Restaurant marketing

Seven best practices for restaurant marketing

There are over a million restaurants in the United States, according to data from the National Restaurant Association. With so much potential competition, how do you keep the noise down?

Marketing your restaurant can come in all shapes and sizes, from the right signage to removing social media chatter. Having a variety of tools at your disposal is the easiest way to keep your sales and guests coming back for seconds.

Tell a story

Knowing your brand is an integral part of your restaurant’s identity. Having a strong brand goes a long way in building customer loyalty. When you think of companies like Coca-Cola, IBM, or McDonald’s, you probably think of a brand identity designed specifically for the customer base that each wanted to foster. The common denominator: they are reliable.

Although these companies are global leaders, they all started small and have grown over time. Find the personality of your restaurant and use it as the cornerstone of your mission statement and marketing strategy.

Creating a brand can take many shapes and sizes. For example, if you find yourself near a giant ball of string, you can use string in your decor, as a binder for your napkins, or as art in the restaurant. If your brand is based on the charm of the region, incorporate local foods and decorate with products appropriate to the region. It will help you develop the kind of atmosphere that will hopefully bring people back for a second serving.

Social media marketing

Use social media to help build your brand by sharing photos of your guests enjoying a night out or by sharing stories and trivia. And it’s worth your time. There are billions of social media users around the world, and in the United States, these users spend approximately 45 minutes every day on social media.

There is a lot of clutter on social media to take down, so post regularly and make sure that counts. For operators with small teams, you can use programs like Sprout Social or Hootsuite to schedule posts to all platforms throughout the week, allowing you to consolidate your work when it’s convenient for you. You can get a specific location using geolocation, which ensures that only people in your target area are alerted to your ads.

Let technology guide you

Advances in technology allow facial recognition and the use of limited artificial intelligence to help consumers make decisions based on their past behavior. These advancements often work in tandem and can certainly work to your advantage with targeted advertising.

In 2018, around 194 million apps were downloaded worldwide. Restaurant owners can get apps of all shapes and sizes, from free apps to proprietary apps developed specifically for their needs. These applications provide a world of potential for operators, including waiting lists or reservation systems, loyalty programs and easy access to logistics information such as menus and opening hours.

Before you take the time to get an app, consider taking a few simple steps. Research indicates that more and more people are using technology to determine their consumption needs, regardless of their generation. Find out what problems an app can fix and work from there. Find out which apps may be available for free and how long they may take to implement. If there are no free apps, calculate the potential cost-benefit analysis.

Search it on Google

A common search on Google is “restaurants near me”. Customers are likely to check out your restaurant online before going there. Tools like Google My Business give users quick access to the who, when, where, what, and why of your restaurant. For participating restaurants, Reserve with Google offers a quick and easy route for users looking to queue or save space.

Staying Up to Date is for tech-savvy customers who can search online for your schedules and menu items before they stop. Google has a rigorous schedule of updates to its product suite, which is designed to evolve based on customer needs. Although it may seem overwhelming, you can gain a lot of information by assigning your staff members different administrative tasks related to Google My Business. You can have dedicated staff to update and change, and others to keep track of customer information.

Marketing of scarcity

Whether it’s through a limited time offer or a seasonal promotion, scarcity marketing gives potential customers the boost to get in now. Examples include McDonald’s McRib, KFC’s Double Down, and Pizza Hut’s hot dog stuffed with pizza crust. These articles are so popular that they have become the subject of public conversations, myths and parodies. For small operations, daily specials can help move the needle in a comparable fashion.

There are many ways to use scarcity marketing. Using coupons can boost sales. Likewise, you can introduce time into your online shopping by showing the user that they only have a certain amount of time to make a reservation or register on a waiting list.

Listen to your competition

Knowing your competition can fuel your own branding ideas; in the idea market, there really are no bad ideas, just bad execution.

Observe the market of your competitors and react accordingly. Learn from other people’s mistakes, and if something works, determine if this tactic is something you can develop with your own brand. Beyond that, you can create marketing campaigns that work in response to other businesses if you want to develop friendly competition.


Marketing is a lot of work in a constantly changing world. What works today may not work tomorrow, so when in doubt find ways to have fun with what you’re doing.

Want to engage Generation Y or Generation Z? Look for ideas like the “Unhappy Meal” or the personality behind Wendy’s Twitter account. Hold competitions that encourage community building and that might brighten up someone else’s day.

Whatever you do and however you do it, remember that your customer satisfaction is integral to building loyalty and securing repeat visits.