7 Quick Hacks for a Marketing Strategy for a New Restaurant
Opening a new restaurant has its unique challenges and opportunities. You don't have an existing customer base, so there's no guarantee of success. Before long, your window to capitalize on "the new restaurant in town" effect will have closed.
Getting off to a strong start could make or break your business. Depending on the depth of your cash reserve, you only have a few days or weeks to get to a self-sustaining profit level.
So you need to get as much mileage out of your first few marketing campaigns as you can to keep your dream alive. We've helped a lot of new restaurants launch well with text marketing. We'll cover mobile marketing and a lot more to help you put together a marketing strategy for a new restaurant.
7 Growth Hacks to Develop a Marketing Strategy for a New Restaurant
Follow these seven tips to nail your new restaurant marketing strategy, and you'll be off to the races.
1. Nail Down Your Niche
Every business has a target market: a portion of the population which they can serve well. You'll have to take some guesses about your market when you open a new restaurant, but you can learn from those tests, even if you guess wrong.
The Domino's pizza chain in Charlotte, NC quickly learned that their target market was local college students. Area Director Ryan Swanson found a sweet spot by advertising at UNC-Charlotte basketball games. One of his most successful restaurant marketing campaigns was an offer for a free pizza with an opt-in by text message.
Swanson plastered ads around the arena with an offer for a free pizza by texting '49ER' to 313131. Students who texted received an auto-response with instructions to like the company's Facebook page and post a comment to get the free pizza. On the first night of the offer, Swanson grew his text marketing list by 600 subscribers and his Facebook page by 350 fans. Read the full Domino's case study.
Think about your location, your menu, your pricing, your decor. Who is going to like your restaurant? Find them and market to them.
2. Leverage the Local Media
As Food Newsfeed reports, it's important to overcome the skepticism some customers might have about a new restaurant.
If they haven’t dined at your establishment yet, how can you achieve [trust]? Build trust through press coverage. A review or article from a food writer, editor or critic offers unbiased third-party validation that customers will believe. That’s powerful and important.
You only get one chance to play this free advertising card. The good news is that reporters always need new stories to write about, so give them some material. When you open a new restaurant or location, the media outlet's readers/viewers want to know who's behind the new business, what they offer, and if there are grand opening discounts and events.
While you can use a generic press release, it's best to reach out to reporters individually. And don't forget to consider touching base with local social media influencers.
Related Reading: How to Increase Brand Awareness for Your Restaurant
3. Select a Signature Dish
When people are new to a restaurant, they'll want to know what's good. Your tendency will be to say that everything's good, and it probably is. But to build word-of-mouth buzz, you need to steer the narrative toward a single dish with your own well-planned talking points.
By telling your wait staff to push a signature dish, you get people talking about the same thing. When someone hears from two different friends that they enjoyed a certain entre, they'll be eager to try it as well. That's more powerful than hearing about two different dishes. Of course, you can change the narrative down the road by telling your staff to promote another option in a few months.
4. Get Involved in the Community
Since you're relying on the local community for your business, it's important for patrons to know that you're giving back to the people who dine with you. This can be more effective than a generic radio spot or display banner ad online. When people know that you're invested in the community, they'll be more likely to give your restaurant a shot.
A few strategies to get involved in the community include:
- Sponsoring youth sports teams
- Providing catering for non-profit events
- Joining the chamber of commerce
- Donating to the local food bank
5. Build an Events Calendar
Nearly two-thirds of marketers plan to increase spending on live events in 2019, according to a report by AdWeek. People are eager to get out from behind their computers and phones. They just need an opportunity.
Take some time to look over the calendar for the next few months. Look for holidays or local events which you could tie into a promotion. Consider hosting live music, paying special attention to local artists with a devoted following. When you bring them in, you'll get their fans in the door as well.
The great thing about hosting parties and events is that people rarely show up alone. You'll get bigger groups, and when people show up with their friends, they'll have a better time.
6. Start Gathering Contacts Immediately
Some beginning restaurant marketers make the mistake of thinking that getting new people in the door is all that matters. But you need to make sure that those first few customers come back.
Whether you decide to market to your customers through direct mail, social media, email, or text messaging, start collecting contact info the first day that you open your doors. (According to recent text message marketing statistics, bulk texting gets far better open and engagement rates than any other channel.)
Those first few happy customers are your most important happy customers. They'll be your lifeline through those initial stressful weeks. One of the first campaigns you'll want to deploy to your new contact list is a request for reviews. By getting great early reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, Zagat, TripAdvisor, etc., you'll be able to build trust with people who are hearing about you for the first time.
Make sure that you give people a strong incentive to opt-in to your marketing lists. Don't just ask them if they want "updates" from you. Tell them they'll be part of a select group and the only way to get the offers you'll send out is to join the list. Or give them a big one-time discount or buy one get one offer.
Related Reading: 5 Ways to Make Text Message Marketing for Restaurants Sizzle
7. Develop a Marketing Playbook
You'll find out quickly what kinds of new restaurant marketing strategies work and which don't. Make sure to document your findings as you go along so that you can delegate marketing tasks and go back to the successful plays again and again.
Since we've helped hundreds of new restaurants get off the ground through mass texting, we've seen which text campaigns really drive business. To make sure you start strong, we've developed a free playbook with 18 restaurant marketing texts that you can access right now.
Our Restaurant Text Marketing Playbook includes 18 templates which you can borrow for campaigns like:
- "Your Table Is Ready" Notifications
- New Staff Additions
- Weekly Specials
- Reservation Reminders
- Review Requests
- And More
Photo: Getty Images/andresr