- Restaurant Marketing Plan: Ideas & Strategies
Restaurant Marketing Plan: Ideas & Strategies
In the last section, we described how to use your website, social media, PR, and campaigns to promote your soft opening and your grand opening. In this section, we’ll show you how to create a restaurant marketing plan with ideas and strategies to keep up the momentum and promote your restaurant well after it opens its doors.
While restaurant marketing is a big topic, there are some general principles and mechanisms you can employ to focus your efforts on strategies that will yield results.
Depending on your budget, you’ll want to test a few of the restaurant marketing strategies we mention here and repeat them if they’re effective. Not all restaurant marketing ideas will be a slam dunk, but you’ll need to take some leaps to find out what does and doesn’t work for your concept, target market, and location.
You’ll walk away from this section with:
- The knowledge you need to write a restaurant marketing plan
- Restaurant marketing strategies for your website, social media, email, SMS, review sites, and more
- Traditional restaurant marketing strategies for direct mail, contests, and events
- A list of festivals and events for your restaurant
When you read through this section, have your business plan, budget, and priorities close at hand. Note which restaurant marketing strategies you think will resonate the most based on the research you’ve already done on your target market and concept.
How to Write a Restaurant Marketing Plan
So when it comes to drafting your restaurant marketing plan, there’s good news: you’ve sort of already done it with your business plan .
For your restaurant marketing plan, you’ll just need to pull together relevant pieces from your business plan in a way that will translate into a succinct, actionable restaurant marketing plan. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Solidify your brand.
Before you begin brainstorming marketing activities, revisit your brand’s mission statement, vision statement, value propositions, and positioning statement. These should already be in your business plan, but it’s important to revisit them with a restaurant marketing lens. Here’s a reminder of what these components should look like.
Mission statement: A mission statement is the reason your restaurant exists. Mission statements are usually one to three sentences and approximately 50 words. They should:
- Describe your restaurant’s value
- Inspire your customers, staff, and stakeholders
- Be plausible and realistic
- Be specific and to the point
Vision statement: Your vision statement should answer the question, “What does your restaurant hope to create in the future?” Make it inspirational and motivational. Announce your goals and how you intend to impact your customers and the restaurant industry in the future. Use the future tense.
Value propositions: In one sentence, describe the unique value your restaurant provides to customers. Feel free to break down this sentence further into three or four value propositions that are unique to your restaurant. You will use these statements to describe how your restaurant stands out from your competition.
Positioning statement: In one sentence, describe how you want competitors, customers, and the rest of the marketplace to perceive you.
Step 2: Remind yourself of your target audience.
Your target audience was defined based on the the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of your customer segments. All restaurant marketing strategies you develop should speak to one or more segment of your target market .
Run through the following questions for each customer segment:
- Do they communicate on social media or review sites?
- What do they do before choosing to dine at a restaurant?
- Do they prefer to dine in or take out?
- What kind of events do they enjoy?
- Are they influenced by coupons or discounts?
Feel free to add any concept-specific questions that address the behaviors of your customer segments. You’ll want to determine the motivations behind choosing one restaurant over another, so that you can properly speak to your target audiences in ways that will resonate with them.
Step 3: Perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors.
Refer back to the competitor analysis you completed based on How To Do A Restaurant Competitor Analysis . Choose your top three to five local competitors.
For each competitor, perform a SWOT analysis:
- Strengths: What are your competitors doing right? By understanding what your competitors are doing right, you can do it better.
- Weaknesses: What could the competitor do better? Learn from your competitors’ mistakes by identifying holes in their operations.
- Opportunities: How can you exploit your competitors’ weaknesses and do better?
- Threats: Do your competitors offer something unique that you can’t?
Check your competitors’ website for the most current promotions and campaigns. Log coupons or freebies, deals, and daily recurring specials. Note special events like live music, karaoke, games night, etc.
Visit your competitors’ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blog. Evaluate their follower numbers and content
Step 4: Define your market differentiators.
Repeat the SWOT process on your own restaurant, and define your market differentiator in a single statement. This statement should describe your advantage over the competition.
Examples of a unique selling point are: lower pricing, unique location, specialty dishes, more engaging service, the atmosphere at your restaurant, or the culture you’re creating.
You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.
Step 5: Craft your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is how you would describe your restaurant to a stranger in 60 seconds or less. It’s important to keep this in mind as you craft the messaging behind promotions later.
In your elevator pitch, state:
- Your restaurant’s name and concept
- The type of cuisine you offer
- What you do for your target audience
- How you do it uniquely
Example: The Burger Bank is a gourmet burger fast casual restaurant. Our burgers fuse traditional Americana with flavors from around the world. Located in the heart of New York’s financial district, Wall Street professionals choose us to satisfy their quick service needs, without sacrificing gourmet taste or breaking the bank.
Step 6: Define and prioritize your restaurant marketing objectives.
Your restaurant marketing priorities at the beginning of your restaurant’s life will change as you develop. In general, however, all restaurant marketing initiatives will serve at least one of these three purposes:
Your brand precedes you. It’s your reputation – and you want to have a good one. Your brand will be reflected in everything you do as a business, including your marketing materials, decor, etc. Promoting your brand is vital to capturing the attention of your target audience and sticking out in their memory when they’re deciding where to eat.
Example initiatives: social media, PR, events, blogs, partnerships
- Customer acquisition
This is your obvious objective: to fill seats, fill bellies, swipe credits cards, and collect cash. These are the marketing campaigns that will get customers in the door.
Example initiatives: promotions, coupons, advertisements
- Customer retention
Customer retention campaigns are the marketing efforts you use to secure return business. Customer retention strategies involve capturing customer information and mixing branding and acquisition strategies. Customer retention initiatives make sure you can easily lure customers back in with incentives.
Example initiatives: social media, email marketing, loyalty programs
Step 7: Choose your promotional strategies.
Based on your budget, target audience, and goals, choose a few of these strategies to implement first (see below for detailed descriptions of each):
Digital restaurant marketing strategies
- Website and SEO
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Email marketing
- SMS text messaging
- Review sites
- Loyalty programs
Traditional restaurant marketing strategies
- Direct mail
- Contests and giveaways
- Leagues and events
When you’ve chosen your strategies, define the following for each:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Quantifiable goal
- Campaign details
- How you’ll measure success
Digital Restaurant Marketing Strategies
Now that you know how to write a restaurant marketing plan, it’s time to start filling it in with restaurant marketing ideas and campaigns.
Digital restaurant marketing refers to all marketing initiatives that you perform online. Traditional restaurant marketing refers to all the marketing initiatives that involve hard copy promotional materials. There will be crossover between the two, and there will be times when you’ll execute traditional and digital marketing in isolation of one another. A well-rounded marketing strategy includes elements of both.
Here’s what you need to know about digital restaurant marketing strategies.
Restaurant Marketing: Website & SEO
In When to Start Promoting Your Restaurant , we explained the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and how to optimize your website for search engines.
To recap, SEO is the practice of optimizing your website for search engine results, particularly Google. Your goal is to rank the highest on search engine page results (SERPs) when people use search terms that are relevant to your restaurant’s concept, type of food, and location.
There are several ways you can develop your website so that it’s optimized for Google’s indexing algorithm. Here are some basic best practices when you’re thinking about SEO.
Content : Don’t plagiarize content because Google will know . Use original copy on your website that keeps people browsing. As you develop the content on your site after you open, post relevant videos, images, and links to reputable websites to improve your SEO ranking.
Keywords : Research keywords that are relevant to your restaurant. Use Google Keyword Planner to get started. Enter your city and the term “restaurant”, click on your product category, and browse the results. Once you’ve researched relevant keywords, use them (naturally) into your web copy.
Title tags : In the backend of your website, you’ll see a field for title tags. Title tags are what appear in Google search results, and they should be between 20 and 60 characters long. Be as straightforward as you can when using title tags. For your restaurant’s homepage, for example, use your restaurant’s name and your location for your title tag.
Meta descriptions:Your meta description is the brief description of text below the title tag displayed in search results. In your meta description, summarize your page in 150 characters or less. Use relevant keywords within your description.
Backlinks to your website : Note that when a “high authority” website links to your website, your SEO ranking improves. So if you can get media coverage, blog coverage, etc. from other websites that Google has already ranked highly, your website’s ranking will also improve.
Now that you know the basics of SEO, here are two common best practices to follow when building your website.
Responsive design: A website is “responsive” when its design adjusts for smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Responsive design allows users to comfortable view and navigate a webpage on any device, without compromising the page’s text or functions. Most website templates and providers now use responsive design tactics. When you’re choosing a template for your website, make sure it supports responsive design.
Your website as a hub: Your digital restaurant marketing efforts should drive traffic to your website, and your website should include links to all your digital promotional assets. Make sure you include the following assets on your website:
- A e-newsletter submission form to capture visitors’ email addresses
- Social media pages
- Take-out and delivery apps
- Reservation apps
Restaurant Marketing: Content
Content marketing uses blog posts, videos, images, and SEO to:
- Improve your search ranking
- Reinforce your brand
- Remind your followers you exist
- Establish your restaurant as an authority on your concept
Your main tool for a healthy content marketing strategy will be a blog. If you enjoy writing, have a great story to tell, or your concept is interesting enough to explore in a blog, content marketing may be a crucial part of your overall marketing strategy.
Here’s how to create and maintain a great restaurant blog.
Host your blog on your website : Hosting your blog on your website can increase your SEO ranking because you’re producing more material for search engines to crawl and generate links.
Build a content calendar : An ideal posting cadence is three times per week, but we understand this is a lofty goal for a busy restaurateur. The most important thing is to create a content calendar so you can plan content and stick to a regular schedule that you can manage.
Generate content that is easy to create : Here are some restaurant marketing ideas for content to get you started:
- New menu items
- List articles (ex. 8 Ways to Serve Beer-Roasted Chicken)
- How-to articles
- Interviews with your staff
- History of your cuisine
- Special events
- Customer profiles
Hack the news : If something in the news relates back to your restaurant, feel free to write about it in your own words. Since the topic is trending, news hacking has the potential to bring more traffic to your site.
Distribute the workload : Ask staff and your business partners to write guest blogs, and feature a variety of subject matter experts.
Use keywords : Produce content that people are search for in the first place. Use Google Keyword Planner to plan content, and use keywords in your blog post’s title, the opening line, and throughout the body of the post.
Proofread your content : Re-read your content (out loud helps). Check for spelling and grammatical errors.
Repurpose content : Make sure you’re featuring your blog content across multiple platforms. For example, if you created a video of your chef explaining how to braise beef, write a blog post about it and post a shorter version on social media.
Cross-promote : Share all blog posts social media pages, in your e-newsletter, etc.
Restaurant Marketing: Social Media
While there are multiple social media platforms you can sign up for, here we’ll focus on the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Use it for: maintaining customer relationships, announcing new items, promoting events and specials, customer service, marketing incentives, and attracting new customers.
Post a maximum of two times per day to avoid inundating your audience. Here are some ideas for content to post to Facebook:
- Special dishes and menus
- Promotions and coupons
- Job postings
- Event photos
- Partner content
- Media coverage
When you post something to Facebook, you’ve created an organic post. You should know that organic posts by businesses are not served up to followers as much as they were in the past. If you really want to increase reach and engagement on Facebook, you’ll need to pay for Facebook advertising.
Facebook advertising allows you to:
- Boost your posts
- Promote your whole page
- Advertise an offer
- Send people to your website
Here are some campaigns you can run on Facebook based on which goals you’re trying to meet.
Brand awareness: Showcase your Facebook ad to as many people as possible. Use an awareness campaign for content that teaches people about your brand or area of expertise. Use this type of campaign for foundational, high-level marketing pieces like a brand video.
Store visits: Focus on acquiring customers to your location. Facebook uses your location to target appropriate users.
Local awareness: Create brand awareness based on your location. If you’re creating high-level content that speaks to your neighborhood, for instance, you may want to use this campaign.
Website conversions: Get traffic to your website and encourage people to take an action. Use this campaign to promote subscriptions to your e-newsletter, event attendance, or promo sign up.
Clicks to website: Drive more traffic to your website through a content piece. Or use this campaign to direct users to a third-party review, for instance.
Event ads: If you’ve created an event through your page, promote the ad to users beyond your network.
Offer claim ads: Customize a call-to-action that sends users to a sign up form on your website where they can claim a discount code.
Form fill ads: Facebook enables you to create a form for users to fill out without making them leave Facebook. The user clicks the ad and is brought to a pop-up. They can then submit the form and redeem their offer, while you get the information they fill out.
Page likes: Get more users to like your page. This is especially useful if you’re regularly posting content to Facebook and want to generate more reach.
Post engagement: Showcase content to broader audiences by expanding the reach of single post. This ad serves the dual purpose of generating more activity (likes and comments) on your posts and exposing your page to new likes.
When you run a Facebook ad, you’ll need to create an “ad set” – a target audience – based on a set of criteria. Use the target audience you’ve identified in your marketing plan as a guide to creating your ad sets.
When creating ad sets, Facebook gives you the following criteria to filter:
- Location down to the street, neighborhood, city, and country level. Drop a pin, presumably your restaurant’s location, to determine the amount of Facebook users you’d like to target within that vicinity. You can target as close as a kilometer from your restaurant.
- Interests (competitor restaurants, cuisine type, menu items, etc.)
You can also exclude certain interest groups and narrow your search by including “must-have” interests.
Use it for: showcasing mouth-watering menu items, cross-promoting content, spreading awareness of your brand and culture, promoting contests and engagement.
Instagram is where restaurants shine, with mouth-watering pictures of food. Feel free to post at least once or twice a day to Instagram. Here are some ideas for content to post to Instagram:
- Images of food (professionally taken)
- Timelapses (plating meals, creating drinks, the front door on a busy night)
- Behind the scenes pictures
- Customer and partner profiles
- Snippets from blog posts
Here are some tips to posting high-quality Instagram content.
Post great photos: Use professionally curated images or ones that you’ve taken yourself under great lighting. Download an easy-to-use photo editing app to your phone, such as Snapseed , A Color Story , or VSCO .
Share more than food: Feature content about your customers and partners, share community news about your restaurant, and feature images of local entertainment that will be playing at your restaurant.
Always respond to comments: The more you engage with your audience, the more Instagram’s algorithms will believe your content is relevant. When Instagram perceives your content as relevant, your posts will appear in more feeds.
Engage with customers and partners: Don’t wait for them to comment on your posts. Stay top of mind by commenting on their posts first.
Use Instagram Stories: Instagram allows you to post 15-second videos and photos that are visible to audiences for 24 hours. Feel free to post non-professional, in-the-moment material.
Use unique hashtags: Create a hashtag based on the name of your restaurant, a contest, campaign, or promotion. Use the # sign and add the theme or campaign name. By creating a unique hashtag, you’re creating a conversation thread that tracks any post using that hashtag.
Use niche hashtags: Use hashtags that already exist. They might be geographical, industry related, or event driven. Niche hastags allow you to join in on a conversation so that potential customers can find you when they search the hashtag. Search #WingWednesday on Instagram to see how niche hashtags work.
Use geo-tags: Always geo-tag to your content by tagging the location of your restaurant or the city you’re in. Geo-tagged content has a better chance of being featured because Instagram indexes this information when suggesting promoting relevant content to their users.
Similar to Facebook, you can create ads on Instagram. Instagram advertising allows you to:
Create ads through Facebook: Facebook owns Instagram, therefore the platforms are linked. Create an Instagram ad at the same time as a Facebook ad. Do this to cross-promote a campaign and increase its impact on multiple social media platforms. Before you place the order for your Facebook ad through the Ad Manager, check off Instagram in the “Ad Preview” section.
Create Instagram Story ads: Using Facebook’s ad manager, upload one photo or a 15-second video. Facebook will serve your Instagram Story ad to relevant audiences in between stories. Note that you can only use 9×16 vertical images and video for Story Ads.
Promote a post quickly: Sponsor posts on-the-fly using the Instagram app. Simply click the “Promote” button and select an eligible post that you’ve already published. Then determine your audience, budget, and the ad duration.
Use it for: Promotions, moment-to-moment updates, customer relationships, and customer service
Post to Twitter as much as you’d like! But three or more times daily is a common standard.
Note that marketers have been questioning the value of Twitter. With that in mind, we suggest prioritizing other social media platforms over Twitter, especially as you’re starting out and you’re short on time.
Here are some best practices to posting to Twitter:
- Post links to blog posts, videos, events, and websites
- Engage by retweeting your partners
- Search hashtags to participate in conversations
- Limit hashtags to two hashtags per tweet
Restaurant Marketing: Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective way to:
- Deliver educational information and great stories to people who are interested in you
- Entice an engaged audience with promotions
- Promote special events
- Encourage customer loyalty
To get you started, here are a few email platforms you can use to create attracted and effective emails:
- Constant Contact
Here are some ideas for the types of content you can send via email.
Newsletter: Send a monthly newsletter with new menu items, special menus, and upcoming events. Include successful blog posts, videos, and any contests. Offer incentives to your email list to get return business, whether that’s a coupon or a promo code.
Dedicated email blasts: Send a dedicated, follow-up email to the emails you collected during a contest or event. Do this within a week of receiving their email. Capture their attention – and hopefully their business – while the event or contest is still fresh in their mind.
Here are some best practices for email marketing.
Build up your email database.
- Run contests that require entrants to submit an email address.
- Include an email address submission form on your website.
- Provide an e-newsletter sign up sheet at all events.
Follow your country’s opt-in requirements.
American Anti-SPAM Law (CAN-SPAM)
You can send promotional emails, but you must include the ability to opt-out of communications.
Emails must clearly identify your restaurant as the sender. Emails must contain an unsubscribe link and your postal address.
Canadian Anti-SPAM law (CASL)
Recipients must opt-in to email communications and give express consent before you can send promotional emails to them. You must maintain a record of consented addresses. Consent is implied when the email contact has purchased a product, service, or made another business deal, contract, or membership with your organization in the last 24 months. Emails must clearly identify your restaurant as the sender. They must contain contain an unsubscribe link, postal address, and your contact information.
Know your ideal email frequency.
- Send an email once a month at minimum and once a week at maximum.
- A monthly newsletter is a great way to share your most valuable content. If you oversend content or sent pointless content, you’ll risk losing the attention of your recipients.
Measure your success.
- Open rate: the percentage of recipients who opened the email based on the total number of emails sent
- Clickthrough rate: the percentage of people who clicked on a link in the email
- Soft bounce: The number of recipients who did not receive the email due to an out-of-office or full inbox
- Hard bounce: The number of recipients who did not receive the email because their email no longer exists or there is an error in the address
- Unsubscribe rate: The percentage of recipients who unsubscribed from your email list after they received the email
According to MailChimp’s Email Marketing Benchmarks , here are the average numbers for the restaurant industry.
Restaurant Marketing:Text Messaging
SMS/MMS text message marketing sends a text directly to someone’s phone. Text message marketing has a higher open rate than emails, but note that the practice is still new and may feel invasive to some people.
Here are some providers you can look to if you’re considering SMS text message marketing.
- AT&T’s Mobile Marketing
Here are some ideas for content you can send via SMS:
- Offers and promotions
- Waitlist notifications with opt-in asks
Here are some SMS marketing best practices.
Keep it short: Text messages are limited to 160 characters. Keep your text short.
Include a clear call-to-action: Tell customers exactly what you want them to do, whether that’s to redeem an offer code or visit your website.
Identify your restaurant: Recipients are easily put off by a text from an unknown number. Make it clear that the text is coming from your restaurant.
Opt-in messages: Both U.S. and Canadian companies need to obtain permission to send marketing messages. You can do so with an initial text message or a web-based form-fill. It’s also a best practice to set expectations by telling contacts the type of material you intend to send them and the frequency.
Opt-out messages: Notify the recipient of the ways they can opt-out of communications. It’s better to have a contact opt-out before they start receiving messages, rather than send materials that could provoke a negative response toward your brand.
Restaurant Marketing: Review Sites
You may think of review sites as a place to manage customer complaints, gather intelligence, and showcase your menu. But review sites are also incredibly effective advertising platforms. In fact, review sites have optimized their platforms to give restaurants an opportunity to tap into the diners who are looking at reviews.
You’ll want to start by claiming your page on all review sites. Once you claim your business page, you should:
Add photos: Optimize your page by adding professionally curated photos of favorite dishes and your space.
Update information: Update any contact information and ensure your location information is accurate. The majority of people on review sites are looking for contact information.
Manage feedback: Both positive and negative reviews require a response. Think of your response as good customer service, so make sure you’re cordial when responding to negative reviews. And invite guests who have had a positive experience to leave a review – more reviews mean a higher ranking in results. But don’t pay or offer incentives for reviews. You could get suspended from the site if you’re found out.
Each review site has marketing tools for restaurant owners. Here are some of the most common review site marketing platforms.
Yelp for Business Owners
Yelp Ads feature your restaurant in Yelp search rankings. Target local audiences and place an ad on competitors’ business pages. You can also:
- Restrict competitors from advertising on your page
- Add a slideshow to your page
- Use Yelp to take reservations
- Access a call-to-action button to highlight a promotion
- Receive account management support
- Gain access to a videographer who can create a video promo for your Yelp page
FourSquare for Business
Foursquare uses consumer behavior, preferences, and location to advertise your business to the correct target audience. Foursquare ads feature your restaurant at the top of their search page. The ad itself is free, but you pay when a user clicks on your ad.
TripAdvisor Premium for Restaurants
TripAdvisor comes with three tools beyond its free business page:
- Storyboard: A tool that combines your best photos, reviews, and tags into a preview of your restaurant. Here’s an example .
- Top 3 Reasons to Eat Here: This feature adds a layer to your TripAdvisor restaurant listing. The layer enables you to showcase your differentiator using photos, reviews, and your own words.
- Spotlight Favorite Reviews: Pin your best review to the top of your review page, so that the review is the first thing guests see.
Zomato for Business
Zomato has two advertising models. You can use customized banners on Zomato’s website and mobile platform, or you can advertise within the collection of restaurants where you’re already featured.
Zomato also has widgets you can add to your website. These widgets prompt users to rate your restaurant on Zomato or order from your restaurant on Zomato.
OpenTable for Business
OpenTable ads: Like other review sites, OpenTable ads make your listing show up higher in search results, across all mobile and web platforms. OpenTable follows a pay per click model, so you only pay when diners take action on your ad. The cost is $5 per seat cover.
Gifts: You have the option of sell gift cards through OpenTable.
Bonus points: On OpenTable, users can collect points and get rewards when they book a table through the platform. OpenTable enables you to hijack this feature. Offer bonus points during slow times to incentivize diners to choose your restaurant over others.
Private dining: OpenTable’s Private Dining pages are essentially premium pages. They promise to increase your Google SEO and have more space for visuals and lengthy descriptions. OpenTable also actively promotes restaurants with private dining pages in their seasonal emails.
Restaurant Marketing: Loyalty Program
The goal of loyalty programs is to generate repeat business using incentives and gamification.
The benefits of loyalty programs include:
- Higher average check size
- Customer referrals
- Better customer communication
Here are types of loyalty programs to explore for your restaurant.
Punch cards: The concept is simple. When a customer purchases a menu item, they receive a stamp. After they have acquired a specific amount of stamps, they earn a free meal. Apps, however, have made it possible for customers to collect points digitally.
POS loyalty programs : A POS system allocates points to guests based on the amount of money they spend or the items they choose. The system can distribute discounts based on the customer’s activity. Usually the customer is working towards a points goal that results in a free or discounted meal.
Referral programs: Referral programs are a great way to get satisfied customers to engage their networks. When a customer refers a friend to your restaurant, you reward them based on the new business they send you.
Food Delivery and Ordering Apps
A 2016 statista study found that 26% of people order food online at least once a week, and another 24% order food online three times a week.
By having a presence on take-out and delivery sites, you get your brand and your menu in front of a larger audience. Here are some food delivery and ordering apps you should consider being a part of.
GrubHub / Seamless / Eat24 (Yelp)
- Services: Pick-up and delivery
- Where: Available across major U.S. cities and London, UK, GrubHub is used by 55,000 restaurants. Seamless is available in some large U.S. cities, with a major presence in New York.
- Differentiators: Use Seamless for professional target markets. Use GrubHub/Eat24 for everyone else, including students.
- What they do for you: GrubHub and Seamless list your menu items, process orders, and accept payments from customers and deliver your food using a delivery driver. Eat24 does the same, except you’re responsible for food delivery.
- Where: Available in major Canadian cities
- What they do for you: List your menu items, process orders, and take card payments from customers. You’re responsible for delivery.
- Services: Delivery
- Where: Major cities across North America, South America, and Moscow.
- What they do for you: List your menu items, process orders, accept card payments from customers, and deliver your food using a delivery driver.
- Where: Available in Toronto, Quebec, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton
- Services: Online ordering
- Where: Anywhere
- What they do for you: ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly through your website, Facebook page, Yelp page, or a customized smartphone app for your restaurant. Unlike other apps, customers don’t have to go to a third party site.
Traditional Restaurant Marketing Strategies
While digital marketing efforts have become the cornerstone of most marketing plans, the power of traditional marketing should not be overlooked.
Face-to-face interaction, word of mouth, and endorsements are tried-and-true marketing tactics that still work. Be sure to bolster your digital marketing efforts with traditional marketing as well. This dual strategy makes for well-rounded marketing that leaves no stone unturned.
Restaurant Marketing: Contests
Contests are an effective way to engage your audience and tap into their networks. They offer entrants a reward in exchange for their submission. Entrants are more willing to give up their contact information and share the contest because they want free stuff.
The key to a successful contest is making sure the reward is worth the steps to enter, whether that’s giving their email address or tagging friends.
There are three subcategories of contests:
- A skills contest: You choose a winner based on skill or merit. There’s no random draw; instead the entrants must submit something that can be judged. For example: a photo contest would require guests to submit pictures for judging.
- A sweepstakes: You choose a winner at random. Entrants participate for free.
- A lottery: Entrants must pay a fee in order to participate in the contest.
To run a contest, you’re responsible for putting together rules and guidelines. These should include:
- Your restaurant’s name
- Your restaurant’s website
- Your restaurant’s address
- Contest start and end dates
- How to enter
- Who qualifies as a winner (minimum age, eligible countries/states/cities)
- How many times entrants can enter
- Disqualification rules
- How a winner will be chosen
- When and how you’ll notify the winner that they won
- Prize and price value
- The date the prize must be claimed
Also be aware of Facebook and Instagram contest rules. You’re responsible for “the lawful operation of that promotion” including:
- The official rules
- Offer terms and eligibility requirements
- Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered
- A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant
- Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Instagram
Both sites have some substantial differences in their guidelines.
Facebook Promotion Guidelines
In essence, you cannot use any of Facebook’s features to host a contest. That means you can’t say “like/share/tag this post for a chance to win.” You’ll instead need to use a third-party app or link to an external page.
The legalities of Facebook contests can get murky really quickly. Third-party apps make it easier to navigate this process. As a bonus, they also provide you with a set of contest analytics.
Here are a few providers:
- Contests for Pages
- Instagram Promotion Guidelines
Instagram lets you use content engagement for contests, but be aware that: “You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).”
Here are some contest ideas for Instagram.
- Photo contest: Ask entrants to take a photo at your restaurant and submit it for a chance to win.
- Submit a recipe: Feature the winner’s recipe on your menu or run it as a special.
- Nominate a winner: Ask entrants to post a picture of someone they think deserves an exclusive three-course meal and why. This would be a great contest to hold around Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when people are feeling sentimental about their loved ones.
Here are some contest best practices for Instagram.
- Be clear on your goals. If your goal is to get more followers, build a tag or follow request into your contest rules. If your goal is to collect email addresses for your mailing list, have participants submit a form. If your goal is engagement, require entrants to interact as a part of the contest rules.
- Announce your winner publicly. This shows entrants that you followed the contest rules and indeed chose a winner. It also gives the winner an extra little bit of praise.
- If applicable, showcase the winner receiving their winnings in your restaurant. If their prize was a dinner for two, ask permission to take their picture when they claim their prize. Post it to social media.
Restaurant Marketing: Direct Mail Campaigns
Direct mail campaigns use your post office’s business program to send marketing materials to specific zip/postal codes. While you can’t weed out recipients who don’t match your target market, you can market to people who may try your restaurant due to proximity alone.
To get the most out of your direct mail campaign, include an incentive for the recipient. In the design, make sure you’ve included your logo, address, phone number, links to social media pages, and your website.
- Flyers: a one-page, double-sided paper that features menu items
- Take-home menu: a printed version of your full menu
- Invitation: an invitation to an exclusive event for your neighbors
- Coupons: Deals, promotional codes and special offers
Use the following services to distribute your direct mail campaign:
- United States Postal Service Advertise by Mail
- Canada Post Direct Mail Services
Restaurant Marketing: Events
By becoming involved at local festivals, you have the opportunity to:
- Gain brand recognition
- Connect with local businesses
- Expose a large group of local consumers to your menu
While many events and festivals charge vendor fees, you may be able to make up your costs if you can successfully capture future business from the event. How do you do this? By providing incentives, making personal connections, and capturing festival-goers’ email information to ensure future correspondence.
You should also be aware of the risks. The success of outdoor events can be compromised by inclement weather. Some events might look enticing on paper, but in actuality fail to attract a relevant audience. With this in mind, approach the event with a clear goal in mind and a way to measure that goal.
Your goals could be any of the following:
- New customers
- Brand exposure
- Event revenue
- Number of meals sold
- Expanding your email database
Ways to measure success include:
- Use a promo code on coupons specifically designed for the event, to track conversions.
- Convert new event contacts in your email database to customers. Run an email campaign to that specific list of event attendees. Use a promo code to track conversions.
- Calculate the revenue made from the event against your vendor costs, food costs, labor costs, and equipment costs.
Tips for choosing and attending festivals:
- Ask the event coordinator about the expected number of attendees.
- Research past vendors and inquire about their experience. What return on investment did they get?
- Determine whether your target market will be present.
- Determine if you need to acquire permits. The festival should provide you with this information.
- Consult with an insurance broker to make sure you’re covered.
- Ask about the other vendors locations and determine an ideal placement.
- Create a custom menu using low food cost, high popularity items.
- Create an inventory list of all the items you’ll be selling and the number of orders you anticipate.
- Portable cooking equipment
- Promotional materials
- A banner for your booth and other signage with your logo on it
- A menu board
- An email sign up sheet
Or, if you don’t want to participate in a festival, you can always host your own event.
Special events take on many forms. You could celebrate the cultural holidays that match your restaurant’s cuisine. Or you could partner with a local charity to raise funds.
Especially when running in partnership with other businesses, events have the power to bring in new business. They allow you to interact with your local business community and tap into the network of your business partners.
Consider the following event types:
- Holidays and celebrations (e.g., everything from Mardis Gras to Thanksgiving)
- Fundraising for a local charity
- Silent auction (using auction items from neighboring businesses)
Your event checklist:
- Determine the theme of your event and the date you will hold it.
- Double check that there are no conflicting events in your neighborhood or city on that day.
- Pitch local partners to get involved.
- Choose a food item strategy: create hors-d’oeuvres, tapas, or a prix fixe menu.
- Create invitations: digital, print, or both.
- Create a registration page. Use a web form that includes a field for email. This way you can send guests specific information closer to the event day. You have the added benefit of obtaining their email information with their reservation.
- Update the event on your webpage.
- Create and distribute a press release.
- Create a blog post about the event.
- Invite local media and businesses.
- Include the event in your monthly newsletter.
- Send out an email dedicated to the event.
- Promote your event on your social media pages. If necessary, create an advertisement.
- Pass along promotional material for business partners to distribute to their networks.
- Create a Facebook event.
- Determine advertising platforms and budget.
- Create a swag bag for the event. Include a coupon or discount card as an incentive for event guests to return .
City-run events also have huge marketing potential. These events tend to draw large crowds because they’re backed by the city and local tourism boards. They also garner a lot of press and consumer attention. Thus, getting a piece of the local event pie can do wonders in getting exposure and generating new businesses for your restaurant.
Here are just a few local foodie events for restaurants.
Summerlicious / Winterlicious
Hosted by the City of Toronto, Summerlicious is a food festival that runs for two weeks every July. Its counterpart Winterlicious runs for two weeks every January.
Each restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menu at a set price. The goal of the festival is to expose Torontonians to new restaurants.
To be eligible, restaurants must fill the following criteria:
- Be an existing, full service restaurant
- Be located in the city of Toronto
- Possess a current Dine Safe Green Pass issued by Toronto Public Health
- Demonstrate that the average price of a three-course meal on the restaurant’s regular lunch and/or dinner menu meets the minimum requirements.
Every year in Toronto, various cultures celebrate their cuisines in burrows around the city. These include:
- Taste of India Festival
- Taste of the Danforth (Greek)
- Pan American Food Festival
- Giro d’Italia
New York City
NYC Restaurant Week
New York Restaurant Week is an event held twice a year. Participating fine dining restaurants in New York City offer prix fixe lunches and dinners for a set price that is less expensive than their normal menu.
You must fill out a registration form, indicating NYC Restaurant Week as your main point of interest. Fill out the form here .
Chicago Restaurant Week
Chicago restaurants offer special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for brunch and lunch, and $33 or $44 for dinner.
Purchase participation and register here . The cost to participate is between $350 and $500.
Restaurant marketing is what you make of it – while you likely won’t be able to implement all of the suggested restaurant marketing strategies we have here, you should be able to choose a few that will be most likely to work for your concept. Restaurant marketing is a constant work in progress. You’ll try a few tactics, succeed and fail, and fine tune your overall strategy based on what you’ve learned.
The most important thing to remember about restaurant marketing is to prioritize properly for the budget you have. But don’t be afraid to take risks: you may just find that your restaurant shines after testing a marketing tactic that you didn’t think would work. Just be aware of your limits so you can take smart risks rather than breaking the bank.
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Eat App for
32 Best Restaurant Marketing Strategies (2023 Updates)
Nov 21, 2022 10:33:00 AM
Restaurant marketing has become much more complicated in the past few years.
Those in charge of promotions and generating new business at restaurants face both tough and interesting challenges. People looking to fill their stomachs now have a dizzying array of possible options, and restaurants must compete for customer attention beyond location.
To help you navigate this new marketing reality we put together an up to date list of 30 restaurant marketing strategies and tactics.
Unlike the majority of the posts on restaurant marketing currently at the top of Google, this one gives you up-to-date ideas and information for your next promotional initiative!
But first, from the list below, here are the ideas we think have the most impact:
Top restaurant marketing strategies
- Add reservation links to Google Business
- Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable"
- Improve local discovery online aka SEO
- Use the restaurant marketing framework
- Send email marketing that actually works
- Focus on loyalty
- Collect and use guest data
Now, before we start with the list above let's take a look at what a restaurant marketing strategy is and why it's important.
What is a restaurant marketing strategy?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">How would you describe a restaurant's marketing strategy?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">A restaurant marketing strategy is a plan that helps restaurant owners to increase their sales and profits. The goal of a restaurant marketing strategy is to attract guests who will then choose to dine at your restaurant.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index" style="text-align: justify;">Restaurant marketing strategies include advertising, promotions, events, focusing on guest loyalty, customer service, menu design, pricing, and location. These are some of the ways that restaurants can promote themselves.
Why is a restaurant marketing strategy important?
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index">A restaurant marketing strategy is essential to ensure success. If you want to attract guests, you need to promote your restaurant. The good thing is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to start advertising your restaurant. In fact, there are several ways to promote your restaurant without spending too much money.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index">Restaurant marketing strategies include social media marketing, SEO, and email marketing. These methods are affordable and effective.
0" ng-repeat="text in output.html track by $index"> Let's continue to view the full list of restaurant marketing ideas below.
1. Add reservation links to Google Business
Are you still obsessing over your Yelp reviews? The reality is that Yelp is becoming increasingly irrelevant as Google dominates online food searches more and more. In fact, Google's domination of local restaurant discovery was one of Skift's Megatrends.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already have a Google Business account that shows your location, some pictures, website link, etc. For restaurants, this is Google Business 101. Once you've done this, and started taking advantage of Google's Open Graph and local discovery, you want to start thinking about how GMB can start bringing in more revenue.
This link gives you a frictionless way for people to place a reservation with you from your Google profile. Some restaurants see a 20% increase in online reservations when they do this simple technique.
Interested in adding a "Reserve a Table" button to your restaurant's Google profile? Click here to sign-up to Eat App for free and instantly activate your button.
2. Send email marketing that actually works (ie. personalized and automated)
Almost all articles about restaurant marketing suggest sending an 'email newsletter' as a way to get more customers. But as email marketing is used by pretty much every company under the sun, just sending out a general email once a month will usually have no impact.
Email is still a great marketing channel if you know how to use it - just remember you are competing with almost all of the biggest brands in the world for attention in people's inboxes. So how do stand out from the crowd? By sending an email that is targeted to the recipient based on their history with your restaurant.
What would you send to someone who has only dined with you once in the past 3 months compared to someone who has come in once a week?
By using your customer data and combining it with email marketing automation you can create email marketing that is relevant to customers rather than just 'spraying and praying' To get started with upgrading your email marketing, start by researching CRM for restaurants as well as restaurant automation solutions like those provided by Eat App.
3. Send birthday reminder emails
Related to the tactic above but this one deserves it's own section. It's that important!
Birthday's the single most important dining day for most people in the year. Restaurants want to capture these diners as usually the party size is large and the total spend is high.
Smart restaurants focus on these guests as a fundamental marketing strategy.
- Record your guest's birthdays You can ask them over the phone, run survey's or ask them when they are making an online booking.
- Store and manage the information in a customer database or CRM
Have you ever been on a website and see a little live chat pop up from the corner of your screen?
Recent advances in live chat tech mean that it is fast becoming the go-to way of communicating with customers online. After all, you love texting your friends, so why not do the same with businesses? Having your live chat operated by your host stand or reservation staff gives people direct access to your restaurant as well as a human touch. Potential diners can ask questions and you can grab those all-important bookings directly from the chat box.
It's another way to get diners interacting with you, and something your competitors probably aren't doing. So use it to stand out. There are loads of options to get started for free - Google Free Live Chat for Website.
5. Try the online reservation platforms
Online booking platforms are pretty much a requirement for fine dining restaurant marketing. They give you access to millions of diners looking for places to eat each month.
In the US, OpenTable used to be the only player but in the past few years, diners now have plenty of other options like Resy and Reserve. (It really depends on which country and city you are located in.)
These types of online platforms provide websites and apps that give customers tools to book online. People find the convenience and ease of reservation discovery platforms irresistible so consider tapping them as part of your strategy.
Most upscale restaurants add the cost of these services as part of their yearly marketing budget. But you should work out if these platforms are really cost-effective for you as you may benefit from a free reservation system instead, like Eat App.
>>> Download our free guest acquisition strategy eBook
6. Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable"
'Instagrammable dessert' is a relatively new phrase in the world of restaurant marketing. The basic idea is that the plating and presentation of a dish encourage people to take photos and share them online - especially on Instagram where hashtags like #foodporn are extremely popular. (We're talking millions of pictures.)
Creating Instagrammable dishes is a super powerful promotion tactic because it leverages user-generated content to spread the word about your restaurant rather than spending ad dollars.
You can create the same dish over and over again and each time it is potentially spread to a whole new audience through social media for free. Mastering this technique involves coming up with a unique idea that isn't twee or traditional.
Get it right and you can create a viral effect online for your restaurant. When it takes off this could be the highest impact strategy of all.
8 ways to make "Instagrammable" food
- Consider using ingredients with matching colors
- Create an experience and a spectacle to be video recorded
- Create dishes that match each other when photographed together
- Make the dishes bright colors
- Use restaurant lighting that shows dishes in a flattering light
- Make sure plates are as clean as possible
- Consider not just the plate but also the table surrounding it
- Add other decorative elements in the dining that people want to take pictures of
More Instagram post ideas for restaurants.
7. Run coupon and discount campaigns
Coupons and discounts are always an option to get people through the door. Offer free dishes, 10% discounts or the ultimate of all restaurant discounts - the buy one get one free offer.
BOGOF offers are usually the best performing because offering something for free motivates people more than % discounts.
For higher end restaurants, discounts can often lower the tone of the brand. Do them too much and customers can begin to expect them from you.
Learn more about the types of offers restaurants can use for marketing.
8. Focus on customer loyalty
Loyalty - getting customers to come back again and again should always be one of the main parts of restaurant marketing.
Loyal customers cost the least in marketing to get them to come back, and are also more likely to tell their friends. ie. They are great for word-of-mouth.
Loyalty often results from simply having an awesome dining experience - great food, enjoyable interior, perception of value from the customer etc.
But you can also actively encourage loyalty through loyalty programs and reward schemes for repeat customers. You can administer the whole thing in house or team up with an app provider that deals specifically with loyalty.
Upscale restaurants can focus on free upgrades to the dining experience like free champagne or dessert. More casual restaurants might want to just straight up offer a discount to loyal guests.
9. Local online ads
Unless your restaurant is based on a remote island, the vast majority of your customers will be local. This of course means you want to direct your marketing spend to your local neighborhood.
Online ad platforms give you the ability to 'geo-target your advertising. In the ad platform, you simply use your city or zip code and tell the system to only target people in your nearby location.
For most restaurants, geo-targeted online ads are essential if you are going to run advertising at all. All the major ad networks like Google Ads, Facebook, Snapchat, etc offer geo-targeting so make sure it's up and running if you are running ads online.
10. Improve local discovery online aka Restaurant SEO
Every day people search for things like 'Italian restaurants near me' thousands of times.
Fun fact: Did you know that across the globe people search the terms 'restaurants near me' 20 million times every month! Astonishing.
A modern restaurant marketing plan needs to consider how your restaurant will be found for these types of local searches online. This is a huge topic for restaurants looking to dominate in SEO .
Get started by looking at the following:
- Claimed and updated Google Business profile.
- Accurate location info on your website. The so-called NAP.
- Reviews on Google
- Location keywords in your website URL structure
- Optimized website pages for SEO.
11. Have an awesome online menu
Your menu is the most looked at the thing on your website and it should be part of your marketing strategy. Having an easy-to-read and well-designed online menu helps people pull the trigger and make a reservation. A few tips for online menus . Don't bury the menu on a subpage put it on your home page. Make sure it's mobile-optimized so people can easily read it on their phones. And use a font that people can easily read online. (No crazy cursive text styling!)
12. Retargeting ads
What are retargeting ads? In a nutshell retargeting is an ad system to show advertising to people who have visited your website but not made a transaction. For restaurants, this is usually an online booking or a phone call.
90% of website visitors never make a purchase, and retargeting is a way of following up with those people who don't convert.
Retargeting is available on all the major platforms. It requires a little bit of setup but once set up it is a very powerful ad channel. Perhaps the best.
13. Build an Unstoppable Brand
Your restaurant's brand identity has a very direct impact on customer loyalty. When you have a strong brand this is an effective promotional tool in itself and building a brand can happen in the restaurant but also on your social media and other marketing channels.
Strong restaurant brands are based around a firm grasp of your restaurant's target market. Are they health food freaks? Are they obsessed with outrageous desserts? Are you targeting people looking for an exceptional first-time date?
Your brand should be built around your target market and appeal to their design tastes and aspirations. Consistency is very important and your promotional material should represent your restaurant brand everywhere - especially on social media. Learn how to find your restaurant target market
14. Collect and use guest data
Guest data has the power to unlock your restaurant marketing strategy.
Keeping track of how often guests visit you, what their preferences are and when they celebrate key events like birthdays (see above) gives you the power to send your customers targeted marketing that has a much higher chance of success than just blasting them with random messaging.
The name of the game here is a personalized restaurant marketing and customers are increasingly expecting this next level of service and hospitality.
Collecting data requires a restaurant CRM.
15. SMS marketing
Can SMS marketing work for your restaurant? That depends on whether you get the target market and messaging right. SMS tends to have a very high open rate which is great news but on the flip side it also has a low click through rate.
This means getting the content of the SMS message right is very important.
A great place to begin is with a discount offer likely to get people excited to visit. Another option is to focus on local events and encourage people to stop by after they've been to the event.
16. Show off your ingredients
On the more upscale side of things, diners are increasingly excited about ingredients.
This means highlighting the provenance of your food. Is it locally sourced, grown organically, from specific farms, or grown in a special way? Often the key is to show people what you offer can't be eaten anywhere else.
Potential diners are likely to want to dine with you more if you can establish the quality of the ingredients. The best places to show off your food are front and center on your website and as part of your social media marketing.
17. Start offering online delivery
Online food delivery is maybe the biggest thing to hit the industry in the last few years. And for good reason - customers love it! Don't believe us? Look at this staggering graph from McKinsey.
Food delivery apps deal with logistics as well as offer friendly user experiences for consumers. These apps are delivering up 1000s of local customers to restaurants every month. Potentially a huge marketing win for restaurants.
Different apps operate in different locations so see which ones serve you. The big apps in US are:
- Seamless (iOS/Android)
- Grubhub (iOS/Android)
- Doordash (iOS/Android)
- UberEats (iOS/Android)
- Postmates (iOS/Android)
- delivery.com (iOS/Android)
- Yelp Eat 24 (iOS/Android)
- Foodler (iOS/Android)
18. Get people engaged with live social media stories
Stories are a newish social media format pioneered by Snapchat. Usually, a portrait-sized image or video disappears after 24hrs. Across Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram hundreds of millions of people engage with social media stories every month.
Whilst your regular social media feeds show the best, most perfect side of your restaurant, with stories you can focus more on the day-to-day vibes at your restaurants such as sharing videos of interesting kitchen prep or quick interviews with the head chef.
More about generating restaurant revenue with social media.
19. Get serious about high-quality social media images
Food pictures are huge on Instagram and one of the best ways to get people interested in your restaurant is by posting pictures that make your food look irresistible.
High-quality visual content is a very important part of today's restaurant marketing. Food pictures entice diners like nothing else.
How to improve restaurant social media pictures?
Taking great pictures of food is not easy. Hiring pro photographers is one option that shouldn't be overlooked, even though it is expensive.
If you are going to take them yourself that's cool too, but seek out some training on how to use lighting and angles to make your food really shine. We have a guide on taking better food photos but you can also consider taking specialized courses both online and offline.
20. Amplify PR
Write-ups and reviews from trusted media sources send all the right signals to customers. But don't rely just on getting a review published.
You can also amplify any PR you get across your social media and website. If it's a great bit of PR you can also use it in advertising.
21. Encourage and/or incentivize online reviews
For many, online reviews are the most important thing when choosing a restaurant. Having thousands of 5* reviews online makes is very easy for people searching online for restaurants to choose your place over the competition. Try simply asking people to review you if they have had a great experience, or go one step further and just incentivize people to leave positive reviews.
22. Respond to online reviews
How to turn negative online reviews into a marketing opportunity?
You can approach a negative review with a positive attitude and use it to your advantage. Start with the EASE framework for managing reviews.
Empathize : See it from the guest's point of view and emphasize their viewpoint.
Acknowledge: Let people know you accept the problem and that you are listening.
Solve: Take action and resolve the problem for them
Evaluate: Consider how this can be avoided in the future
When replying to negative reviews:
- Don’t reply with copy/paste text: Don't sound automated
- Don’t ask them to contact you directly: This will offend them.
- Don’t just say you’ll ‘look into the problem’: No one believes phrases like this
- Don’t just message them privately: Take full responsibility and solve the problem publicly.
Need more advice on online reviews? Take a deep dive with our online review management guide.
23. Get started with blogging
For the creative-minded, a blog can be a great outlet to promote your restaurant. Blogging can also be a great place to really build your brand.
You don't need to write 2000 words every week, but keeping people who visit your website updated with content from your restaurant can engage and encourage them to visit.
Don't feel like writing? Consider focusing on visual content in your blog and use just a small amount of text for context.
24. Get Influencers to post on social media
Influencers are social media accounts that have a large following either in your industry or in your city. The name of the game with influencer marketing is to invite an influencer to your restaurant, give them a free dining experience and in exchange, they will share that experience with all their engaged followers.
The best place to start with influencers is with local Instagram users with a large following. Do some research to find people with large followings, ideally over 10,000 followers, and also who fit in with the brand of your restaurants.
An example is fitness influencers for a natural ingredient-focused restaurant.
Once you've found some good targets reach out to them in a private message and see if they would be interested.
Restaurants that really win at influencer marketing often go the extra mile and provide the Influencer with an outstanding experience that gets people buzzing online. More marketing ideas for restaurants on social media.
25. Use the restaurant marketing framework
Example is the Fine Dine Restaurant Marketing Framework that we built to help restaurants. (It's aimed at fine dining but is applicable to almost everyone).
In this framework restaurants focus on storytelling, the in restaurant experience, customer relationship management (CRM), customer journey and soft launches as the basis for their marketing. These topics are then spread various channels with a strong technology marketing stack.
Read more about the framework and see the infographic.
26. Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads
Most restaurants have at least considered running digital ads to promote their business.
Online ads have a low barrier to entry - they are easy to setup and you can start with a very small budget just to test the water.
We recommend Facebook ads, Instagram ads , and Google Ads when getting started with restaurant advertising. Each ad platform has it's own unique features which you will become familiar with over time. But be warned - in mature markets like the US and UK - digital ads are not so cheap anymore, so monitor the performance closely and turn them off if not performing.
With digital ads you must master the basics to get good ROI. These are:
Showing your ads to the right people is the most important predictor of success. Read up on how to effectively target people by both location and interest categories.
Having great looking ads that appeal to your customers is a must. Consider images, copy and theme of ads. Are you promoting discounts or just the restaurant in general.
Analytics and testing
Monitoring the performance of your ads and continually testing new combinations of creatives and targeting is also a must.
27. Build and promote your tribe on social media
Reposting your customers content on social media shows you appreciate and celebrate them. This is a simple little restaurant marketing hack that gets customers engaged as well creating a two way guest relationship. Spread the love!
More ways to promote your restaurant.
28. Upgrade your website
Menu, opening hours, location - these are main pieces of information customers look for from restaurant websites. How easy is it for customers to get this info from your website, especially on their phones? Can it be better?
After you've got the basics covered, how easy is it for people to make online bookings? Is the reservations button clear and easy to find? Is the process seamless and realtime?
Next consider how your website represents your brand and how is gives them an experience of your restaurant before they've even dined with you. How can this be improved?
29. Don't forget about Yelp!
The truth is that Yelp is a much less important marketing channel for restaurants than is was in the past. Other websites, and especially Google, are now over taking it in importance for discovery. Restaurant owners are also finding it increasingly tiresome dealing with the reviews and the general perception is that the quality of reviews is dropping. Never-the-less, Yelp still has a lot of users and drives a significant amount of new customers to restaurants. The need to keep a properly optimized Yelp profile hasn't suddenly gone away! Indeed, Yelp now processes millions of reservations every month for restaurants in the US.
According to this study - people use online customer reviews 77% of the time to make decisions. This means Yelp is still very much in the restaurant marketing game.
30. Use restaurant surveys
You can't make good decisions without knowing what your customers think about you.
If you survey your customers regularly this will give you an indication of not just where you can improve but also how what people care about.
With Eat App's feedback and survey feature, restaurant owners can get real-time guest feedback directly delivered to their inbox, as well as live reports that will essentially help staff members improve the overall guest experience.
Download your free guide on guest feedback here.
Addressing these concerns in your marketing as well as promoting what diners say they already liked means you are more likely to impact people's decision-making. Learn more about surveying customers at your restaurant.
31. Give back to the community
If you're a local restaurant, it's important to focus on marketing strategies that will help you win over the community. You can do this by showing your support towards a cause close to your heart.
Show your guests just how much you care for their community, by adding an item on your menu where a portion of the profits is donated to the particular cause. This could either be part of a limited or yearly campaign that's in line with an awareness month or day.
You also have the option to donate your venue for an event and help a charity from the community raise funds on the evening.
32. Define your restaurant brand
This is probably one of the most overlooked marketing strategies, yet it's one of the most effective ways to help a restaurant succeed. Why? If you want a guest to remember you long after they left your restaurant, they need to know and understand your restaurant's brand identity.
Luckily, with a little bit of creativity and a few easy steps, you will be able to define your restaurant's brand identity:
Step 1 - Starts by developing your restaurant mission statement that puts together your restaurant's goal and why it exists. To help, we've put together a free mission statement template .
Step 2 - Determine your restaurant's personality by developing a brand voice and design style. This refers to the way to speak and communicate with your guests as well as the designs you use on social media.
Step 3 - It's important to position your restaurant within the market. With that being said, you need to determine what your price is, what promotions you do, and what products you sell to your guests. You can also view how this compares with other restaurants in your area.
Here's the restaurant marketing ideas list in full for easy reference!
1. Add reservation links to Google Business 2. Send email marketing that actually works 3. Send birthday reminder emails 4. Connect your front-of-house to your website with live chat 5. Try the online reservation platforms 6. Work on the presentation of dishes so they are "Instagrammable" 7. Run coupon and discount campaigns 8. Focus on customer loyalty 9. Local online ads 10. Improve local discovery online aka Restaurant SEO 11. Have an awesome online menu 12. Restaurant Retargeting ads 13. Build an Unstoppable Brand 14. Collect and use guest data 15. SMS marketing 16. Show off your ingredients 17. Start offering online delivery 18. Get people engaged with live social media stories 19. Get serious about high-quality social media images 20. Amplify PR 21. Encourage and/or incentivize online reviews 22. Respond to online reviews 23. Get started with blogging 24. Get Influencers to post on social media 25. Use the restaurant marketing framework 26. Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads 27. Build and promote your tribe on social media 28. Upgrade your website 29. Don't forget about Yelp! 30. Use restaurant surveys
32. Define your brand
Sign up for your free Eat App account and start putting some of these strategies in action today with a suite of features that enable seamless restaurant marketing.
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How to write a restaurant marketing plan that puts butts in seats [ideas and strategies].
By D. J. Costantino
Spend 80% less time on restaurant scheduling.
Restaurant owners and operators wear a lot of hats. They're people leaders, customer service providers, line cooks, inventory managers, occasional bartenders, public relations reps, number crunchers, and even marketers.
We live in a world where diners are inundated with choices. There are more options for eating out than ever before. Delivery and takeout options are endlessly accessible for most. And the big restaurant brands are only getting bigger , making it even harder to stand out.
So, what sets you apart from the pack? You need to put yourself in front of diners, get them in your door, and turn them into ambassadors of your restaurant that come back and tell their friends about you.
It all starts with a great marketing plan.
Your marketing plan is the cornerstone of your restaurant's success and business plan. It is your roadmap to attracting and retaining customers. Your plan should be comprehensive, well thought out, achievable, and consistent.
This guide covers everything you need to put together your first marketing plan, from the strategy behind it to the tactics and channels to use. We've also included a template for a marketing calendar to organize it all.
Table of Contents
- What is a restaurant marketing plan?
- Marketing Plan Template
- Establish Brand Strategy
- Identify Target Customers
- Competitor & SWOT analysis
- Define Marketing Objectives
- Put Together Marketing Calendar
- Utilize Marketing Strategies
What is a restaurant marketing plan, and why do you need one.
You may think you don't need a marketing plan and have never created one in the past—so why start now?
Many local restaurants have never touched advertising or social media; they've been the neighborhood's go-to spot for decades. Their business grows by word of mouth—one of the best marketing tools in the book. While these local favorites are great at attracting their neighbors to visit again and again, to out-of-towners, they're just another restaurant that looks like it could do with some renovations.
Word of mouth is fantastic, but when scaling a restaurant or reopening after months of closure, you need to rely on more than just the possibility of a customer loving your food and telling their friends about it.
You need a marketing plan.
Your marketing plan is a central place that outlines and informs your marketing strategy. It covers topics like your ideal customers, how you're going to reach them, and who your competition is.
So, where do you start? Before you get any ideas for a cheesy radio spot, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. See where your restaurant is currently and where it needs to go.
Restaurant Marketing Plan Template
Start creating you restaurant marketing plan with our free PDF template
1. Establish your brand strategy
When you step into a Hard Rock Cafe, there's no question where you are—whether it's a Hard Rock Cafe in Boston or Bangkok.
But would a first-time customer know what your restaurant is made of by sitting at a table? Does the concept and interior play off the brand, and vice-versa? What do your furniture, artwork, and glassware say about your restaurant?
They should all work together to create a smooth customer journey, from their initial search on your website to when they sit down with their meal. Make all touchpoints of your restaurant feel like the cool, casual, fusion, or fine dining establishment it is. A great marketing plan starts with a deep knowledge of what makes your business your business and not anyone else's. Here are a few things to get right:
Create a mission statement
Your marketing plan can't begin without a solid mission statement . Your mission statement is the 'why' of your restaurant. Why you create the food you do, why your service is different, and why customers should come and be a part of your story. Your mission statement should be
- Brief . It should be brief but comprehensive and no more than four sentences.
- Transparent . The best statements avoid business jargon and clichés. Write it as if you were writing for a close friend.
- Achievable . We've all heard companies claiming to offer the best service, the most delicious food, or the highest quality products. How often is this the case?
- Unique . What makes you different from your competition? If your mission statement sounds like it could be written by any company, revise it.
- Actionable . Strong statements don't just list goals but define how to achieve them.
Work on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
What's that one thing about your business that makes customers excited? Maybe it's how you cook or serve the food, like at Benihana . Maybe it's the decor and ambiance, like Rainforest Cafe . Or maybe it's unique to your area—like being the only fine dining spot in town. Whatever it may be, make sure you can explain it in one sentence. How do you want diners, competitors, and your team to describe your business?
2. Identify your target customer
Knowing your market is critical. The better you know, the more targeted your marketing can be. You'll also want to be aware of your demographics. This would likely be defined in a business plan but it is just as important for marketing.
Researching your audience can be as simple as creating personas for everyone who walks through your door.
- Are your customers different during the day than at night?
- Do they prefer takeout or dine-in?
- Where are they going after?
- What are their dietary preferences?
- What social media platforms do they use?
You can answer many great questions for each customer, and as your insights form, your target market becomes clear.
For example, your ideal customers could be:
- Young families that want a kid's menu, great drinks, and to get home before 8.
- Local office workers who need healthy, quick lunch—and vegan options.
- College students who come to you after a night out.
Clear answers to these abstract questions will help you create highly targeted marketing campaigns that will bring a better return on investment.
3. Complete a SWOT analysis for your competition
Who are your main competitors? List three to five of them and perform a SWOT analysis . It may sound complicated, but it's a simple way to outline how to approach your competition. A SWOT analysis is broken down as follows:
- Strengths: What are they doing right? Maybe it's great food, a good happy hour, or an attractive atmosphere.
- Weaknesses: What can they do better? Maybe they're too expensive or don't have great marketing.
- Opportunities: What can you do better than your competition? Can you undercut their prices, or out-market them?
- Threats: What can they do better than you? Maybe it's something you can't change, like a prime location.
Tip: Your competitor analysis needs to include the digital space too . See how they're branding themselves online and across social media and what kind of promotions they're running throughout the week. Knowing they have a lunch special on Wednesdays is invaluable knowledge and can inform your decision-making.
4. Define your objectives: What are your marketing goals?
Before you can start putting together a plan, you need to know what your goals are. Chip Klose, restaurant marketer and founder of Restaurant Strategy , defines restaurant marketing in 3 steps:
This is where you're putting yourself in front of customers, to show them that you exist. This could be as simple as paid social advertising, great signage, an ad in the local paper, or a television appearance.
Getting New Customers (Acquisition)
Once customers know who you are, you can work to get them in the door. What will entice them to choose you? This could be exciting drinks, a great happy hour, family-friendly promotions, or a fantastic menu that people can't help but try. Whatever your unique selling proposition is, make sure you highlight it in your marketing.
This is where things get fun. Your best customers are the ones who bring more customers in. They tell their friends, they post their food, they sing your praises far and wide. But what are you doing to get them back in your restaurant? This is where special offers, newsletters, and SMS marketing can come in handy.
Recommended Podcast: The Restaurant Marketing Flywheel with Chip Klose
5. Put together your marketing calendar
With an understanding of your target customers and goals, you can begin to put together a marketing calendar. This is best when it includes as much information as possible—plan ahead on social posts, events, direct mail campaigns, holiday promotions, and other marketing campaigns so you always know what's coming next. You don't have to fill it out a year at a time, but working to plan out your marketing a month or quarter ahead of time helps keep everything in sync.
Restaurant Marketing Strategies
Now that you have a clear marketing plan and target audience, it's time to dive in to the marketic tactics that you're going to use.
No new or established restaurateur can expect to grow their business without a solid digital presence and engaged audience.
Your website and social media channels provide a sneak peek into your restaurant experience, so it's essential your online presence is inviting and builds excitement to encourage people to visit.
Social media marketing
Did you know that over 35% of restaurant customers in the U.S. actively follow their favorite restaurants on social media?
Social media is arguably one of the best things to happen to small and independent businesses in recent years. It can put your restaurant in front of thousands of potential customers, and growth can be exponential. But how you navigate the different channels and build an engaged audience is easier said than done. It all comes down to creating new content that keeps your audience engaged and leads to a steady stream of new likes and followers that turn into customers.
Vertical short-form video has quickly become a popular way to consume content, and TikTok is likely to blame. The platform has joined the ranks of sites like YouTube and Pinterest, where users not only socialize with others but also search and discover. This discoverability makes reaching a wider audience easier when you don't already have a following (compared to other platforms like Instagram or Facebook).
While TikTok is no longer home to just Gen Z , it certainly has its own culture. TikTok users know when they're being sold to. They want realistic, relatable content from real people. It's great news for small businesses and those who don't have a lot of resources.
Recommended Reading: The Beginner’s Guide to TikTok Marketing for Restaurants
What to use it for: Any and everything: showcasing your food, behind-the-scenes looks at your kitchen, highlighting your hardworking team, or even recruiting staff.
Here are a few factors to consider before posting to TikTok:
- Sound : If you scroll TikTok for 10 minutes, you'll start to hear the same sounds. Using trending sounds is an excellent way to be discovered. These include lip-syncs , popular songs, and trending themes . Bookmark relevant sounds to use later.
- Voiceovers : You can record a voiceover on top of your video to add a personal touch.
- On-screen text: Add text at the beginning of the video to create a “title screen.” There's also a text-to-speech feature if you prefer an AI voice to your own.
- Editing: Get the audience hooked in the first 3 seconds. If the algorithm sees users stick around on your video instead of scrolling past, it's more likely to show it to other users. “Hook” them with an exciting clip, voiceover, or title text teasing what will happen in the video.
- Video Effects: We're all familiar with face filters, but what about green-screen video? Take some time to play with different video effects . You can also bookmark effects from other videos to use later.
- Posting Cadence: Many experts suggest posting multiple videos daily to grow your audience on TikTok. Due to its discoverability nature, posting multiple times won't annoy your audience as it may on Instagram or Facebook. Since videos don't play on a user's feed by order of post date, you can share many videos about the same topic or using the same trend.
@sallysapizza Julia wanted to make a TikTok #sallysapizza #food #pizza ♬ original sound - Sally’s Apizza
If you already have great video content on Instagram or YouTube, try posting that to TikTok as well. Or do the reverse - repost your TikToks to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
Use these factors as guidelines, not rules. The platform changes all the time, so be creative. TikTok is a weird place - don't be scared to experiment!
There isn't a platform that has changed restaurants more than Instagram. How we consume food, how menus are engineered , and even how restaurants are designed all owe a hat tip to IG.
What to use it for: Showing off your food and drink, promoting events and specials, and engaging with your audience.
As well as providing the best platform to showcase your drinks and dishes creatively, Instagram now has built-in business tools such as online ordering, maps, and messenger.
When diving into Instagram, keep the following best practices in mind:
Engage with your audience: If people comment, write them back! Like comments, respond to them, and comment when people post photos of your food.
Repost your diners' photos: If someone posts a photo of your food or restaurant, share it with your audience and make them feel special.
Don't forget about stories: Don't neglect the story function. Anything that would go on the feed can go on the story. Stories only show for 24 hours, so you can post teasers, behind-the-scenes looks, and live events. If you want to save them, add them to a highlight that lives on your profile.
Run Ads: You can always boost your profile's likes with promoted posts. They're highly targeted, so your ads will be viewed by local people who are more likely to visit your restaurant, giving you a better return on investment.
There are a few things to remember when running Instagram ads for restaurants. First, make sure your ad copy is clear and concise. Secondly, ensure your ad image is relevant and catches viewers' attention. Lastly, make sure your ad targeting is on point, so you're reaching your target audience.
Recommended Reading: Restaurant Instagram Marketing: Creating a Strategy for Your Restaurant
The original social network (sorry, MySpace) may be losing some appeal, but a Facebook page is still a great place to get in front of new and existing customers.
What to use it for: Communicating with existing customers, event promotion, and acquiring new customers.
As it stands right now, just posting organically to Facebook is proving to be less and less effective than in the past. The most effective way to use Facebook for your restaurant is to run Facebook Ads. They're targeted, reliable, and will help you reach the right people.
Running Facebook Ads
Like on Instagram, you can always boost your page's likes with Facebook Ads. They're highly targeted, meaning they'll be viewed by local people who are more likely to visit your restaurant, giving you a better return on investment.
There are a few things to remember when running Facebook ads for restaurants. First, make sure your ad copy is clear and concise. Secondly, ensure your ad image is relevant and catches viewers' attention. Lastly, make sure your ad targeting is on point, so you're reaching your target audience.
Creating an SEO-optimized website
Anyone can create a sleek, multifunctional website these days. Dozens of companies provide high-quality drag-and-drop templates with all the tools you need to take reservations and online orders.
Below are some things to keep in mind when building your website:
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Is my menu accessible and legible?
- Do my hyperlinks work?
- Are my pictures (food, drinks & venue) appealing?
One key aspect of your restaurant website is search engine optimization (SEO). A website that ticks all the right SEO boxes allows Google and other search engines to work to their full potential.
Let's say you own a burger restaurant in Manhattan's Lower East Side. When potential customers crave burgers, they'll search 'burger takeout near me.' Google then collects all the info on nearby restaurants and their websites, serving up the most relevant search based on this person's location.
Your SEO score is like a ranking for potential customers. The higher your SEO score, the more likely your restaurant will appear at the top of Google searches and the more likely people are to come and visit or place an online order.
While SEO can get highly technical, there are a few best practices to ensure your website sees the most possible eyeballs:
- Include your full address to localize searches. This lets Google know where you're based and, more importantly, gives customers all the info they need to find your restaurant when they're on the hunt for food.
- Add page titles and meta descriptions. Customers see this when they search on Google, which provides a window into what to expect at your restaurant. Most website editors have fields for this. “Title tags are important for user experience, SEO, and social sharing, so display your restaurant name here. And they don't require too much effort to make,” says Nick Chernets of DataForSEO . These are his recommendations for page titles:
- Use high-performing keywords (keywords are the terms people enter into search engines like Google)
- Include primary and secondary keywords if the space allows
- Put the most important words in your title at the front of it to ensure it will be displayed
- Mention the name of your restaurant
- Make sure each title tag is unique and descriptive while keeping it brief (under 70 characters) Check the final result here .
- Create a blog on your website. “It will bring more visitors to your website and keep your content fresh, which is another bonus for a better SEO score. The blog could include recipes, cooking tutorials, upcoming events, or menu updates.”
“Creating an SEO-ready website can certainly be done in-house, but if you're unsure or don't have the time, hire a marketing agency or SEO freelancer to boost your online traffic—and in turn—restaurant traffic,” says Chernets.
Recommended Reading: 15 Beautiful Restaurant Website Templates
Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools for restaurants. It allows you to reach a large audience with your marketing message and can be very cost effective. Email marketing can help you build relationships with your customers, promote new menu items or specials, and drive customers to your restaurant. It's also incredibly cost effective: according to research by WebFX , every dollar spent on restaurant email marketing generates forty-four dollars in revenue.
How do I get my guests email addresses?
Before you can start sending emails, you have to build up an email list. There are a number of ways to do this.
You can use a sign-up form on your website, have waitstaff drop cards or forms at the end of a meal, or use your POS system to get emails when guests check out in a quick-service setting. You can also use events as a way to capture new emails via a sign-up form.
Once you have a small list built, look to tools like Mailchimp , HubSpot , or ConstantContact to start sending emails to your list.
Types of Restaurant Email Marketing
- Newsletters : Let customers know what's going on in your restaurant. A restaurant email newsletter can include menu updates, event promotion, announcing new locations, or include content like recipes or interviews with staff. A monthly newsletter is a great way to engage with customers and keep your restaurant top of mind when they're deciding where to go eat.
- Promotions : Send out enticing, seasonal promotions to get customers in the door. Extended happy hours, special tasting menus, game day promotions, or any special deals or limited time offers would work here.
- Special offers : You know that annual birthday email from the brand you bought 1 pair of shoes from five years ago? Many email list tools and customer relationship management tools (CRMs) allow you to store information about your customers (with their consent, of course), such as birthdays or anniversaries. You can use this information to automate a birthday email to your customers to wish them a happy birthday. Better yet, send it a week or two early with a special offer or invitation to spend their special day with you.
A note on spam
Email spam laws vary, but some general principles apply in most jurisdictions. Generally speaking, sending unsolicited commercial emails, or "spam," is illegal without the recipient's consent. It is also generally illegal to use false or misleading information in email headers or to distribute email addresses without the consent of the people involved.
For example, businesses must typically provide a way for recipients to opt-out of future emails and clarify that the email is a marketing message.
Violating email spam laws can result in significant penalties. In some cases, companies that are found to be in violation of spam laws may also be required to pay damages to the people who received the spam emails.
There's nothing more likely to make someone come back than the promise of a reward. Reward loyal customers with discounts. Customer loyalty programs can be simple cards, or you can take the gamification aspect further with digital 'point scoring' for every dollar spent. Many POS providers have this built in.
While the loyalty card is simple and effective, taking your loyalty program digital allows you to collect your customers' data and continuously advertise to them through email or your app.
Social media and technology have opened up a whole new world of marketing opportunities for restaurants, and they're just waiting to be leveraged.
Recommended Podcast: The new customer loyalty with Phil Crawford of CKE Restaurant
They may seem old-school, but press releases should be an essential part of a restaurant's marketing strategy. A press release is a formal message that communicates the information you want to provide about your business to a desired audience. Whether you're looking to promote your restaurant's grand opening, or draw attention to a new tasting menu, the press release will produce the media coverage you need to get noticed.
When drafting a press release, consider the following:
- Your desired audience
- A catchy headline
- A striking first paragraph to draw attention
- Detailed 2-3 paragraphs to follow answering the who, what, where, when, how
- A boilerplate / “about” section
- After the press release is crafted and carefully reviewed, begin your outreach! Sites like eReleases and NewsWire are great tools to get started. Better yet, dig for your local newspaper or magazine contacts and send it to them directly!
Recommended Reading: 11 Restaurant Marketing Strategies That Work in 2023
Traditional Restaurant Marketing
While you should certainly focus energy on your digital marketing efforts, you can't ignore the more traditional forms of marketing.
You can't go wrong with events—they can be hosted at your restaurant, by you, or they can be local fairs and tasting events that you attend as an exhibitor. Regardless, events are a great way to get in front of potential guests and reinforce relationships with existing customers.
Direct Mail Marketing
The mailbox is still alive and well. And as digital marketing has taken over, it can be a great way to break through the noise. A few ways to utilize direct mail are:
- Sending flyers or coupons to homes in your target market—this works well for a grand opening
- Dropping offers into takeout orders, like a 10% discount or free dessert on their next order
- Sending menus to apartment buildings and offices in your area
Make sure your direct mail looks good and is printed on quality paper. In a world with so much digital noise, a simple flyer can help your restaurant break through the feedback.
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Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!
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Traditional restaurant marketing strategies for direct mail, contests, and events A list of festivals and events for your restaurant When you read through this section, have your business plan, budget, and priorities close at hand.
Develop a restaurant marketing strategy Know how to track what works, so you can zero in on key channels. Confidently build on your initial plan to boost return on investment We hope you enjoy reading this guide as much as we enjoyed writing it. Table of Contents 1 10 Principles before We Start 2 The Foundations
Chip Klose, restaurant marketer and founder of Restaurant Strategy, defines restaurant marketing in 3 steps: Brand Awareness This is where you're putting yourself in front of customers, to show them that you exist. This could be as simple as paid social advertising, great signage, an ad in the local paper, or a television appearance.