Whether you’re an iconic restaurant like The French Laundry in Napa Valley or a small town staple like Alabama’s Wildflower Cafe, effective advertising helps restaurants establish a favorable reputation and reach local customers to keep dining rooms full of happy customers.
Luckily, the internet has made even the smallest local cafes discoverable to audiences near and far. But it’s not the only way to get the word out about your establishment.
In addition to maintaining your restaurant’s digital presence, there are other tasteful ways to share your menu and offerings with your neighborhood, from sidewalk advertisements to community events. If you’re looking for local marketing tips for restaurants, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a six-course meal featuring the finest restaurant advertising ideas.
#1 Spend Time On Your Website
Chances are your website is the place where guests will first be exposed to your restaurant. Therefore, it’s best to design a site that is clean, organized, accessible, and informative. It’s also important to make contact information visible and easy to use. You don’t want technical difficulties preventing people from making reservations.
When designing your website, it’s best to keep the following in mind:
Post photos of popular dishes and past events. However, you don’t want to overwhelm potential guests. Show them just enough to make them want to find out more.
Include testimonials and positive reviews from previous patrons that dote over your perfectly braised short ribs and romantic, candle-lit ambiance.
Make your website informative and easy to navigate by including tabs at the top of the Home page for the menu, “About Us” section, and contact and reservation information.
For example, Jargon is a small restaurant that uses its website in an efficient, user-friendly way. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Jargon’s website is both informative and aesthetically pleasing. Tabs for the menu, about section, contact information, and a reservation button are located at the top of the website, and photos of staple dishes and the dining room are interspersed throughout.
#2 Expand Your Digital Strategy
As a restaurant owner, one of the easiest ways to keep people walking through your doors is to create a strong digital presence. Using social media marketing not only raises brand awareness but also serves as a communications channel to update customers on any changes or news related to your restaurant business. However, with the advent of numerous social media pages and restaurant review platforms, building your digital presence can feel overwhelming.
Simplify your digital marketing strategy and consider focusing on the following digital platforms:
Nextdoor - Claim your free Business Page with Nextdoor to promote your small business. Nextdoor is the best way to reach hyperlocal audiences. Once you've claimed your Business Page, you can build brand awareness and connect with customers who live in your community. Set your restaurant business apart by adding pictures, your business story, and contact information to your Business Page. You can also promote special offers and drive traffic to your restaurant by sharing a Local Deal with nearby customers looking for a neighborhood staple.
Facebook - In today’s social media age, using Facebook to advertise your restaurant is a savvy marketing strategy. To advertise on Facebook, it’s important to build and maintain a Facebook page for your restaurant.
X (formerly Twitter) – Sometimes people don’t have time to read an extensive dinner menu and only want to see the most popular items. This is where Twitter shines. Because you’re limited to only 280 characters, Twitter is a smart way to advertise snippets of information, such as dinner specials and other promotions.
Instagram – If a picture says a thousand words, an image of a perfectly pan-seared steak au poivre or bowl of rich crème brûlée says a thousand more. This is why advertising on Instagram is an effective marketing strategy for eateries around the country. If you’re a restaurant owner, set up an Instagram account with pictures of your delectable cuisine and watch the reservations pour in.
Yelp – A restaurant review platform, Yelp is a place where potential guests can read what others are saying about your restaurant, find contact information, and see pictures of your menu and establishment. Take advantage of all this platform has to offer by setting up a business page and keeping customers up to date on your operations.
YouTube – Advertising on YouTube comes with some serious advantages. In addition to giving potential guests the ability to take a more in-depth look at your restaurant, YouTube allows you to post interviews with your chef and share recipe tips.
#3 Create a Text Marketing Campaign
A newer form of restaurant marketing, text campaigns are gaining in popularity. Similar to an email campaign, text marketing campaigns work by collecting customers’ phone numbers. Customers are then notified via text when the restaurant is running special promotions, hosting events, and changing business hours.
To begin a text marketing campaign, simply have guests subscribe to the campaign to begin receiving offers and updates. They can opt-out at any time, but if you get creative with your promotions and content, your customers will be more inclined to stay in the loop and return to your restaurant.
#4 Get Creative With Chalk
If you’ve ever stopped to read the daily specials written on a restaurant’s chalkboard, you’re in good company. Chalkboards are inexpensive and fun ways to draw attention to your restaurant.
Prop a chalkboard that lists your specials outside your restaurant, or draw in customers with arrow chalk drawings on the sidewalk to lead hungry customers from their front doors to yours.
In addition to enticing guests to enter your establishment, a chalk restaurant advertisement enables you to define your brand aesthetic. For instance, if you’re the owner of a casual watering hole, writing a pithy slogan about the daily beer specials may end up filling every seat at your bar.
If you’re the owner of a more upscale eatery, writing your featured appetizers in beautiful cursive may pull in more guests who wouldn’t mind a fancy dinner, and a crafty cocktail to boot.
For instance, located in Zionsville, Indiana, Traderspoint Creamery is a small local restaurant that uses its chalkboard in a big way. They utilize an old-fashioned, “country-style” font to advertise their classic root beer floats and other nostalgic menu items.
In general, most restaurants use chalkboards to advertise the following:
- Promotional offers
- Changing menu items
- Witty jokes or puns related to the restaurant
- Achievements and accolades
- Dinner hours
However, you should know that advertising with chalkboards works best if you’re located in an area with a lot of passerby patrons. Chalkboards may not be the best advertising strategy if you’re based in a more rural, less foot-trafficked area.
#5 Hand Out Restaurant Flyers
Restaurant flyers are one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a large audience. A traditional staple of advertising, restaurant flyers are making a comeback—especially in areas populated by small local businesses.
Similar to advertising with a chalkboard, advertising with flyers allows you to translate the creativity of your kitchen onto paper. However, using flyers gives you more space to discuss menu items and show photos of your tasty dishes.
The most effective restaurant flyers typically include the following information:
- Descriptions of menu items, especially new additions to the menu
- Photos of dishes
- Graphics relating to the restaurant’s branding
- Contact information
If you’re in an area with heavy foot traffic, you can simply hand out flyers to passersby pedestrians. However, if you’re in a more rural location, you can leave flyers on doorsteps, in mailboxes, and within other local establishments.
#6 Host Special Events
In addition to serving an excellent steak tartare, there are many other ways to get customers through your doors. Hosting events at your establishment is a surefire way to spark interest in your restaurant.
The types of events you can host at your restaurant are nearly endless. Some of the most common include:
Charity dinners - Most people love supporting a good cause. So, support your community by hosting a charity dinner at your restaurant. Most restaurants that host these events donate a portion of the night’s proceeds to the charity, but some even donate their whole night’s revenue. Either way, hosting a charity dinner is an excellent way to advertise your restaurant and show your community that you care.
Sports promotions - If you run a sports-themed restaurant, consider hosting a major sports event and offer promotions. For example, many sports bars run appetizer specials during the Super Bowl and other championship events. This will not only bring more diners through your doors on game day but could also help to increase the guest check average per table.
Wine tastings - Holding wine tastings at your restaurant is a smart strategy when it comes to advertising. You don’t even have to close the restaurant for the event—you can simply offer wines at a discounted rate or entice guests with creative wine pairings.
In addition to the above, consider hosting culturally specific events if your restaurant specializes in ethnic food. For instance, based in Atlanta, Georgia, The General Muir is a well-known local Jewish restaurant that often holds cookbook signing events by famous Jewish chefs. This is a clever way to highlight the flavors that make your restaurant unique as well as to entice community members to join in on a one-of-a-kind event.
Advertise the Right Way With Nextdoor
Marketing your restaurant is one of the most important ways to ensure long-term success. From expanding your digital strategy to creating a text marketing campaign, there are many things you can do to reach a large audience.
Step up your advertising game by joining Nextdoor. As the best way to connect with local customers, Nextdoor enables you to take your marketing strategy to the next level. Whether you want to advertise your latest wine pairings or promote your three-course Sunday-night spaghetti dinner, get the word out with Nextdoor.
CandyBar Blog. 11 Beautiful Chalkboard Menu Examples From Cafes, Restaurants and More. https://www.candybar.co/blog/chalkboard-menu-examples/
Jargon. Homepage. https://jargonrestaurant.com/
Pew Research Center. Social Media Update 2014. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/01/09/social-media-update-2014/
The General Muir. Homepage. https://www.thegeneralmuir.com/
YouTube. Andolini's Owner Discusses Marketing Strategies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxX6XjYk-YI
YouTube. El Sushi Loco Restaurant Success Story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S-ukBC4HZU