There’s no escaping the fact that the restaurant industry has taken an almighty battering from the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s also no doubting its resilience or desire to get straight back up on its feet.
That’s exactly what restaurateurs across the world are doing right now. They’re taking stock, revisiting their business plans and getting ready to market the you-know-what out of their restaurants.
Oracle recently launched a report which considers what dining (in and out) will be like during the coming years. Tellingly, the desire for people to head out and eat at restaurants varies wildly by demographic, with millennials the most eager and baby boomers least willing to leave the comfort of their home.
This makes the job of restaurant marketing all the more pressing. More importantly, it means you need to up your game, big time, when it comes to creatively marketing your venue. And you should, because research suggests that people spend, on average, 12.6% of their income on food. The market is still there to be had!
The good news? You’ve found this blog post, and we’ve picked out five of our most favourite inventive restaurant marketing campaigns to get those creative juices flowing.
5 inspiring restaurant marketing campaigns we love
1. Chipotle leads the way with TikTok
In 2019, Chipotle was one of the only major restaurant chains to market itself on TikTok. They’re slowly being joined by others on the short-form video sharing service, but it’s still a largely untapped playground for this industry.
However, as a restaurant business, you’re uniquely tuned for TikTok. It thrives on short, snappy pieces of visual content which create intrigue and desire. Sounds a little bit like a restaurant menu, right?
Chipotle’s #TikTokBurrito contest in 2019 achieved hundreds of thousands of views and lots of imitations and is the perfect example of how a restaurant can experiment with this fascinating marketing channel. Don’t ignore it!
2. LEON gets friendly with The Body Coach
This example might be nearly five years old, but it’s still relevant today and is something which is aspirational for restaurants of all sizes.
Check out the video LEON made with ‘The Body Coach’ Joe Wicks:
It’s unashamedly “you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours”, but at the heart of the Lean and Clean campaign lies a genuine benefit for the audience.
Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, therefore if you’re not quite in the market for a Joe Wicks, you’ll almost certainly be able to find a smaller influencer who is just as capable of extending your reach via a smart partnership. Start scouring YouTube and the foodie blogs!
3. Nando’s tackles big issues
Just because you’re a hospitality operator, who says you shouldn’t get involved in the big issues of the day?
That was Nando’s thinking when they launched their ‘Booth Truths’ video series. Tackling loneliness, identity, entrepreneurship and lots more besides, Booth Truths was essentially an ad series targeted smartly at the chain’s customer demographic.
The content was just as smart, because it positioned Nando’s as a leading voice in serious topics which can impact all of our lives.
What could you talk about? Why not start a regular podcast or video series to delve into issues which impact your customers? They’ll thank you for it with engagement and shares.
4. Sketch makes itself ‘Instagram-friendly’
There’s nothing like waking up and discovering that your restaurant has gone viral, thanks to customers doing the work of an entire marketing department overnight.
This is actually a relatively simple thing to achieve, but it does require some upfront investment when it comes to making your venue ‘Instagram-ready’. To see how this should be done, check out Sketch, a London restaurant which has clearly focused on making its establishment as photogenic as possible.
As a result, its customers feel compelled to take photos of themselves for Instagram, thus effortlessly extending the reach of the brand on social. Most interesting is the fact that the majority of its user generated content is captured in the toilet, thanks to the quirky design and Instagrammable mirror reflections.
Start thinking about how you can make your venue as visually pleasing and engaging as possible, and the social activity will follow.
5. Starbucks continues to lead the way with loyalty
Loyalty programs work for a variety of really simple psychological reasons. It’s why the biggest brands on the planet invest huge sums of time and money in theirs, and for the best example, we need look no further than Starbucks.
The Starbucks Rewards program is, admittedly, an obvious example, but that’s for good reason. It remains the best illustration of how to develop, maintain and grow a simple but effective loyalty program.
It’s easy to forget that loyalty programs are marketing channels in their own right. So, if you haven’t implemented your own yet, why not learn from the best? Simplicity really is key, along with a reward which is of genuine benefit to your audience - even if it’s just a free cup of coffee every once in a while.
Quick-fire restaurant marketing tips
The examples above may seem a little unattainable at the moment, but the opposite is true. No matter the size of your business, you can benefit from every single one of the marketing strategies we’ve listed.
This is because they all rely on simple ideas which can be executed with free services, platforms and content creation.
Here are some quick-fire ideas to help get you started on some of the bigger strategies above:
- always place the emphasis on the benefits of your restaurant offering - not the features
- describe everything with ultimate enthusiasm, and don’t worry about going over the top or having a bit of fun with word play
- make things scarce, whether it be a limited run of a new dessert or a time-limited drinks offer; scarcity works
- throw in special events whenever you can, from networking evenings to tie-ins with local attractions and key national dates
- learn how to use your smartphone’s camera to take the best photos of your dishes
- experiment on a small scale first with social media advertising; use that time to explore the targeting possibilities and pay close attention to what the results are saying
- get used to capturing random video footage throughout the day of your operation - you never know when you might need it
- learn how to tell stories - invest time in reading up on the craft of storytelling in marketing
- always take advantage of user-generated content, wherever you find it
- read your reviews, respond to them and make changes to your marketing based on what people are saying
- don’t be afraid to use humour during your marketing
Every tip above can be applied to all forms of marketing, from your social media output to traditional advertising campaigns. Even better: the more time you invest in them, the more they’ll become second nature.
Sometimes, it pays to keep things simple…
We hope we’ve given you lots of inspiration for your own restaurant marketing campaigns today, but, sometimes, it pays to be simple.
For instance, if you’ve recently introduced takeaway at your restaurant, hotel or pub, it’s relatively easy to tell the world about it. There are no tricks or complicated strategies required, either - you just need to follow the advice in our latest guide, below.