A business vintage sign that says 'Come in We're Open' on Cafe / Restaurant window. Image of abstract blur restaurant with people. Restaurant with customer for background usage

Updated January 15, 2019

Nearly 80% of restaurants close-up shop within their first 5 years in business.

The surprising thing is that this usually has nothing to do with how good the food or décor is. The primary reason restaurants shut down is their location.  Obviously, if no one knows you’re there they won’t come in to eat, but it’s super pricey to be in a prime location.

How can you make sure people know where you are even if you don’t have the best location?

You could rent a giant inflatable whacky-balloon-guy or drop a ton of money on print advertising, but while these approaches might work they aren’t the way restaurants are drawing and retaining business in 2019. A better modern strategy is to invest in digital marketing.

Here are five of the best, newest, and tech-savvy restaurant marketing ideas.

These ideas can help to build your customer base for years to come.

Skip to the part that interests you most by clicking the links below:

  1. Use A Social Wi-Fi System
  2. Text Message Your Customers With Text Message Marketing
  3. Get Social With Social Media Marketing
  4. Encourage Customers To Contribute Content
  5. Focus On Your Neighbors

Or watch the video summary of the post here:

Awesome Restaurant Marketing Ideas For 2019

1. Use A Social Wi-Fi System

As a restaurant owner or manager your first thought about marketing probably has nothing to do with offering free wi-fi. However, offering free wi-fi to your customers is not only for their convenience.

Using a social wi-fi system instead of a typical wi-fi system allows you to gain valuable information about your customers. And, you’re not just gathering data; you’re also being granted other opportunities to market and communicate with your customers.

Most business owners don’t realize that some social wi-fi marketing systems are collecting information from all of their customers mobile devices even if customers don’t login to the free wi-fi.

You read that right, you get data from everyone who walks in the door even if they never reach for their devices.

Our social wi-fi system “sees” mobile devices so even if your visitors don’t login to your wifi, useful info is still collected. This data is then added to customer profiles which include information like the length of their stays, how often they visit your restaurant, etc.

So, while you’re working on other restaurant marketing ideas your social wi-fi system is collecting the data you need to blast out new offers. Think about how targeted and intelligent your marketing campaigns can be when you base them on curated data instead of just your gut instinct or assumptions.

IMPORTANT: For some businesses like coffee shops and book stores, any social wi-fi solution will work because customers frequently log-in to these systems as part of their visits. For restaurants, make sure you choose a system that collects quality data without requiring log-in.

Our system tracks data without log-in!  Interested in seeing what social wi-fi can do for your restaurant?  Schedule a 30 minute demo.

Grow Your Business With WiFi Marketing

2. Establish A Text Message Marketing Campaign

Text message marketing campaigns are one of the newest restaurant marketing ideas on the list.

Encourage your customers to sign up for text messages from your restaurant. They can sign up using a simple number, called a short code, and a keyword that is specific to your business.

When your customer sends the keyword to your short code they get an opt-in message that allows you to send them text messages anytime.

SPREAD THE WORD: You can post your keyword and short code on social media posts.  You can print business cards with the information and deliver these cards when guests are presented with their bills or you can put it on other printed promotions including newspaper ads and door hangers.

Text message marketing gives you access to your customer base when you are running a special promotion, having a special event, or if you just want to send out a coupon.

The best thing about text message marketing is that your customers don’t have to do anything other than subscribe to get your offers. They don’t have to click a link, open a browser, sign in to social media. The same as any other text message, your texts show up on your customers’ phones in their text message apps.

The obvious benefit to SMS messages is that customers see them right away. If your message is short enough they won’t even have to unlock their phones. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Interested in text message marketing for your restaurant? Click here to get a free trial with SlickText. We’ve worked with many text message platforms and we highly recommend theirs for ease-of-use and pricing.

3. Social Media Marketing

Building a social media following is hugely important in today’s marketplace. Restaurants especially, live or die by online reputation.

When we live in a world where a bad Yelp review can cause a restaurant to shut down you need to pay attention to your social audience.

Create and post regularly on a variety of platforms. (Use a social media dashboard to streamline the process.)

Photo focused socials are the best for restaurants because of foodie photographer trends. Take beautiful photos of your food and share them all over your Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Yelp. Everywhere.

Make sure to research and create profiles on every review network as well. You want to be featured all over the internet and have every opportunity for people to share how amazing your food is.

With beautiful photography, honest and awesome reviews … people will fall in love with your food before they even come in to try it.

A solid social media marketing strategy can also build up your brand’s voice and give potential customers an idea of who you are. You can make your brand identity shine in your posts, tweets, and pics.

4. Encourage Customer Curated Content

One of the best ways to gain a following online is to encourage your customers to share on social media.

Some restaurants might discourage patrons from using their phones during their visits, don’t get in this outdated way of thinking!

Post signs encouraging guests to take pictures of their food, your signature cocktail, of themselves in front of a silly statue on your bar.

Give guests shareable opportunities. Create a chalkboard wall in the entryway that has fun word bubbles. Offer rewards for the posts with the most shares.

Give your guests a hashtag to use in their posts that resonates with your brand; let them know which social networks your restaurant uses. Run a contest for everyone who shares a photo with your hashtag.

Your customers’ posts on Instagram and other social networks don’t cost you anything and help your restaurant get A LOT of exposure!

Make your customers feel extra special by sharing their posts on your profiles and offering them something special for their awesome contributions.

Encouraging the folks coming in to your location to further interact online with your brand is an easy way to get your restaurant more exposure. This approach also enhances the possibility of going viral which, of course, means tons more business for your restaurant.

5. Offer Discounts and Exclusive Deals For Your Neighbors

We have already talked about location being a big factor in restaurants closing. Most of the time it’s because no one knew you were there.

Chances are, if you have opened a restaurant, you’re in a commercial area. Therefore, there are probably businesses all around you. What does every business have in common? Employees.

What do employees do every day? Eat.

Blast your neighbors with flyers, coupons, offer special deals, you could even offer to deliver to nearby office buildings. Make it easy for the businesses around you to choose you for lunch or dinner.

Run different promotions for these local business people. Collect business cards and give away a free entrée each month to one lucky person. Offer buy one get one entrees if guests bring a friend or co-worker.

Even if you don’t want to offer a discount or something for free you can still reach these potential customers. Distributing your menus to every local business and placing them on cars in the area can also be super effective. It gets the word out and doesn’t cost you anything in product.

Your neighbors can quickly become your core customer base. They will talk to their co-workers, friends, and family. Pretty soon, you have people from all over the neighborhood coming in for a bite.

Another great way to build a local following is to participate in local events. Get a table at a local farmer’s market and sell some of your best dishes. Set up at a community fair and share your delicacies. Sponsor a local charity run or other charitable event.

Getting your name into the spotlight in the local area means you will have a more dedicated customer base year round.

BONUS CONTENT: Tried And True Marketing Tips For Your Restaurant

Many of the strategies mentioned above are newer methods, but some conventional methods are just as useful.  Here are some common marketing techniques that you shouldn’t overlook.

  • Restaurant discovery platforms – the first step: The very first step you should take is to get your establishment listed on every restaurant discovery platform possible. There are a number of sites and portals available. Zomato, Swiggy, Binge and OpenTable are a few of the most popular examples. And, the best thing about them is you can get listed for free or for a small charge.
  • A SEO campaign? Yes!  How many times have you searched for a place near you that provides a service you need?  A bank, a store, a plumber, etc.?  People search like this when they’re looking for new places to eat, too. The search query “Restaurants near me” is more popular than ever. Do not let your restaurant miss the opportunity to appear in search results whenever these searches take place. Implement a successful local SEO campaign and get your establishment listed in local search results.
  • Emails and newsletters are indispensable – Reach out to your customers by sending newsletters and emails from time to time. Ask your customers’ email addresses via the website, social media and even within your restaurant.  Keep a track of the visiting behavior of customers, send a note of thanks with a special discount to your recent visitors. And to the ones who have not visited you recently send a welcoming note, with message like “Missing your presence”, “Hope to see you soon”, and so on. Announce a certain special discount/offer for guests to persuade them to visit. Grant your guests some exclusive deals for subscribing to your email newsletter. Make it a point to send email newsletters on a consistent basis, but don’t overdo it.
  • Understand the power of online reviews – Ask your customers to review you during their visits. In your restaurant software module include a review form.  Offer visitors something in exchange for their feedback.  On the contrary, if a guest has posted something negative, take it seriously. Try to rectify the problem even if you aren’t aware of what took place until after they leave. Take the time to respond to negative reviews with a sincere tone and offer to make things right. 
  • Get a professionally designed website – A well designed website is one of the best assets you can utilize to attract customers, and it’s the basis for any effective online marketing campaign. Get a website that looks good, loads quickly and works on all types of devices including laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

Let’s Get The Marketing Started!

It’s a well known fact in the business world that opening and running a successful restaurant is one of the most difficult feats in business.  From managing inventory and abiding by health code regulations to handling personnel issues and avoiding liability problems – the restaurant business is tough.

Restaurant marketing doesn’t have to be difficult.  There are affordable common sense ways to get new customers and retain old ones.

Already open and seeing a dip in people coming in? Bring in some fresh ideas to build new customers.

Keeping an open mind and thinking about marketing in a new way can give you a fresh perspective. Maybe you haven’t tried a digital marketing approach like social wi-fi before. Maybe you didn’t realize you could use Instagram or Yelp to your advantage.

Making sure marketing is part of the overall business cost is very important to the success of any business. Being creative and current is key to a successful marketing strategy.

Feel like you’re too busy to tackle an entire marketing strategy? Need help knowing how and where to start?

Please contact us now to let us help you get started. We will be happy to get your social wi-fi connected, get a text message marketing campaign going for you, or help with your overall marketing strategy online.

We are excited to help you build a successful marketing strategy for your restaurant!

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Restaurants