No sector has been hit by the COVID 19 pandemic quite like restaurants. Almost overnight, sales took a dive as empty city streets, safety concerns and new restrictions all took their toll. While restaurants were resilient — altering menu items for takeout and delivery, adding meal kit options and stocking up on heat lamps for outdoor dining — far too many restaurants, especially the smaller, neighborhood establishments, were forced to close their doors.
Luckily, with warmer weather making outdoor dining possible and vaccinations ramping up, things seem to (finally) be turning the corner. The National Restaurant Association is predicting a 10.2% leap in sales industry-wide for 2021. People want to make up for the lost time and support their local eateries. All your business needs is the right push to make sure it’s your restaurant they’re visiting.
While your food, ambiance and quality of service will ultimately speak for themselves, far too many restaurants go under appreciated because they don’t put enough emphasis on marketing.
From extra safety precautions to new dishes, your business has probably changed a lot in the past year. A new marketing strategy is your chance to put your best foot forward, introduce yourself to potential customers and bring past visitors back into the fold. The best restaurant marketing ideas take advantage of technology, create new buzz and focus on converting a new customer into the kind of regular whose name and order you remember.
As you start creating your restaurant marketing plan, here are some important ideas to remember:
While a surge in new interest is always great to see, repeat customers are the key to longevity and steady success. Not only are your regulars great for business (you probably counted on a few familiar faces this past year), they’re also more likely to recommend your entrees to their friends and family. In an industry where word-of-mouth referrals still have an outsized impact on sales, repeat customers offer the kind of organic marketing that money just can’t buy.
One of the best ways to keep diners satisfied and coming back is with a loyalty program. These programs reward a customer who keeps coming back with a free drink, appetizer or even full meal. Try using custom-made Loyalty Cards that make it easy for you to track visits with a mark or a hole punch, for example.
One of the key ways restaurants are connecting with customers both new and old is social media marketing. With the potential for high ROI, it’s no wonder more than 90% of brands have at least two social media channels, according to Brandwatch.
Throughout each of your posts, try to establish a strong brand identity that stands out from the competition and lets customers know what you value. Let’s say you run a Texas-style BBQ joint. Your posts could play up the tradition and authenticity of your recipes by detailing the slow-cooking process for followers. In addition to showing off some mouthwatering entrees, you can use your posts to get important updates out to your followers, like your current COVID 19 safety guidelines. This will help put potential customers at ease for their dining experience and ensure that patrons know what’s expected of them when they arrive.
In addition to boosting your own social media presence, find ways to make it easy for your customers to post about you. Encourage customers to geotag their posts with your restaurant’s location or even try developing an original hashtag that social media-savvy customers can use to tag their pictures of your food. One group of restaurants chains, for example, asked fans to tag pictures of their food with #thegreatamericantakeout — and quickly got the hashtag trending. Campaigns like these build brand enthusiasm and let a person’s followers see where they ordered that colorful cocktail or delectable mu shu pork. Think of it as free influencer marketing.
Marketing doesn’t end when a new customer walks through the door. Your Menu isn’t just a list of your offerings but another chance to show off your brand identity. A fresh new menu design that creatively incorporates all of your logos, fonts and color schemes can show guests old and new alike that you’re ready for your bounce back.
In addition to overhauling the design of your menu, consider making some adjustments that make your menu accessible online. Placing a QR code on your menu that links to its online counterpart, for example, allows patrons a no-touch way to order and pay right on their phones. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, the QR code trend is now “everywhere,” especially for smoothly handling takeout orders. It’s a COVID 19-safe option that’s also convenient for customers and servers alike.
Once you’ve begun to implement parts of your restaurant marketing plan, it’s important to measure the results, see what’s working and make adjustments. Many restaurants turn to marketing analytics to get the job done. Analytics is the way businesses comb through data from their website, social media posts and paid ads and other online presence to look for trends and draw conclusions. Some of the major key performance indicators restaurants use to determine if a marketing campaign is working include click rates and engagement on posts and website traffic.
With these numbers, you can start to fine-tune campaigns to speak to different audiences and start attracting new customers. Notice a page on your website about your new COVID 19 safety policy is getting positive attention? Make a Facebook post or SMS messaging campaign about it too!
The COVID 19 pandemic has already forced some radical changes to the way you do business. As the world begins to move forward from the pandemic now’s the time to craft a marketing strategy that’s kept pace.
Ready to bring your new restaurant marketing materials to life? Check out MOO’s small business print solutions.