Every town has restaurants that never seem to advertise but attract a steady clientele. These restaurants establish their credentials by knowing their customers from years of experience, offering the right mix of menu items and staying involved with customers, their families, their careers and interests.

Digital apps, loyalty programs and social media connections allow restaurateurs to know their customers better, express sympathetic opinions and incorporate information into effective events, rewards, coupons and specials.

Using Shared Values for Restaurant Marketing

Restaurants typically earn 80 percent of incomes from 20 percent of their customers, so building long-term relationships delivers powerful benefits. Food businesses can increase their loyal customers by emphasizing shared values.

Managers don’t need to hide or qualify their companies’ core beliefs—they only need to find existing customers who share those beliefs and target prospects with similar attitudes.

Defining Core Beliefs

Generating meaningful connections depends on identifying those values that the business holds. A particular restaurant can identify its most important beliefs by writing down 5–10 ideas and polling employees and vendors to see if they agree. Those beliefs might include fun-loving action, sustainability, ethical sourcing, family-dining togetherness or sports-fan camaraderie. Other actionable corporate beliefs for restaurants include:

  • Promoting quality natural and organic products
  • Offering customers unusual and exciting new food tastes
  • Working to improve the community
  • Educating customers about culinary issues
  • Encouraging healthier diets
  • Providing consist meals at affordable prices
  • Sharing passion for a country’s or region’s cuisine
  • Respecting diversity and inclusion

Once a restaurant determines its list of values, it can begin crafting ways to attract people with similar attitudes and reinforce loyalty among its existing customers.

Understanding What Resonates with Customers

Not all values resonate with customers, so choose to emphasize those beliefs that have strong followings. Diners today want to order customized meals, local ingredients and healthier foods. People want to feel like their opinions are shared among members of their chosen communities.

Restaurant-sponsored wine clubs, tastings and entertainment options help to generate a sense of community. Sustainability and environmental stewardship are among the most popular trends to emphasize.

Branding Strategies that Attract Likeminded Prospects

Restaurateurs can plan their value-marketing strategies more effectively by defining their ideal customers. Research the local community to find what type of people live nearby. Find out what the average age and income of residents are and what kind of transportation most people use. Is the neighborhood residential or business-oriented? Once the demographics are defined, restaurants can research the attitudes of their typical customers.

Existing customers provide valuable insights. Modern digital tools and technology breathe life into targeted customer profiles. Managers can discover what dishes are most popular, what incentives customers want, which social media they use and what emotional characteristics they share.

  • Creating an ideal customer profile – Analyze past successes and complaints to determine an ideal customer’s psychological profile. Analyze customers to see if they visit strictly for the food and service, the ambiance or the location’s convenience. Do customers want to have a family meal, or are they looking for companionship? What other restaurants and businesses do ideal clients patronize regularly? Answering these questions provides revealing information about the ideal customer and his or her values.
  • Testimonials and stories – Testimonials and stories are simple ways to illustrate a restaurant’s values. This information can be posted on the company’s website, social media networks, advertising, newsletters, emails, and in-house bulletin boards and digital signs.
  • Crafting messages to share –  Depending on values and customer demographics, choosing how to publicize values and selecting the right formats will maximize results. Viral marketing in a guerrilla style works great for sharing with trendy, fun-loving diners. Restaurants could post ads at outdoor concerts or plan a publicity stunt. Professional people might appreciate self-help or how-to videos on numerous topics. Environmentalists appreciate a restaurant that’s committed to reducing waste through charitable donations of leftovers, recycling and composting organic waste. Design both the message and the format so that they reach people who have similar beliefs.
  • Differentiating and positioning – Regardless of message or strategy, value-positioning requires getting people’s attention. Restaurants can attract notice by going beyond what their competitors do. For example, a guerrilla viral marketing campaign might work well for hip, young people who get pleasantly surprised by seeing a restaurant’s ad stenciled in graffiti during an urban art show or sidewalk fair. Another good option is to choose the right social forum for sharing the message, whether it be Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook.
  • Personalizing the campaign – Restaurants get the best results by personalizing their brands in ways that resonate with their core customers. Give people reasons to take part in events and initiatives such as holding user-generated contests, social-sharing campaigns and incentives for certain actions.

Focusing on values offers many benefits for restaurants, and businesses can use modern technology tools and apps to speed sharing those beliefs with receptive audiences. Establishing core values attracts customers, improves employee management and generates steady business without spending a fortune on advertising and promotion.