If you’re a restaurateur, you know that the restaurant industry never sleeps. Other businesses or jobs might work from nine to five, but that’s different for you and your staff. The hospitality industry changes daily, and small business owners must keep up to attract customers. One of the best ways to do this is through restaurant marketing campaigns.
Keen, creative, and intelligent marketing efforts are vital to growing and cultivating your business. Stumped on where to start? Then it’s a good thing you found this blog post. We’ve picked our top tips for your restaurant marketing plan to inspire you and your team.
Keep scrolling to learn why restaurant marketing is so important and for examples of what you should do.
Why You Should Spice Up Your Marketing Approach
Let’s say you already have a thriving restaurant. You’re well known in your local area, and you have a steady stream of customers coming in. You might think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Don’t become complacent no matter what stage your business is in. The last few years have taught us many things. One lesson for small business owners is they should always have fresh ideas to keep their businesses afloat.
Besides planning for a rainy day, new restaurant marketing ideas are essential to staying relevant. We’re living in the digital age. Customers use their phones and the internet for everything.
If they want to find a place to eat, they go to Google Maps. If they want to know if a new food truck is any good, they check the online reviews. They want the option to browse an online menu before they even arrive at your establishment. Or the comfort of an online reservation tool so they know they’ve got a table.
And let’s not forget how important social media is in all that. Using apps like TikTok, Instagram, or even an old-school Facebook page significantly impacts your marketing appeal.
What’s the bottom line? Spice up your restaurant marketing ideas to keep customers engaged, interested, and returning for more.
3 of the Best Restaurant Marketing Campaigns To Inspire You
You know the importance of freshening up your marketing plan (and how big a role mobile devices play). Now, let’s give you the inspiration to rake in new customers. Here are three of the best restaurant marketing campaigns we’ve seen.
1. Restaurant Viral Marketing Campaigns: Chipotle
In 2019, Chipotle was one of the few major restaurant chains to market itself on TikTok. (We know. It’s hard to imagine a time before that social media app dominated the world of paid ads.)
TikTok thrives off of viral sounds, challenges, and hashtags. So many of the videos folks scroll through on their mobile phones are copies of an original post. Chipotle saw this early on and decided to use it to its advantage.
They created the #TikTokburritocontest in 2019. They achieved hundreds of thousands of views, stitches, duets, and imitations. This is the perfect example of how to execute restaurant viral marketing campaigns. A company makes an original product, and viewers do the actual marketing through user-generated content.
With this strategy, the company reached its target audience and almost anyone using the app. During the height of the #TikTokBurritoContest, users would open the app, see a video about Chipotle while scrolling, and bam. They became a potential customer. When users thought about what to have for their next meal, they’d likely head to Chipotle.
Since then, thousands of brands have gotten in on the TikTok craze, from Burger King to Taco Bell. As a small restaurant business, you have a different marketing budget or bandwidth than those multi-million dollar conglomerates. But you can still harness this new technology to rake in potential customers.
Start small by creating a TikTok account. Post regularly and spend time on the app looking at restaurant marketing trends and content.
2. McDonald’s Celebrity Meals
Let’s fast-forward to another example of restaurant marketing campaigns that are more relevant today. We’re talking about Mcdonald’s and their endless rollout of celebrity-endorsed meals.
Since 2020, Mcdonald’s offers visitors a chance to eat the favorite meal of a celebrity. This rollout has included meals from Cardi B and Offset, BTS, and Mariah Carey, to name a few.
It’s not exactly a new concept: celebrity endorsements have always been around. However, McDonald’s put a new spin on it by creating restaurant meals specific to each collaborator.
This motivates fans to go out and try those menu items just for the chance to support their “fave” celebrity.
We’re not expecting you to reach out to a famous pop star. But influencers come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re a fantastic way to evolve your marketing strategy. Therefore, any restaurant owner can find local food bloggers or influencers. Dig into your resources or try local search results to find someone who fits your brand identity.
Find someone with a well-known local restaurant blog or a well-followed Instagram page where they review restaurants in the area. Invite food bloggers for a free meal in exchange for a post or story featuring your cuisine.
Last but not least, the Starbucks loyalty program is on our list of successful restaurant marketing campaigns.
Loyalty programs work for a variety of simple psychological reasons. For one, everyone loves feeling like they’re getting special deals and discounts. For another, if customers feel like a business takes care of them, they have positive feelings about that establishment.
That’s why they’re called loyalty plans: they build loyal customers. And that’s why the biggest brands on the planet invest vast sums of time and money in them.
Look no further than Starbucks’ Rewards for the best example of success. Starbucks’ approach remains the best illustration of developing, maintaining, and growing 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? Keep it simple. Start with a punch card with a free meal on the last punch.
Or, if you have an app, add a rewards feature that activates every time a customer visits. Once they reach a certain point amount, you can offer visitors a discount, freebie, etc.
The Best Traditional Marketing Ideas for Restaurants
We’ve put a lot of emphasis on online marketing up to this point. But you don’t have to be a social media expert to change up your restaurant campaigns. Some of the best restaurant marketing ideas lean into what makes restaurants great in the first place: the in-person experience.
Here are two examples of using your brick-and-mortar location and community outreach to turn your business around. (As a bonus, they’ll lead to your customers making positive social media posts about you.)
Sketch: A Primer on Making Your Business “Instagrammable”
London restaurant Sketch makes itself as ‘Instagram-friendly’ as possible. This is an excellent example of seamlessly combining traditional and digital restaurant marketing campaigns.
Sketch didn’t unveil a photo contest or ask customers to post about their restaurant online. This UK-based eatery focused on making its brick-and-mortar location as aesthetically pleasing, quirky, and photo-worthy as possible. That way, visitors felt naturally compelled to snap pics and videos for social media.
Most interesting is that most of its user-generated content comes from the bathroom. Sketch made sure to fill even the restrooms with quirky designs for mirror selfies.
Imagine discovering that your restaurant went viral overnight — thanks to customers doing the work of an entire marketing department. In many ways, this marketing campaign is relatively simple. But it requires an upfront investment to make your restaurant ripe for trendy online visual content.
Toronto’s Summerlicious / Winterlicious festivals show how to use local events and festivals to enhance brand recognition and community bonds. On top of that, they’ll help you reach a larger group of local consumers.
Toronto’s Summerlicious event, a two-week food festival every July, and its counterpart Winterlicious every January, are perfect examples of such opportunities. The festivals aim to expose Toronto locals to new restaurants.
You can also create your own event for your restaurant marketing campaign. Create an event around a cultural holiday that matches your restaurant’s cuisine or even a menu special. You can launch a fund-raising event for a cause or a local charity.
And, of course, be sure to connect with other restaurants and small businesses. They might have a lead on an upcoming festival or an event contact that would suit your marketing needs.
Quick-Fire Restaurant Marketing Campaign Ideas
You don’t have to duplicate the restaurant marketing campaigns above to run a successful business. Identify the elements that make each one successful and then adapt them to your marketing strategy. Also, remember to keep your marketing strategy aligned with your brand identity.
Most importantly, always keep your customers’ needs in mind. The examples we cited above rely on simple ideas based on free services, platforms and creative content creation. Especially when you’re still discovering what strategy works best, it’s a good idea to stick to tried-and-tested practices.
Here are a few quick-fire restaurant marketing campaign ideas to gear you up for bigger strategies.
Attitude Is Everything
If you want folks to feel excited to spend time at your restaurant, you need to set the tone. Attitude is absolutely everything. Whether talking to your staff or making an online post, you want to exude confidence and enthusiasm.
Let people see why you have the best service and eats in town.
Make Things Special
Everyone loves to feel special, so think about that in your next marketing campaign. Experiment with the idea of “scarcity,” for example. Make a limited-run menu item or implement a happy hour with special deals.
When people think something’s running out, it creates a sense of immediacy. That means they won’t wait another day to visit your restaurant. They’ll do it as soon as possible to avoid missing out.
Another way to make things unique is with special events. Throw in fun activities whenever you can, from networking evenings to tie-ins with local attractions.
Embrace the Internet
We can’t overstate the importance of marketing your business online for restaurant marketing campaigns. We mentioned large-scale big-picture ideas earlier, but there are plenty of small ways to do this.
For example, learn how to use your smartphone’s camera to take the best photos of your dishes. You can post these on social media or on your own blog. If blogging interests you, enroll in a course about local SEO strategies to boost your searchability and online presence.
Going back to social media, why not experiment on a small scale with social media advertising? Use this to explore the targeting possibilities and pay close attention to what the results tell you.
Finally, consider adding online delivery services to your offerings. You can do it via your own website or partner with an app like Postmates or DoorDash.
Wear Your Marketing Thinking Cap at All Times
As a restaurateur, you already know this, but you must think about your business 24/7. As part of that, we recommend being ready to switch on your marketing glasses to look at your surroundings.
When you visit other businesses, look at what they’re doing. See how it feeds into their marketing strategy. At your eatery, capture video footage throughout the day. You never know when you might need it for a post or ad.
If you have the time and resources, learn how to tell stories. Read up on the craft of storytelling in marketing so your restaurant campaigns have a clear, effective angle.
Lastly, always take advantage of user-generated content wherever you find it.
Use Reviews to Your Advantage
Reviews are critical to small businesses like restaurants. They make or break your reputation. With that in mind, stay updated and respond (courteously) to your Google and Yelp reviews.
Make changes to your restaurant marketing campaign based on what people are saying. For example, if you see loads of positive reviews raving about your appetizers, you know those are a success. Keep them on your menu and use that as inspiration for new dishes. If you see negative reviews about staff attitude, you know it’s time for a team meeting.
Don’t Be Afraid To Have a Laugh
We know running a business is hard. But try to remember what you love about owning a restaurant every day. Cut loose when you can, and encourage diners and staff members to laugh and have fun.
And don’t be afraid to infuse that same humor into your marketing too.
You can apply every tip above to all forms of marketing. From your social media output to traditional restaurant advertising campaigns, these all work. The more time you invest in crafting ideas for your restaurant marketing campaigns, the higher your chances of success.
Bonus Tip: Enhance Your Guests’ Dining Experience With Free WiFi
Providing free WiFi to your guests enhances your restaurant’s dining experience. Use it as a tool for your restaurant marketing campaigns.
A customizable WiFi system, like Beambox, allows you to meet your guest’s connectivity needs, as well as your marketing needs. You can integrate your loyalty program into your WiFi system. Or build your restaurant’s email marketing base and SMS subscriber list via a customized captive portal. You can even drive customers to your social media pages.
Beambox helps minimize poor reviews by asking customers to rate their experience via the app. A feedback form deflects back three-star reviews or lower. This allows you to improve your customer’s impression before they leave a permanent review. In this way, WiFi marketing is one of the most important marketing software tools for restaurants. Make sure you add it to your marketing calendar, plan and budget.
Beambox is an all-in-one WiFi solution that accomplishes all of the above and more. Our client base of over 3,000 venues uses our WiFi marketing solutions in impressive, rewarding ways. Why not use this in your future restaurant marketing campaigns? Accelerate your business growth — start your Beambox free trial today!
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