How to create a restaurant marketing plan
You make delicious food, designed your restaurant to be comfortable and pleasant, and trained your staff to provide a great experience to patrons. But in the competitive world of restaurants, that’s not always enough on its own. Before a customer can experience how amazing your restaurant is, they first have to learn that you exist and decide you’re worth a try.
To get customers through the door (or onto your website) to begin with, you need a strong restaurant marketing plan.
What is a restaurant marketing plan?
A restaurant marketing plan is the strategy you develop to promote your business, convince potential customers to try your food, and keep them coming back once you’ve won them over.
A good marketing strategy for a restaurant will:
- Clearly establish your restaurant’s brand and positioning (what you want to be known for and what makes you special)
- Identify the specific marketing channels you intend to pursue
- Include a marketing calendar to keep you on track with your plan
- State clear goals you want to meet and metrics to track your progress against those goals
Creating (and sticking with) a restaurant marketing plan requires an investment in time and money. But it’s worth it. A smart marketing strategy for your restaurant is the best way to bring in new customers and stay top of mind for those who already like you.
5 potential benefits of creating a restaurant marketing plan
All the work you’ve put into crafting the perfect menu and making delicious dishes can only pay off if you have customers to feed. Here are 5 main reasons why a restaurant marketing plan is a crucial ingredient in winning over the people your business depends on:
1. It helps you better define your business positioning
What makes your restaurant special? Plenty of restaurants make good food—that part’s expected. Branding involves thinking about what sets your restaurant apart from all the other options available to your patrons. Making that an early part of your marketing plan will help you build your business on stronger footing as you move forward.
2. It makes your business easier to find
When someone’s hungry and considering what to eat, you want your restaurant to be one of the first options they encounter in their search. A smart restaurant marketing plan will help you ensure that your business shows up in the main places hungry customers look when deciding what to order.
3. It helps you attract new customers
When you’re easy to discover, more people know to give you a try. That leads to the most direct benefit of a restaurant marketing plan: new customers. Once someone takes the step of trying your food once, you have the chance to win them over to become a regular customer.
4. It encourages loyalty and increases customer lifetime value
The best restaurant marketing plans aren’t just about reaching new customers. You also want to entice the patrons who already know about you to keep coming back. Including tactics to inspire loyalty can help make sure those new customers you earn pay off in repeat business for years to come.
5. It keeps you organized and on track
The first 4 benefits point to the value of doing restaurant marketing. The benefit of having a plan is that it helps you do it well. A scattershot marketing approach won’t accomplish as much. But with a clear plan, all your ideas will be organized based on the specific goals you want to meet, the channels to use to accomplish them, and the timeline for pulling them off. A well-thought-out plan leads to better, more consistent results.
What should be included in your marketing plan?
If your expertise falls more on the food side of things versus the marketing side, you may have no idea where to start on a marketing strategy for your restaurant. Here’s a rundown of the typical steps you’ll want to take in building a restaurant marketing plan:
Define your restaurant’s brand identity
A good marketing strategy for a restaurant starts by thinking through your branding. That includes defining your unique positioning: what sets your restaurant apart from other options. To work that out, consider what you most want to be known for. Then proceed to think through what you want the look and feel of your brand to be. You’ll want to work out a visual style, including a brand color scheme and logo. You can hire a good graphic designer to help with this process or look into free online design options that let you do it yourself.
To help you visualize what this all looks like in practice, we’ll create some restaurant marketing plan examples based on a fictional pizza place called Pizza Finzione. For their unique positioning, the restaurant team emphasizes creating Neapolitan-style pizza that uses only the best ingredients. Their visual branding incorporates the colors of the Naples flag (red and yellow), as well as images and stock photos associated with Naples, Italy. All of that helps communicate what the brand does and what makes it special.
Research your closest competitors
No restaurant works in a vacuum. Your customers will often be deciding among several options in the area when choosing what to eat, and you want to understand where you fit in with them. That doesn’t mean you have to research every single restaurant in your city—for businesses in a big city, that would be a nearly impossible task. Instead, focus on those that are similar to you.
For example, Pizza Finzione would want to learn what other pizza and Italian restaurants are doing nearby to position their business to customers. Its team may want to further identify the restaurants selling food at a similar price point within a couple of miles.
Once you’ve identified your top competitors, research their marketing:
- What does their website look like? Can you tell what keywords they’re targeting for SEO (search engine optimization)?
- Can you tell what their unique positioning is?
- What marketing channels do they use? For example, do they have a presence on multiple social media channels or third-party apps? Do they have an email list? Can you see any promotions they’re running?
- What do their reviews look like? What do customers praise and criticize?
By seeing what’s working for your competitors, you can learn what your audience might respond to. You don’t want to copy them, but you do want to take what insights you can from their results. For instance, the social media sites where they get a lot of engagement may be those where your audience is most active and therefore worth your time.
Decide which channels to invest in
Your restaurant has limited resources, so you want to focus on the marketing channels likely to provide the best results. These are some of the main channels to consider for restaurant marketing:
A website is arguably the most important online marketing channel for your restaurant. When people are researching which restaurant to choose, they often turn to the internet for more information. If they don’t see you show up in the search engine results, they may not know to consider you at all. If they can’t pull up the menu on your website to review, they might move on to the next option in their search.
You probably already understand how important it is to have a restaurant website. But you also want to invest in making sure it provides the information your patrons need and is easy for them to find. That includes investing in SEO and potentially running search engine ads as well. If you haven’t already, you may also want to set up online ordering on your website. That makes it that much easier for customers to place orders with you—and can lead to increased sales as a result.
There are a lot of social media platforms these days, so you’ll probably want to focus on a couple of main ones. Concentrate on platforms you’re confident your target audience uses and that you have the creative resources to stick with. For a restaurant, an image-based site like Instagram makes sense, since taking photos of delicious-looking food is relatively easy and can be enticing for customers. Facebook’s large user base means you can likely connect with many of your customers there. And if you feel comfortable making videos, YouTube or TikTok might be worth trying out.
Once you’ve chosen your channels, develop a social media strategy that makes sense for the platform formats. Your Instagram strategy, for instance, could be a mix of photos you take of delectable food dishes, pictures of your employees at work, and images of customers enjoying their meals (with their permission, of course).
Online apps and directories
Some hungry people deciding where to eat go straight to the search engines; others have favorite go-to apps or review sites. Making sure your restaurant shows up in all the main online directories and apps where people find restaurants is a smart way to reach more customers. By claiming your restaurant profile on each of these, you can provide accurate information that better promotes your business.
Make sure your profile is fully filled out on each site or app and that information like hours and menu are up to date. Bonus: providing consistent information about your restaurant across websites and directories is also good for local SEO.
Paid ads and promotions
Usually the fastest way to get results in marketing is to pay for ads. You can run paid ads on search engines, social media websites, third-party delivery platforms you use, and even more traditional channels like your local paper or radio stations. Ads give you a way to reach a large audience quickly, which can bring in new customers fast. But it costs more up front than many other marketing activities, so you want to be strategic about how many ads you run and where.
Email is a great way to maintain contact with customers who already like you and signed up to receive emails from you—and to stay top of mind with them. You can send emails to encourage more visits with promotions, share content you create, and alert the list to notable restaurant updates.
Consider encouraging customers to sign up to receive emails from you by providing an incentive, such as a discount on their next order or a free appetizer the next time they come in. You can also further build loyalty by sending exclusive deals to your email list, like a coupon for a free dessert on their birthday.
Content marketing involves creating valuable content on topics your audience is interested in, as a way to build brand awareness and trust. Adding a blog to your website is one of the most common forms content marketing takes, but it can also mean investing in informative videos or creating audio content like podcasts. Blogging is an especially popular option because it can be great for SEO, which makes your website easier to find in the search engines.
This tactic does require regular, ongoing work to create high-quality content that provides useful or interesting information to your followers. As an example: a restaurant like Pizza Finzione might build a YouTube channel around videos that show their chefs tossing pizza dough, along with short educational videos with fun facts about the history of Neapolitan pizza. That would give the restaurant a chance to show the knowledge behind their craft, further solidifying their brand identity.
Loyalty programs are a great way to convince the customers you’ve already won over to keep coming back for more. By offering incentives for choosing your restaurant more often, you give customers an extra reason to return. Being rewarded for loyalty makes customers feel good, and it earns you more repeat business.
A common restaurant loyalty program is the punch card: buy 5 slices of pizza, get your card punched each time, then the 6th slice is free. But now you also have the option of using digital tools to provide more sophisticated loyalty programs. That could mean creating a points system, where customers can trade in points they’ve earned for benefits, or creating tiers that patrons can aspire to that earn better rewards based on number of visits.
Create a marketing calendar
With marketing, it’s easy to have big ambitions when you’re in the planning stage. It’s harder to follow through on them consistently over the long term. But that's what it takes for a restaurant marketing plan to get the kind of results you want. One of the most important tools for helping you stick to your plan is a marketing calendar.
Once you have your marketing channels selected, devise a strategy for what you intend to do on each and how often. For example, Pizza Finzione may decide to release a video to YouTube twice a month, publish blog posts weekly, post on Instagram 3 times a week, and send emails to their list once a month.
Keep this realistic. You probably won’t be able to publish a blog post or video every day on top of all your other responsibilities, but a couple times a month may be feasible.
Start entering your promotion and content ideas into your calendar, so every initiative has a clear timeline. Break down each item into clear steps. For instance, a blog post will require a written draft, a review process, and an image to publish with it. Assign responsibility and a deadline for each step—even if you’re doing a lot of the tasks yourself. That will help you better visualize how much time each action will take and keep the schedule realistic.
Work to keep those deadlines and stay on top of your calendar. You may need to update the plan over time as you realize how long certain things take. It’s OK to switch from daily Instagram posts to 2 a week, if you find that’s the pace you’ll realistically maintain. What you want to avoid most is letting your marketing plan end the moment things get busy.
Set measurable goals and track results
With the investment marketing requires, you want to make sure your work is paying off. Set clear goals as part of your restaurant marketing plan. This can include high-level goals like growing brand awareness, gaining new customers, and increasing overall sales. It should also include channel-specific goals for each of the channels you choose to pursue, such as social media followers, email open rates, and loyalty program signups.
Marketing requires a lot of guesswork early on, but tracking metrics is how you refine your strategies based on data. If your blog posts draw more traffic to the website, which contributes to an uptick in online orders, then you know that channel is paying off for you. If you devote hours to creating TikTok content, only to see low engagement on the platform, then shift that time back to one of the channels getting better results.
No marketing plan should be set in stone. Learn what works as you go, and be willing to branch out and try new things based on changing trends. Over time, you’ll gain more data and feedback on what kinds of marketing work best for your audience and brand, which will let you improve results as you go.
Market your restaurant with Uber Eats
For restaurants that use Uber Eats, you have access to a range of tools that help you market your business. Just by joining the platform, you make your restaurant easier for hungry patrons to find whenever they open the Uber Eats app. But you can further boost your visibility by running ads on the platform. You can also offer promotions, like $0 Delivery Fee, to entice first-time customers to give you a try.
In addition, to help you understand how well those marketing tactics are paying off, Uber Eats also offers intuitive reporting capabilities. You can take advantage of in-app tools that measure the ROI (return on investment) for every campaign you launch on the platform. Plus, the app’s automated analytics offer valuable insights for your business, such as your top-selling items and customer feedback.
Using the marketing tools available on Uber Eats is a smart way to make your restaurant marketing plan go further, with relatively little extra work.
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