This article was updated on December 7, 2021.
How to Market a New Restaurant in a Local Neighborhood
After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into building a restaurant from the ground up, the stress of having an empty dining area can be enough to keep you up at night. However, besides serving high-quality food, there's nothing you can do but cross your fingers and hope for a crowd, right? Wrong.
Of course there's something you can do. Tap into the opportunities that come with a well executed restaurant marketing strategy. A local marketing strategy will attract new customers to discover your restaurant and help them become advocates for your small business. Discover new restaurant marketing ideas to add into your holistic business plan.
Overall Strategy and Goals
Before you get into your first marketing ideas, create a restaurant marketing game plan. As a local restaurant business owner, you already know that proper planning combined with short- and long-term goals are the keys to success. So, what should a well-rounded marketing strategy be?
- Focus on the most effective forms of marketing first, like creating a Business Page on Nextdoor (explained further below).
- Cater to your local customer base by offering delivery and takeout options.
- Host fun, inviting events to draw regular crowds.
- Utilize these events to further expand your online reach through digital marketing techniques for your restaurant.
Now to setting goals. Consider your restaurant marketing budget and how much free time you have, then set realistic short- and long-term goals. Here are some must-dos for your restaurant marketing plan:
- Set up all major channels of communication including social media.
- Post on each social media channel at least once a week (the more frequent and consistent your content, the better).
- Host one buzz-worthy event a month.
With the overall plan in place, let's break it down to the specifics.
Create a Nextdoor Business Page
One benefit of being a local restaurant owner is the ability to plug into the community in a way that large chain restaurant owners can't. To do that, start with Nextdoor.
Nextdoor is a neighborhood hub that allows neighbors to interact with each other, local public agencies, and businesses like yours. Through your free Business Page, you can can:
- Run local promotions
- Gather recommendations for your restaurant
- Engage with your registered neighbors in your community
This is far more personal and effective than review websites, which are prone to spam bots or fake reviews and vindictive customers.
Partner With Food Delivery Apps
In Q2 and Q3 of 2020, food delivery apps—think UberEats, Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates, etc.—nearly doubled their revenue. The impetus for this is not surprising. COVID forced restaurants to close down indoor dining, leaving restaurant owners with the choice to shut down completely or to move their operations toward delivery and takeout dining options.
While your restaurant may be prepared to open at full capacity, your community might not be. To meet customers where they are—and to cater to all comfort levels—it’s important to partner with all food delivery apps as part of your restaurant marketing strategyy. Some customers may still be wary of dining indoors, while others simply prefer having your tasty treats delivered to their front door.
By connecting your menu to all the large platforms, you’ll never miss a customer’s craving.
Making Your Restaurant Brand Buzzworthy
There's something to be gleaned from this entertainment era with influencers, professional food bloggers, YouTube stars, and like-for-like culture. Especially when it comes to marketing ideas for your local eatery. People like to be entertained. Whether it's by their phones or by the restaurants that they patronize.
You may be thinking, "Wait, isn't the food supposed to be the centerpiece of attention?" While yes, we agree with you, you also may have noticed the number of couples, friend groups, and families who are all staring intently at a screen while enjoying the best of restaurants.
To turn this scenario on its head, you can create entertainment value and reinvigorate the chit-chatty nature of restaurants by offering people something to talk about.
Generate buzz with these ideas for your local restaurant:
- Community Events - Be the go-to community event space. Offer discounts and deals for local high school sports team gatherings, community groups, local business events, and more.
- Put on a Show - Live bands and stand-up comedians are two great ways to entertain guests while they enjoy their meal. If going with the tunes, keep it on theme to your restaurant-whether that's a classy harpist or a grunge rock bank, you know your restaurant's atmosphere best.
- Craft a Challenge - Does your restaurant have a signature meal, something you know it's going to be famous for? Have you considered making it extra spicy or an extra portion? Doing so could lead to a fun challenge patrons can try their hand at for a free meal or a picture on the wall.
- Photo-Worthy Art Installation - Curious how to cater to the next generations? Many Millennials and Gen Zers will go to great lengths for that perfect photo. Whether it's street art, new art exhibits, destination locations, or an art installation that's photo-worthy at your local restaurant, draw a crowd in an unusual way and support local artists in the process (you can probably find one through Nextdoor).
- Weekly Trivia Night - There's something special about sitting down with friends, drinking a beer, enjoying good food, and trying to outsmart the others in the room. Weekly trivia nights have become all the rage, and it's a great opportunity to bring in a crowd and spread the word to new potential customers.
The point here is not to concoct an alter ego for your restaurant, it's simply to create a fun atmosphere that will have people coming back. Word-of-mouth marketing cannot be underestimated. So, think of something thematically relevant to your restaurant, choose an event that makes you smile, and start generating buzz to build brand awareness.
Bonus Tip - Consider additional incentives like a loyalty program, one in which customers can sign up with their emails and get discounts for being a repeat customer. Loyalty programs can often organically generate buzz because people will want to cash in on their rewards for being loyal customers.
Leverage Social Media Marketing
After going through all the trouble of creating attention around your local restaurant, don't let it go to waste. Double the outcome of your efforts with every marketing campaign by having the social media channels readily available to post about what makes your local restaurant special.
If you're wondering where to focus the social media posts, always remember to keep the content relevant. This should include:
- Photos of prepared dishes that truly demonstrate the quality and presentation of the ingredients in the food your serving
- User-generated content about your restaurant (i.e. photos, videos, challenges)
- Posts recapping event highlights, especially if you have a special appearance of either celebrities, influencers, or reputable food bloggers
- Photos highlighting restaurant employees, chefs, and other special members of the team
- Positive press to highlight good publicity and acknowledgement of your restaurant
In addition, be sure to take full advantage of the power of social media hashtags, which according to Restaurant Eat:
Hashtags help categorize your posts, which in turn help users find your content online. More than one hashtag can be used per post in order to increase the likelihood of your post being discovered. Using the right hashtags can expose your restaurant to a large and highly targeted audience. By putting yourself out there, you make your restaurant brand more discoverable to potential customers. Posts that use at least one hashtag get an average of 13% more engagement than those that don't.
Put simply, when you use social media to its fullest, you create a recipe for success.
Take Advantage of Local SEO
As a small, local restaurant, your digital marketing efforts should not go toward competing with chain restaurants. The focus should be on becoming noticed by the community. To that end, it's important to note that a survey of 6,000 diners by OpenTable found that prior to eating at a restaurant:
- 86% of patrons always or frequently research a menu online
- 60% of patrons read reviews of the restaurant
- 59% of patrons find the address and directions online
How does this fit into local search engine optimization (LSEO)? Local SEO is what allows your restaurant to pop up on search queries when a potential new customer wants to research a menu, read reviews, or find an address. If you have no online presence on search queries via the largest online search engine Google, customers may not know your business exists.
Worse, they may even think you closed down.
This is a risk not worth taking. To benefit from local SEO, be sure you have all these in place:
- Google My Business (GMB) page claimed
- Website up to date with correct address and hours of operation
- All social media pages connected to your website
Remind Customers of Your Restaurant Through Email Marketing
Want to keep your name in the minds of your customers? Among restaurant marketing ideas, email marketing stands out as a surefire way to increase customer engagement. Send discounts, coupons, and updated newsletters on a regular basis to let return customers know that you value their patronage. To gain more emails and reach your target market for your email marketing, utilize programs like the loyalty program (mentioned above) and always make sure that every email you send offers value.
Start a Blog
Running a blog is one of those undervalued, yet crucial restaurant marketing ideas that many restaurants tend to overlook. The first reason why it matters is for SEO purposes. Forbes notes,
The technical purpose of regular blog postings, or online publications, is to tell search engines that your website is constantly being updated, and each new page should be indexed. This makes your site much more visible in search results for industry-specific keywords.
But the importance doesn't end there. In addition, your blog can be useful for both current and future customers by providing answers to questions they might have.
Although it doesn't necessarily mean that they will become customers, the very fact that they're returning to read more demonstrates that they're interested in what you have to say. By building relationships and establishing your authority, you push them further down the sales funnel. And you're not blogging just to blog, you're doing it to demonstrate your expertise. Types of posts can include:
- Staff's favorite recipes
- Lessons from the chef
- Cooking techniques
- Food reviews
- Restaurants worth visiting in your travels
- Chefs and restaurateurs who inspire
- Profiles on staff members
Be creative with your posts and be sure to keep them consistent. Incentivize people to join your mailing list in exchange for deals or promotions. Over time, your readers will have a very solid picture of your restaurant's identity and ideally will want to share the posts they liked (particularly the recipes) with their friends. Plus, these make for a social media post you don't have to think about.
Start Marketing Your Restaurant Today
You don't need to have an exorbitant budget to improve your restaurant marketing efforts. Especially when it comes to attracting residents of your local neighborhood, there are effective methods, such as joining Nextdoor, sponsoring events, and loyalty programs, that draw in both new and existing customers organically.
As you prepare to up your marketing game, be sure to remember that your goal isn't just to make money, but to also become a lasting pillar of the community.
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.