Family and friends have a huge influence on decisions; one is definitely where we dine. Family and friends orient us, making sense of the dizzy options we are presented with everyday. Therefore, restaurants should never underestimate what effect a recommendation or bad review can have. Everyday, friends and family who are familiar with a restaurant take inexperienced friends or family to a restaurant. Word of mouth may even be more powerful than all other marketing techniques combined.A restaurant isn’t without options to affect word of mouth. There are several ways to generate positive word of mouth but it all relies on good customer service/food. Of course, to a degree, every aspect of your restaurant should be adapted to create customer satisfaction. But that’s not a strategy; that’s a philosophy. So let’s talk specifics:

Unique Selling Point:

People always remember something different, and if they enjoy it, they spread it like pollen. So spend a good amount of time coming up with a way to stand out. That means being excellent only goes so far, so help your customers remember as a place that has something special, like a fusion of different types of foods, a specific dish that you feature, or an atmosphere that stimulates the senses.

Events or Contests:

I prefer events as you create an experience (or party atmosphere) over something more gimmicky as a contest. That being said, a contest promotion reaches much more people via the Internet (so don’t forget to promote it on your website and your Facebook page). But it’s important to find out what attracts customers to your restaurant, and capitalize on this (whether a particular holiday meshes well with your cuisine, etc.).

“Refer a friend” promotions:

These are not my favorite because it feels as if you are trying to influence your customer’s opinion of the restaurant. But with an observant server, they can normally tell by the end of the meal if it went well. In that case, you should instruct your servers to give out coupons and cards, and try to make them sign up for other forms of marketing (i.e. email). After they give it to a friend, the friend can redeem the discount or free item.

Making an Impression:

People love being entertained. More than that, they love to laugh. So if it fits the character of your restaurant, creating a humorous ad or something that may attract some attention (maybe press coverage) could pay off. It’s not as easy as it sounds because it may come off as tacky if not considering who your audience is. The test I’d use is whether you bring a little happiness into your customers lives (don’t just bother them). One basic example is having your staff wear funky costumes (perhaps one day each month).

As mentioned above, don’t forget to couple any strategy with your online marketing. Surely, it takes a little creativity, but if you come up with something special, you won’t regret it. And you should consider the financial (perhaps even legal?) effect of anything you do. However, for a restaurant to succeed, you must get people championing your restaurant.