My team at Double L Brands does a lot of restaurant marketing, and over the years we’ve seen hundreds of trends come and go. Some restaurant owners are too old school, some are too intrigued with new, tech-driven marketing options and some are just operational rock stars and don’t worry about new marketing. At the end of the day, they all know the margins they need to hit, and how many butts in seats they need to make payroll and hit goals.
I get it, and I know that many flashy marketing techniques are too expensive and there is often nobody with enough time to manage them. The 12 marketing tactics below are proven to increase revenue, create positive goodwill in the community, and build restaurant brands that can scale over time -- and they’re affordable and easy to execute.
Check out the ideas, and if you have questions on how to execute them, feel free to email me any questions and I'll see how I can help!
1. Direct mail.
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Don’t get caught-up in technology so much that you forget what works. Double L Brands recently ran a restaurant direct mail campaign through Mspark in Hutchinson, KS, that cost a little under $2,000, targeting new residents that have moved there in the past 90 days. Over the course of the month, people that brought in these coupons spent over $7,000 at the restaurant, pretty solid return.
2. Utilize Snapchat geofilters.
Take advantage of this Millennial-driven app. These filters are overlays on Snapchat photos/videos that can be branded to share where you are or what you're up to, available within a geofenced area of your restaurant. When people snap their #foodie photos or selfies, they can swipe to apply your branded filter -- subsequently introducing your brand to the 10 billion views per day on Snapchat stories. They are very affordable, but you'll need to hop on this train fast.
3. Delivery program.
There are plenty of delivery services you can work with, as long as your margins are high enough to take that 10 to 15 percent delivery fee. Alternatively, why not pay a passionate server (or maybe the personable bartender can do this during the day?) to visit local businesses on your behalf with a pre-packaged sales pitch and food drop-off?
4. Influencer marketing.
By tapping into local celebrities with large blogs and/or social media followings ("influencers"), restaurants can promote their business via this modern word of mouth marketing. Reach out to the top food bloggers in your city via email or social media and invite them in for a special menu item (on the house). Let them know you're interested in being featured on their blog or social sites if they enjoy everything. Have the owner or chef take care of them and explain the meal thoroughly, then send them on their way -- hopefully your food is up-to-par and you get a positive review to their thousands of local fans.
5. Apartment coupon drops.
All apartments want to offer their tenants more value. Drop off some coupons (coupons that make sense and don’t diminish your value, don’t just give away free stuff) and track the response to see what they spend with you, then either double down or cut this out of your marketing.
6. Social media strategy.
You can’t just post and expect people to come in because they saw an Instagram post, you actually have to treat social media as a sophisticated marketing medium. Create contests that encourage sharing, recognize guests online so they share, develop a Facebook ad strategy (promoting things like in “Special Events” tip #9). What about “#SelfieSunday”, where you have people post selfies, tag your restaurant, and then enter to win a discounted mid-week dinner?
7. Email marketing.
Email is still one of the top ways to communicate with customers and remain top of mind. Maintain a consistent email marketing strategy with a mixture of updates and email specials to keep people clicking and coming into the restaurant.
8. Text marketing.
Open rates on text messages are great, take advantage of it. Utilize a service like Fivestars to stay in touch with customers, provide rewards and get them back in the door.
9. Special events.
There are plenty of “special events” you can put on without breaking the bank or confusing your staff. These could be “Daddy / Daughter Nights” where dads bring in daughters for a special night, and the staff has someone that dresses as a Disney princess (offer a special dinner deal, too). You could also just celebrate your annual anniversary and make this a big deal. Then there are the “Wine Down Wednesday” deals with half-price wine, Taco Tuesday and other similar specials -- all of these can bring in incremental revenue if strategically structured (financially) and promoted well.
10. Radio partnerships.
Don’t just pay for radio spots, create a relationship with them. When it’s time for your anniversary celebration or another event, have them bring their van out, broadcast live, promote on air, launch a Facebook contest for you, and ultimately use all their assets to help you create buzz around the event.
11. Battle of the businesses.
Since you now have a delivery sales person, build out a contest with local companies. Something along the lines of “whoever brings in the most employees will get XYZ reward.”
12. Give back nights.
Host events where you give back 10 percent of profits (or just profits from people that mention the event) for local charities, events, schools, etc. When doing this, alert the local media to get more coverage and exposure -- nothing wrong with letting everyone know about the good things you’re doing.
That's a lot of marketing tactics to wrap your head around, don't try to do them all next week. You know your clientele better than I do, so choose two to three of those ideas that make sense, test and track them one at a time, and document the systems accordingly. If you do this right, you'll end up with a "marketing handbook" to work from moving forward or hand-off to managers or franchisees.