How do you get more customers for your restaurant?
This is the most frequently asked questions for restaurant owners yet there is no straight answer. The main reason is different restaurants require different marketing tactics to work as there are many contributing factors to consider such as the restaurant's target customers, food, location and services. In short, there is no one size fits all marketing tactics for every restaurants.
Nevertheless, if you are curious what are the successful restaurant promotion tactics being used by successful restaurants? Here is a list of them.
Unique Selling Point (USP)
Create your unique selling po int for your restaurant. Be it be a signature dish or drink, a team of warm and friendly staff or unique dining ambience. This is to set you apart from other competitors which is difficult for others to copy.
Participate in International Competition
Encourage your chefs or waiting staff to participate in local or international cooking or serving competition. This exposes your restaurant and your team locally and internationally and help to create awareness and publicity.
If we say word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is one of the most powerful restaurant promotion strategy, no one would disagree. With social media platform like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, customers find it easy to share with their families and friends what they eat and drink online. It is also a good channel for restaurant to attract new attention especially when the online review on its food and services are well liked by its customers.
Mass distribution of flyer is one of the old school way of restaurant promotion but still an effective way of reaching wide group of customers especially during the opening of new restaurant. Add a special discount on the flyer will help to draw customers to restaurant even you are located in remote location. You can drop the flyer at the front door or mail box of your targeted customers’ area and flyer with QR code is a good way of tracking whether your marketing effort is successful or not.
Business Listing in Business Directories
A new restaurant who started without many customers may tap on the authority and reputation of online or local business directories such as Yellow Pages, Yelp, The Green Book or local niche directory such as HungerGoWhere, Open Rice and Occasion Cheers. These business directories enjoy good branding and have substantial marketing budget to drive traffic so you can utilize some of these strengths to benefit your business. Find a suitable local business directories and list your restaurant today.
Not many restaurants have tried email marketing as many either believe it will not work well or it takes up too much time. Email marketing can be an effective restaurant promotion tool because it is a great email tool to grow your own customers and collect their email address. If you have last minute promotion, you can mass email out immediately without struggling where to get new customers.
Facebook Business Page
Besides email marketing, a Facebook business page is one of the fastest way to update customers of the happening in a restaurant. A Facebook business page is free to set up so it is favored by many restaurants. In addition, Facebook is a good place for hang out so what you post on your Facebook page could be shared around quickly. If you wish to connect with your customers and offer timely updates and offers, it’s a good time to set up a Facebook business page today.
Get a Website
A Facebook business page is a good way to update and engage your customers but it has its limitation though. There is no guarantee that your Facebook page will be there forever, if Facebook decides to change their policy, your free Facebook page may be taken down any time. Therefore, in order to have a secure and reliable promotion platform, it is advisable to get a website. A website increase your online presence and allow your customer to search for your restaurant easily. You can publish all the important information like your restaurant menu, facility, location and operating hours so that your staff are free from answering the same questions. Customers today like to check out the restaurant menu before they decided to eat and if your website allow online reservation, this will help to automate some of the mundane tasks.
A nice looking loyalty card acts an incentive for customers to spend more and be entitled to special discount, offer or event like special food tasting session. The primary purpose of loyalty card is keep customers loyal so they can come back frequently for your special promotion.
Smart phone today make photography a breeze and customers are keen to upload theirs food and drinks to social media platform and share with the rest of the world. Therefore, you need to invest more time and effort in your food presentation as it will be paid off when everyone starts sharing and talking about it. It is a free advertising opportunity for your restaurant.
Partnership with Other Trades
A quick way to get customers is to partner with related business in your niche. For example, you could partner with floral and cake shops to drive customers to your place to celebrate special occasions such as birthday, anniversary or festive celebration. It will be a win-win scenario as you can refer some of your customers to them too.
Do restaurant need a business card? Yes, it is still a great direct marketing tool! Besides having a personal business card for the management personnel for business meeting, it’s is good to have a general business cards with the basic information like the location, operating hours and other services like catering. Give your customers some business cards so they can help to spread the word about your restaurant especially when they like your food and services. It’s also a good way to build relationship with them by officially introducing yourself or your staff. Customers will feel at ease and welcome when they know you or the staff personally.
To increase awareness and attract new customers, restaurant need to advertise regularly for awareness and visibility. Besides the traditional media of advertising, today many businesses have made use of social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram or Youtude to reach out to more customers. Facebook and Instagram are the favourite platform used by restaurants as customers like to share their food photo and comment on these platform.
Ask for Review
Ask your restaurant customers to give their review and take them seriously regardless it is good or bad reviews. The reason is people tend to believe those who have tried and experienced themselves so a positive review will influence their decision. You can ask customers to post their reviews on your food, service and ambience at your restaurant Facebook page; this helps to serve as a strong testimonial for your restaurant as well. At the same time, you should not be afraid of negative reviews as it is a good chance to re-establish your relationship with your customers and showcase of your ability to resolve any issues fast. Other potential customers also like to see restaurant who is sincere and values their customers.
Ask for Referrals
If you have happy customers, try asking them to refer their friends, co-workers and family members to your restaurant. Tell them you have a new menu coming up and encourage them to bring loved ones along. Give them a little treats such as a free wine, dessert or even discount for the referrals. Happy customers should be more than happy to help. Try it!
Give Discount to New Customers
To make your new customers to become your regular customers, you need to impress them with good food and attentive services during their first visit. Customers who enjoy their first visit will most likely to return with friends so give them a group coupon discount for their efforts.
Surprise Regular Customers
Your regular customers are your loyal customers so they should be valued more than anyone else. Surprise your regular customers with additional dishes, dessert or even provide them a free flow of drinks. Imagine the customer’s surprise when a big bowl of French fries or ultra-large cup of drink is presented to them. No one will reject such surprises!
Create a Customers’ Database
There should be a way to contact your customers if you have new menu or offerings. One of the best ways is to start collecting your customers’ name and email as early as possible and keep them in your database.
Use an email marketing system to help you to be organized if your mailing list size start to grow. A good email marketing system will automate the mundane tasks of mailing list subscription and un-subscription; allowing you more time to plan and prepare your promotion early.
Promote Good Causes
Doing business is not always about profit but you as a restaurant owner should care about your own community as well. If you can support good causes and play your part in the community, more people will know about your restaurant and support you.
Some good causes could be the following:
- Care for less privileged by inviting the poor and disabled people to your restaurant for a meal on special day.
- Employ people with disabilities or special needs and create opportunities for jobs. By doing so, you are helping them to be independent and confidence.
- Respect the elderly and appreciate their contribution by offering discount for their meal on specifc day of the week.
Invite Special Guests
Customers love to be entertained so occasionally invite special guests such as celebrity, comedian or singer for special occasions such as father’s day and mother’s day. Let them share with your customers their parents' favorite dishes and how they prepare and cook for their loved ones.
Organize Cooking Class
Some customers love your food and may want to replicate it at home so organize a special cooking class for them. Show them the recipe and streamline the steps to prepare their favourite food as certain process may be too tedious and complicated to do it at home.
Make good use of this opportunity to build good relationship with your customers and who know? They may become your ambassador for your restaurant.
Weekly or Monthly Promotion
To attract customers constantly return to your restaurant, you need to have special or new offering every week so they will not get tired with your menu. Plan your menu according to the availability of seasonal ingredients or based on occasions and trends.
Place your new menu either on your table or email the customers beforehand so that they can be informed early and place booking to avoid disappointment.
Restaurant Voucher & Gift Card
Offer restaurant voucher to your inactive customers to encourage return so they have another chance to try out your food.
However, if loyal customers like your food, offer them a gift card so they could purchase it as a gift to give to their family and friends. It is a great way to attract new and large crowd to your restaurant.
Birthday Rewards Program
Special deals on customer’s birthday. Besides offering them a complimentary slice of birthday cake and sing them a happy birthday song, give your customers a little surprise gift such as free parking coupon or transport card for limited times.
This is a functional gift and it helps to solve their annoying problem when finding parking space or spending time to travel to your restaurant. At the same time, try promoting to birthday boy or girl who can eat free with 3 paying adults as all birthday celebrants loves free treats on their birthdays.
Your loyal customers can be also your die-hard fans so reward them with special treatment such as giving them a VIP card or membership card to enjoy discount for your future events. They are also given special privilege when booking for their favorite tables with a good view or ordering a special menu. They will be always the exclusive group to be invited for trying your restaurant new menu or new branch opening.
Exclusive Invite to Special Events
Invite your VIP customers for an exclusive tasting session so they can taste the latest menu using fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish. Alternatively, you can organize talks such as introduction to premium ingredients or wine pairing with food. Customers will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the source of food they eat. It’ll be a win-win situation not only for your restaurant but for your trade partner as well.
One of the best ways to promote your restaurant is to organize a contest. With the help of social media platform such as Facebook and Twitter, it is now easier and quicker to organize a contest than in traditional media. You can ask the followers in your social media to give comment about your food, special local event or occasion. Whoever with the best comment will be picked as a winner with free food. If you are able to give away a handsome prize, your contest may go viral and attract a lot of attention and fans. It is an effective way to reach out to more people and gain exposure.
Business like Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafes are well known for creating their own merchandise for additional revenues. Starbucks has a series of collections of cups, mugs, tumblers and even brewing equipment so the customers can enjoy their coffee better. On the other hand, Hard Rock Cafes offers a wider range of merchandise ranging from T-Shirt for all ages to homewares including glassware, kitchenware and home accessories. This is one of a great restaurant promotion technique to create followers and revenue at the same time.
Create Complimentary Products
If your restaurant have great sauces, marinades and dressings that well love by your customers, consider bottle them, package and sell them. Your customers can now easily replicate their favourite dishes they dine at your restaurant and transform their “amateurish” dishes into restaurant standard dishes.
Survey Your Customer
In order to know how your customers feel about your restaurant food and services, you should do survey regularly and ask them for feedback. Knowing where and what to improve will help your business operation and customer satisfaction.
Follow the Trends
Sustainability is the main trends now and every restaurants is trying their best do their parts for the environment. Big brands like McDonald and KFC in Singapore already remove plastic cup and straw to reduce plastic use. Some catering companies are going green by using paper, Cornware or reusable cutleries. So if your restaurant can do your part to help the environment, your customers will be happy to support you too.
Not all the above restaurant promotion ideas work for every restaurant as each of you may limited by budget, time and resources. Nevertheless, you can pick the easier and affordable one to start with; one needs constant trial and error to see which restaurant promotion tactics work best. Be persistent as some restaurant promotion tactics will take time to implement before you could see the result.
If you have other ideas that are not mentioned above, you are welcome to share it in the comment box below.