Restaurant Marketing 101: 10 Steps to Successful Marketing

Marketing for a new restaurant or even an established one can be difficult if you don’t know which steps to follow. There are so many food chains flooding the market that it is difficult for small businesses to compete. People are more comfortable going to  eat at food chains, because they know they will have a similar experience every time they eat at one. They know what to expect every single time so they are more comfortable. Eating out at an independent establishment is riskier for the customer. It’s a new place, new menu, and the wait could be longer. There are a lot of things people consider before going to a new restaurant.

The problem is that most independent restaurants don’t have the resources to pay for television ads, like Outback Steakhouse or Applebee’s. So if you own or manage an independent restaurant and want to compete with the franchises for business, you must market yourself to gain a competitive advantage.

However, many restaurant owners and managers do not know where to begin developing a marketing strategy.  Whether you are a new business or a well-established restaurant, you should be constantly reevaluating and modifying your business strategies to take advantage of the marketplace.

Your restaurant may be doing well, or it may be struggling. Either way, marketing will help you increase your profits. Restaurant marketing really only has one goal, to make more profit. If you lose sight of that goal, your marketing campaign will not be effective.

Marketing can help profits in three ways:

  1. Fill up the restaurant. Get new customers or convince existing customers to come more often.
  2. Sell more. Increase the average check amount by convincing customers to buy more items or buy more expensive items.
  3. Sell the right things. Convince customers to purchase the more profitable items, which have larger contribution margins.

10 Steps to Successful Marketing

You want to improve profits using all three of the tactics mentioned above. Here is a simplified step-by-step outline for successful restaurant marketing:

  1. Analyze the marketing environment. Perform an environmental analysis of the trading area as well as general widespread trends. Know the geographical, economic and behavioral barriers. Do some research on the surrounding population, identify threats and look for new opportunities for your restaurant. Learn about your prospective customers and what they want.
  2. Gauge the competition. Evaluate your direct competitors. Seeing where their strengths and weaknesses lie can help you gain a competitive edge. Determine how you can attract their costumer base or how you can improve the menu or service to get an advantage.
  3. Target one or more segments. Analyze your target market and what these consumers want. You cannot make everyone happy, so you should usually focus your marketing on one or two segments of the population, usually the two largest.
  4. Fill your niche. Determine your positioning and unique selling point (USP). Focus on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. The best way to market your restaurant is to stand apart from the rest.
  5. Perfect your operations. Make sure all of your operations are in order and your existing customers are happy. Successful branding can only occur when your product meets customers’ expectations.  If your current customers are happy they will be sure to spread the word!
  6. Make a plan. Develop measurable marketing goals and an actionable plan to achieve them. Different types of restaurants will chose different marketing techniques according to their positioning and target market.
  7. Budget your marketing. Estimate the costs of marketing and the probable return you will get on that investment. Create an overall marketing budget as well as a separate budget for each marketing technique in your plan. There are ways to determine your return on investment (ROI) for each of your marketing techniques.
  8. Take action. Implement the marketing techniques you have chosen to help your restaurant. Make sure you do not go over budget or stray from the plan.
  9. Assess your success. Calculate the effectiveness of your marketing techniques using simple ROI methods. If the marketing tactics are unsuccessful, an assessment can help you figure out why, how to fix it or whether you should scrap the whole tactic. Then you can move on to other tactics that do work for your business.
  10. Continue to adapt. Repeat these steps every few months to keep up with the ever changing, ever evolving market. Whether or not business is going well, you should continuously make changes to stay ahead of the competition and keeping your customers coming back for more!

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