How to Market a Restaurant Without Going Broke

Opening a restaurant has plenty of costs, from the rent or mortgage of your venue to payroll for your employees, but you can’t forget to budget marketing into your plan. Although it isn’t the priciest part of opening an eatery, it is vital to getting the word out about your place.

If you consider the results from a recent study by The CMO Survey, the amount of money you allocate into solid marketing equals positive company growth. Businesses that spent an average of about 16.5 percent of revenue on marketing grew 1 to 15 percent over a year; those that spent an average of 50.2 percent on marketing grew 31 to 100 percent. However, that doesn’t mean you need to spend that much on marketing to see results.

Marketing experts suggest new restaurants spend 25 to 35 percent of their budgets on marketing to ensure potential customers know they exist. Most restaurants plan on devoting 3 to 6 percent of sales to marketing. That’s a reasonable amount that certainly shouldn’t break your budget. You can find a variety of ways to cut corners and get more customers and customer loyalty.

Inspire Customer Loyalty

One of the first questions your host or servers should ask customers when they come in or are being seated is, “Is this your first visit?” That single piece of information can help your team tailor their service to new and returning customers. It allows your servers to let new customers know what your restaurant is about and give them the VIP treatment. It also allows your servers to welcome returning guests as if they’re old friends.

You can create a loyalty program that rewards customers for coming back. For example, you offer them a rewards card and for every $10 they spend, you stamp their card, and after 10 stamps, you give them a free meal or appetizer. Alternatively, loyal customers may be recognized by staff, and it’s always an honor if a chef sends out a new dish to those customers as a thank-you for their continued support.

Get Your Customers to Work for You

A satisfied customer is one of your best marketing tools. They spread a good word about your restaurant to friends and family, but you can make that recommendation even more effective. Offer your customers referral cards. A 10- or 20-percent-off discount card for new customers is an excellent way to help your loyal customers recruit more people to your eatery. Review sites like Yelp or Google are good ways to obtain new guests and returns. If a customer writes a review after their experience, you can offer a percentage off their check or give them a coupon for a free appetizer upon their next visit.

Digital Marketing

No other form of marketing is as effective and inexpensive as getting into the digital arena. You can focus your efforts by ensuring your business is in Google recommendations, on Yelp and in other local listings. Make sure you’re active on your restaurant’s social media pages. You can also put some money into local targeted advertising through sites like Facebook and Google.

Content marketing is another way to get fresh clicks to your site and social pages, and it helps you rank higher in search engines. Also, don’t rule out pay-per-click advertising. It’s a great way to get to the top of a page and net customers who are looking to try something new.

Image from SAHACHATZ/Shutterstock

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