There are two factors that decide how long a restaurant lasts: Its new and loyal visitors. You might have the best food in town, but if there are too few guests, then you will never grow your revenue.
The trick is bringing in new customers all the time. If you know how to do this, you’ll build a thriving, steady business. See seven ideas below for attracting more customers to your restaurant.
1. Host a Fundraiser
Hosting a fundraiser takes organization and dedication, but it can yield tremendous results. Honor a charity, local sports team, or school with a community-oriented fundraiser, and your restaurant will fill up with new customers. To stand out, take the time to get to know the tastes of the group you’ll be hosting, and tailor a menu for their night.
If you don’t have the time to organize a charity yourself, connect with your customers and local businesses, and market your restaurant as a site for their next fundraiser! The guests who come to any fundraiser hosted at your establishment will feel a sense of loyalty, and they’ll be likely to return on their own again.
2. Food and Wine Pairing Event
This is one of the most fun ways to try out new dishes that you’re thinking of adding to your menu. Mix your crowd-pleasing menu favorites with new recipes and pair dishes with wines you sell by the bottle. Build a story around the event by selling tickets to get people into the door; social sharing will then take over. Customers will be encouraged to come back and not just order your food, but order a bottle of wine too. If you’re new to wine and food pairings, check out this unintimidating introductory guide here.
3. Themed Nights
Give people something to look forward to by transporting them to another world. If you’re an Italian restaurant, dedicate one night a week to the cooking styles of one region or city, like Tuscany or Venice. You can even use themed nights to promote new ingredients or new liquors. Start a “Havana Nights” night to introduce customers to a new rum, offering drink specials of Cuban-inspired cocktails. Guests will love the change of routine, and they’ll flock to your doors.
4. Live Music
The power of ambiance is incomparable, and music plays a major role in that power. Just as a spa plays relaxing sounds to soothe its clients, your restaurant can use music to make sure customers are having a great time. Jazz, rock ’n roll, and Latin are some genres enjoyed across generations. If you want to host nights with specific crowds, dig into the music scene of your target demographic, and schedule a live music night with an artist of this music style. Crowds will be rushing the door for a good time!
5. Start a Birthday Program
Setting up a restaurant’s birthday program is the easiest thing to do. Start collecting emails and birthday information from your guests with the check. A couple of weeks before a birthday, send the guest an email with a birthday card from your restaurant—and a special birthday discount. Everyone loves being remembered on their birthday. Even if they don’t make it in time to celebrate, guests will remember you as the restaurant that cared. They’ll return before long.
6. Update Your Food Photos and Create Photo Opportunities
It’s a common mistake: Restaurants have terrible photos on their site’s gallery. For your loyal patrons, how your restaurant and food looks are irrelevant—they know it already! For new customers, on the other hand, the first impression matters. If the photos on your website are outdated, have dark lighting, or are just not good, hire a professional photographer to take photos of your restaurant that show off its special qualities—like cozy seating or the long bar—and of your food. As soon as they are ready, upload them to your website.
Instagram is a huge asset to any business, restaurant, and bars, especially. Diners under 35 are using Instagram to learn about new places to go. Take advantage of this interest. Start looking at the design of your restaurant, and find ways to make attractive settings or motifs that customers will want to photograph, like this one. The more your guests take pictures in your location and tag your social media handle, the more attention you’ll start getting.
7. Sell Gift Cards
Restaurant gift cards are a terrific way to get new customers. Let customers know that gift cards are available for purchase on the first page of the menu, and for added value, offer themed gift card designs, such as:
- Happy Birthday!
- Thank you!
Because they’re the perfect gift for colleagues, family, and friends, your loyal patrons will be thrilled to have an appropriate gift for any occasion.
8. Show up on the Forums Your Customers are On
Online platforms attract different kinds of customers. Consider the audience you want to attract and be active online where they are active. See below:
- Tripadvisor for targeting tourists; this restaurant in Washington, D.C., had huge success.
- Instagram for attracting anyone from their twenties to their early forties.
- Facebook for a clientele between 45 and 65.
- Snapchat for the younger generation, from 16 to 22. (Watch out for how time-consuming Snapchat can be.)
Having a ton of followers isn’t the goal here; trying to amass a huge following will just lead to headaches. Instead, save your time and energy by focusing on building a strong brand image. Today’s consumer is checking your website and your social presence, especially when it comes to Instagram, so a cohesive page that shows off your menu options, shares party information, and updates specials is going to attract interested parties. Think of your online presence as a secondary website.
Lavu Pro Tip: To create excellent content for Instagram, leave a smartphone in the kitchen. The BOH staff can take photos whenever something gorgeous was just cooked up, and build a library of authentic images organically.
9. Become an Event Vendor
Since 2016, we’ve predicted that pop-ups are more than a fad. Consumers love a surprise element, and food vendors showing up in unexpected places will never go out of style. Depending on your restaurant’s food type and clientele, partner with events that draw in the same type of customer you want. For example, if you own a bar that makes CBD-infused cocktails, partner with a music festival or concert hall. If your location is in a business district, see how to be a vendor for an upcoming conference or trade show.
At your next staff meeting, involve your team and brainstorm events that are strategic for your business.
10. Offer Email Discounts
Restaurants like Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil have a robust email campaign that brings customers back and draws new guests in. In addition to offering a significant discount to first-time customers, they email customers on their birthday with another great discount that’s valid for several weeks. This email strategy is easy to replicate; start collecting emails on your website and start emailing people from your list right away.