It’s no secret that people take to the internet to discover new restaurants, write reviews, browse menus and make reservations. Marketing your restaurant can sometimes be tricky in today’s digital world. You need creative restaurant marketing ideas to draw customers in and keep them coming back for more!
Before you can dive into marketing to your audience you need to define who they are! Are you marketing to millennials, the older generation, families with kids?
This step is crucial before you can begin marketing with your creative restaurant marketing ideas because without a clearly defined audience you can’t possibly build an advertising campaign. The more clearly you can define your target audience the easier it will be to create content, ads, and emails.
For example if you are a restaurant marketing to the millennial generation you would want to produce content that appeals to them and uses their lingo.
Chipotle ran an ad that targeted their millennial eaters who are always coming up with new ways to pronounce words. It’s humourous and gets the point across that no matter how you want to pronounce their brand name, their food is still delicious.
Using relatable jargon can help your brand align with your customers and increase your brand awareness. The next time someone is craving a burrito you can bet that this ad will be on their mind.
Creative Restaurant Marketing Ideas
- Create social media challenges or contests
Everyone loves winning free stuff and a social media contest is a fun way to promote your brand. Try a giveaway contest where you ask people to tag their favorite dining buddy!
This can help you gain more followers, boost your brand visibility, and get more customers to check out your business. If the winner has never dined with you before it will give them a chance to try your restaurant risk free.
- Understand how hashtags work
Hashtags are a great tool to have in your box of creative restaurant marketing ideas. Why are hashtags important for your restaurant? They can help build brand awareness, increase engagement, and get customers walking in your doors.
Building awareness for your brand is one of the keys to success. When potential customers see your logo or restaurant name you want their minds to immediately know:
- what your company stands for
- what type of food you serve
- where to find you
If your restaurant consistently uses a hashtag it will encourage your followers to use it as well. This increases engagement and builds a community of customers. Once your hashtag gains popularity you will begin to grow your customer base and get your online followers walking in your doors!
Black Sheep is a restaurant who uses popular hashtags in their area as well as their own branded hashtag. This increases the discoverability of their posts and helps them to gain more followers.
Pro Tip: Use niche hashtags combined with popular hashtags. If you only use popular hashtags your post will get lost in the mix. Use local hashtags so that your posts show up in your geographical area.
After all, you are more than likely targeting people who are nearby.
In addition to using niche hashtags, you will want to monitor the number of hashtags you use. Too many can be annoying and decrease engagement just as too few can be ineffective.
- User Generated Content
User generated content can make your life a whole lot easier! By using content that your followers post you can save time as well as money.
92% of people trust recommendations from other people over branded content. People don’t like salesy content from marketers. They trust their peers. So use content that average people post to promote your brand.
The best part about this is you can use their content for free! As a restaurant you will more than likely have tons of user generated content because people love to take and post photos of their food.
User generated content is typically an indicator of a trustworthy or reliable brand. If other people are promoting your brand this is basically like them giving you a great review!
Using content from your followers helps you as a brand connect with people on a human level and come across as authentic.
Let’s bring these first creative restaurant marketing ideas together.
In 2014, Starbucks wanted to create a new design for their limited edition coffee cup. But decided that instead of wasting time and money designing, they would turn to their loyal consumers to create one for them!
They asked users to submit photos of their cups with the hashtag #whitecupcontest. The winner would receive $300 as well as have their cup featured. Starbucks has combined a contest with user generated content and a hashtag.
The ultimate combination of creative restaurant marketing ideas!
- Focus on Local SEO
If you are only going to choose one of these creative restaurant marketing ideas for your business, you better make it this one! Local SEO for restaurants is crucial. If you are not showing up when potential customers search in their local area, you can’t expect to get much business.
Your goal should be to rank in your local pack also known as the top three Google map spots when users search a specific keyword like “best pizza.” These top three restaurants are going to receive the most traffic simply because they are the first results a user sees.
Creative restaurant marketing ideas might not be enough to get you ranking in local seo so here are some tips!
–Get good reviews. Reviews create trust with your potential customers. Encourage people to review your business on Yelp, Google, Facebook or whichever platforms you prefer. There will inevitably be bad reviews so make sure you are constantly monitoring comments and reviews so that you can respond to customers who may have had a bad experience at your restaurant.
As the saying goes, you can’t please everybody. So, it’s a good idea to set up a Google Alert for your business. This is so you’ll be notified immediately whenever someone mentions your name on the internet. And be sure to respond to these negative comments in a professional and friendly way.
–Google My Business and local listings. Your Google My Business shows customers when you are open, your address, contact information and even photos and reviews. Get your business into local listings. Claim it on Yelp, Foursquare and any other review site. This will increase your chances of appearing in local search.
–Be consistent. Just like it’s important to be consistent with your food and dining experience, you need to keep your restaurant name, phone number and address consistent across all platforms. This includes every social media platform and any listing where your restaurant appears. Even the slightest alteration can confuse customers or search engines.
–Update your website! Double check that every detail is correct on your site. This will keep both customers and search engines happy.
Search engines are constantly crawling websites to make sure that they are still active and relevant. If your site hasn’t been touched in years, this might give them a reason to give you a lower ranking in search.
As for your customers, updating your site to reflect your current menu and hours is so important! If a customer comes to your restaurant and it is closed because the hours on your website are incorrect, you have just lost a sale and possibly ruined someone’s day.
- Web design for restaurants
Having a top notch restaurant web design allows you to begin the dining experience before the customer even walks into your establishment. You can use your website to show diners the atmosphere, as well as your drinks and menu items.
You will want to make sure that your site is compatible with mobile devices as well! If someone is hungry the chances that they take the time to pull out their computer are slim. And they are likely already on the go and will use a smartphone to quickly find a restaurant.
- Boost posts or create sponsored ads
In addition to posting on social media you will need to create advertisements or pay to boost your posts.
Platforms like Facebook are “pay to play” sites. Some of your followers may see your post, but in order to spread the word about your business you need to have an advertising budget. When you pay to advertise your posts you can choose your target audience, location and more!
If you choose to boost a post this is simply paying to advertise a post that you already have on your Facebook or Instagram page that you think needs more traffic.
An advertisement is a post you create with the intention of generating leads, clicks, or conversions.
When you pay for boosted posts and ads you will have access to analytics that can help you grow your business even further.
Here are some creative restaurant marketing ideas to outshine your competitors on social media!
–Show off your menu with a video ad. Videos allow you to go more in depth than photos and can engage potential customers and make it easy for them to consume information.
–Use emerging technology. Target recently released an ad with a 360 degree image of their store. This allows their customers to interact with their ad, increasing engagement and making the ad experience fun!
–Have an app? Grow your mobile app user base with app install ads. This encourages users to download your app and use it next time they order.
Pro Tip: Social media advertising is the cheapest form of advertising out there! If you have ever spent money on a billboard, newspaper or magazine ad, your social media ad budget will be nothing compared to these old school forms of advertising.
If you’re worried about how much your ad budget should be, contact one of our social media advertising specialists today! They can help you decide on a budget that is right for your business.
Social media monitoring consists of checking your reviews on various platforms, checking comments and tagged posts. What are people saying about your restaurant on social media?
You as a restaurant owner or manager need to double check anything your restaurant is tagged in or any comments that are posted. This is important so that you can catch spam comments or correct posts that contain the wrong information.
If you don’t have time to monitor the many comments and posts from your followers, consider hiring a social media management company to do it for you!
- Loyalty Program
Having a loyalty program is a great way to increase your sales. One way to start customers in your loyalty program is to obtain customer emails.
You can easily do this through a website or, a landing page pop-up, or social media campaign. Loyalty programs encourage customers to keep coming back to get that free dessert or coupon.
Firebirds sends emails like this one to their customers on a regular basis. They use language like “inner circle” and “$10 off just for you” to make their subscribers feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Through their email campaigns they offer discounts and coupons to get customers in the door for dinner.
- Write A Blog
Blogging may seem like the last thing you want to do for your restaurant, but this can be a great way to share recipes, tips and tricks or to share the story of your restaurant. Not to mention it can help you get found online.
For example, you can tell people how to make your recipes at home implying that they can totally do it at home. But nothing beats your chefs making it in house.
You should also be blogging for your local clientele. Tell them about local events you participated in or other activities you have done in the community.
When people read your blog they are spending time on your website. Which tells search engines that your website is relevant and useful. Which leads to your restaurant ranking higher in search results.
- Use Pinterest to pin your food photos
Pinterest allows you to pin photos of your food that you can link to your website or social media platforms. Pins are constantly being pinned and repinned which creates an endless marketing cycle for your restaurant.
If you pin your best food photos (even if they aren’t recipes) they will most definitely get repinned. Make sure that your name and brand is attached to your pins. That way when people discover them, they know exactly where to go to enjoy your dishes!
- Email marketing for restaurants
Email marketing is an essential marketing tactic that all business, even restaurants, should be using!
First you need to build your list first. Consider a pop-up on your website or a landing page to collect customers emails.
You can even collect them in your restaurant but keep in mind that you will have to manually add them to your email API later.
Once you build up your list you can start crafting email campaigns as well as automated emails.
If you are thinking “What am I possibly going to send emails about?”, here are some creative restaurant marketing ideas that you can work into your email campaigns.
- Email customers your menu if it changes or send out the weekly specials
- Tell them about events you are having
- Make a customer appreciation day that’s exclusive for subscribers where they get a discount
- Share your restaurant’s story or history
Remember, not every email should be selling your restaurant. Provide your subscribers with quality content so that they will continue opening your emails and engaging with you.
- Work with influencers
It’s time to tap into your foodie market and get them to post photos of your food. Influencers are the people who already have a huge following that typically listen to their advice and suggestions.
Invite them to come try your restaurant and ask them to post photos or their thoughts about your food for their followers to see. If you can get a food influencer in your restaurant it can give you the upper hand on your competition.
Atladventurer is an account run by a blogger who works with different restaurants, trying different food and reviewing it for their followers. Their appetizing photos encourage their 50.6k followers to go try out the restaurants that they visit.
If you can get an influencer like this in to try your restaurant you can take advantage of this massive following and hopefully gain some loyal customers!
- Make your food “Insta worthy”
Many people, especially millennials go to restaurants just so they can photograph the food. If you post beautiful photos on your Instagram page you can draw in this target market.
Come up with something creative that other restaurants haven’t done yet. Have a signature meal or drink that stand out. Once you have this down, you will need to take an amazing photo of it.
Need some food photo tips?
–Stay sharp. When you post photos of your food they need to be clear, clean and sharp. A low quality photo lacks professionalism. Whereas a high quality photo will make your followers and potential customers want to eat at your restaurant.
This first photo is a low quality photo. There’s some glare on the plate and the photo is dim and contains some blur. The colors are not inviting and it looks sloppy.
This photo is high quality. It’s sharp, bright, clean and has a level of professionalism that the first photo does not.
–Post unique photos. Don’t post the same shot over and over again with different dishes. Mix it up with close ups, wide shots or photos of someone eating. The more diverse you can make your photos the better so you can keep people engaged and interested in your content.
–Get good lighting. You probably have windows in your restaurant that let in really nice light during the day. Figure out which ones work the best and take photos in front of them! You will be amazed at how this natural light can enhance your food photos.
–Post content from your followers. Has your restaurant ever been tagged in a great photo from one of your followers? You can repost it on your page! Just remember to give them credit. This makes other people want to come try your restaurant in hopes of getting their photos reposted too.
Pro Tip: Don’t just share photos of your food, make sure to show the dining atmosphere as well! This will draw your customers in and give them a taste of the vibe that you have created at your restaurant.
Now Put It All Together
One of the most important creative restaurant marketing ideas we can give you is to stay flexible! Sometimes tactics you use might not work. Don’t get stuck on one idea. If something isn’t working, change it. There are so many creative restaurant marketing ideas out there that you can utilize for your marketing campaigns.
What other creative restaurant marketing ideas can you come up with? Let us know in the comments!