Restaurant Marketing Strategies


Keeping a steady stream of customers coming into your restaurant is no small feat. Even if you had a rush of traffic when you first opened, it's all too common to see that rush turn into a trickle as the buzz about a new dining experience dies off. Yet you have many options as a restaurant owner or manager to keep that buzz alive and draw in new foot traffic.

Today's restaurant marketing world has moved largely online, so using social media for your restaurant is essential if you want to stay competitive. You don't need a whole new degree in social media marketing just to put some of these restaurant marketing strategies to work.

1. Invite a Few Influencers

You should definitely set up as many social media profiles as you can handle updating, prioritizing Instagram for your restaurant. Why Instagram? It's home to the highest number of social media influencers. These influencers are personalities with large followings, and an appearance of your restaurant on their feed can expose you to thousands of new potential customers.

However, not all influencers offer equal benefits for marketing purposes. Look for an influencer that posts often about food but not exclusively. You don't want to be just one of the hundreds of restaurants in their feed, but you also don't want to be the only one!

An influencer who posts between 25% and 50% food-related content is the best fit so you know they have an audience interested in tasty foods. Stick to inviting just one or two individuals with at least 50,000 to 100,000 followers so you're not overwhelmed with social media personalities demanding free meals in exchange for a little exposure.

RELATED: How to Open a Successful Restaurant

2. Create an Interactive Discount Opportunity

Promotions and discounts are great, but they often go ignored by jaded social media users who are used to them. Create unique restaurant promotion ideas by making your discounts interactive. For example, try a scavenger hunt in which customers who take and share photos of three specific parts of the dining room earn a free appetizer.

Set up a standee outside of the restaurant with a related theme, such as a cowboy for a BBQ restaurant, and offer a discount for customers who take their picture with it. All of these interactive promotions generate valuable social media posts in exchange for the discount, and this organic advertising is usually far less expensive than paid ads and search placement.

3. Focus on Location-Based Advertising

When you do pay for advertising on a social media platform like Facebook, aim for the majority of your budget to go to location-based advertising. This is essential for capturing foot traffic that is already in your area and searching for a place to eat.

Sandwich boards and signage work well too, but they can't capture someone that's one street over like location-based ads can. Most of these advertising options work like this:

  • A potential customer enters a specific radius of space around your restaurant
  • The location services on their device notify the social media platform of their location
  • The platform looks for ads that match the location to serve to them
  • The customer checks their phone for a message from a friend or to find somewhere to eat and sees your ad, then notices you're just a short distance away
  • You get a new customer strolling in the door with little to no effort on your part.

4. Go Live Behind the Scenes

Video is one of the hottest restaurant marketing ideas and trends, but all too many businesses make boring content that no one really wants to watch. Restaurants have a leg up in this scenario because what's happening in the kitchen and behind the scenes is naturally pretty interesting to most diners.

Note: Finding a way to capture your unique restaurant ambiance is also sure to attract more customers.

To really take your video content to the next level, try a live stream of the kitchen. This could take place while you're open during a very slow period, but it's generally easier to shoot while you're preparing to open or on a day when you're closed. Bringing in the staff for a live video showing off fun cooking techniques, secrets of how your best dishes are made, or just the crew joking around and chatting can make diners feel like they're part of the team.

5. Create a Digital Ordering Portal

Finally, integrate your menu into your social media accounts even if you don't allow for online ordering or food delivery. Letting people explore your offerings before they arrive is a great way to get them excited about patronizing your business.

It's also immensely helpful to people with food allergies that need time to pick the right dish and prepare their requests for any special cooking instructions. You may be missing out on an entire section of potential customers just by sticking with old-fashioned paper menus.

Ready to learn the techniques you need to grow your restaurant business?

The Oregon Culinary Institute offers a comprehensive culinary arts program to set you on the right path towards opening your dream restaurant. Our restaurant management courses cover advanced restaurant marketing strategies to ensure your prepared to compete in the modern restaurant industry.

Learn more about our programs or contact us to get started.