Failure is not an option. You’ve put your heart and soul—and bank account—into building the restaurant of your dreams. But opening a new restaurant can be tough. In your first few months, it’s important to build a foundation for enduring success. Forget complicated gimmicks and angel investors. Learning how to market a new restaurant with a step-by-step strategy will put you on top. While many marketing strategies are designed to help well-established restaurants grow business, you need to know how to market a new restaurant. And you need to know now.
Here are ten marketing strategies you can use in your first ninety days—and the benefits you can expect to see for your business.
According to Entrepreneur, owners learning how to market a new restaurant should rely on word of mouth. It may sound easy but there’s still work involved. In the beginning, leverage your biggest supporters: friends and family. Call on them as your initial influencers. Ask them to share your social media posts, write reviews, and get the word out. Buzz (or the lack of it) can make or break your restaurant. It will take time to gain traction, but the people you know can get the ball rolling.
Your restaurant website tells the world who you are. You can’t afford for it to become an afterthought. While a successful restaurant website doesn’t need to be flashy, make sure you include accurate store hours, your street address, your menu, and a few photos. Let your love for this restaurant shine through, and customers will see it, too. A clean, easy-to-navigate website serves as a gateway for diners, and can expand to an online ordering platform down the road. Mastering your website is a bite-sized lesson in how to market a new restaurant, so get started now.
Less can be more when it comes to social media. There’s no need to master five different platforms at once when you’re learning how to promote a new restaurant. Pick the channel you feel most comfortable with and focus your attention there. Find your voice. Try out different personas to see which voice fits your restaurant and your customer base. Whether you’re a serious foodie or a playful brand, cultivate a voice that helps customers learn who you are and what your restaurant is all about. As a general rule of thumb, focus on gaining followers first. As you grow, think more about engagement and interacting with your fans online to build brand loyalty.
You need new customers when you’re starting out. So why not offer promotions just for new diners? Offer new customers a free appetizer with their meal. Or run a two-for-one lunch special when they bring a friend. It’s the first rule of thumb when learning how to promote a new restaurant: lure diners in with a deal; and, once they try your food, they’ll be back for more as paying customers.
When determining how to market a new restaurant, remember that your neighbors are the ones who can make your spot a local favorite. They’re the diners who come back for weekday lunches and stop in for a drink after work. So make sure they know who you are. First, create a list of local businesses within a few blocks of your restaurant. Then contact everyone on your list to see whether you can pass out flyers or coupons to their employees. Once you offer a promotional deal to get your neighbors in the door, your place might just take off as the next neighborhood hot spot.
One of the best ways to meet your neighbors is to throw an open house. Set up a night where they can come by to sample your best dishes. Pass out coupons to attendees. And, if you have the budget, offer each customer a glass of wine on the house. Once they’ve tried your food and seen your space, there’s no doubt they’ll be making a Saturday night reservation for that corner table.
The long-term success of your business may depend on the data you collect about your customers. This includes opt-in email lists, online reservation information, and anything collected by your POS system. Although new restaurants tend to serve fewer customers, you have a unique opportunity to determine what information you need to collect and what insights you hope to glean. With the data collected, you can offer a personalized experience to your customers, which will allow you to develop better brand loyalty, too. Why not test customer personalization strategies when you have time to experiment, and give your early adopters the love they deserve? It might take some trial and error, but experimenting is really how you learn to market a new restaurant successfully.
Loyalty programs aren’t just about offering discounts to your regulars. They’re also about building relationships and discovering how to market your new restaurant to your best customers. Creating a program through your POS is the easiest way to start, since all your data is stored in the same place. As your customers accrue points, invite them to members-only special events, offer them the ability to choose their table in advance, or guarantee them reservations during dinner rush. Your customers get value from the program—which means they’re more likely to tell their friends about your restaurant.
Pay close attention to other restaurants in your area. What are they doing online, on social media, and for in-house promotions? Is a certain restaurant always packed on a Saturday night? Find out why. When you’re learning how to promote a new restaurant, borrowing tactics from the competition is a tried and true strategy. Make any promotion your own, of course. But if a certain marketing strategy works for your competition, it might work for you, too.
How you market a new restaurant doesn’t always have to feel transactional. Sponsor your community. You can seek out sponsorships through schools, local civics organizations, or sports teams. If your name isn’t well known yet, sponsorships are a good way to advertise: just think of your restaurant name printed on T-shirts, signs, and fliers. Make sure you choose sponsorships that align with your business values, to further attract the right customers for you. There’s nothing like watching a kid in Little League round the bases with your restaurant’s name displayed on their back.
Are you looking for more ideas about how to market your restaurant?