Especially in crowded environments, marketing your restaurant can be difficult. How do you compete against other establishments that go through the same channels, with the same types of messages, as you? The key to cut through the clutter is to get creative when marketing your restaurant. To jump start your thought process in this area, here are 5 creative marketing ideas that can help to elevate your restaurant to the top of your audience’s perception.
1) The Staff Showcase
Above all, potential patrons want to know just who will be responsible for catering to their needs once they enter your restaurant. The server has to be friendly, while the cooks have to be equally fast and skilled. When running a restaurant, you already know that. But does your audience?
Don’t assume that they do. Instead, highlight the capabilities of your staff, from bus persons to chefs. You can do so on your website, include regular profiles on your blog or email newsletter, or even add ‘staff person of the month’ plaques to the restaurant itself. Just don’t overdo it with making your employees jump through hoops by making them wear a mandatory amount of flare pieces on their uniforms – if they are miserable, it will show. The more your patrons feel they know the people who serve them, the more likely they will be to come back.
2) The Special Event
When you run a restaurant, you know the power of events such as Happy Hours and Trivia Nights. But why stop with popular formats that restaurants around you host as well? Instead, get creative, with an event designed to get people talking. A mystery dinner is a classic choice, and you can partner with a local theater company in hosting one.
Others get even more creative. One, for example, regularly hosts a Parking Violation Night in which patrons can bring their unpaid parking tickets, and receive free postage along with a free appetizer for their troubles. The more closely you can connect the event with your restaurant’s overall theme, the more likely it will be to resonate.
3) The Secret Menu Item
Loyalty programs are another common marketing idea for many restaurants. But in addition to giving out free appetizers on the 10th visit, you can up the ante. Consider adding secret menu items, which only subscribers of your email newsletter or fans of your Facebook page will know about. It will help your patrons feel like they are part of the inner circle, while bringing additional business to your restaurants.
These types of secret menu items, by the way, also offer another distinct advantage for your restaurant. Simply by keeping track of the amount of dishes you prepared, you can determine how successful your promotional efforts were. This sort of thing can be achieved both in person AND online if your restaurant has it’s own branded online ordering system such as that offered by us at 9Fold.
4) The Menu Redesign
Don’t let your menu’s functional purpose stand in the way of making it a standout piece. Yes, patrons need it to find their favorite dishes. But why not add branding elements as well? You can simply redesign the menu to look more visually appealing, or take the next step and add narrative as well.
For example, an Italian restaurant may include a backstory on the restaurant and its name, along with beautiful imagery of Italy. You can even take it one step further, and add a short dictionary of common Italian culinary terms and their translations. The more immersive the experience, the more like your customers will be to stay and order extra. Be careful not to over do it online though, for example – music on your website, although maybe authentic to your dishes origin, is a sure way to have someone exit upon entering, aka high bounce rate.
5) The Educational Blog
Finally, consider establishing a blog that goes beyond behind-the-scenes content and staff highlights on your restaurant website. Instead, share some (not all, of course) of the secrets that make your food so delicious. Video and written cooking tutorials, along with recipes of simple dishes that your customers can make at home, can all be successful tools to increase the reach of your restaurant.
How competitive is the restaurant market in your area? If your restaurant is in our neck of the woods in NYC, it’s quite competitive and constantly changing. If your looking for ideas that help you stand out from other establishments, give the above suggestions a try. To learn more about marketing your restaurant, and how to stand out from the crowd, contact us.