Restaurant marketing never goes out of style and will be used to attract prospectors when people colonize other planets. If the disaster preppers’ vision of an inevitable breakdown of society comes to pass and the world returns to the stone age, gatherers will eventually begin marketing their goods to hunters in exchange for fresh meat and other services.
The marketing specifics might evolve or regress. You might soon see holographic marketing videos or memes on every street corner, or marketing ideas might simplify to pictographs on cave walls. Marketing is a fluid, dynamic process that adapts to the times.
Of course, some restaurant marketing ideas never go out of style because they’re an inherent part of the hospitality process.
Advertising and Marketing
There are restaurant owners who make outrageous claims like “we never advertise” or “I never measure ingredients or follow recipes.” The truth is that successful restaurants always advertise, even if it’s just leveraging signage, encouraging word-of-mouth advertising by providing great customer service and using other in-house marketing techniques.
Every cook follows a recipe, even if it’s from memory, eyeballing ingredients or using other signals than measuring cups, such as counting while pouring a liquid or measuring against a container’s unique physical characteristics. Food would never taste the same otherwise.
Marketing your restaurant requires a blend of proven and creative techniques to respond to market changes, attract repeat business and replace customers who drift away over the years. Advertising is essential, even if you measure your results by different yardsticks.
Encouraging Word-of-Mouth Referrals
Restaurants are always working to encourage word-of-mouth referrals whether by direct conversations, reviews, digital referrals or long lines of people waiting for seats. If you visited New Orleans in the 1980s, you might have wondered about the lines of people waiting at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen where celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme served his culinary masterpieces. In a city famous for great chefs and food, the lines of people showed that something extraordinary was happening within the small restaurant that didn’t accept reservations.
Times change, and K-Paul’s now accepts reservations. That’s the nature of marketing. Even the most exciting ideas yield to the practical realities of daily business. Word-of-mouth referrals evolve just like any other marketing technique, but the basic idea of encouraging referrals never becomes irrelevant.
Targeting Your Existing Customers
Marketing to your customers is like shooting fish in a barrel — you’re sure to hit the mark.Your customers are favorably disposed to your restaurant, so marketing to this highly targeted group is a sound business strategy. Your marketing plan should encourage repeat visits with special offers, incentives and promotions for unique events, but you should also encourage customers to spend more money during each visit. All restaurants have a limited number of seatings each day, so getting customers to spend more money at each seating might be the best way to grow your business, especially if you have lines of people waiting for seats.
Promoting Holidays and Special Occasions
Restaurants always acknowledge holidays and special occasions, whether openly or through subtle means. Putting up decorations at Christmas or decorating the bar with a carved pumpkin or gourds for Halloween and harvest time are subtle ways of promoting holidays. Restaurants typically offer birthday incentives for customers, acknowledge anniversaries and provide special menus for Valentine’s Day. Restaurants always promote these special occasions, so it makes sense to organize the process and step up your game to get the maximum benefits from holidays and special occasions.
You can never rest in your marketing efforts or fail to consider new trends and your competitors’ efforts to solicit your customers. Restaurants lose even the most loyal customers by attrition: deaths, changes in families and people moving to other areas. No matter how successful your restaurant may be, you can expect your customer base to decline over time unless you take action to replenish the customers that you lose.
Every restaurant needs a marketing plan, and the plan has to target the right people and convince them to spend money. The most creative ideas in the world won’t work if they don’t sell the customer. Marketing strategies change over time, so restaurants must adapt or become less profitable.
Creating and Maintaining a Unique Identity and Selling Proposition
Your brand’s identity evolves no matter how much you love your concept, logo and decorating style. Successful restaurants always upgrade their image, décor and unique selling proposition to keep current with the times. You should always stay open to new ideas because the hospitality industry caters to people where they live, work and play. If you don’t respond to cultural changes, your brand grows less and less relevant.
Offering incentives to customers is a marketing idea that never loses its appeal. Competitors are always trying to attract customers away from their regular eateries, so most companies offer incentives to keep their existing customers loyal and happy. The incentives might be financial or involve providing special perks. Some restaurants incentivize their regular customers by providing reliable food and service with no surprises, but every successful restaurant offers its customers a reason to return.
Taking Care of Your Core Business
Regardless of trends, good times or economic slowdowns, restaurants need to take care of their core business — providing good food, good service and a place where people can interact socially. The details of the menu, prices and service options might change, but restaurants always need to address the fundamental issues of providing customers what they want.
Sharing Your Passion
Restaurateurs have always shared their passion with customers. Your passion might be a culinary style, cuisine, type of music, cleanliness, fast service or making money. Each owner has his or her own passionate attitude about something, and restaurant owners share that passion by providing a clean and sparkling environment, premium ingredients, expert food preparation or an appealing atmosphere. Sharing your business or culinary passion never goes out of style and drives everything that you should be doing to market your businesses and satisfy customers.