Restaurant Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Restaurant Marketing The Ultimate Guide

Restaurant Marketing Menu

A strong restaurant marketing strategy is critical to the success of your business, whether you operate a world-class eatery, a hometown bistro or diner, lunch counter, or hot dog stand. A $799 billion industry with more than one million businesses spread across these United States, restaurants face heavy competition – but with each of the top 100 independent restaurants grossing more than $12 million annually (and the top chains earning billions), the fruits of success are delicious.

How can your restaurant business achieve similar success?

You obviously need amazing food, outstanding customer service, and a great location – but none of that matters if no one shows up.

Ready to grow your restaurant with a smart marketing strategy? Let’s get started!
Watch how Rock Wall Wine Company leverages print marketing to promote their business.

1 Restaurant branding and design tips

Successful restaurant marketing is contingent on more than simply sending some coupons and taking out a few ads. Branding your restaurant - for your food, your atmosphere and your customers - has as much to do with your restaurant's success as your location.

Unless you have zero competition (which is next to impossible), you need an intelligent branding strategy to earn the customer loyalty that will keep you in business for decades to come.

Importance of a branded image

Branding is important because people purchase on emotion. When it comes to restaurant marketing, they want to feel that they're eating the highest quality food prepared with care just for them.

It's important to identify and promote your branded identity so you can connect with your target audience. If your restaurant is not branded, then you're just another restaurant.

Without a branded identity, you have no control over preconceptions and therefore you're forced to compete on pricing and location alone. This is not a way to grow your restaurant. Cheap does not outsell quality, especially in the restaurant industry. This is why franchises such as Papa John’s Pizza have gone to great lengths to market the fact that their ingredients are fresh.

If you have franchise aspirations, successful branding is critical. Remember that McDonald's began as a single restaurant in San Bernardino, and now its golden arches are recognized worldwide.

Popular restaurant brand logos:
How to identify your branded image

Consider how you're different from your competitors.

What do you offer that they don't (or that they don't promote)?

If you're the only place to get fresh fish in town, identifying your brand niche is relatively easy; but if there's massive competition it can be more difficult. Perhaps you have the tastiest food in town, a master chef at work, or provide an atmosphere well-suited to your audience (such as a bistro, night club, or family restaurant).

How are you different and better than your competitors? Who are your customers, and why are you the restaurant for them?

What do you offer that they don't (or that they don't promote)?
  • Unique dishes
  • Friendly service
  • Atmosphere
  • Location
  • Events
  • Desserts and drinks
Branding through design

Skilled graphic design can transform your restaurant's branded identity from a concept to a visual influencer.

Food is a visual motivator in its own right, but when you take care to snap beautiful photos of scintillating dishes and present them in a fresh, crisp light, you can make mouths water through something as simple as a postcard or poster.

Your restaurant branded designs should suggest what your customers will experience when they visit your establishment. Your colors, logo, corporate identity package, website and other print marketing materials are all a reflection of your brand; so familiar, cohesive design must be applied to all mediums.

The goal is for your prospects to be able to glance at your marketing materials and instantly recognize who it's from and what you stand for. When you achieve this, you've developed a powerful restaurant brand identity.

2 Restaurant marketing tools

One of the biggest mistakes any restaurant can make is to view marketing as an expense. Marketing costs money, but it should be considered an investment in revenue generation.

You need outstanding marketing tools make your restaurant stand out and attract customers.

Must-have restaurant marketing materials
Menus

From the fanciest sit-down restaurant to the smallest carryout, every restaurant needs to print menus. Printing restaurant menus is about more than simply listing what you offer; they’re marketing tools that can help influence purchases, boost your ROI, and increase your average ticket.

Business cards

Business cards might not be the first marketing tools you think of for restaurant marketing, until you consider the strong impression your managers can make by introducing themselves to customers and leaving them with a business card if they have questions or concerns. Business card can also be used as customer loyalty/rewards cards, coupons, and countertop advertisements. Consider printing restaurant business cards on triple-thick ultra card stock – which features an attractive band of edge color – to leave a memorable impression.

Want to design your own business card?
Magnets

Magnets are likewise excellent marketing tools, especially if you offer food carryout and delivery. Print menu magnets that customers can place on their refrigerators so they’re reminded of your restaurant whenever they’re hungry. You can also print car door magnets to promote your restaurant everywhere you go.

Beverage coasters

Print beverage coasters to brand your restaurant and promote specials, desserts, and especially your signature drinks. Read how to turn beverage coasters into sales.

Table tents

Print restaurant table tents to promote specials, drinks, desserts, entrees, and events. Table tents can also be used to motivate customers to visit your website, sign up for your email newsletter, or follow your social media page.

Strategically-placed posters can grab attention. Try community bulletin boards, and if you're close to a large institution such as a university, tech firm or factory, see if you can purchase some ad space in hallways and on bulletin boards and place your posters there.
Banners

Promote specials and your best menu items with large banners strategically placed along the path to your restaurant. Wall graphics are likewise excellent large-format restaurant marketing tools.

Flyers

Like posters, flyers can be placed on bulletin boards and anywhere else your target patron frequents.

Postcards

Printing restaurant postcards is a great way to reach a well-targeted local audience. Consider sending postcard coupons and menus via Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) to blanket local neighborhoods with news of your restaurant.

Create your own postcard design in no time with our online design tool and free restaurant postcard templates!
Booklets/guides

A rather unique yet extremely effective approach to restaurant marketing is to print booklets to send in the mail as menus your customers can keep on-hand for takeout orders or to get them to your establishment. Infuse your booklet with sales information about your fresh food sources, staff training, preparation, and other features and their benefits to your customers. If your restaurant serves as an event venue, consider printing a guide to planning a local event.

Catalogs

Some well-branded restaurants sell T-shirts, shot glasses, beer mugs, and other merchandise to customers. One example is Cracker Barrel, which has a shop in every restaurant. If you sell merchandise, consider sending catalogs to your best customers.

Brochures

Your brochure should include images, features, benefits of your restaurant and your best dishes along with your features and benefits. Don't forget to include a great coupon and call to action!

Calendars

Everyone loves (and uses) free calendars. Try a different dessert, drink, or entrée listing each month. Other materials you should consider producing include a website, social media pages, door hangers, and a corporate identity package (complete with letterhead, envelopes, brochure, flyer, business card and pocket folder).

3 Restaurant copywriting tips

The 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing states that 40 percent of your success is based on the quality of your mailing list, another 40 percent is contingent on the perceived value of your offer, and the remaining 20 percent is everything else. But if you can't properly articulate your offer or speak to your customers, they might not even understand what makes your restaurant so special. That’s why harnessing the power of copywriting is so important to your restaurant marketing success.

What factors influence direct marketing success?
  • graphic design

    copywriting

    branding, etc.)

Four steps for writing winning restaurant copy
Craft a powerful headline

When potential patrons are considering your restaurant, they want to know three things: That you have delicious meals, an inviting atmosphere, and fair prices. Your headline should reflect all three benefits.

Highlight your benefits

Many amateur writers list features but forget to include benefits in their marketing copy. Make sure you list both, since benefits sell. Features are facts about your restaurant; benefits are how those facts will make for an enjoyable dining experience. If your restaurant is staffed by world-class chefs (feature), then you can guarantee that your patrons will enjoy their meals (benefit).

Develop an incredible offer

Discount coupons, free appetizers, buy-one-get-one offers all work; but you should also keep in mind that customers do not eat at restaurants based on price alone. Apart from great-tasting food, most customers are seeking an experience and are willing to pay more for it. Thus, your incredible offer can be the experience you provide rather than the price paid for it.

Motivate with a call to action

Your call to action should tell your patrons exactly what they need to do next to take you up on your offer. It could be simply showing up or making reservations. If your offer is event attendance, you can run a limited-time offer and get a full house fast.

Example restaurant postcard copy:

Wings. Beer. Football. Girls.

Flyball Restaurant has everything you need to host your Fantasy Football draft - All for one low price!

  • Private Fantasy Draft Command Center with Three HDTVs
  • 100 Wings (serves 10)
  • 4 pitchers of ice-cold beer
  • FREE appetizer veggie snack tray
  • Unlimited napkins
  • ... all served by our famous Flyball Girls!

Call 555-555-5555 today to reserve your Fantasy Draft Day, and you'll
get all this for less than $10 a head.

Flyball Restaurant

Wings, beer and gorgeous women.

4 Restaurant marketing distribution

Getting the word out about your restaurant takes more than send postcards and launching a website. You need to get the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. Here are some tips for restaurant marketing distribution:

Direct mail

Direct mail is the best way to reach your patrons. A calculated direct-mail campaign represents an investment in profit and should be approached with dedication.

Consult a list broker or use the mailing list building tools available at PsPrint to develop a database of your own customers and to define a mailing list comprised of likely patrons.

Repetition is key: Instead of a one-postcard campaign, develop a strategy that incorporates multiple direct-mailers during a six-month period. This contributes to your restaurant branding efforts and allows you to develop long-term relationships with your customers. By the time you launch your incredible offer, you'll have established trust and credibility and will earn a higher response rate.

Here's a sample direct-mail marketing campaign for your restaurant:
Week One

Send a menu and brochure introducing potential clientele to your restaurant. Offer a discount or free appetizer to anyone who visits.

Week Six

Send a flyer that highlights your upcoming entrée specials.

Week 12

Send a postcard advertising an upcoming event and include a call to action for your patrons to make VIP reservations fast.

Week 18

Send a calendar loaded with images of your tasty menu selection.

Week 24

Send another menu for good measure – perhaps a magnet menu?

Week 30

Send a greeting card for the next holiday inviting patrons to a free meal on the house. This will help build customer loyalty and attract new customers to your place of business.

Advertisements

You can deploy advertisements online or in local newspapers and magazines; as well as on the radio, television, billboards, and any number of digital mediums.

You can also take your ads street side by placing flyers and posters on community bulletin boards and university, office and industrial social hot spots.

Word of mouth is the most powerful advertiser for restaurants, so make sure friends, family and colleagues know what you do and are prepared to spread the word for you. You might consider handing out stickers and business cards to everyone you know for distribution (include a mini-menu on the back!).

Following up

Test, track and tweak - these three Ts will help you develop winning restaurant print marketing campaigns.

Always test different variations of your marketing materials on small portions of your mailing list before launching the full campaign. Sometimes a single word change can make a big difference in your return on investment.

Track your response rates and record who responds so you can further define what neighborhoods your customers live in, what appetizers and meals they buy, and how much they spend.

Tweak your subsequent print marketing materials to cater to this audience. Keep a database of customers and respondents, and evaluate recognizable trends so you can customize your offers.

This is just another form of knowing your customers, and from an analytical perspective it allows you to make intelligent business decisions based on honest, proven statistics.

  • T est your marketing campaigns

  • T rack your results

  • T weak future campaigns for greater success

5 Restaurant direct-mail marketing campaign tips

The ultimate success of your restaurant often depends in part on the response you get from your direct-mail marketing campaigns. You need to focus on having the best direct-mail promotions as possible, making sure your potential customers are aware of you and know why you’re special.

As you will see, when it comes to direct mail, everything matters. From graphic design, to the call to action, to audience targeting, everything must work together to be effective. The following direct mailing tips for restaurants will get you started on the right foot.

Focus on the message

Before you even begin to plan your direct-mail piece, you need to decide what your message is going to be. You need to have a clear and distinct message that you’re trying to get across. Are you introducing a new dish? Do you have a offer? Are you trying to bring in more lunch customers? Do you want to increase your delivery business? Get a grip on the message and let everything else revolve around that, including the design.

Use compelling design

A great design will do a lot to draw attention to your message. Whether you’re designing a takeout menu or brochure for delivery options, be sure to follow basic design rules when you are laying out your direct-mail piece.

On the front, incorporate exciting and inviting photos of your food and let them draw the viewer in. Limit your text as much as possible to focus attention on the most important points of your message.

Save most of your body copy for the back, especially if you have a lot of text. Also, be sure to limit the number of fonts that are used in your text. Preferably, you should use no more than two font styles throughout the entire piece.

Use a postcard format

Postcards are a great way to reach your customers with direct mail. There are no envelopes to open and your message is in full view as soon as the customer takes it out of their mailbox. You can use one side as your hook and the other side to provide details and coupons.

When you use a postcard to promote your restaurant, you know that at the very least your message will be seen, something you can’t depend on if you send something hidden in an envelope. Your brand will inevitably get attention.

Consider printing ultra postcards on triple-thick paper stock. They feature an attention-getting band of edge color that will help your brand be memorable right out of the mailbox.

Get premium printing

When you are trying to get the attention of your customers, it’s best to go high quality with your direct mail whenever possible. Premium printing from a G7 Master Certified printer will command attention and impress your audience. The better your mailing looks, the more likely you will get the response you desire.

Offer and call to action

Your direct-mail campaign will fall flat if you don’t give your customers an incentive to buy. One way to do this is to include a cut-out coupon or discount on your marketing materials. Also, make sure they know what to do next with a clear and authoritative call to action.

6 Restaurant marketing creative ideas and resources

Creative marketing generates buzz, delivers value to your patrons, and increases profits for you. Try these creative restaurant marketing ideas and resources to boost your business this year:

Creative ideas
Host an event

Live performances such as musical acts and stand-up comics are good ways to bring customers in droves.

Partner with others

Partner with hotels, spas, local attractions and other complementary but non-competing businesses to spread the message about your restaurant. You can place flyers, rack cards, brochures and business cards on counter tops; or you can go in together on a romance and beauty package or family fun package.

Loyalty/rewards program

Launch a loyalty/rewards program that gives customers incentives for repeat business.

Vehicle magnets

Print car door magnets to place on your delivery vehicles and your personal vehicles. See if you can recruit friends, family members, and employees to sport your magnets to reach thousands of potential customers on the go.

Hold a contest

One popular strategy is the “business card fishbowl,” in which you give a prize (free lunch?) to the owner of a randomly-drawn business card each month. It’s a great way to collect contact information for future prospects.

Resources

Here are a few links to restaurant marketing resources you can use to bolster business.

Full-service printing, direct mailing and mailing list generation.

Helpful guides, forms and sample marketing plans for small businesses. The SBA also supports Small Business Development Centers throughout the United States.

The Service Corps Of Retired Executives provides free advice in the form of online information and business counseling. Simply contact one of SCORE's volunteer members for business mentoring.

A restaurant member organization with the goal to "lead America's restaurant industry into a new era of prosperity, prominence and participation, enhancing the quality of life for all we serve."

The "only global business organization representing the hospitality industry worldwide."