25 Restaurant Marketing Ideas: Tips & Strategies to Win in the Food Business

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The competition among restaurants is fierce, and you’ll need to give your all to be successful. We’re helping you out with 25 restaurant marketing ideas and strategies that promise to help you improve your business and get attention from growling stomachs everywhere!

restaurant promotion

1. Foodie Photos

If you’ve ever logged onto Instagram, you’ll understand that food porn is alive and well.

Arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, drool-inducing photos. Visual content is in high demand online these days, and having delicious looking photos on your website and across various social media outlets is essential for drawing hungry eyes.

restaurant marketing

Consider hiring a pro to take some top-notch photographs, or try it DIY style with your smartphone. Be warned though – taking really great food photos can be tougher than it looks, as lighting is often a key factor. Learn more about snapping your own A+ food photos in this Gizmodo article. Some nice advice in this Udemy post as well. We have more ideas to boost your business here

2. Loyalty Programs

Partnering up with online food apps should definitely be a consideration as part of your restaurant marketing plan. Partnering with online apps encourages visitors to check out your restaurant through gamification and customer loyalty programs, which offer visitors a free purchase or discount for visiting a certain number of times.

restaurant loyalty programs

Popular foodie apps that offer integrated loyalty programs include:

You could also kick it old school and hand out punch cards. They aren’t quite as cool as apps, but they still show that you value customers and appreciate their loyalty!

Need more ideas? Download our free guide for 69 Creative Marketing Ideas to Boost Your Business here! 

3. Yelp

Yelp has tremendous power in the restaurant industry, and having a strong backing of positive Yelp reviews is like having a flock of golden geese – reviews from Yelp can do wonders for your business. I’ve written an entire blog post devoted to helping you get more Yelp reviews, so peruse that at your leisure.

The most important thing to understand about Yelp is that people can and will review you, even if you don’t set up an account. For that reason, as a restaurant owner you should absolutely be proactive and dress up your Yelp account so it works for you, rather than against you.

This means adding as many details as possible, such as:

  • Photos, and lots of ‘em
  • Store hours
  • Location
  • Menu
  • Price Range
  • Wi-Fi/Outdoor Seating/Parking/etc.

Do your best to add as many details as Yelp will allow.

The other big thing to keep in mind when it comes to Yelp is how you handle feedback. It’s great to thank Yelpers for their review, whether positive or negative.

If you get negative feedback, always answer in a polite, professional manner. I have a whole section in my Complete Guide to Yelp post about how to handle negative reviews, but the nutshell version is to always play the gracious host.

If you’re responding to the negative review publically, thank the reviewer for the feedback, apologize for the incident, and promise to improve in the future. You may also want to consider contacting the reviewer privately for more information about any negative incidents. Some business owners offer to send gift cards to Yelpers who have had less than favorable experiences, hoping to get them back in the door for a second chance. I’ve seen this work in favor of many businesses, as reviewers are often flattered at the consideration shown and are more generous in their critique knowing the restaurant owner values their opinion and is working hard to improve.

4. Set Up Your Google+ Account

Setting up your restaurant’s Google+ account is as important (heck, maybe even more important) as setting up your Yelp account. Here’s why:

When you search a business within Google, Google’s Knowledge Graph provides the business’s details in the sidebar. Google’s Knowledge Graph gathers a large chunk of its info from Google+, so having your business set up on Google+ is a huge bonus, as having your restaurant appear via Google’s Knowledge Graph allows for more prime search real estate (for free)!

restaurant marketing tips

Also encourage visitors to review you on Google+, as Knowledge Graph loves to aggregate Google user reviews.

5. Geo-targeted Ads

For most restaurants, local is the name of the game. Most folks are looking for good eats close to home, and you’ll get the most value out of your online marketing efforts by investing primarily in geo-targeted ads. Geo-targeting ads help you save money, ensuring that only users in certain cities or within a specific radius see your ads (eliminating non-relevant clicks, which can cost you big ad bucks).

Many online advertising services, from Google AdWords to Facebook and Twitter, offer geo-targeting ad options (at no extra cost). Be sure to take advantage of these handy targeting features to get your best ads in front of your best customers.

6. Be an Insta-Ham

Having a strong Instagram presence is another semi-obvious (but too important to ignore) restaurant marketing tip. Use Instagram to promote your business’ best visual content.

restaurants on instagram

Show off your storefront, get up close with your top dishes, and use this social media main stage as a place to play around with your brand identity. For example, an all-natural health food store might try snapping pics of people kayaking, cooking, farming, or other activities you think your fan base will enjoy.

Also be sure to have some fun with hashtags – whether jumping on the hype of existing popular Twitter hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or inventing your own, hashtags are a great way to have some fun with fans.

Instagram is a no-brainer for those in the food business – learn even more about Instagram marketing here.

7. Send Out an Email Newsletter

Remember, your restaurant newsletter doesn’t have to be weekly – in fact, users will probably appreciate a less flooded inbox if you simply send them a newsletter every month or so.

Use your email newsletter as a chance to celebrate your success, discuss new menu items, or share special discounts. Need some email newsletter templates or layouts? No problem!

email templates

8. Promote User-Generated Content

User-generated content (lovingly dubbed UGC) is a great way to develop personal and intimate engagement with users. Host a photo contest by asking customers to share their favorite meal at your establishment, and share the entries on a dedicated content page (and/or share submissions across your various social networks). Consider awarding some random lucky contestants with a free appetizer or other prize!

Hosting and promoting user-generated content shows customers that you appreciate them, turning occasional visitors into die-hard devotees.

9. Show Off Your Staff

In an age of robotic customer service reps and soon to be self-driving cars, the human element is severely lacking. Show off your 5-star staff doing what they do best! Seeing happy, smiling employees does wonders for your reputation, as customers long to be served by joyful workers.

restaurant marketing strategy

Showing off your pleasant employees also provides major reputation points – happy workers say a lot about a business, and fans are sure to take notice.

10. Monitor Your Social Media Presence

Social media marketing strategies are an undeniable force in today’s world. Pamphlets and delivery menus slipped under doorways simply won’t cut it anymore.

Often, the restaurants with a strong social media presence as part of their restaurant marketing plan are the ones that fare the best, and in the competitive food industry, ignoring social media is a death sentence.

restaurant social media marketing

Of course you’ll want to create a Facebook business page and a Twitter account to share special discounts, exclusive coupons, photos of your newest dishes, and promote your own news accolades. But setting up your accounts is only half the job – it’s also essential you keep up with activity happening on your social sites.

There are many great free and paid social media management tools – a few popular free options include:

  • HootSuite: A one-stop dashboard for keeping tabs on all your social media networks. Create custom streams, schedule posts, and more.
  • Buffer: Buffer makes it easy to find, schedule, and share articles across your networks. Staying active and posting valuable articles (that your fan base will enjoy) is key for social success.

Also check out this list of easy Facebook marketing ideas for any type of business.

11. Share Positive Press

Another major restaurant marketing tip – when you’re mentioned in a news outlet or magazine, be sure to show off your good publicity on your website and via social media. Fans will spread the word, and newcomers will be encouraged to visit in person when they see trusted sources celebrating your restaurant.

12. Set Up Google Alerts

Google Alerts notify you when your business name (or other designated keyword term) appears in a new piece of content on the web! This makes it easy to keep tabs on who is talking about you and your accolades. (If Google Alerts aren’t working for you, try Mention, another web monitoring application.)

13. Start a Blog

Starting your own blog is a great way to build community and engage with your customers. Blogs offer the chance to experiment with your restaurant’s voice and personality. Share your successes and struggles, funny stories, recipes, and anything else you think might interest your customers.

restaurant blogging tips

A blog can be a huge project, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep your blog as simple or complex as you’d like. You don’t have to be constantly posting (quality over quantity), but it’s good to have your restaurant blog set up for when you have an announcement or news you want to get out to the world. If you’re serious about taking over the world, check out more blogging tips here.

14. Food Blogger Outreach

When you’re a new restaurant, you may find it difficult to generate reviews and hype about your business. One great way to get reviews and press on the web is to invite food bloggers to your restaurant to give you a try, and consider offering a free meal or appetizer to get them in the door. Politely ask if they’d be willing to review your restaurant and share their experience online.

You can’t outright ask for a positive review, as that would be dishonest, but it’s fine to simply ask them for an objective restaurant review. Some bloggers might decline your offer, but the more you ask, the better your chances are of getting some positive feedback and generating more interest online.

Some food bloggers have big followings, and getting their attention can have a huge influence on your restaurant. Even just one write up or mention from a major foodie can be a huge for restaurant promotion efforts. For more ideas, check out what we've come up with here

15. Verify Your Restaurant’s Online Details Are Accurate

Eaters love to do research online – in fact, 89% of consumers research a restaurant online prior to dining. This is why it’s of vital importance that all your restaurant details are online and up-to-date, including address, phone number, hours, your current menu, etc. The stronger and more accurate your online details are, the better.

16. Develop Your Restaurant’s Brand Identity

Building your restaurant’s brand identity can have a big affect on your social media performance. Your goal should be to build you restaurant’s identity around your target customers.

Does your food target patrons who prefer healthy eating? Or does your restaurant have a more beer-and-wings kind of vibe? Understand who your target patrons are, then build your brand around what they are interested in. Reflect these interests on your social media platforms and in your promotional material.

17. Time Those Tweets

Twitter can be a true treasure for restaurants, and timing your tweets can have a big influence on hungry stomachs. Try crafting and scheduling tweets at different times of the day to specifically target the breakfast, lunch, or dinner crowds (depending on your offerings).

restaurants twitter marketing

18. Have a Sleek, Functional Online Menu

Users love to do research online before ordering from or visiting your restaurant. Don’t make users scramble to find your menu – publish a high-quality, easy to read menu that is up to date and accurate. Not sure how? Some delivery sites like those mentioned below offer to publish your menu online for free. Open Menu is another great site that can help you get your menu looking sleek and stylish (it even offers some handy social integration, for both paid and free users).

restaurant marketing plan

Still, you’ll want to make sure to have your menu published on your website, since that’s often the #1 piece of information users are looking for when visiting your site (along with hours, location, and contact info).

If you don’t have a good menu online and available for customers, most of your other restaurant marketing strategies are basically useless! In this day and age customers need to have access to an online menu, otherwise they’ll simply look elsewhere.

19. Partner Up With Delivery Services

In today’s online-driven environment, ease of use is the name of the game. Many online delivery services streamline the ordering process, and internet-savvy patrons often love taking advantage of such delivery services.

marketing for restaurants

Consider partnering with services like:

  • Seamless
  • Eat24
  • Foodler
  • Delivery.com
  • GrubHub

Some customers may even discover you for the first time through services such as these!

20. Offer Coupons and Discounts

Providing coupons and discounts for your restaurant is always a surefire way to bring customers running. Offer a free dish to your new email newsletter subscribers (we can show you how to get more of those too).

restaurant deal marketing

Alternatively, you can try advertising a discount through Groupon or Living Social – if you go that route, you’ll get a TONS of exposure, but you’ll end up paying a hefty portion of sales to the deal website, so keep that in mind.

21. Online Reservation Tools

One fine dining restaurant marketing idea is to consider signing up for Open Table. Open Table is an online reservation tool that lets customers book reservations for your establishment online! Patrons love it when you make life a bit easier for them, and Open Table already has a base of loyal customers you can tap into.

22. Use Mobile Ads

It’s predicted that this year, half of all paid clicks on Google will come from mobile! Restaurants are one the best candidates for mobile ads, as users are often looking for nearby dining options while on the move. Mobile ads tend to be cheaper than desktop ads, and mobile boasts impressive conversion rates.

restaurant mobile ads

What’s really cool is that AdWords allows for all kinds of mobile customization and targeting options that let you get the most out of your bids. For example, you can increase your bids around dinnertime, when users are often looking for fast food on their mobile phones. Boosting your bids during the dinnertime period increases your chances for showing up for a specific query. This means you could be the first ad to show up for a “pizza” search when pie-hungry users are on the search for a slice. If you’re a restaurant marketer, don’t miss out on digging into a slice of the mobile ad pie (we’re talking deep dish).

23. Fish Bowl Business Card Giveaways

Let customers drop their business cards into a bowl for a raffle. The reward can vary – a lunch for the winner and 10 friends, a 2-hour happy hour with discounted drinks, whatever you feel like!

Not only are these raffles fun, but you can also make use of those business cards by emailing customers. Let them know that while they didn’t win this time, they can sign up for your newsletter to be notified of their next chance to enter, plus the opportunity to hear about discounts and other offers they’d enjoy. Then tadaa – you’ve got yourself a bunch of super valuable new newsletter subscribers!

24. Start a Food Truck

Starting a food truck isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s a tremendous endeavor and, depending on the kind of truck you want to buy, it can be very pricey. However, starting a food truck enables you to dish out your food to folks you might never normally come in contact with.

start a food truck

You can greatly extend your reach, build more press, and acquire new fans who might love you so much that they become patrons of your brick-and-mortar location as well!

25. Source Local Ingredients

Customers love to hear that they’re eating local, and sourcing local ingredients from nearby can do a lot to boost your fan base and give you a positive reputation in the community. If it’s not out of your budget, definitely consider this option!

restaurant marketing guide

That sums up our restaurant marketing and advertising ideas. Hopefully you can put these restaurant marketing tips to good use!

Do you have any restaurant marketing ideas that we didn’t mention in this post? Share your inspiration in the comments!

 

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Comments

Alain
Jan 14, 2015

Pretty amazing. I just got my first restaurant client, who I will be working on restaurant marketing with for their 3 month small business, this short guide was a great read and very helpful!

Elisa Gabbert
Jan 14, 2015

That's great, good luck Alain!

rebecca
Aug 14, 2015

I just got my second restaurant client. We used most of these tools and helped a franchise grow 5X faster than the other stores in the company. I hope we have the same level of success with this new client.

me
Jul 13, 2016

that's great news Alian!!!! hope you do well! whats it called? I used this for a school project I'm sure ill get good marks now!

Therm
Oct 06, 2016

How'd it turn out with the client?

John
Jan 14, 2015

we are working on promoting 7 restaurants and this is great advice. We hadn't thought about some of these ideas so thanks.

srirma
Aug 06, 2015

Hello John,

How are you doing. Nice to hear that you are helping 7 restaurants. We have just got a new restaurant onboard. The brand is a two year old brand but didn't do well due to lack of service. Now a new management has taken over it and we are trying to promote it. Can you share some of your experiences in this segment majorly focusing on online marketing

Thanks,
Sriram

Brandon
Jan 15, 2015

Great list! I think more quick-service restaurants should think about e-commercifying their website too. I don't just mean adding online ordering. I mean completely rethinking the design of their site so it converts to online orders or gift card sales.

Kathy
Jan 22, 2015

Wow. I don't own a restaurant but I learned so much about how to find good restaurants and what to look for once on a site. Very helpful and extensive list!

freeinstagramfollowers.org
Feb 27, 2015

Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
say that I've truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts.
In any case I'll be subscribing to your rss feed and
I am hoping you write once more soon!

Julien
Jan 27, 2015

Hi Megan,

we have just published a very extensive guide on restaurant marketing (6000 words), I thought you might appreciate it!:

http://www.lightspeedpos.com/restaurant/marketing-guide/index.php

Please let me know your thoughts,
Julien

Michelle
Jan 29, 2015

Love the helpful tips. It's nice to make changes you leaned from the expert. Thanks Megan!

Eloise Waldron
Jan 30, 2015

Thank you very much for this information. I’m a new who was hesitant on how to use marketing. This was really helpful, Thank you again!

Brandon Farrell
Apr 01, 2016

Hi Eloise,

Success in restaurant marketing really does come from doing a collection of little things, like the 25 that Meagan has listed, as opposed to just one.

Email (newsletter) marketing as Meagan has mentioned is one of the ones that rank higher in my opinion, as you can communicate with people directly, and most importantly, it's free!

I developed a strategy for use in my own restaurants to great success...trialling different things right down to time of day and font sizes tweaking it over the course of several years. You can pick it all up for free at hospitalitystrategies.global

Great article Meagan!

Cheers

Holly Machanic
Mar 20, 2015

Nice compilation of marketing tips, Megan. Very helpful for both new and established restaurants. Also, a mobile optimized site is essential since over 50% of all restaurant traffic is from mobile devices.

Joe
Mar 24, 2015

Instagram seems like a big must in the food world but should yelp be given so much premise? There are countless yelpers who have a god complex and threaten restaurants over the slightest thing, I really wonder if it should have such ‘power’ anymore?

rajat
Apr 09, 2015

Fabulous post thank you for share.

Nikki Baker
Apr 10, 2015

I've just been promoted from Graphic Designer to Design and Marketing Manager for an up and coming fast food diner which is due to open their new store this summer and I am re-evaluating and re-vamping their marketing strategies so this was very helpful in my plans; thank you :)

Catherine Marshall
May 05, 2015

A great place to start creating loyalty is in your own neighborhood and tip #5 about geo-targeting ads is awesome. I've often found myself trying to find offers in places near my house and I end up going to restaurants that have an offer available. Thanks for sharing!

Sisanda
May 08, 2015

Absolutely awesome advice, truly expanded my knowledge in restaurant marketing. Very much appreciated!

dunajec
Sep 02, 2015

Thank you, I've just been looking for information approximately this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I have came upon so far.
But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure
concerning the supply?

Ginny Menges
May 18, 2015

I found many of your ideas very good. I think Twitter is one of the most overlooked marking tool for restaurants. Many of them don't know about timing the tweets. They assume that they have to manually send the tweets out, and since the best time to send them is also their most busy, they just skip tweeting all together. I wanted to add a very inexpensive idea to your list, hotel channel guides.

Steve Masters
May 20, 2015

This is a comprehensive round-up of ideas. I really like the idea of showing off staff and encouraging them to get involved. They could be having fun sharing their life at work on social media and encouraging their friends and family to be liking and sharing, which extends your brand reach.

Obviously, that means you also need to take responsibility for educating staff about their responsibilities, commercial sense and the dangers of doing the wrong thing.

jason
May 20, 2015

So iam opening a restaurant soon, and iam torn with specials. Do you think you should run specials every night of the week or should you limit it to just the night you are slower? Why have specials on a Fri or Sat night when you are already going to be busy with full paying customers.

patricia
Jan 12, 2016

But there are customers like myself that have so many choices for Fri and Sat that by posting a special...you may have won my business. It may cost you a couple of dollars, but your server gets a great tip and you get an extra two patrons that could possibly be repeat customers...and since I also own my own restaurant, I can spread the word at my own place for when my customers go to a larger city shopping, where I would recommend they go. What goes around, comes around.

Alex
May 29, 2016

Hello Jason you should have special strictly on fri, sat and sun. you can acquire more customers that way, people often search for deals so why not have deals on the days that most people want to go out and eat.

Gustave Arnoux
May 27, 2015

Anyone considering starting or investing in a restaurant should be familiar with this information. It's important to know that many trends are going towards convenience and loyalty. As mentioned, there are various apps that illustrate this point. I agree that Yelp is very important to consider. Sometimes the technology side of a restaurant can be a full-time job for someone. Thanks for the article!

Dave Gonynor
Jun 29, 2015

Great post Megan. We've (That's Biz) been helping restaurants with their online marketing for several years. Our coupon system created for restaurants allows a restaurant to track ad conversions based on the coupon redemption. Since each coupon has a unique URL a restaurant can feature four additional coupon offers in every Google search ad using site link extensions. Coupons are all smartphone friendly. Naturally we use Wordstream to track the ad performance and conversions.

Roz
Jul 15, 2015

Really great article! All the points are relevant and up-to-date. I think the restaurant industry is an industry that is very dependent on keeping new and updated based on users wants and needs. You have to be able to constantly evolve and be better.

yen
Jul 24, 2015

thanks for such a great article! its really helpful for a person like me who is going to open a restaurant still struggling how to do marketing.

kawish
Aug 04, 2015

it is really a good site i really get a lot of help form this site you must try it once

great great great ideas
mind blowing,amazing!!!!!

Yvonne
Sep 07, 2015

These tips are great, I'm helping a local restaurant wit their outreach and marketing campaign and will definitely use some these tips.

lioa thanhnguyen
Sep 12, 2015

Thanks Megan! It's nice to make changes you leaned from the expert. I think Our coupon system created for restaurants allows a restaurant to track ad conversions based on the coupon redemption. I am opening a restaurant soon, and iam torn with specials.

Ethan
Oct 08, 2015

Very soon this web page will be famous among all blog people, due to it's
good posts

Dinar David MAll
Sep 15, 2015

i want to attend theese

Aimee Stanford
Oct 02, 2015

Thank you so much for this informative article Megan! Great tips, many that I have used in my years in SEO/SMM but never corralled so succinctly Many of these tips are applicable for other businesses as well.

As a Search Engine Analyst for years with an international company, I can not stress enough the importance of Google+! Although it is certainly not my favorite social platform, it seems to be the most relevant for search rankings with PAPPA GOOGLE! Nepotism lives on for rankings too! :-)

Also, I have found a new comer to the loyalty, geo-targeting market that use beacon technology. It's called www.beakn.com. My favorite part is it is opening up the #buylocal space for smaller restaurants and local business because it is affordable!

Happy Friday ya'll!

Rohan
Oct 27, 2015

Thank you sooo much for the support, much appreciated. :)

Elaine
Nov 01, 2015

Awesome! So helpful for a small business, and also for my assignment. Hope my plan will work!

Yousef
Dec 03, 2015

Very useful info, thank you! :)

Jim Simpson
Jan 03, 2016

Great article and list. I don't like that you didn't recommend a mobile web app with the menu and online ordering, though you did recommend the providers of some who charge substantive percentages of a sale (15%) for online.
Also, suggesting that all web assets include a "share" button that allows a customer to refer them to the user's networks (Facebook/Twitter). This asset, when employed properly by the restaurant can bring tens - even hundreds - of thousands of free, third party referrals, especially if they're incented with an offer to do so.
Other than than...love the list!

Ilias Gahlings
Jan 07, 2016

Great article with a lot of helpful tips. I think going local and getting more involved in your community is still one of the biggest opportunities for restaurant owners. Giving back and building long lasting relationships will not only increase repeat customers, but it will also improve your image in the community.

Saniya Arain
Jan 16, 2016

Incredible article, social media marketing strategies are an undeniable force in today's world. Consumers search a restaurant online prior to dining. This is why it's of vital importance that all your restaurant details are online and up-to-date, including address,phone number, current menu,etc.For such tasks in website & menu designing of a restaurant,visit http://bistroservices.com/

keith
Feb 17, 2016

This is by far one of the most helpful articles I've seen. I'm currently writing a paper for our feasibility study and our topic is our restaurant. I'll be keeping this site on a bookmark and whenever I feel unsure of our steps concerning our restaurant I'll be sure to go back to this list.

ibidunni
Feb 17, 2016

Great writeup and fantastic article on the marketing of a restaurant,i am convince with the whole tips and we are gonna start a project work on the tips ,thank you very much the wonderful education .cheers

Elizabeth Melson
Feb 19, 2016

Excellent article! We do 17 out of 25 of these and are working on implementing several others. These are effective strategies.

vjay
Feb 19, 2016

hi guys thank you for this wonderful post. i went through every steps thoroughly, some of the tools are amazing for the new business owners. thank you so much and keep on updating. i really appreciate that.cheers

Jess
Feb 21, 2016

A lot of great information. I'm currently working on a paper for my Business Information Systems course and our topic is the use of Information Technology in Restaurants and I was able to obtain a lot of helpful information here on the use of IT in Marketing of restaurants.

Zhenya Delate
Mar 01, 2016

Echoing sentiments of comments above - article extremely timely and helpful. Just started a new project with Mai Grille here in Waikoloa Beach Resort on Big Island. Love all the ideas, and especially the one recommending restaurants to source locally - thumbs up!!!

Chris
Mar 25, 2016

These are great ideas. To get even better results, Restaurants should consider combining these ideas with an event. What this does is help a restaurant standout while promising a unique experience on how.

conrad
Apr 22, 2016

Great stuff!!

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