You can spend hours trying to crunch numbers and improve your margins, but at the end of the day, real growth is all about how many people you get to walk through your door. Today’s restaurant market is more competitive than ever with diners’ attention divided between familiar chains, growing grocery delivery options, and other independent restaurants trying to stand out from the crowd. If you want to make sure people are thinking about you when they’re hungry, follow these tips and tricks.
1. Create Campaigns Based on Local Events
Local events can bring in large numbers of tourists plus an influx of local residents who wouldn’t usually be out and about. They all have to eat somewhere.
Even if you’re not directly participating or even in the same neighborhood, large local events will likely create more traffic in all directions. This includes people coming into town, locals looking for a quick meal on their way to or from the event, or people who want to do something outside of the main event area.
To take advantage, tie an advertising campaign into the event. This could be as simple as running an ad campaign in the run-up to the event. Of course, an even better tactic is to run a special during the event days to give people a reason to stop by.
2. Get Involved in the Community and Let Everyone Know It
Eighty-two percent of consumers consider social responsibility, including community involvement, when choosing where to spend their money. Even the remaining 18 percent isn’t out of reach — while they may not necessarily favor your community involvement, they’ll still remember your name if they see it more.
Your involvement options range from direct charity to sponsoring events to setting up a food stand at a popular local event. Whichever you choose, there are three groups of people who you want to reach.
- The participants who will see you there.
- Additional participants who become aware of the event through your PR campaign and decide to participate and check you out at the same time.
- People who may not be able to attend but will decide to support a restaurant that’s involved in the local community.
How do you let people know what you’re doing? Through standard channels like press releases, social media, and traditional advertisements.
3. Turn Your Regulars Into Net Promoters
- Detractors who will go out of their way to tell people about a negative experience.
- Passives who won’t share their experience with your restaurant at all.
- Promoters who will actively tell people to seek you out.
There is no publicity like free publicity, and promoters are the best way to get it. The easiest way to earn promoters is to tip passives who already like your restaurant over the edge into becoming promoters. On top of generally good service and things like remembering their names, this might include things like loyalty discounts or coupons for bringing in a friend.
4. Have a Story
What sets your restaurant apart from all of the others? If you don’t have a story, you’re just another diner competing on taste and price. But what really keeps consumers coming back is shared values — 64% say that’s why they continue a relationship with a brand.
Your brand story might be tied to your personal background, or it can be an entirely fictional legendary tale. What’s important is that it sets the stage for what customers can expect. This might be something basic or often used, such as New York bagels or Chicago pizza, or it might be a completely immersive tale like a medieval dinner show.
The end result should be that customers and the press don’t just talk about your food. They talk about where it came from, how it’s just like back home, or how they felt like they were traveling somewhere new.
5. Become an Expert
Don’t just talk about coming to your restaurant. Think about what you can become an expert on. Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts than advertisements.
This could be as simple as providing unique cooking tips or recipes. Some people might feel this gives away their secrets, but people go to restaurants because they want someone else to do the cooking. It just keeps you in mind when they feel like staying at home.
You could also become an expert on something else, such as sharing stories about your home country or how you became successful in business. Your goal is to become a resource that news outlets and others can turn to for information while mentioning your restaurant in passing.
6. Create an Experience
If you want to grab attention, you need to create an experience. 72% of millennials prefer spending money on experiences rather than things. Serving good food is part of that, but you need something extra to create a buzz.
Famous examples include the themed experience of Rainforest Cafe, Cracker Barrel’s country stores, and the open flames of Japanese hibachi chefs. Other options might be allowing customers to assemble their own meals, game nights, or live entertainment. Whatever you choose should tie back into your brand story to enhance your overall reputation rather than just being a gimmick.
7. Know What Journalists Are Looking For
Whether you’re trying to get on TV, the radio, or in the newspaper, you need to know what the journalist you’re reaching out to is looking for. This comes down to watching, listening to, or reading the segments you’re trying to get in.
Are other stories rags to riches stories about people? Are they about community involvement? Do they give the readers an activity they can check out this weekend? While promoting your brand message is important, you also need to find an angle that ties into the type of stories that your local outlets like to publish.
8. Capitalize on All Channels
Let’s say you manage to get a TV news reporter to do a segment on your restaurant. What happens next?
• The story and video get posted on the news channel website and possibly social media.
• People watching the news head to your website to learn more about you.
• People check out your social media profiles for recent news and pictures.
So what do you need to do?
- Have your website basics down — hours, direction, menu, etc.
- Have more information about what the news featured on your website, and make it easy to find.
- Make sure your social media accounts are active. If you’ve been ignoring them, start posting daily before the news segment airs.
- Retweet, like, follow, and share anything sent out by the news company to further promote it and make it easier for customers to connect to you off of the news story.
Remember, the news story is just an initial wave of attention. You want to give those people a reason to get in their car and drive to you, and you want to make it easy for people who missed the news to see what other people have said about you.
9. Write Press Releases for Your Audience
Whether you post them online or send them out to local news outlets, press releases are a great way to spread the word about what you’re doing. When you write a press release, it’s important to think about what’s important to who’s reading it. You want to brag, but why should your customers care about how long you’ve been in business or your new oven?
That’s not to say that you can’t spin anniversaries and routine events into things your customers care about, but you have to make the connection for them. This might include things like discounts for a special event or new, improved, and unique dishes. To make sure you’re on the right track, start with press release templates and customize them to your own style.
Growing your restaurant is all about cashing in on publicity. To do so, you want to create an experience and story that hooks customers in and gives news outlets a reason to keep talking about your restaurant. If you can achieve those goals, you’ll set yourself far ahead of the restaurants who only think about food.