buy 1 get 1 free
Discount on delivery - Increase orders from delivery
Discount off of whole meal - Popular with diners as it's simple to understand. A 20% is usually required to have significant impact on in house diners.
% Discount on selected items - Usually done with high margins dishes
Free or discounted item as part of a larger deal - Give away a cheaper item for free to sell higher margin items.
There are a number of options for building a loyalty program. Customers can build points through number of visits, amount spent or items purchased and offer a range of rewards for loyalty. Your choice will largely depend on your customer base. Millennials for instance prefer discount rewards.
Instead of running your own loyalty program consider signing up to a loyalty app which will let you tap into a new customer base beyond your existing client list.
Discounted fixed price and set menus
This tactic basically involves combining high margin items and with a few highly desirable items into a set menu and then discounting the entire menu. Understanding your margin is crucial to get this one right.
Discount menu items frequently ordered with something else
The classic example of this is free peanuts and beer but this could also work for other menu or drink items.
Promotions in Downtime
Change your menu pricing during downtimes, such as late afternoon, in an effort to generate business when the restaurant is naturally less busy.
Leverage website to generate bookings
Choose an online reservation system that provides you with a widget to take booking though your website. If your website receives a lot of traffic this is a must. Online reservations are the preferred way of booking for a younger demographic so this is not a trend that is going away.
Have a well-designed, mobile optimized website
Diners will make split second decisions about whether to eat at your restaurant based on your website. Therefore it's important your website is easy to navigate, gives enough information and is well presented.
Create your own blog
Blogging is one little used restaurant promotion idea, when done properly can generate buzz about your restaurant. When thinking about starting a blog the best advice is to ask yourself - "what would the customers who come to my restaurant find entertaining?"
Effectively managing Local SEO involves various online marketing techniques to make sure people in your area can find you via Google. With people searching for local places to eat thousands of times a day, local SEO is way of grabbing extra reservations from Google. Get a primer here.
React fast and capitalize on Twitter
Monitoring Twitter for publicity opportunities is one way of generating buzz. Here's an example from Morton's Steakhouse. For the cost of a steak, the restaurant received a large amount retweets and media coverage.
Like and share campaigns on Facebook
With organic reach almost non-existent on Facebook use 'like and share' promotions to increase awareness for your restaurant. Like and share campaigns revolve around giving something away if people like and share the post on Facebook.
Engage local food bloggers or Instagrammers
Invite bloggers or people with large Instagram followings to your restaurant in exchange for coverage or a review.
Local and offline promotion ideas
Visit local companies - introduce yourself and make them an offer. This is good one for lunch service and happy hours. Find local companies near your restaurant and visit them in person with an offer.
Highlight the quality of ingredients
Diners will often choose a restaurant they perceive to have a high food quality. As long as you do use high quality ingredients it's worth highlighting this across your communications - whether it be on social media, your website or directly on your menu.
Campaign to bring back a traditional dish
The preparation of many traditional dishes has changed over the years, much to the annoyance of diners. Make people happy and run a campaign that brings back a traditional dish. An example is a restaurant in the UK which ran a 'Campaign for traditional gravy' to get people excited about their restaurant again.
Guarantee speedy service
To improve lunch time traffic, give a money back guarantee for service within a suitable time frame.
Build a food truck
Whilst expensive, a food truck can be a way of getting your brand into places people don't usually see. On top of that if you run a successful truck you'll also have a second revenue stream.
Partner with delivery services
For many restaurants, even fine dining, delivery is becoming growing slice of their revenue. Technology has enabled the growth in delivery services and delivery is becoming essential for many restaurants.
Build email list
Building an email list is an essential marketing activity for restaurants. Using a restaurant reservation system that automatically builds your list from reservations is a must have tool for today's restaurants. Restaurants can also ask walk-ins for an email address when they arrive or use feedback forms with the cheque.
Send promo email newsletters
Use your email list to send promotional emails and newsletters to previous guests about upcoming events and promotions you have running.
Encourage reviews on restaurant aggregators
Online customer reviews can make all the difference in someone dining with you - especially for younger people. Keeping a high review rating is largely down to giving diners a consistently good service but you can also actively encourage people to leave reviews.
SMS discount to customers
SMS typically has a much higher open rate and any other digital communication method. Sending discounts or reminders at key times via SMS is a marketing channel worth exploring. However make sure to not to spam people.
Use landing pages for better engagement
A landing page is a page on your website about a single topic such as an event you have upcoming. Landing pages make it easier and clearer for potential customers to understand what you are offering, so usually do a better job of getting people through the door of your restaurant.
Facebook re-targeting ads
Facebook re-targeting ads allow you so show ads to people who have visited your website. They are one of the most effective ways of advertising and a restaurant promotion strategy not to be overlooked.
Geo targeted ads
Most people will only travel a finite distance to get your restaurant no matter how good it is. The big digital ad platforms have Geo targeting ability on the zip code or neighborhood level allowing you to have highly targeted campaigns.
Set-up your Google Business account
A Google Business account is an extremely important marketing tool for any restaurant because it allows you to be more visible in Google Search and also to take reservations and promote events. Find out more about Google Business for restaurants.