Restaurant Marketing Basics

Restaurant marketing in today’s world has been divided into two distinct areas, online and offline marketing. Online marketing leverages new technologies to digitally advertise your restaurant to the public. Online marketing has become a low-cost and increasingly effective method spread the word about your restaurant. Offline marketing, on the other hand, has its roots in more traditional forms of advertising, such as print and television. Offline marketing has proven to be effective, primarily through years of testing and refining the advertising process. A successful restaurant must successfully utilize both forms of marketing to reach as many potential customers as possible. Some examples of online and offline marketing are below:

Online Marketing

  • Business website
  • Google services
  • Social media
  • Mobile devices

Offline Marketing

  • Menu design
  • Newspaper, magazine, television
  • Business cards
  • Sponsorship

Online marketing consists of a variety of methods to reach a wide range of potential clients through the use of technology. The Internet has provided restaurants with the means of maintaining contact with people from a variety of locales and cultures. While this is still a fairly new area of advertising, the potential and effectiveness cannot be understated. Society has become increasingly knowledgeable in technology and this form of marketing has been taking advantage of that knowledge. Some of the more popular forms of online marketing are listed below:

  • Restaurant’s website – the face of the restaurant’s online presence
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) – making your website as visible to the public as possible
  • Google services – Google provides a wide range of services to facilitate business advertising
  • Social media – the rise of social media has provided new avenues to reach new and existing customers
  • YouTube – people love videos and so should you
  • Mobile devices – more people now use their phone to find information than a traditional desktop computer
  • Internet coupons – Groupon has made this a popular method of drawing in new customers
  • Email marketing – tried and true digital method of contacting customers

Online marketing starts and ends with a restaurant’s website. The website is the crux of online marketing as it provides a face for your restaurant. The website can provide customers a glimpse into your restaurant and persuade them to visit, sign up for deals, join a loyalty program, and a host of other ways to gather more business. Additionally, as the use of mobile devices such as phones and tablets has become increasingly popular, it is essential to ensure your website is optimized for these devices. Users should be able to easily view your website on all devices and maintain the same functionality as would be expected in the full-size version.

Although the website is integral in ensuring your online marketing success, it doesn’t do much good if no one can find it. This is where SEO enters the picture. SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it will rank as high in the search engines as possible. Statistics show that approximately 60% of all searchers click on the first result in the search engines. The percentages drop drastically as you go further down the results pages. If your restaurant isn’t on the first page when someone searches for somewhere to eat, chances are they won’t find your business. Website visibility combined with an appealing and inviting design are key components in ensuring that you can increase your customer base to its maximum potential.

In addition to utilizing a variety of online marketing methods, you should also be actively gathering customer information to support your marketing and business goals. Customer data is essential in targeting your products and message to reach your clientele in exactly the manner that best suits your business needs. Customer data such as demographics, purchasing patterns, behavior, names, email addresses, and phone numbers are invaluable in sustaining successful marketing efforts. One of the easiest and most effective methods of gathering this information is through the use of a restaurant loyalty rewards program. These kinds of programs interact with customers on multiple levels, including getting them to your website, allowing you to tailor deals to their liking, and promoting repeat customers. Ensuring you have the correct customer information available provides your restaurant a distinct advantage over all of your competitors.

The more traditional approach to marketing to customers is often referred to as offline marketing. Offline marketing consists of tried-and-true methods such as printed materials, events, and packaging. Methods such as these have been utilized in various ways over the years with successful results. As time goes on, these forms of reaching potential customers have been slowly dwindling due to the increasing popularity of online marketing. Some of the forms of common offline marketing tactics are listed below:

  • Menu design – possibly the most important aspect of all restaurant marketing tactics
  • Business cards – easily distributed, informational, and an excellent way to advertise
  • Leaflets – provides a personal touch while advertising events, deals, and specials
  • Newspapers, magazines, and television – best used in specific situations such as special events and deals (i.e. Red Lobster’s annual Lobsterfest)
  • Sponsorship – sponsoring the local sports team can have amazing benefits in notifying the local community of your restaurant’s presence in the area
  • Festivals – food festivals provide restaurants an excellent avenue to meet and greet potential guests
  • Packaging – the more visually appealing the packaging, the more likely customers will be inclined to enjoy the experience and pass on positive word of mouth
  • Guerilla marketing – useful in advertising in unique ways that can draw attention to your brand

Of all of the above offline marketing tactics for restaurants, menu design and presentation is often the most important, and often the most neglected. Similar to the website, the menu is the face of your restaurant to the customer. Customers interact with your menu more than any other single component of your restaurant. The menu should be appealing, well-designed, and easy to navigate. It should be available on your website in a similarly appealing manner and provide the necessary information to the customer so they can make an informed decision. Professional photos of some of your dishes at their most appetizing are always a hit on any menu!

Over the years, restaurant marketing has become increasingly complex and effective. Restaurant owners now have more accurate and up-to-date information available, which allows them to target specific audiences. While both forms of marketing have their place, it is up to the restaurant marketing team to determine the best way to use each aspect of the two marketing categories. The best marketing plans often involve a diversified communication plan that allows for maximum exposure and targeted advertisements.


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