How to Market a Restaurant, Cafe, Coffee Shop, Tearoom, Winebar, Pub, or Pizza Place
November 26, 2009
Behind every new restaurant, cafe and coffee shop is a dream. A dream where people book weeks in advance, every table is full, the food and service are brilliant and the profits roll in.
The truth is often different. The restaurant business is tough. There is competition on every corner and however good your food and service might be you have to be brilliant at marketing as well.
Most new restaurants, cafes and coffee shops fail within two years. But yours can thrive.
The reason they fail isn’t often down to the food, service or ambience. Often it is purely down to poor marketing.
Marketing isn’t difficult. It needn’t cost a fortune. But if you are going to learn how to market your restaurant you will need to learn a few simple marketing strategies and techniques ……… just like the Top Ten Restaurant Marketing Strategies listed below.
1. Location is important and it is often said that the three most important things about your business are location, location, location; and there is some truth in it but …….. being able to find your restaurant and being able to park is just as important.
When I say being able to find your restaurant it isn’t just being able to find it physically if it is down a side street or at the end of a long country road. It is as much about people knowing there is a restaurant for them to dine at, and that might mean being able to find you online. Don’t imagine that you will be booked solid from day one unless you market aggressively and ensure people know you exist.
You need to ensure that you use marketing strategies that include all the usual marketing techniques and a few extra.
Step one is something you must do before you open. Invite a few people to your restaurant, send them a copy of your an advert or leaflet and then ask them how easy it was to find you. Get some feedback on how easy it was to find the area you are in, the particular street and your premises. Check if your directions are clear and if your signage was easy to follow. Then ask them about the advert or leaflet you sent them. Does it describe your business and offer correctly? Is it clear what type of food or theme you specialise in?
There are hundreds of questions to ask at this stage and you only get one chance to get it right.
Location isn’t just a physical location
Location can also be viewed in another context. Can people find you online and is your website attractive? In an age when people Google for all sorts of information, including the location of hotels, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops you need to be visible not only on your website but also via directories and on TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Google Earth and SatNav.
Whenever I travel for business or leisure I use these tools to find locations to stay or eat in. For example on a recent trip to Menton on the French Riviera, I searched Google Maps for a hotel close to my client. I managed to find a family run hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant in the next street – so I could forget finding a taxi to take me between the hotel and having to find somewhere to entertain my client – my choice was as easy as looking at a map. Likewise going to visit a new client in Edinburgh I was able to go online and find a coffee shop in the next street; it was so much easier to be able to arrive 30 mins early and have a coffee before the meeting rather than rush from the airport straight into a meeting.
2. Produce some Flyers. You need to make sure people know you’re opening, or indeed are already open.. The question is how are you going to distribute your flyers? 10,000 flyers sat in a box at the back of the office will do you no good at all. You need a way to distribute them that will attract attention. You might decide to put one through every letterbox in the town and could include a special offer; something like a free bottle of house wine with every dinner booking.
3. Alternatively, and more exciting, how about offering free samples of your food? After all, it is the food they will come to you for, so go into the streets, or to local events, and give samples to people. If it is as good as you think they will book a table as they taste it … provided you ask them to book.
As they eat your samples tell them about the type of food or coffee you specialise in. If they don’t book a table immediately ask them if you can send them next week’s special offer and get their contact details.
Once you have their details you can contact them regularly with offers. Restaurateurs often neglect obtaining customer and prospect contact details and yet it is a low-cost way to market and can provide extremely cost-effective marketing results.
4. PR or Public Relations is a really effective low-cost way of marketing your business. You can send media releases to your local papers and radio station or run some events that will attract attention. We’ve already mentioned one – offering free samples. Think about how you might link your free sample event with a media release. Offering free samples on its own isn’t much of a story for the press, but if you can make it more exciting in some way the local media will be more interested. Can you get a local personality or celebrity involved? It could be anyone from a famous chef or cookery writer to your local MP – the MP will be cheaper and will want to be seen supporting local businesses.
Consider other ways to get in the media. Could you hold some sort of competition? It could be for a genuine Guinness World Record or be something ridiculous like the International Spaghetti Knitting Championships! It could even become an annual event.
Whatever happens, ensure your name is up in lights, hand out plenty of menus and samples, take bookings and get those contact details.
5. Once you have bookings and people are flocking to your establishment you need to provide Incredible Customer Service. Giving people incredible customer service is essential if you want them to come again and also tell their friends about how good your restaurant is.
Nearly every restaurant gives free chocolates with the bill, but how many give a flower to the ladies. This isn’t expensive but will be remembered for weeks.
It doesn’t matter how many free gifts you give away in some respects. The most memorable evenings are those where the host is courteous and thoughtful and treats you like royalty.
6. Promotions and themed evenings are a great way to keep people interested and coming back for more. Offer special themed dinners, hosted wine tasting and guest chefs to give people a reason to come to the restaurant on the quieter nights.
The great thing about these events is that they are essentially self-financing as people pay to attend them.
And if themed evenings aren’t your thing you can put a twist on the idea. A restaurant I know in Royal Leamington Spa holds Holy Communion Services in conjunction with the local church. And a restaurant I visited in the US held regular Blood donor Sessions.
There are no limits to the events you can run.
7. Customer Comment Cards allow you to find out what customers really think – ask them if their food is OK during the meal and some will say “great” even if they hate it – they just don’t want a fuss. Give them a Comment Card and they are likely to be more forthcoming.
Comment cards also allow you to collect names, email addresses and special dates like anniversaries and birthdays of your customers.
Next year you can email them a special coupon 3 weeks before their special day and, even if they don’t rebook for that event, the chances are they will book another date anyway.
Once you have their contact details you can also send out special offers throughout the year ……..so comment cards do more than just gather comments.
8. E-marketing isn’t just about having a great website. Certainly, you need a good site that encourages people to sign up to your newsletter (where you tell them about food and drink 85% of the time and special offers 15% of the time) as well as showing your menu, prices, payment terms and opening hours.
You also need to consider the other e-marketing tools at your disposal.
Think about using Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. I recommend Google Adwords as the best system – it is faster, lower cost and easier to use than other PPC systems.
You should also consider Google Maps. A few years ago no one searched Google Maps for a restaurant, but they do today. When I am on holiday I often pull up a map of the area and search for restaurants. It is a quick and easy way to see where they are located and to see what reviews they have – ideal if you are a stranger to the area.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can market online and as most cost nothing whatsoever … or very little … you should think carefully before spending too much on this.
9. Newsletters have been mentioned previously, but are so important it is worth spending more time on them.
Newsletters should live up to their name …. They should provide news. I don’t mean news of your latest special offer; I mean something that will interest people and bring them back again and again. For example, you could include an article about how you source some of your food. It might be a piece about sourcing truffles or a particular wine in France becomes a travel and food feature and will provide interest.
Another piece on where you obtain your veg locally, or why you choose farmhouse Cheddar rather than a mass-produced product, will say a lot about your ethos.
It is quite permissible to mention special offers and events (after all selling is how you make your living), but you don’t want the newsletter to be perceived as a hard selling tool. The more enjoyable it is the better….. people will follow up on your offers more readily if you link your piece on cheese to an event or new dish rather than give the hard sell.
10. I started by saying that however great your food you could still fail. But let’s remember that your aim should be to provide great food and service. If you do this then your reputation will spread. Word of Mouth is the greatest form of marketing known to mankind. Not only is it free, but people hearing it believe it because people that experienced what you have to offer told them, and they enjoyed it enough to tell them.
How to market a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop … Eleven Top Marketing Tips
- Location is important, both physical and online
- Produce some Flyers.
- Try offering free samples of your food, maybe in nearby locations
- Use PR
- Provide incredible customer service
- Run promotions such as themed evenings
- Use customer comment cards
- Understand that digital marketing is about more than a great website
- Gather customer contact details and send out great newsletters and offers
- Produce great food
- Use social media
How to Market a Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Café, Tea Rooms, Pub, Wine Bar and Other Food and Drink Outlets .. The Book
With over 36,000 words and many images, my book on marketing is now available. There’s a brief outline of the content below .. It’s been written so there’s something for virtually every situation.
You can get it on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079V9KDQ5/
Here’s a Sneak Preview of the Content
Why This Book Exists
A dream comes true
Most People Think Advertising is Marketing
Three Types of Advertising
Direct Sales Advertising
Relationship Building Advertising
AIDA Stands For ….
What is Marketing?
More About Surveys
Dress Codes and Staff Dress
The 4 Ps
Values, Keywords/Phrases e.g. Locally Sourced, From Our Garden or Greenhouse
Who is Your Next Customer?
PR – Public Relations
Why Drive Away Business?
HARO, ExpertSources and Other Directories
Campaigns and Events
Brochures, Leaflets and Printed Materials
SEO – URL Keyword Phrases and Content
Simple SEO Actions
Wi-Fi Bandwidth is a Marketing and Operations Issue
Online Menus and Ordering
More Online Menu Advantages
Pagers Versus Text Notifications
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Beacons (aka Proximity Beacons)
Customer Service Subtleties
How Hotel Restaurants Can Look Disorganised
Understanding Hospitality Trends
More Hospitality Research Abstracts
Other Information Sources
The Controversial Question of Photography
The Consumer Buying Process
Social Media to Raise Awareness
Social Media Advertising
Third Party Sites … TripAdvisor, Toptable etc.
Google Maps ….. Bing, Safari and More
Getting Google Reviews
Quirky Marketing Ideas
Views of Food, Kitchen and the External View
Sound, Music and TV
The Bill and Recipe …. to CRM
Your Perfect Marketing Plan
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These Top Ten Restaurant Marketing Strategies are a small sample of the hundreds of marketing strategies and channels you can use to market your food business. There are more on our YouTube channel which, if you subscribe, will keep you up to date with our new video series as it is published.