F&B Business Management

Restaurant Marketing 101: How to Grow and Retain Your Customers

The restaurant industry is a notoriously competitive one. With so many restaurants to choose from, it can be hard to stand out and get people in the door. A restaurant’s main service is surely to serve food, but it can be more than that. Restaurants should offer customers an experience and entertainment, so the marketing of your restaurant should reflect that.

Restaurant marketing refers to the process of attracting new customers, increasing visibility in your market, and generating revenue. It’s the strategy behind how you engage and retain your customers across multiple channels, online and offline. To stay ahead of your competitors, here are some tips to form a solid marketing strategy for your restaurant:

  1. Focus on developing and maintaining your brand identity

Restaurant branding is an important aspect of your restaurant's success. It's the first impression that you make on your customers, and it's the last thing they remember when they leave.

The first thing to do is to focus on what makes your restaurant unique, rather than trying to copy others. You know your business best, so look at what sets it apart from other restaurants. What are the things that make it special? Is it the food? The location? The ambience? Find your voice, and create a unique brand identity and personality that resonates with your core audience. Imagine your brand as a person; how would your restaurant talk or interact with others? Would it be friendly and down-to-earth, or reserved and sophisticated?

Our second tip – consistency is one of the most critical aspects of successful restaurant branding. If you have decided on a concept, it’s important to keep it consistent across every offline and online assets you have, from your store design, business cards and flyers, social media, down to the napkins on the tables.  Additionally, if you’re considering advertising, keep it on par with your branding.

  1. Create a strong online and social media presence to connect with your customers directly

A modern marketing strategy is never complete without digital or online marketing, the same applies to restaurant marketing. For cafe and restaurants, social media is a great way to get in touch with people who are interested in what you have to offer. Create an account on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter where people can follow along with what’s happening at your restaurant from day-to-day! You can use these platforms to share photos from events at your restaurant, announce discounts or promotions and communicate with customers through private messages (if applicable). These initiatives allow you to interact with clients directly and build stronger relationships with them over time – which is essential if you want them to come back again!

To attract more audience, provide high-quality photos and videos in your social media posts and schedule to post them at least once or twice a week. Food photos usually gain a lot of traction but interests might differ depending on your target audience. The key is to test several content types, e.g. food pictures, human-centric photos or photos of your restaurant, and see which ones work best!

If you have a wide menu selection, you should study your sales data. Look at the best-selling items on your POS system and focus on them for promotion. At the end of the day, it’s easier to get people interested in what is proven to be popular. Marketing is not always about pushing new products, but also leveraging data and your customer’s interest to form longevity and sustainability.

Also check out this digital checklist for restaurants that we have compiled to kickstart your digital marketing plan! 

  1. Take advantage of local directories

A U.S survey found that nearly 80% diners do their research online before deciding to visit a restaurant. Local directories such as Google Maps, Zomato, or TripAdvisor are a great way to get the word out about your business by providing information about your location, hours, and contact information. These free listings are also an excellent source for search engine optimization (SEO). On top of that, these sites allow customers to share their experiences, which can help other potential customers decide where they want to eat out. You’re also able to respond directly to customer feedback and engage with them.

Make sure your restaurant is listed on Google My Business. This is the most important, because you’re setting yourself up for a prime search real estate – Google search. Be sure that all of your information is accurate, including hours of operation, address, phone number and website. You can even include a button for users to reserve their table right on Google, without them having to access another website. 

TripAdvisor is one of the most-visited sites on the internet for diners and travellers; make sure to claim your restaurant listing – it’s free! Restaurants with more (and better) online reviews are a strong encouragement for internet users to visit. Encourage your diners to leave their honest reviews, be it positive, neutral or negative. Responding to any kind of reviews positively can leave a good impression for existing and potential diners, too!

  1. Offer discounts at the right time and for the right purpose

Discounts are a powerful tool in the restaurant marketing arsenal. They can be used to drive traffic or get customers to try new menu items. The best way to use discounts is to offer them at the right time, to the right people and for the right purpose. Know your food cost and profit margins well, and offer discounts on items with higher margins so you don’t end up losing money.

However, restaurant owners should keep in mind that discounts are not sustainable and might potentially damage your business in the long run. If you want to encourage repeat visits, then you need to focus on customer loyalty programmes and special offers instead.

  1. Encourage repeat visits with loyalty programmes

A loyalty programme is a great way of encouraging repeat visits from your regulars. It will keep them coming back time after time, because they know that their loyalty will be rewarded with discounts or special promotions. 

​​It can be as simple as rewarding customers with a free drink or dessert for every 10 meals purchased, or it can be as complex as customising offers based on individual preferences and buying habits. You can also offer deals for VIP members, giving them access to exclusive offers on certain days or during certain seasons of the year. Some restaurants even go to the lengths of hosting an annual invite-only dinner for their loyal customers. 

Another great way of keeping your customers engaged is by treating your customers on their birthday. Of course, this would require you to consistently collect your customers’ data including name, contact information and birthdate so you can send them a birthday greeting a few days prior or in their birth month, along with a time-limited offer to dine at your restaurant. Such programmes create an impression of a tailored promotion and show that you care for your customers! A study even found that over 84% customers are more likely to stay with brands who make them feel special through these customer-centric approaches.

Restaurant marketing has changed dramatically over the years. Today's restaurateurs need to use different tactics in order to stand out from the crowd and attract repeat visits from customers. Above are just a few among many tricks you can use to grow and maintain your customer base, sustainably! The secret to a successful restaurant marketing can be summarised in only one word – consistency.