Is it possible to boost restaurant business on demand?
Restaurants experience lulls during certain times of day or periods of the year — or during economic downturns and times of uncertainty, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Chron contributor Laura Woods points out that the timing of these slow seasons may vary for individual restaurants.
A restaurant may experience a slow season for a number of reasons, including holidays and seasonal changes, most commonly determined by its location. For example, the summer season is often slow for many New York City restaurants, as many residents spend a great deal of time out of town. Restaurants in some areas experience heavy traffic during holidays such as Christmas, while others receive a significant drop in business.
If it was possible to increase business during those down periods, would it benefit you?
It is, in fact, possible, and it's not that hard.
Take advantage of these five restaurant marketing tips, starting with text marketing, to ramp up orders and grow your business.
5 Restaurant Marketing Tips to Get Customers When You Need Them
These tips for restaurant marketing work great to increase orders in the short term. In addition, we'll share some fantastic ways to grow long-term business at the end of this post.
1. Focus on Existing Customers
It may be tempting to invest big in a campaign to bring new people in the door, but that's generally a better long-term play, rather than a short-term booster.
According to Toast, the cost of acquisition for a new customer can be up to 10X that of keeping an existing customer, so go for the higher return on your investment when cash is running low.
The worst thing you can possibly do to offset your slow period is to pour a bunch of money into attracting new customers. It’s hard enough to market to new customers during “normal” times of the year — let alone when the business is slow. - Rod Brant
This is when contact list building pays off. Smart restaurant owners are constantly growing their fan base contact lists so that they can tap into them when they need business.
2. Send Deals Via Text Messaging
Did you know that 90% of people read text messages within three minutes of receipt? No other marketing channel comes close to that kind of open rate or immediacy.
That's one of the reasons that mass texting is a fantastic way to connect with contacts. Getting your message in front of your customers while they're hungry and making meal plans is critical. There's no better way to do that than using Short Message Service (SMS) marketing.
There are a lot of offers you can distribute through text to get people in the door.
Related Reading: 5 Ways to Make Text Message Marketing for Restaurants Sizzle
3. Use "National Food Holidays" to Drum Up Excitement
When your business starts getting slow, check out what food holidays are coming up that make sense for your restaurant. You'd be surprised at the variety and frequency of national food holidays, from National Cookie Day to Lasagna Day. Or pair special menu items with foods that are in season — the first ramps of the season, for instance. Using social media, emails, and SMS, get the word out about how your customers can celebrate a national food holiday with an order from your business.
4. Offer Limited Discounts
One proven way to create buzz and motivate people to take action is to build in a sense of urgency with limited time or limited supply offers.
Craig Mosmen, Owner of the Couch Tomato Cafe, gets a huge response with limited time discounts. A recent text message promotion included a free appetizer, but the offer had an expiration date.
Special Offer til March 31st; mention text - FREE QUESADILLAS with purchase of any Pizza AND Salad!!
With his first offer, Mosmen raked in 70 more orders than normal on a single night.
Brian's Place restaurant owner Brian Alvarez occasionally offers a Catch of the Week to his VIP customer list. His devoted fans know that these dishes sell out fast, so they are quick to respond. When he promotes his limited-supply Catch of the Week via text message, Alvarez sells out seven times faster than normal.
5. Boost Social Posts
Don't assume that you'll be able to generate a lot of action without paying for it on social media. Facebook has a mysterious algorithm that's hard to make work in your favor. Most marketers find that organic social media posts don't perform up to expectations.
When you need amp up business, you can pay to boost social media posts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to bring people who have already dined with you back for more. You'll have a lot of options to target people by interest, geography, etc., so make sure that your messaging goes to the right people.
Develop a Long-Term Playbook
With this list of restaurant marketing tips, you have several marketing levers to pull to increase business on-demand. Use them to get people in the door when business is slow and you'll even out your cash flow and keep financial stress at bay.
Don't make the mistake, however, of thinking of marketing only when you're in a worrisome downturn. Build a marketing campaign playbook which you can use year-round to grow your business.
We've helped hundreds of restaurants connect with their customers for over a decade. During that time, we've learned what types of campaigns work best in the dining industry, and we've gathered our findings into a free resource which you can access right now.
In the Restaurant Text Message Marketing Playbook, you'll get 18 campaigns which you can borrow to use in a variety of ways. These include:
- Weekly Specials
- "Your Table Is Ready" Alerts
- New Staff Additions
- Referral Promotions
- And More