9 Creative Advertising and Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Jaime E. Love

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The restaurant industry is one of extreme supply and demand. On the demand side, everyone needs to eat – and not everyone has the time, ability, or interest to cook their food. So restaurants are always in demand and will probably remain that way forever. At the same time, there is an abundant supply, with restaurants on seemingly every corner of every city.

Generally, when there is both strong supply and demand, they balance each other. But that’s at a macro level. When it comes to individual restaurants, things can still get pretty competitive. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of the most effective marketing strategies that can help you reach new customers and retain your old ones.

This article will dive into some marketing techniques likely to impact the modern restaurant scene.

Nine Advertising and Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Whether you are a brand-new restaurant or one that has been in the community for years, ongoing marketing is just part of the business. Consider using some or all of these restaurant marketing ideas and trends to keep growing your brand.

#1 – Be Active With Reviews

One of the first things that any potential visitor to your restaurant will do is check your reviews online. Consider getting into the habit of responding to restaurant reviews left on major review platforms like Google and Yelp.

Once you register as the business owner, you can respond to reviews, thank people for the positive ones, and leave your side of the story on the negative reviews. You don’t want to argue with bad reviews, as tempting as that might be, but you can give a reasonable response that shows anyone reading the page that you care about service and will work hard to treat your customers right.

You can also take steps to encourage positive reviews from the many customers you are impressing. For example, offer a discount, a free drink, or an appetizer for people who leave a review (note: you can’t make them leave a positive review, that’s unethical). Or, you can start by asking your best customers to review, and you don’t even have to give them something in return (although it would be nice).

Having more positive reviews than your competitors is the #1 way to get more customers.

#2 – Explore PPC And Retargeting

Pay-per-click ads are a great way to find potential customers searching for exactly what you have to offer. Thanks to the power of PPC ads and the way they can be precisely targeted, you can find searchers who are looking for the kind of food you sell in the area that you sell it. That’s a powerful tool, and even if PPC leads only make up a small percentage of your business, there is no reason to skip over this opportunity.

To make PPC ads even more effective, consider using retargeting techniques to persistently put your restaurant in front of the eyes of those who might like to dine with you. Retargeting allows you to show ads to people who visited your website, even days after they’ve moved on.

By having your ads follow potential customers around the Internet, you can stay top of mind and have a stronger likelihood of converting them into sales. One way to do this effectively is to make your follow-up ads a coupon or discount. That way, if your website wasn’t enough to entice them, the discount offer might nudge them the rest of the way.

#3 – Use Geofencing

Geofencing is a great tool (technically more of a tactic than a strategy) for drawing customers into your restaurant.

So what is geofencing? Essentially, geofencing platforms let you draw a virtual perimeter around a building, intersection, event, or any other physical location so that anyone who enters that space will start to see ads for your restaurant on their mobile device.

If your restaurant is located near a tourist area, you might geofence that area and drive traffic to a link with directions to your door. Or, if you want to attract more local customers, you might geofence an entire neighborhood and advertise a special, or that you now offer local delivery. The possibilities are endless!

One way to geofence your business is by optimizing your Google My Business accountHearst Bay Area offers a unique geofencing product called Google My Business Lead Optimizer.

#4 – Optimize Your Website

For this point, we will assume you already have a website for your restaurant. If not, that is the first step – create a quality website immediately so future guests can quickly get the key information they need, like your menu, location, hours, and more. For restaurants that have a website but haven’t touched it in years, updating that site should be a top priority.

Making sure a website is mobile-friendly is important for all businesses, but it’s particularly critical for restaurants. Many of your potential customers will be out and about when looking for somewhere to eat, and they’ll be on their phones as a result.

A website that renders properly on a small screen, so the content is easy to read and the buttons can be easily tapped, will make for a better experience than an older site that looks the same on a phone as on a desktop computer.

#5 – Create Loyalty Incentives

The easiest customer to get into your restaurant is one you have already served. That customer knows the quality of your food and the welcoming nature of your service. So make it a point to do everything you can to bring back customers repeatedly – this will cut down on how many new people you have to find to keep your space filled.

Loyalty programs are great for this kind of marketing. Offer your repeat customers another reason to keep coming back, beyond the food and service. This could take the form of a free meal after so many purchases, access to preferred reservations, or even special events for regulars only.

You’ll need to tailor this program to the type of restaurant you run and the type of customers you typically serve, but having something in place will help long-time customers know they are appreciated.

#6 – Develop An Active Blog (Or Vlog)

Blogging is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you are busy running a restaurant. But if you already have a good website in place, adding an active blog to that site won’t take too much time, and it can pay significant dividends.

Put someone in charge of writing regular blog posts for the restaurant and get them posted so you can have a stream of content flowing weekly. Also, if you already know how to promote a restaurant on social media, you can post links to these articles on your social accounts to expand the reach of the content.

Another great option is to start a video blog or Vlog. YouTube is the second most popular search engine, so having content there and linking to it on your website is a great way to get more traffic. You don’t need a professional camera, just an iPhone and someone who is willing to act as the host or narrator.

So what should you write about on your blog or Vlog? Try to put yourself in the average customer’s mind and create content they would like to read. Maybe you’ll relay the stories behind some of your most popular dishes or even offer advice on how to make versions of those dishes at home.

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