As a restaurateur, your day quickly fills up. Between inspecting the front of house, controlling the back of house, and doing the books, many small restaurant owners will find that opportunities to grow their business often fall by the wayside in favor of simply keeping it running.
Grand marketing plans are all well and good for those organizations with a dedicated marketing budget, or an entire marketing team at their disposal. But you’re not exactly Apple or General Electric. You’ve got access to only so many hours in a day, and boy, are you spending them. What you need are some marketing ideas that are low-budget and easy to implement.
Well, today’s your lucky day.
Check and Respond to Online Reviews
There will be many reviews for your restaurant lurking online, whether you realize it or not. And with no recommendation more effective than another diner’s first-hand experience, you need to be well aware of what the public is saying about your business.
Take time to read and respond to these reviews. And ensure that you respond appropriately. No passive-aggressiveness. Thank people for good reviews, take any criticism constructively, and respond to unreasonably bad reviews calmly and with the facts.
Post a Promo
If you haven’t already got business social media accounts – at least a Facebook page, but ideally an Instagram profile and Twitter handle – then get them. Thankfully, each requires five minutes to set up, and are entirely free.
Once set up, use them to post a promotion. This validates a follower’s choice to subscribe to your updates and makes them feel special. By offering a free entrée or complimentary glass of champagne, you’ll create an instant buzz online. You can even use a promo to push your online reach, with a ‘first 15 people to share this photo get a free smoothie’ style post.
Offer a “Secret” Menu Item
Another way to cause a social stir is to consult with your chef and create a special menu item that is only available to those who help you with your marketing. You can do this by putting up a board in your restaurant offering the secret item to those who check-in to your establishment on Facebook.
This will spur your customers to actively spread the word about your restaurant.
Post a Poll
Facebook has a polling facility that offers a fun way to get direct feedback from your followers. You can use it to help your customers feel directly involved in your business decisions, giving them a vested interest in your restaurant.
You may want to take a straw poll on which seasonal dish should be added to the menu. You could get a sense of what your clientele want in regards to your interior décor. Or perhaps they could provide direction on a potential event at your establishment.
Write a Brief Blog Post
Anyone in the marketing game will tell you the value of good content. Content marketing is the practice of creating something – a video, blog post, podcast or infographic – that offers either information or entertainment to your audience, and seemingly asks for nothing in return. It’s a fantastic way to get your name out there.
While you may not have the budget to produce a high-quality video, it’s certainly within your abilities to write a simple and insightful blog post regarding the restaurant industry. Your followers will appreciate the effort, and you never know; it may go viral!
Humanize Your Restaurant
Put a spotlight on one of your employees. Put up a post about them, either on social media or on your own website, that gives your customers an idea of who they are.
This will result in two positives; your customers will feel more welcome and at home in your restaurant by being surrounded by familiar faces, and the friends and family of the employee will likely view and share the post, giving your business further online reach.
Every one of these ideas can be completed in under half an hour, and while they might be described as “affordable and easy”, everyone will have a positive effect on your business’s marketing efforts, with minimal effort on your end.