23 Restaurant Marketing Tips for Owners

In an industry as competitive as Austin food and beverage, it’s essential to take steps to stay ahead of the curve and keep customers coming back. With the booming population, there is an increase in restaurant competition. There are small differences that separate each restaurant.

From implementing new menu items to keeping the restaurant clean, owners must maintain an operation that builds consumer confidence and loyalty. Here are 23 tips that build consumer confidence, loyalty and increase sales.

1) Respond to Every Review

Respond to every review, good or bad. Treat each online review as if the customer were in person. You should thank your customer by name for their positive review, and apologize for the negative reviews.

Responding to every review also shows you want to build relationships with your customers, and it fosters good will with potential customers. Reasonable customers know you’re going to make mistakes, and owning your mistakes will rarely be held against you.

Though you may not have the time to respond to every review, because running a restaurant can be all-consuming, this task should not be overlooked. Hiring a reliable company to manage your reputation will immediately pay dividends.

2) Claim All Digital Listings

Staying in control of your digital listings is key to managing your online reputation. Providing accurate information to your customers gives them quick access to pictures of your menu, operational hours and reviews without having to visit your website.

Listing sites also provide more opportunities for customers to locate your business, drive more traffic to your website and give you access to analytics.

3) Offer Discounts for Pickup

Paying fees to outside delivery companies that eat into your profits is a hard pill to swallow. Offering discounts for pick up will increase your profits. If Uber Eats charges you 30% for delivery, you should offer 15% off to the customer for pick up. You and the customer just saved 15%! It’s hard to beat the math on this one.

4) Limit Your Delivery Menu

Some items on your menu should not be available on delivery sites like GrubHub, Door Dash or Uber Eats. With high delivery costs from third-parties, it’s not cost-effective to offer an entire menu and can cost you in the long run with poor reviews.

Selecting items that offer high profit margins, hold heat longer or can be prepared in a shorter amount of time are the best options for delivery.

Note: Items that don’t reheat well can deliver a bad review, ultimately costing you more customers.

5) To-Go Menus for Everyone

To place your advertisement in the hands of a customer is marketing gold. Companies pay millions of dollars for their ads to reach customers. Your customer is literally at your table or counter, so every customer should receive a to-go menu to encourage to go orders, preferably through online ordering.

6) Be Consistent with Your Newsletter

Newsletters are hands-down the most effective tool you have to maintain a relationship with your customers. Newsletters are not only a cost-effective way to inform customers about upcoming deals and events, but they embed your brand and build trust. Your message will reach a receptive audience, encouraging their feedback and increasing sales. Create a schedule with your newsletter: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but be consistent with its delivery.

7) In-House Marketing

Incentivize your customers with in-house promotions using table tents, posters, banners and coasters. Include trackable methods like bar codes, QR codes and keywords for measurable results. You can also use in-house promotions to increase your per ticket average by upselling items that are not on the menu, or items included in a promotion.

8) Keep Your Restrooms Spotless

Keep your restrooms spotless. It matters. Clean restrooms can make or break your restaurant. If this is at the bottom of your list, then it’s time to reprioritize.

Sanitation affects your image and your bottom line. One post about your “dirty restroom” on social media from an unsatisfied customer could affect sales significantly.

Note: Nearly 3 in 10 customers say that they will not patronize a business with a dirty restroom.

9) Clean and Refill Condiments

Opening your restaurant with half empty or dirty containers isn’t the best way to start the day. Make it a part of your closing procedures to refill or replace your condiment containers. Wipe them down and ensure customers are not touching sticky containers. That’s a quick route to a bad review, and the loss of a customer.

10) Market What Separates Your Restaurant

Whether you’re a burger hut, diner or barbecue shack, you’re one of many. A customer needs to know why you’re different. Do you marinate your steaks overnight? Is your brisket slow-cooked over 12 hours? Customers want to know about your fresh ingredients, meticulous process of making sauces and the special spices that make your seasonings so amazing. So add what separates you to your marketing campaigns.

11) Photos of Your Menu

Perfectly plated, clear images of your menu are more likely to attract customers. Customers like to see the food they will order to evaluate quality and presentation. Use your photos and customer photos to promote your brand and entice potential customers to visit your restaurant. And while you’re at it, get a few photos of your restaurant. It will give customers a sense of what it’s like to dine-in before arriving, and they’ll be more inclined to visit.

12) Hire Professionals that Read Analytics

Data is everything. Google Analytics provides critical analytics, but it has little meaning if you can’t translate it into insightful data. Analytics help filter customers that visit your website, how often customers order and when they order. So you’ve got data, now how do you use it? Professionals will know how to dissect the data and implement strategies that engage current and potential customers. They will also let you know what promotions are working, what elements of your business are costing you the most money, and how to fix them.

13) Build Relationships

Growing your business involves networking, but it’s important to know which contacts are worth cultivating. Whether you are looking to gain new customers or cross-promote services, it’s important to connect with complimentary industry professionals.

  • If it fits your style of food, connect with wedding planners
  • Connect with venues that don’t offer a menu
  • Invite industry professionals to sample your menu once a month
  • Offer to sponsor an event with food or donate to a food bank

Make sure to follow up for more opportunities and exposure, and do not forget to market your good deeds.

14) Incentivize Customers for Social Media Shares

Capitalize on your customer’s base, not just your customer base. Instead of paying to advertise, incentivize your customers with discounts and offers. Allow them to become your brand ambassadors and ultimately drive sales to your business by exposing your food to their friends and family.

There’s a great app launching in 2020: picnhashtag.com. This app allows customers to find restaurants offering deals for social media shares. http://picnhashtag.com

15) Clean, Fast Website

A clean, fast website is the foundation of your online presence. It should be clean, fast and designed for online ordering.

It may be cool to have food pop up from the corner with flashing lights, but that slows down your website. Not to mention, it’s a distraction from the information your customer came to find. Speed is everything. Present the menu, a clear description with pricing, but most importantly, make it fast.

16) Invest in Online Ordering

Update your website with a fast and easy-to-use online ordering system. Fast, clean and mobile-friendly online ordering systems make it easier for customers to order from their mobile device or desktop. It also increases the chance of repeat business. Again, speed is everything.

17) Build Team Unity

It’s important to build team unity with your staff. Your restaurant will benefit significantly when employees are efficiently working together. 86% of employees and executives say workplace failures are a direct result of a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication. Through team building exercises, you can improve teamwork in your restaurant and teach employees to problem solve together. This will result in a lower turnover rate and better reviews.

18) Employee Presentation

Ensuring your staff maintains professional and clean uniforms can boost your brand image. Shirts, hats and aprons bearing your logo and company colors turn your staff into walking billboards. Statistics state that employee branded uniforms outperformed other advertising mediums as a marketing tool by margins of up to 9 to 1.

Uniforms can create a team atmosphere, improve productivity and lower turnover. Employee presentation projects a consistent image and lets customers know that you care about quality and service.

19) Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is an underrated variable in the restaurant industry. Your restaurant’s exterior is the beginning of a customer’s dining experience. Before someone walks through your doors, they will judge your restaurant by it’s exterior. 70% of first-time restaurant sales are based on curb appeal.

Add greenery, professional signage and maintain a clean exterior to improve your restaurant’s curb appeal.

20) Provide Children’s Activities

Making your restaurant kid friendly can increase traffic up to 25%. This doesn’t mean you have to build a playground or dedicate a space for children. By simply offering activity pages, you can engage children and improve a family’s dining experience. Children will also take coloring pages with them which brings your marketing material in their homes.

21) Install Digital Signage

Digital signage is a great investment that allows you to effectively communicate with customers. From updating menus to upselling items, digital signage attracts and engages customers. High definition graphics and video are proven to drive traffic from 80% of potential customers that view it, and affects nearly half of all customers’ purchase decisions. The experience will entice customers to return and will boost brand loyalty.

22) Pay Your Employees a Fair Wage

The American restaurant industry employs more than 10.7m people, and the average worker earns just $22,590 annually — more than 40% less than the national median wage.

Compensation affects employee recruitment and retention. To keep good employees, it’s important to pay them an acceptable, living wage. As of August 2019, restaurants that pay employees a minimum of $12.75 per hour experience 300% less turnover than those that pay under $12.75 per hour.

23) Encourage Reviews on Facebook & Google

Google and Facebook have become No. 1 and No. 2 for online reviews. Sites that focus primarily on reviews (including Yelp and TripAdvisor) are seeing less growth than Facebook and Google. As reviews become shorter and more positive, non-traditional platforms have become a preference for customers. In fact, 68% of consumers go to social networking sites to read product reviews.

We advise restaurants to encourage reviews on Facebook and Google instead of Yelp due to their surge in growth along with the flaws in Yelp’s algorithm. Far too often businesses (including our own) see reviews flagged as “Not Recommended”.