The restaurant market is very crowded, so no matter how delicious your food, you need to really shout loud to get noticed. Marketing for a new restaurant venture should take in various directions in order to cover the widest spectrum possible.
Identify your diners
This depends of course on your location. If you are in a business district, then diners will ostensibly be from local companies and traffic will probably be heavier during lunch hours. Those with restaurants in tourist areas may have a more steady flow of diners, and those in more suburban sectors appeal to family groups. Knowing your target market is the first step towards a solid and effective marketing plan. Identify the people who will be eating your food, and go after them.
Spreading the word
A new restaurant needs to attract diners if it is to succeed. This can be done in a number of ways. Traditionally, the leaflet drop has been an effective way of broadcasting information about restaurants. An attractive and enticing menu card popped into the letterbox can be read at leisure – it should include some kind of money off, freebie or discount element to it, to further tempt diners across the threshold. It is worth investing money in high quality printing that reflects well on your establishment. Cheap and nasty promotional literature suggests cheap and nasty food.
Increasingly, diners are attracted online through websites. A restaurant should have a well designed and easily navigable website up and running prior to launch. Many successful restaurants upload menus for prospective diners to peruse, they also advertise special offers and deals and announce new dishes. Websites that allow customers to feedback with reviews of their dining experience can be very influential in bringing in new business (providing the reviews are positive!).
It is also a good idea to hit the local radio and newspapers with a press release about the restaurant’s launch and to follow this up with supportive advertising. It is said that eighty per cent of the diners in a restaurant live within a three mile radius, so focusing on the local community should reap rewards.
Different types of meal promotions will attract varied customers. The business crowds will appreciate midweek lunch specials, families will enjoy Sunday lunches – be open and flexible about what you offer and listen to customer comments regarding the dining experience in your restaurant.
Is it obvious that your business is a restaurant? Invest in clear exterior signage that leaves passers-by in no doubt about what to expect on your premises. Restaurants with dark gloomy interiors, windows obscured by shades or curtains, put people off. Diners like to be able to see what they are getting in to when they enter a restaurant. Awkward exits once you realise the restaurant is not for you, can be excruciating for diners and staff alike. Outside the restaurant clearly exhibit the menu on bespoke display stands. If the restaurant is located in a set back area, attract attention with the clever use of bold display stands that announce your business. If you have parking, late night opening, special offers etc. shout about all these positive benefits with clear, attractive, professional looking signs.
Once diners are inside the restaurant, you have ample opportunity to reinforce marketing messages. Obviously, don’t go too far with this strategy or you are likely to put people off. Repeat business and positive word of mouth recommendations are what drives your success, so ensure the food is delicious, the service wonderful and the whole ambiance enjoyable. If you are planning special Mother’s Day or Valentines menus for example, grab customer’s attention whilst they are dining by having an area dedicated to forthcoming events. Discreet display stands with all the details and perhaps a menu to take away, will drum up interest and reinforce the message that this is a restaurant that offers variety and is well worth a repeat visit.
Keep things interesting
A successful restaurant venture is built on attracting loyal customers, so it can sometimes take a while to fill your dining room. Try and keep things interesting by changing the menu regularly and offering unusual events not available elsewhere in the area. Theme nights, gourmet evenings, wine tastings, vegetarian nights, singles dining – there are plenty of things you can experiment with. By networking with local businesses and using locally sourced ingredients where possible, you will reinforce your position in the community and soon become a valued part of the area scene.
There really is no secret to restaurant success – all you need to provide is fantastic food, and if you market the venue effectively, the people will come.