Growing a restaurant isn’t easy. You’ll hear lots of dire stories like “you’ll never make a profit in your first year” or “almost all restaurants fail.” The truth is, while it’s common to struggle, almost 80% of restaurants weather the first 12 months and continue to grow and serve delicious food.
But how can you stand out from the crowd?
Today’s diners are picky, educated, and ready to research. You need a pile of positive reviews, lots of good word-of-mouth advertising, and smart marketing to succeed. Building up those things can be tricky, however.
Here are a few basic tricks you can use to get started.
1. Physical Signage Is Pretty Important
I’m a sucker for small, hard to find restaurants. I love it when I discover that there’s a little nook in my neighborhood that’s been sheltering an outstanding local eatery right under my nose. If you’re a restaurant owner, however, this is NOT the way you want people describing your restaurant! Instead, make sure that you’ve got prominent signage that directs hungry customers to your door.
In most cases, this goes way beyond just the name of your restaurant and a cute picture. Unless you’re a national chain, people might not know what kind of food you serve based on your name alone. Putting up pictures of notable dishes in the windows might seem a bit tacky, but it works for many small eateries.
If you’d like something a bit classier, match your outside decor to the type of food you serve. A Greek cafe might put up classical columns or white statues, while a Thai restaurant can make use of Asian jungle-themed decor. Don’t worry too much about historical or regional accuracy. Your goal is to make anyone who passes by able to guess what kind of food you serve.
2. Have An Internet Presence
When customers are searching for food to eat, they need to be able to find your restaurant. Make sure that you’ve got an active, up-to-date profile on every social media site you can think of. Use Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Google Business, and share pictures of your best dishes on Instagram and other picture sites.
Don’t forget about a traditional website, either. Even if it’s just got your menu, driving directions, and links to your social media pages, having a top-level domain with your restaurant’s name will really help your marketing efforts.
3. Narrow Your Restaurant Marketing Goals
While the first two tips are super simple, this one escapes many first-time restaurant owners. You don’t need to market your eatery to everyone. Instead, focus your restaurant marketing on a specific group of people and try to achieve reasonable goals with your growth. Figure out where most of your regular customers live, where they work, and how much they make. Use these numbers to work with local advertising firms or online marketing providers to target potential customers more accurately.
You’ll get much better return on your investment this way since you’ll be much more likely to reach people who will spend lots of money at your diner.
One extremely important thing that really helps with this concept is keeping customer data. The easiest way to build up a database of local customer information is to start some kind of rewards program. Have customers sign up with their name, address, and other information in order to receive a discount on their repeat visits.
When your rewards customers come back to visit, make a note of who they are and what they ordered. Not only will you be able to track where your customers live and what they do, you’ll also be able to see which of your dishes perform best with different crowds. If people who order a bowl of minestrone come back within a month but people who order the lobster bisque never return, you’ll be able to make the appropriate changes to your menu to make your customers happy.
4. Build A Base of Repeat Customers
Starting a rewards program helps you maintain customer records, but it also helps you build up a base of loyal customers. By catering to a crowd of local regulars, you’ll have a steady stream of happy customers who will bring in both revenue and new guests.
Even though it might seem like a small hassle to deal with certain customers on a regular basis, catering to their individual tastes can promote them to spread positive stories about your business among their friends. It’s a low-cost way to market your restaurant to hundreds of people who you might have a hard time reaching otherwise!
Marketing Your Restaurant The Right Way
In order to help your restaurant stand out from the crowd, make sure it’s visible from the street and visible from the web. Use smart targeted advertising to achieve small goals and track your progress by recording and analyzing information about your customers and what they order.
Finally, be sure to treat your local regulars well in order to build up a loyal following that keeps bringing their friends in for lunch and dinner. With these basic tips, you’ll be able to successfully market your restaurant and turn it into a well-known local treasure.