There is no denying it: In order to succeed, restaurants need to a marketing plan. In order to get people through your doors, at your tables, and eating your food, you need to market your restaurant to the surrounding community to make people aware that you even exist and that your food is worth trying.
“One of the most competitive markets to be in is the food business. Because of this, how a restaurant markets itself can be the difference between success and failure,” AJ Agrawal explained in Forbes. “You might have the greatest-tasting food in the world, but if you’re not actively marketing your product in the correct way, you simply won’t make it in the food industry. Restaurants need to market themselves to be accessible and appealing to an ever-growing consumer base that prioritizes efficiency, creativity, and competitive pricing.”
The challenge with marketing a restaurant – particularly one that is small or just getting up and running – is that the budget is often tight. Luckily, there are ways to market your restaurant successfully without breaking the bank. For inspiration, take a look at these great ways to affordably market your restaurant.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media can be an excellent way to market your restaurant effectively without spending a fortune, especially if you focus on creating meaningful opportunities for engagement between your brand and your customers. Therefore, the focus of your social media activities should be driving engagement.
The good news is, even smaller restaurants can maintain high engagement ratios with their followers with hard work, creativity and commitment, and a focus on content that is hyper-relevant to their target audience. For example, Wingstop, a midsize chicken wing chain with about 650 locations throughout the southern U.S. outperforms major fast food chains like McDonald’s when it comes to social media engagement. The chain has about 1 million people following its social media accounts. Thanks to a commitment to producing compelling, share-worthy content, the brand is able to maintain an impressive 30 percent engagement ratio with fans, meaning that close to 350,000 of the brand’s followers engage with it on a regular basis. McDonald’s, by comparison, has millions more followers on its social media accounts but has a paltry 2 percent engagement ratio.
“Wingstop can activate a larger portion of its audience on social and capitalize on being locally recognized and community-oriented. For every 1,000 people in their audience, Wingstop gets more value from engaging their community members than a brand like McDonald’s, because they are able to focus more time on cultivating relationships,” Ekaterina Walter explained in Inc. “The brand knows its audience and local community —targeting sports fanatics and chicken lovers alike — and can create the memorable experiences with which fans will want to connect.”
The takeaway here is that social media can be an excellent place to market your restaurant affordably when done well, providing ample opportunities for engagement between your brand and your customers.
Ask for Reviews
Positive reviews from customers can work wonders in terms of driving business to your restaurant. The best part of this strategy? It’s not just affordable – it’s actually free! “Encourage your biggest fans to write online reviews on sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor,” Walter recommended. “With percent of consumers looking to social networking sites such as these for product research and 72 percent of consumers trusting these online reviews, these sites can be a great resource for your local business.”
Make Use of Apps
There are a lot of apps out there that can make your restaurant more visible and more accessible to customers, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use them. From delivery apps like Ubereats and Deliveroo that let people easily order takeout from you to reservations apps like Allset that let customers book a table, the easier you make it for customers to eat your restaurant’s food, the more they will do so.
“One restaurant that uses Allset, Les Clos, reported a 30 percent increase in their lunch orders and a 25 percent increase in sales. Just by including an innovative way to have a quick lunch,” Agrawal explained. “By essentially cutting out all wait times, restaurants can appeal to an entirely new crowd and bring in customers that just simply didn’t have the time for a sit down meal before.”
When used effectively, apps can help you increase your brand’s visibility and get more people ordering your food, which translates into an improved bottom line.
Leverage the Power of Free Stuff
One of the easiest ways to promote your restaurant and get people through your doors is by luring them there with the promise of something free. Whether it’s a gift certificate giveaway or coupons for a free entrée, leveraging the power of free stuff is one of the most powerful – and affordable – marketing strategies in any restaurant’s repertoire.
When it comes to giveaways, the possibilities are endless. Don’t feel obligated to stick to the standard coupons and promotional offers. While these certainly should be used and can be effective, it is also worth considering more creative and unique tactics – from running promotions on local radio stations to raffling off gift cards.
“Call local radio stations that reach the demographics of your target market and ask to speak to their promotions manager,” the experts at Entrepreneur suggest. “Offer to provide gift certificates or coupons to use as prizes for on-air contests and promotions. Your company name and location will probably be announced several times on the air during the contest, providing you with valuable free exposure and it’s always possible that the winner will become a paying customer.”
Remember, free stuff can go a long way in getting people into your restaurant, so it is best to use creativity when working to figure out what can be offered and how.
Cross-Promote with Other Local Businesses
Last but not least, when it comes to affordably marketing your restaurant, you may want to consider cross-promoting with other local businesses by forming marketing partnerships. Other businesses can be an excellent asset, helping you more effectively promote your own business. Just make sure that you chose your partner wisely. You want to make sure that the partnership benefits both businesses involved.
In conclusion, you shouldn’t let cost deter you from marketing your restaurant. You can – and should – do it affordably. From cultivating your presence on social media to offering free giveaways to working to cross-promote with other businesses, there are myriad ways to promote your restaurant without breaking the bank.