Are you aware that 35% of small businesses aren’t around after ten years? If you’re hoping to beat the odds as a restaurant owner, there’s no time like the present to improve your game plan. With the right marketing strategy, you can reach new customers and share what you do best.

Keep reading to find a beginner’s guide to restaurant marketing!

Design a Robust Website 

When it comes to building a marketing plan, your first step needs to be creating a website. Think of this as your home base. A website is where you can provide essential information about your establishment, including its location and hours.

But a website can do much more than that. Post professional photographs that show off your menu items, for example. You even can add video content showing the interior space.

And consider creating digital infrastructure to allow online ordering. Yes, having guests in your restaurant is ideal. But online takeout ordering offers another revenue opportunity.

On your website, start a blog, too. You can create a blog page where you discuss the latest dishes or events you’ll be hosting. And you can offer recipe suggestions to diners.

Maintaining an active blog is a simple way to generate a loyal audience. Aim to post to your blog a few times each week. After all, a dormant blog won’t demonstrate engagement.

Embed links to other pages on your site and your social media pages. Assign your most talented writer to craft these posts or consider paying someone part-time to create them.

Most importantly, use search engine optimization (SEO) in your blog posts. SEO is where you use keywords in your writing that diners are likely to use to search for your restaurant online. By including these words in your post, you’ll help direct traffic to your website.

Create a Memorable Brand Identity 

Do you have a logo? If not, you’ll want to hire a skilled graphic designer to create one for you. The name of your restaurant should be featured. But you’ll also want to use a style and color scheme that reflects the tone of your restaurant.

An upscale steak house may want a minimalist logo with clean edges. But a playful 24-hour diner may prefer using script text and fun shapes in its logo design. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you put your logo on every type of marketing material you create.

Craft a mission statement that will resonate with diners and help distinguish yourself from the pack, too. You can place this on your menu. And use it on your website to introduce yourself to new diners.

Establish an Online Business Profile

Most hungry diners are going to look online to find their next meal. That’s why you need to visit Google and other search engines and make sure you’re easy to find.

A Google business profile ensures that your business will pop up online. An interested diner will be able to see the location of your restaurant. And they can get a snapshot of what your cuisine looks like, as well as your hours.

You can include common questions with answers in your profile to help customers understand what you serve. Include pictures of the interior as well as your menu items.

And you can set up links to your website and social media pages. A robust Google business profile will make your restaurant look established. This simple step is crucial to launching a successful marketing plan!

Be Active on Social Media

One of the best restaurant marketing ideas is to establish a strong social media presence. It’s not enough to just have a website. You’ll gain more traction if you create profiles on at least two social media sites — and feature your brand logo there.

It’s also not enough to create profiles and end it there. You’ll need to commit to posting text, links, and images regularly. Even better, make small videos a part of your marketing plan since consumers are more likely to watch them.

Try to post several times a week on your Facebook profile, for instance. Use images to attract attention and hashtags to encourage new viewers to check out your page. In addition, make a point of asking questions or posting contests.

You can engage with your audience and answer questions in the comments. A social media page also is a great place to advertise rewards programs or upcoming menu items. Keep your tone consistent from one post to the next, and respond to all questions in a timely manner.

Digitize Your Menu

To go another step, make your menu more accessible online. Diners may not want to take the time to click through links on your website. When they search for a restaurant, they want to know what it serves right away.

List a high-resolution image of your menu on sites that allow you to publish it. Think of this as a free component of your marketing strategy that can have significant reach.

Be sure to add your restaurant’s contact information and hours to the top of your menu, too. Add pictures to highlight some of your most popular menu items. On some sites, you may be able to pay for an upgrade that enables you to embed links within your menu, too.

Solicit Reviews

Nothing sells a restaurant quite like a winning review. Especially as a new restaurant, you’ll want to be proactive about nudging happy customers to leave reviews online. And the more positive reviews you amass, the better.

When people are searching for restaurants to try, they’ll be more likely to turn to one that’s been vetted. Offer coupons in exchange for reviews, and use your social media presence to encourage diners to leave reviews on search engines.

Additionally, it’s critical that you take the time to respond to reviews. Thank customers for leaving positive comments. To go a step further, mention a particular appetizer or entree you think they’d enjoy trying on a return trip.

Send Email Updates

Make email blasts a part of your marketing plan. You don’t want to be overly aggressive and annoy previous diners with a constant flurry of emails. But sending monthly updates can be effective.

Have a new dish you want to spotlight? Or perhaps you’ve just completed renovating a private dining area. These tidbits of news can help keep your restaurant top of mind with past customers.

Make sure you don’t overload your email with dense paragraphs of text. Use bullet points and headers to make the information digestible. And, of course, include your logo along with links to your website and social media pages.

Invest in Print Marketing

While maintaining an active digital presence is important, don’t forget about print marketing as a restaurant owner. Sometimes a well-designed ad on paper can attract interest from areas or demographics that social media can miss.

Maybe you’re hosting a special dinner or musical act on a Saturday night. Print out flyers that you can post in neighboring businesses. Or ask an employee to distribute flyers outside during high-traffic times.

Consider sending postcards to attract attention if you’re just opening your doors. You can use this opportunity to spotlight a discount during your first night or week of operation. Those who don’t like to use social media can learn about you through the direct channel of print marketing.

Print marketing doesn’t just have to be flyers and posters. You can use it effectively within your restaurant, too. Put table tents on your tables, for instance, to advertise the latest cocktails or upcoming social events at your place.

Connect with Your Community

As a restaurant owner, one of your best sources of support is your surrounding community. Avoid getting so focused on running your business that your neglect to interact with those around you. It’s always in your best interest to connect with other businesses, and it can help your community flourish, too.

If possible, join the local chamber of commerce. This is a great way to begin networking with neighboring businesses. You can participate in coordinated events or coupon programs to generate new business.

Meet with other local business owners to find ways to partner. For instance, perhaps your restaurant is next to a flower shop. You can display centerpieces on your tables from the flower shop while they display your business cards in their store.

Create a Rewards Program

Aside from serving great food, a rewards program is an effective way to win back repeat customers. And if you have people who are regularly giving you business, they’ll love feeling special — and enjoying a discount.

If you run a deli, use a simple device like a punch card. You can set this up to reward regular customers with a free deli sandwich after they have paid for ten, for instance. Other variations might include offering a free side or dessert.

You can take a similar marketing strategy with a high-end restaurant, too. You may want to reward customers after they’ve spent a particular dollar amount or offer a complimentary bottle of wine as a reward. Ask those who want to participate in a rewards program to sign up with their name and email address so you can track their business.

Do Giveaways

Rewards programs typically incentivize return business by providing freebies or discounts. These occur after a customer has provided a set amount of business.

But if you want to spice things up occasionally, offer some giveaways. With these, a customer need not be a longstanding regular. In other words, a well-advertised giveaway offer might get new customers in the door.

One approach to giveaways is the classic raffle. Set up a bowl and have customers fill out small cards with their contact information and then submit them. As the reward, offer an evening of free drinks, a free meal for two, or some other enticing option.

After a few days, draw the winning card or cards from the bowl. Notify the winners and publicize their names on a sign you place near the raffle bowl. Consider tempting diners by indicating when you’ll be doing the next raffle so they can stop by and enter.

Not only do you create interest in your restaurant by doing raffles, but you also collect valuable contact information. You can use the contact information to send occasional postcards advertising your restaurant. Or you can include email addresses on lists for your next email blast.

Try Paid Ads

If you have the budget to invest in paid ads, it could be worthwhile to do so. You can invest in ads on social media platforms like Facebook as well as search engines. And you can target the ads toward the demographics you imagine will be most interested in your restaurant.

You’ll want to set parameters on the location so those living within a particular geographic range will see the ads. This will help ensure that only the likeliest candidates will click on your ads.

Further, you can target younger individuals if you operate a modern kitchen that will appeal more to young professionals. Or set the age limits a bit higher if you’re running a family-friendly restaurant with menu options that will appeal to kids.

Set your ads to run during the dinner hour to get the most out of them. That way, when someone’s online at 5:00 in the evening, they’ll see a banner for your pizza place.

Improve Your Restaurant Marketing Plan

Restaurant marketing isn’t an easy task, but it can make the difference between failing and flourishing. Build a website and active social media presence to keep diners informed about your business. Use incentive programs and connect with local businesses to build your brand and earn loyal customers.

For more tips to keep your business running smoothly, check back soon for new articles.