How To Market A Restaurant, Café, Coffee Shop, Tearoom, Winebar, Pub, Or Pizza Place In 2019
Behind every new restaurant, cafe and coffee shop is a dream. A dream where people book weeks in advance, every table is full, the food and service are brilliant and the profits roll in. See How to Market a Restaurant, Cafe, Coffee Shop and Licensed Premises.
The truth is often different. The restaurant and catering business world is tough. There is competition on every corner and however good your food and service might be you have to be brilliant at marketing as well.
Most new restaurants, cafes and coffee shops fail within two years. But yours can thrive.
The reason they fail isn’t often down to the food, service or ambience. Often it is purely down to poor marketing.
Marketing isn’t difficult. It needn’t cost a fortune. But if you are going to learn how to market your restaurant you will need to learn a few simple marketing strategies and techniques ……… just like the Top Ten Restaurant Marketing Strategies listed below.
1. Location is important and it is often said that the three most important things about your business are location, location, location; and there is some truth in it, but as well as knowing how to market a restaurant locally …….. being able to find your restaurant and being able to park is just as important.
When I say being able to find your restaurant, it isn’t just being able to find it physically if it is down a side street or at the end of a long country road. It is as much about people knowing there is a restaurant for them to dine at, and that means being able to find you online on social media and because your website is easy to find on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo etc, It also means being on Google Maps and claiming your Google My Business (GMB) profile and using it effectively. Don’t imagine that you will be booked solid from day one unless you market aggressively and ensure people know you exist.
You need to ensure that you use marketing strategies that include all the usual marketing techniques and a few extra.
Step one is something you must do before you open. Invite a few people to your restaurant, send them a copy of your an advert or leaflet and then ask them how easy it was to find you. Get some feedback on how easy it was to find the area you are in, the particular street and your premises. Check if your directions are clear and if your signage was easy to follow. Then ask them about the advert or leaflet you sent them. Does it describe your business and offer correctly? Is it clear what type of food or theme you specialise in?
There are hundreds of questions to ask at this stage and you only get one chance to get it right.
Location isn’t just a physical location
Location can also be viewed in another context. Can people find you online and is your website attractive? In an age when people Google for all sorts of information, including the location of hotels, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops you need to be visible not only on your website but also via directories and on TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Google Earth and SatNav.
Whenever I travel for business or leisure I use these tools to find locations to stay or eat in. For example on a recent trip to Menton on the French Riviera, I searched Google Maps for a hotel close to my client. I managed to find a family-run hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant in the next street – so I could forget finding a taxi to take me between the hotel and having to find somewhere to entertain my client – my choice was as easy as looking at a map. Likewise going to visit a new client in Edinburgh I was able to go online and find a coffee shop in the next street; it was so much easier to be able to arrive 30 mins early and have a coffee before the meeting rather than rush from the airport straight into a meeting.
2. Produce some Flyers. You need to make sure people know you’re opening, or indeed are already open. This is especially important if you are trying to market your small restaurant locally. The question is how are you going to distribute your flyers? 10,000 flyers sat in a box at the back of the office will do you no good at all. You need a way to distribute them that will attract attention. You might decide to put one through every letterbox in the town and could include a special offer; something like a free bottle of house wine with every dinner booking.
3. Alternatively, and more exciting, how about offering free samples of your food? After all, it is the food they will come to you for, so go into the streets, or to local events, and give samples to people. If it is as good as you think they will book a table as they taste it … provided you ask them to book.
As they eat your samples tell them about the type of food or coffee you specialise in. If they don’t book a table immediately ask them if you can send them next week’s special offer and get their contact details.
Once you have their details you can contact them regularly with offers. Restaurateurs often neglect obtaining customer and prospect contact details and yet it is a low-cost way to market and can provide extremely cost-effective marketing results.
4. PR or Public Relations is a really effective low-cost way of marketing your business. You can send media releases to your local papers and radio station or run some events that will attract attention. We’ve already mentioned one – offering free samples. Think about how you might link your free sample event with a media release. Offering free samples on its own isn’t much of a story for the press, but if you can make it more exciting in some way the local media will be more interested. Can you get a local personality or celebrity involved? It could be anyone from a famous chef or cookery writer to your local MP – the MP will be cheaper and will want to be seen supporting local businesses.
Consider other ways to get in the media. Could you hold some sort of competition? It could be for a genuine Guinness World Record or be something ridiculous like the International Spaghetti Knitting Championships! It could even become an annual event.
Whatever happens, ensure your name is up in lights, hand out plenty of menus and samples, take bookings and get those contact details.
5. Once you have bookings and people are flocking to your establishment you need to provide Incredible Customer Service. Giving people incredible customer service is essential if you want them to come again and also tell their friends about how good your restaurant is.
Nearly every restaurant gives free chocolates with the bill, but how many give a flower to the ladies. This isn’t expensive but will be remembered for weeks.
It doesn’t matter how many free gifts you give away in some respects. The most memorable evenings are those where the host is courteous and thoughtful and treats you like royalty.
Five More Tips On How to Market a Restaurant
6. Promotions and themed evenings are a great way to keep people interested and coming back for more. Offer special themed dinners, hosted wine tasting and guest chefs to give people a reason to come to the restaurant on the quieter nights.
The great thing about these events is that they are essentially self-financing as people pay to attend them.
And if themed evenings aren’t your thing you can put a twist on the idea. A restaurant I know in Royal Leamington Spa holds Holy Communion Services in conjunction with the local church. And a restaurant I visited in the US held regular Blood donor Sessions.
There are no limits to the events you can run.
7. Customer Comment Cards allow you to find out what customers really think – ask them if their food is OK during the meal and some will say “great” even if they hate it – they just don’t want a fuss. Give them a Comment Card and they are likely to be more forthcoming.
Comment cards also allow you to collect names, email addresses and special dates like anniversaries and birthdays of your customers.
Next year you can email them a special coupon 3 weeks before their special day and, even if they don’t rebook for that event, the chances are they will book another date anyway.
Once you have their contact details you can also send out special offers throughout the year ……..so comment cards do more than just gather comments.
8. E-marketing isn’t just about having a great website. Certainly, you need a good site that encourages people to sign up to your newsletter (where you tell them about food and drink 85% of the time and special offers 15% of the time) as well as showing your menu, prices, payment terms and opening hours.
You also need to consider the other e-marketing tools at your disposal.
Think about using Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. I recommend Google Adwords as the best system – it is faster, lower cost and easier to use than other PPC systems.
You should also consider Google Maps. A few years ago no one searched Google Maps for a restaurant, but they do today. When I am on holiday I often pull up a map of the area and search for restaurants. It is a quick and easy way to see where they are located and to see what reviews they have – ideal if you are a stranger to the area.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can market online and as most cost nothing whatsoever … or very little … you should think carefully before spending too much on this.
9. Newsletters have been mentioned previously, but are so important it is worth spending more time on them.
Newsletters should live up to their name …. They should provide news. I don’t mean news of your latest special offer; I mean something that will interest people and bring them back again and again. For example, you could include an article about how you source some of your food. It might be a piece about sourcing truffles or a particular wine in France becomes a travel and food feature and will provide interest.
Another piece on where you obtain your veg locally, or why you choose farmhouse Cheddar rather than a mass-produced product, will say a lot about your ethos.
It is quite permissible to mention special offers and events (after all selling is how you make your living), but you don’t want the newsletter to be perceived as a hard-selling tool. The more enjoyable it is the better….. people will follow up on your offers more readily if you link your piece on cheese to an event or new dish rather than give the hard sell.
Choosing your email newsletters title is important. It has to do what it says on the tin. For example, I’d call mine …. How to Market a Restaurant.
10. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are websites run by businesses that aggregate various travel-related services. Their aim of getting consumers to book through them. The services, such as restaurants, pubs, hotels, B&Bs etc are charged a fee for this service. This can range from 2-25% or more depending on the contract. Some places rely 100% on OTAs for their bookings and say it’s predictable and means they don’t have to market themselves. Others decry OTAs and say they charge too high a commission and are onerous to deal with.
Even More Tips on How To Market A Restaurant, Cafe, Coffee Shop, Pub, Winebar, Teashop and More
11. Knowing How to Market a Restaurant Locally is essential for any catering and hospitality business. And one of the best ways of marketing a restaurant, cafe, pub or whatever is to use Google My Business (GMB).
GMB enables you to found on Page One of Google without a huge budget. In fact, it costs nothing at all. Just claim your business listing from Google and follow their instructions. They allow you to link posts that feature the keywords you want to be found for and build a supplementary website in minutes. Don’t ignore this second website, it will not compete with your main site but does allow you to be found even easier than before.
But more importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to appear in Google famous “three-pack”. This is where three business are recommended by Google and appear on a local map when people make a specific local search I.e. a restaurant near me, just search for a restaurant (or whatever you are listed as) but don’t specify a location, or search a named location e.g. a restaurant in Torquay.
12. Marketing Your Hotel Based Restaurant is often quite hard as there is a tendency for guests to try an external restaurant for at least some of their stay and for standalone restaurants to be favoured in preference to hotel restaurants by others. One trick that many are missing out on is to market via Google’s hotel search tool. For example, if I search for a hotel in Torquay UK via the tools I get the screen in this image. It lists local hotels and everyone makes a point of having a restaurant. It’s not the first thing I’d do to market a restaurant but it’s still high on my list as it’s free and, despite these hotels using it, few places are making as much of it as they could.
And of course you can advertise your place. Did you know there are Three Types of Advertising? And you need to know this to run great adds?
13. I started by saying that however great your food you could still fail. But let’s remember that your aim should be to provide great food and service. If you do this then your reputation will spread. Word of Mouth is the greatest form of marketing known to mankind. Not only is it free, but people hearing it believe it because people that experienced what you have to offer told them, and they enjoyed it enough to tell them.
14. Foodie Photos are a controversial area. Many people hate it when people take photos of their food. But when Michelin post photos I’m inclined to go along with them.
In fact I’ll go further. I believe we should encourage customers to snap their food and post on social media so their friends can see what a good time they are having and what good food looks like. I’d even go so far as to say we should encourage customers to post on our social media accounts and offer a prize for the best photo each month.
15. Claim Your Google My Business account and use it every day to respond to reviews, post images and videos as well as posts and offers.
Once you’ve done this its easy to get found in the Google recommended Three Pack at the top of the Google search page. And that can mean a serious upturn in business.
This is a technique I use every day and have had some great business enquiries from it. And my business partner Mark has landed some great contracts via Google My Business.
The image here shows my business at the top of Page One of Google when people search for a Marketing Consultant. If it works for me so reliably it could also work for you.
More How to Market a Restaurant Top Tips
16. Related to Google My Business are Geo Related Adverts.
Think about it. People looking for a restaurant, cafe ort coffee shop are most often looking for one near them. So an advert that targets people in the locality makes more sense than an advert seen by someone in another country. So ensure your online adverts focus on the local area.
17. Promote User-Generated Content. We’ve already touched on Foodie Photos and reviews on Google My Business, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Encourage your customers to post on your social media pages, to review you on other review platforms such as TripAdvisor, your website and the dozens of other sites available to them. And keep an eye on what they say and respond to it. The comments they make, good or bad, are like nuggets of gold. Value them and sue them to improve your business.
18. Be Human. There’s a place for chatbots, automated processes and robotic processing in business but too few businesses show their humanity. Talk to your customers, and I don’t mean the meaningless babble so many in the catering sector mistake for engaging the customer. Be real and talk about the things that matter to customers. Simple things like, “Is it still raining out there?” is far more human than being told to “Have a good day” as they leave.
And showcase your staff. Show their human side. Let them write content for your blog and social media or even appear in home-produced videos. Encourage the chef to post or talk about recipes, ingredients and their source. People want to see real people, not a corporate facade.
19. Source Your Ingredients Locally. People love to know the provenance of the food they order. And local wins virtually every time. Encourage your supplier to let people know they supply you. They can do this on their website, in their leaflets and at their premises. It helps their credibility and encourages people to try your place.
20. Write a blog. It doesn’t have to be Shakespearean English. It needs to be human and interesting. There’s nothing magic about that. And the technology behind a blog can be as simple as adding posts to your WordPress or other website platforms.
21. Verify Your Online Details. This is so simple and ties in with the Google My Business tip I gave earlier. Just make sure that you appear in as many online and offline directories as possible. The directory owners will try to get you to pay an extra fee to enhance your visibility but I’m not convinced that works very well unless very few people use it. After all, if everyone paid for enhanced visibility its no different to no one paying for it.
The most important thing about appearing in directories, especially online ones, is to verify your details and ensure they appear EXACTLY the same in everyone. The reason for this is that Google uses them to verify your presence on Google My Business and if there’s any variation they don’t count that appearance. Even a comma or apostrophe being different can make a difference!
22. Menus. Once you’ve produced your menu the real marketing work begins. Of course your menu needs to look great, needs to appeal to customers and have been costed correctly. But there’s more. You need to ensure there’s an up to date menu or your website ( so often I see last years menu a year later). Then you need to get it on your Facebook page, posted out on Twiter, photos of it on Instagram.. well on every social media platform you can post it on. And don’t forget to post it on Google My Business.
Lastly, make sure your menu is easy to find on your website and on those other platforms. Too often the menu is three or more clicks from the website homepage. Make it very easy to find and even easier to book a table.
To Reiterate … Here Are Ten Top Tips on How to Market Your Food and Drink Outlet
- Location is important, both physical and online
- Produce some Flyers.
- Try offering free samples of your food, maybe in nearby locations
- Use PR
- Provide incredible customer service
- Run promotions such as themed evenings
- Use customer comment cards
- Understand that digital marketing is about more than a great website
- Gather customer contact details and send out great newsletters and offers
- Produce great food
- Use social media
- Direct booking systems
Oops ….. That’s more than ten .. how’s that for an Amuse Bouche?
Popular FAQs on How to MArket Cafes, Restaurants, Tea Shops, Coffee Shops, Bars, Pubs and Wine Bars
Marketing A New Cafe Is About Getting Profitable Volume as Fast As Possible. So Hold A Launch Event, Use PR, Invite Friends & Family, Use Social Media & Encourage Customers To USe Social Media To Get The Word Out as Fast As Possible.
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1. Set Up A Website & Social Media Accounts
2. Add Great Content To Your Website Plus Location, Menus, Opening Times, Offers, Etc.
3. Manage Your Profile on Social Media & Review Sites Such As TripAdvisor & Google
4. Claim & Manage Your Google My Business Account (GMB) With Responses to Ratings, Photos, Videos Etc.
5. Use PR (Public Relations) E.g. Media Releases, Invite Journalists to Events Etc.
6. Organise Media/PR Events Such As Spaghetti Knitting Championships, Snail Racing & Wine Tastings
7. Add Your Menu Etc to Facebook
8. Offer Deals in The Local Media (Newspapers, Magazines, Websites etc) and On Your Online Accounts
9. Run Themed Events Linked To The Local Community
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2. Ambience.. The Right Vibe
3. Excellent Customer Service
4. Free WiFi
5. Great Coffee (Of Course))
6. A Great Menu
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1. Recipe Books Based Around Your Menus
2. Ingredients & Drinks
3. Local Produce
6. Must Haves
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1, Before Looking For More Customers Ensure Your Existing Customers Return More Frequently, Spend More & Bring Friends
2. Offer Discounts
3. Run Promotions
4. Run Themed Events
6. Run A Happy Hour
7. Run Events With Suppliers (joint Ventures)
8. Gather Customer’s Contact Details And Keep in Touch With Offers, Bring A Friend Events, Anniversary Reminders, Birthday Greetings (& Offers). Abide By GDPR
9. Offer Free Samples in Nearby Streets & At Events
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1. Signage – Make Sure People Can Find You. And That Includes Online
2. Serve Popular Drinks Plus a Smattering Of Something Unusual
3. Serve Great food. It Can Be Tapas, Pinchos, Bar Food, Restaurant Food, Gourmet Food or Fine Dining.
4. Train Your Staff So They Know Your Food & Drink Offer And Deliver Great Service
5. Get In Online & Print Directories
6. Claim & Manage Your GMB (Google My Business) Profile And Respond To Comments And Reviews, Add Photos & Video, Add Your Menu Etc.
7. Use Comment Cards
8. Have a Great Website And Focus on Your Location, Menus, Offers Etc.
9. Hold Events & Provide Venue Facilities, E.g Business Networking Events, RoundTable, WI etc. Appeal to all Age Groups
10. Use a Mystery Shopper To Spot What’s Good & Bad
11. Use SEO on your Website
12. Know Your Target Customer, What Makes Them tick And Where They Hang Out, Read, Listen To, Shop Etc.
13. Cross-Promote With A Non Competitive Local Business
14. Invite Your Suppliers to Lunch & Get Them to Act As Ambassadors
15. Invite Your MP, Local Councillors, Business Leaders and Business Owners To Lunch (Maybe to Discuss Local or National Concerns)
16. Ensure Your Hanging Baskets &/Or Gardens Look Great
17. Offer Deals to Regulars .. The More Often They Come And Spend The Better (And Repeat Business Is Invaluable Out Of Season)
18. Be Known for Something .. It Could Be Your Famous Duck Dish, A Signature Dessert or Whatever But Stand Out as Special
19. Use Video on Social Media and Your Website. E.g Get The Chef Talking About Local Provenance, A Menu, Or How The Veg Is Grown in The Pub Gardens.
20, Try Something New Each Quarter. Maybe a New Way to Promote Yourself, Invite a New Band, Run a Garden Party or Pizza & Prosecco Night
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So that’s How to market a restaurant. If you have questions please contact me.
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