7 Restaurant Marketing Ideas To Bring In More Customers

The restaurant industry has experienced a lot of changes in the past decade. With the rise of gourmet food trucks and the practice of Instagramming your dinner, the best tips and tricks for marketing your restaurant are changing too.

In the age of UberEats and other online delivery platforms, it can seem like a challenge to draw customers out of their homes and to a seat at your table. But the industry is still on track to hit a record of $863 billion in sales the U.S. alone.

With that in mind, there’s plenty of room for growth in the restaurant business. We’ve put together this list of 7 great restaurant marketing ideas to help you use the latest tools to advertise your business and attract new customers.

Scratch-Off Postcard Example

Use Direct Mail Marketing

Despite the rise of social media, online marketing hasn’t replaced direct mail. Although the overall volume of mail in the U.S. has declined, direct mail marketing has a higher response rate than email and other online marketing strategies.

That’s partly because advances in technology make it easy to apply the latest digital strategies to the offline world. For example, targeted mailing lists can help you spread the word about your business to residents who recently moved to your neighborhood, saving you money by reaching the people most likely to try out a new restaurant.

Other strategies include Every Door Direct Mail®, which is used to saturate an entire neighborhood with news of your latest product or promotion, or trackable mailers that allow you to see which customers have redeemed a coupon or clicked a link.

The most effective direct mail techniques combine the best of the old and new. Whether you’re sending out copies of your latest menu, or a QR code that customers can scan to download a loyalty app, the team at Mail Shark can help you create the right direct mail marketing strategy based on your business needs and location.

Make A Social Media Plan

Unless your strategy involves being the only restaurant in your city not on Facebook, then it pays to have a good social media plan. If you don’t have the time to manage a Twitter or Instagram account yourself, hire an expert. Or, use a tool like Buffer to bulk schedule your social media posts for multiple platforms all in one place.

Social media is especially useful for promoting new menu items or daily specials. Mobile food trucks can let their customers know where they’ll be stationed for lunch hour, while bars and breweries can show off the current tap lists.

The great thing about social media is you may not even have to spend a dime on paid advertising. If your menu and decor are inventive enough, then your customers will be eager to share their own pictures on Instagram. Just leave them a friendly reminder of which hashtags to use to create the most visibility for your brand.

Instagram photo on mobile phone
Google listing on mobile phone

Customize Your Google Listing

Before you do anything else, head to Google Maps and add or claim the listing for your restaurant. This is usually the first place that customers will look for your business after hearing about you on social media or from direct mail advertising.

If you don’t show up on Google Maps, then you’ll miss out on customers searching for nearby restaurants or looking up reviews of your business. Google Maps may even be more important than Yelp when it comes to local brand visibility. Customers can leave reviews and post pictures directly to your listing.

Most importantly, make sure that your menu is easy to find on a mobile device. There’s nothing worse than visiting a restaurant’s Google listing and having to click through to their Facebook page or download a PDF file just to see their menu.

Put yourself in the shoes of a customer driving through town or a group of friends trying to decide on a lunch spot, and make it easy for them to browse your menu!

Engage With Online Reviews

No matter how hard you try to please everyone, you’re bound to get some reviews that don’t accurately reflect your business. Maybe one of your employees offended someone, or a customer was grumpy because you were out of their favorite ice cream flavor. Don’t stress out over every bad review, but be strategic about how you respond.

First, get in the habit of responding to good reviews, even if it’s a simple, “Thanks for the great review! We’re glad you enjoyed your experience and hope to see you again.” This shows that you’re engaged with your customers and care about keeping them.

When you do receive a negative review, think about it carefully before you reply. If the complaint is legitimate, offer an apology and a promise to do better next time. Let them know they can call you to discuss it further (to avoid airing it out online).

If the review is unfounded or appears to be from a troll, proceed with caution. If you reply aggressively and attack or dismiss the reviewer, then you risk appearing defensive and drawing more attention to it. Keep your reply short and don’t let it get to you.

Google review on mobile phone
Events screenshot on mobile phone

Advertise Using Local Media

Getting your name out through local media platforms is a surefire way to bring in more customers to your business. From sponsoring local festivals to donating branded items to raffles and other giveaways, there are plenty of ways to keep your brand visible all year, without having to spend lots of money on advertising.

Reach out to your local newspaper about upcoming promotions. For example, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, have themed weeks (Burger Week, Pizza Week, etc.) sponsored by the local weekly newspaper. Attract new customers to your restaurant by offering a one-time-only menu item at discounted prices for the occasion.

Or, offer coupons through local apps, such as Chinook Book, which distributes coupons for sustainable businesses in California, Oregon, Colorado, and more. Your restaurant can create single-use coupons that customers can redeem right on their smartphone. You’ll bring in new customers who are searching for local businesses on the app.

Use A Booking Service or Delivery App

Reservation and delivery apps are increasingly popular with consumers, but are they the right choice for your business? If your competitors are offering delivery through UberEats or bookings through OpenTable, you may feel pressure to join the bandwagon. Should you? The short answer is that it depends.

On Grubhub, for example, the price for a sponsored listing varies depending on where you are located and the number of other restaurants nearby. You could pay as much as 25 to 30 percent of each delivery, and you’ll miss out on other sales, such as drink and dessert orders made by dine-in customers.

If you stick to booking apps only, you’ll find that OpenTable charges from $.25 to $1.00 per person, depending on where they make a reservation.

So while these apps are likely to bring in new customers, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to make sure they’ll be good for your bottom line.

GrubHub listing on mobile phone
Birthday Mailer Example

Offer A Birthday Reward

Finally, don’t miss out on the chance to attract new customers by offering a discount or a free meal on their birthday. Since most people celebrate their birthday with friends and family, the offer will easily pay itself back even if just a few people come along.

To make sure that your customers have time to redeem their birthday reward, consider honoring it for the full week or month of their birthday, rather than just a single day.

In addition to the immediate business, you’ll get even more exposure from their social media posts and from lists of birthday freebies in your city. Make sure your free gift is unique and memorable in order to have the most impact on your brand.

How to Nail Your Direct Mail Marketing

The great thing about direct mail marketing is that you can incorporate some of the best ideas from each of these marketing strategies into your campaign. For example, you can send birthday mailers to local households to advertise your birthday rewards.

Or you can send a mailer with a QR code to direct people right to your website or your Google listing. With trackable links and phone numbers, you’ll quickly figure out which neighborhoods and households are most receptive to your campaigns.

From postcard magnets to menus and coupons, you have dozens of options to choose from when it comes to designing your direct mail campaign.

Here at Mail Shark, we create campaigns tailored to your specific industry, such as local restaurants and pizza shops. We’ll work with you to come up with the design and mailing strategy for your campaign from start to finish. Reach out to us today to get a quote or request free samples of our direct mail products!