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Restaurant Marketing

We’ll take a look at simple and affordable tools for most establishments. The article will be useful for entrepreneurs new to the restaurant business, as well as for those who own restaurants for a long time but only promote their business offline.

Before promoting a restaurant online, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you want to get? What effect do you expect?
  2. How much does it cost and how will it pay off in the end?

Promotion costs money. Costs must be justified.

Restaurant marketing funny gif


A website is the face of your restaurant on the web. Before you begin online promotion, it is necessary to do some preparatory work on the website:

  • audit;
  • analytics systems setup;
  • conduct error correction;
  • create unique content.

The website is subject to technical, search, usability and marketing audits. Auditing requires specialized knowledge; therefore, it is better to attract professionals to conduct it.

The time frame and total cost of implementing the recommendations will become apparent after the audit. Then you can consider the tools to promote a restaurant online.

Establishing a presence on restaurant-related resources

You must be present online on all related resources. The traffic of these resources can be different, the listing can be for a fee, or free, but in any case, choose at least 30-40 websites. The amount of information posted will be different. Paid resources practice two payment schemes:

  • a paid promo package;
  • or take % from the check of the guests they bring to your place.

Do not forget that to effectively attract guests to your restaurant, employees of a paid resource must be trained and have all the relevant information about the restaurant. To do this, establish contact, be sure to send news about the restaurant to the mail and invite people to taste in the restaurant. Only a product-aware person can promote your place well.

Placing restaurants on Google maps

That is free and aims to promote companies and places among users who are looking for a suitable establishment nearby, using Google maps. You can fill in a full description and show reviews from many favorite resources.

Google AdWords promotion

These are advertisements that are shown on Google and on websites that host contextual advertising from Google. That is a paid service, requiring money and specialized training. You can use an agency to set it up, but if you lack a budget, you can do it yourself. You will have to spend time on training, but you will have an understanding sooner or later. Thus in the future, this task will take you much less time to complete.

Get SEO & PPC keywords for restaurant marketing

Sheet with 890 keywords & 52 negative keywords to keep your budget safe

It is not enough to pay and place an ad. You need to stand out, and you have 3 seconds for this (the average decision-making time of a visitor seeing an ad). You need to make an attractive commercial offer: come up with a promotion that will attract potential guests. That may be a good offer, event, or a unique feature.

Monitor your ad performance daily with Google Analytics. Prepare several ads (2-3 items), try each during the week, identify the most effective ones.

The time to reach the effect with Google AdWords depends on the specific task. If you need to draw maximum attention to a particular event with an exact date, it is advisable to promote for one month. If your restaurant has a unique summer terrace, it makes sense to encourage for all three summer months (depending on your climate). If you want to promote banquet services, the period of seasonal demand is the best.

Yet another funny gif on restaurant marketing

Word of mouth marketing

How to set up a restaurant right? How can you make people talk about your restaurant? No activities or guest stars are needed (which equals big budgets). Everything is much easier!

What kind of advertising is efficient for a restaurant?

In 2011, we opened a new restaurant. At one of the meetings, we argued about promotion and budgets. We split into two teams: one, led by our boss, insisted on investing in outdoor advertising (using billboards in the city). Second team offered to open the restaurant without advertising.

After heated debates, we decided to go with outdoor advertising (about $9000 for 2 months). I was in the second team and decided to take advantage of the situation to assess the effectiveness of such investments. Two months after the opening, each guest filled out a short form, which included the question: “How did you hear about our restaurant?”. The results of this study are still hanging in the office in a prominent place, as they fully illustrate the effectiveness of promotional activities in the restaurant business.

How did you hear about our restaurant?

“Friends advised it”, “colleagues told…”, “read reviews on the Internet” — this is all word of mouth marketing. And it generated 77% of the guest stream. Only one of 20 guests came to us after seeing a billboard.

If such measurements had not been made, we would have continued to invest in outdoor ads. Since then we have never paid for outdoor advertising and saved a lot of money.

– Sergey Itskov, the Zuma restaurants deputy general manager.

So, what is the secret of word of mouth? What guests can discuss? Give them that. You have no idea how plain and simple it is.

A small surprise or a compliment, or a little bonus makes guests ready to blow the trumpets all over the world. In times of social networking, it is elementary. You should always remember the concept of anticipating the expectations of guests. It is not enough to do something. This “something” must be amazing for a customer, evoking their emotions.

What makes guests talk?

  • Restaurant Name. The first thing that can quickly “boost” a new restaurant is the original name, which falls into your target audience category of interests and provokes them to broadcast your brand.
  • Names of food and drinks. One of my favorite topics! We have about 200 dishes on the menu, and each has its original name. According to my estimates, only five restaurateurs out of 100 follow this concept; the rest do not “bother” with the names in the menu. Why do you deliberately take away from guests a reason to discuss you?
  • Interesting elements of the interior. Perhaps the most advanced side of the word of mouth marketing today. In many ways, it is still the merit of designers, not restaurateurs. The presence of “catchy” decor pleases the eye and creates a wow-effect. Guests discuss unusual interior solutions. If you are opening a restaurant, be sure to keep this moment in mind.
  • Dish contents. The main thing is the marketing component. We added cactus in one of our salads. We just had fun — it’s unusual! I noticed that guests discuss cactus. That’s when I realized that we have to surprise guests. Now, among the ingredients, we periodically have frogs, shark fins and other animals. We give guests a reason to say: “Wow!”.
  • The appearance of dishes. Chinese dumplings in our restaurant were always not the hottest commodity. But we didn’t have the moral right to remove them from the menu. It’s like eliminating pasta from an Italian restaurant. Once we decided to paint them black and green, sales have increased dramatically, and guests began to post photos of multi-colored dumplings on social networks actively. Recently, we introduced black rice rolls, which have become very popular.
  • Big Serving. Big servings can almost seem as something supernatural for guests. Knowing this, you can start a great chain of talks and rumors. Opening my first Chinese restaurant, I knew this trick. We made one 600g dish and only increased the price by no more than 20%. We still profited, and guests were impressed and shared their experience with friends and people online.
  • Plates and accessories. Porcelain, glass, and appliances are essential elements in the restaurant business. Even a simple dish on a beautiful plate looks more attractive, expensive and elegant.
  • Serving the dish. When a meal is served and interestingly brought to the table, it is bound to stick in people’s memory. No need to serve each dish in such an interactive manner, like setting it on fire, but a couple of “animated” positions in the menu are pretty necessary.
  • Personnel uniform. How are your cooks, administrators, bartenders, managers, and waiters are dressed? We update the staff uniforms every year. Moreover, the chefs have several types of “uniforms.” We have a sushi bar and wok open, and we have particular requirements for the uniform of cooks at these stations.
  • Prices. Perhaps one of the most favorite topics to discuss. I recommend opening with rates lowered a bit. Visiting a new establishment is a little stress for guests, and it subconsciously perceived as a sort of risk. What kind of cuisine is here? Service? Is it worth the money? Maybe it’s better to go to your favorite and familiar restaurant? If you put prices below the market and keep the service and quality at a reasonable level, everyone will know about it right away. Later you can raise rates to a competitive level. But if guests have an opinion that the prices you have are unreasonably high, the situation cannot be rectified!
  • Restaurant Business Cards to empower relationships with vendors 🙂
  • The employees (the chef, the owner, the manager). The average customer still believes that if a foreigner works in a restaurant, it means there are tasty, quality dishes. For example, in our Asian concept, we bring chefs from Asia. We do this mainly for the sake of marketing. In practice, their cooking is quite specific and still has to be adapted. And their communication with colleagues is quite problematic. In general, there are very few professional benefits from “Legionnaires,” but guests say that foreigners work for your team, and this spread the word.

Restaurant marketing - Gorgon R. approves this listicle idea

Tune “contact points”

In marketing, there is a term – a point of contact. At points of contact, guests make critical business decisions for you: stay with you or switch to competitors.

I recommend that all restaurateurs immediately register contact points for their existing restaurants and for those that you only plan to open.

The points are described using a simple chart: in the first column you mark all the stages of the guest’s movement (entrance to the restaurant, hostess, wardrobe, table, toilets, etc.), and in the second you list all contact points: door handles, checks in the closet, serving, menu design…

This chart will become your “word of mouth.” A restaurant has about 150 contact points with a guest.

If you want to start word of mouth about your restaurant, every contact point should be fantastic! After all, a surprise is one of the strongest emotions that a guest remembers. It is necessary to predict and calculate the reaction of guests.

Thinking through the points of contact, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What can a guest tell you when they leave the restaurant?
  • Why will a guest have reason to share the experience with friends?
  • What can be done to make it easier for guests to talk about us?
  • Did you manage to impress a guest?

Determine what needs you satisfy

Philippe Kotler, the author of the Marketing Bible, taught that the idea of ​​needs and requirements is at the core of marketing. An obligation is a feeling of dissatisfaction, the lack of something. An obligation is a need that has taken a particular form depending on the characteristics of the individual, external circumstances and other factors.

Do you think that in a conceptual restaurant guests satisfy the need for food consumption? In most cases, no. People fulfill their food needs by buying groceries or visiting a corporate canteen.

An expensive restaurant catered for the need to demonstrate status. In other words, guests “buy status.” And in the creative club guests buy the atmosphere of communication. In the music club, guests generally pay not for food either, but for something else.

Therefore, it is vital to determine the specifics of your restaurant accurately. Then you will be able to correctly formulate and focus the concept of your establishment to transform the need into a specific requirement. So you will get a lively, independently developing Community of Loyal Guests.

Power if the “word of mouth” effect via modern loyalty systems

A modern person is a “connected person.” Facebook has over 900 million active users. A few years ago, word of mouth happened to a greater extent through personal contacts, meetings, and telephone conversations.

Today, the speed and “viral ratio” of personal recommendations have increased significantly due to social networks and the ability to leave a suggestion or “like,” literally without departing from the cash register or sitting at a table in a restaurant.

Now the technologies involve guests in the loyalty system, tech-solutions themselves gradually collect personal information (up to the photo), register, save and use electronic flyers and QR codes and do not spend all this valuable time on waiters, cashiers, and managers at rush hour.

Using a mobile phone, a guest can not only share his opinion about a restaurant by pressing just one button but also earn electronic money to pay for his future visits to the restaurant. Even if for some guests the bonuses are not the point to visit you, no one will refuse to receive a free cocktail as a gift.


Traditional loyalty systems (using magnetic plastic cards) aimed at increasing the frequency of visits. But only the frequency of visits of those who:

  • have come to you once and filled out a questionnaire and received a card.

It used to work. Today, when each of us has at least 30-40 different cards, it stops working. The reason is simple: we cannot carry so many cards all the time with us. And when after six months we decide to go to a restaurant that we liked once, of course, there is no club card with us. And what about those who refused to fill in the questionnaire? How often you take the time to fill in the survey? And what about those who never came to you?

New mobile social loyalty systems solve several issues at once. They do not require filling out paper forms and involve guests on their own, without the participation of staff.

According to our calculations, restaurants, starting to use modern technologies of mobile social marketing, increase their revenues by about 8-10 percent, spending just up to $100 a month to do so. At the same time, information about the restaurant, its events and promotions are distributed in the widest circles and reach the attention of those who had never suspected the existence of your restaurant.

That is how a new client will find you.

Common pitfalls & How to fix them

Restaurant marketing & common pitfalls funny gif

The leader of the hit parade of restaurant marketing mistakes is trying to advertise an establishment is the “We’re Open” banner. To me, as a consumer, such advertising does not give anything. Besides, this message often hangs on the facade of the establishment even during after-hours when it is closed. “So opened or not?”, — asks a guest, jerking the handle of the locked door.

The second common mistake is advertising your restaurant’s interior. Is that a restaurant or a furniture store? A restaurant is dead on a photo without guests.

And third is advertising messages like: “We have excellent cuisine, good service” and — get ready! — “Tastes like a home meal!”.

A restaurant is always a combination of a quality kitchen, quality service, and a high-quality interior. Together they form the foundation. That is a golden rule.

Before creating an advertising message, you need to ask yourself one question: what is unique about my restaurant and how is it different from others?

Yes, of course, against the backdrop of many amateurish projects, you have excellent service, excellent cuisine, but this is just a fundamental level.

In any restaurant, there is something unique. What about the building where your restaurant located? Where do you get ingredients? What song is your chef singing while cooking steaks?… Think.

A simple example: instead of “We’ve opened” we placed a banner “Beer – $2, toasts – $1”. In this embodiment, advertising gives the consumer the necessary information. A potential customer also gets a general idea about an establishment and type of cuisine/food/atmosphere.

Ads with information about dishes and prices are almost ideal. But still, it must bring emotions with itself or work in some other way to remember it.

Advertising should contain information, but do not overdo it. Everything is good in moderation.

After you, in your opinion, have created a layout for future advertising, you need to show it to the focus group. How? Show the plan to your friends, friends, colleagues, subordinates. At a bare minimum, you will understand whether you were able to achieve implied results. Having created an advertising message, let it “sit” for several days to be sure that it is complete once you review it later.

What are the right advertising media in our business? Billboards, but only locally, for example, to show the way to your place. The Internet: relevant resources, popular websites, social networks (as the most affordable way to promote).

I also want to mention “viral” videos. Do you have creative employees? Write a funny, but simple and not expensive script together. Shoot a video and post it on free resources and social media. Who knows, maybe it will be the best ad for your restaurant.

Is television not for restaurants? Of course not!

A couple of years ago, the attendance of one of my enterprises dropped terribly. Taking action was necessary. There was no budget for TV ads, and printed materials did not give a quick effect. The online vector was already working, but the results were not pleasing. So I asked one of my friends to call the editorial office of a public informational Internet resource and tell them the story I made up. “My name is so and so, I was in one trendy cafe, celebrating the sale of a car. Drank a bit too much alcohol and left a bag of cash,…”. My friend told the story with confidence and sincerity, — “Twenty-five thousand dollars…”. He then continues the story about how the loss crushed him and suddenly received a call: “Hello, this is a bartender from X cafe, you’ve left you money here Come, take your valuable package. It’s waiting for you.” My friend finished the story, “and now I want to thank an honest bartender from this cafe through your publication.”

An hour later, I spoke with a representative of a newspaper, a week later an article appeared, and a day later I was giving interviews. Three leading TV channels, an incredible number of radio stations, the Internet turned this story into a super popular one. And the costs were none.

Conclusion: if you do not have money for advertising in the media, create a reason for journalists to come to you.

Oddly enough, media workers live in a rather dull world. And when something unusual happens, they are happy to try to share this news with the world. Such methods are more likely to be included in the PR toolkit, but they can also be attributed to indirect advertising.

The task of advertising is to attract/entice the consumer, instead of listing the menu or showing a photo.

Undoubtedly many of you are wondering: Is advertising needed at all?

If you are in a place where a large number of people are concentrated (like Times Square), then — usually not, guests who visit you because you’re near, or because the bright sign caught their eye will be enough for you.

If your company is located in a not so crowded place and has just opened, then advertising is needed. I am not saying it is necessary. It may be easier to increase the flow gradually (long, but feasible). There are many ways to entice guests. Advertising makes a short-term effect. Every time you are offered to place an advertising message in the media, think about if you need to take this step. By the way, almost everyone can agree to barter cooperation. Cause you have the best food in town, right?

Social media

Restaurant marketing funny gif about social media

The objectives of the presence of a restaurant of any type in social media are:

  • to build a loyal audience,
  • and also get direct traffic to your establishment (both online and offline).

Food delivery services need SMM promotion. They need to use maximum channels to attract traffic to the website, where customers can make an order. At the same time, it is also effortless to evaluate the effectiveness of the SMM strategy with the help of various hashtags, keywords, or call tracking.

However, marketing activity in social networks is also useful for offline establishments. More and more users choose a restaurant after studying reviews about it and viewing the website (or a business page on FB instead). Assessing the effectiveness of social media as a channel of customer attraction for offline establishments is more difficult, but also possible.

You should use various promotional codes that are published only in social networks, or tell about promotions only on your pages. You can also determine which of the online channels is most effective.

Only establishments that have monopoly advantages can afford to refuse online presence today. However, a page on social networks with a loyal community will not be superfluous even for such a company. A loyal audience is ready to act as a brand ambassador.

Work with bloggers

It’s just as crucial of a direction as social network pages. The owner of restaurants under the Meat & Fish brand in Moscow told about the effectiveness of such work. As part of the experiment, he fed Instagram bloggers in exchange for posting. It lasted for two months, resulting in a 60% increase in restaurant revenue.

Organizing events specifically for bloggers is an excellent strategy to generate positive feedback about the restaurant or fighting negative feedback. At such circumstances, the restaurant can feed bloggers for free, talk about dishes and cuisine and ask them to leave honest reviews in return, whether they liked it or not.

However, it is necessary to use this resource with maximum responsibility. If the experience of visiting the restaurant will be entirely negative, you’ll get reviews, but not the best.

Online broadcasting

Video advertising has become increasingly prevalent online lately. However, the production of full-fledged video clips is still quite expensive for most players in the HoReCa segment. A convenient alternative to video production is the use of such relatively new video formats in social networks like Instagram Live, or Stories on Facebook, Instagram and now — even YouTube.

The trend for transparency also affects the catering industry. For example, allowing customers to see the live stream of their pizza cooking became one of the features of the Dodo Pizza chain.

One must be ready to work with the audience. In particular, when we published photos from the kitchen of a pizza spot on social networks, some users had questions: why does your pizza maker cook without gloves? In fact, by law, cooks have the right to cook pizza without gloves; it is more convenient to roll out the dough with their hands. Also, the pizza is cooked in the oven in any case, which means that it undergoes heat treatment.

Featured post: Top Restaurant Accounting Software

To sum it up on restaurant marketing

I believe that all digital marketing tools out there solve one specific thing in restaurant marketing – build awareness and cultivate a final decision to visit the place. Further on a customer either love it and become a regular goer and brand advocate or move on.