How to Run a Restaurant - Restaurant Marketing

Published: 12th May 2010
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Marketing is defined as a communications-based process where individuals and people discover that their existing or new needs and wants can be satisfied with products and services of others; in your case, your restaurant.

The question is - do you need a marketing plan for your restaurant or are you waiting for guests to come in?

If you are full every shift, maybe not. Unless you want to achieve greater profits, however a marketing plan means thinking in advance. Don't wait until the revenue goes down to do it. Do it before and fill your seats.

In order to get the marketing plan for your restaurant right, you need to have a good understanding of your potential customers and be clear on why they make decisions to buy from you and not from someone else.

Subsequently, to get it right, you want to look at all of the following factors:

• Nature of the market.

• Customers.

• Competitors.

• Financial and marketing history.

• The industry as a whole.

• Any external influences, such as events, festivals etc.

Obtain a good analysis of what and where your guests are coming from and how often customers are visiting your restaurant.

When writing a restaurant marketing plan, you have to consider the seven Ps of marketing - plus one of mine.

• Product.

• Price.

• Place.

• Promotions.

• People.

• Process.

• Physical evidence.

• Positive.

Let's focus on the last four for a moment.

To have a good competitive advantage, you need to focus on people, therefore get the right staff and training to deliver what people expert from your business. Aptitude and service knowledge needs to be equal to what your customers are outlaying.

The process is the system you have to implement and follow. Consistency is essential in order to get it right and supply what you are offering. Every step in the process is important - from the few words spoken to a guest when they call to make a booking, to the conversation during a guest's departure.

Physical evidence is a critical ingredient of the restaurant service mix; your guests make perceptions based on their view of the restaurant. Make sure you keep your restaurant clean, friendly, fun, organized and an enjoyable place to be.
People are attracted by positive statements and positive organizations. Do everything in your power to keep your business and everyone who works for you POSITIVE. If you have great power and energy, eventually this will pass on to your guests.

The strategy

A restaurant should spend at least somewhere between 6% and 8% of the total sales in marketing, but the idea is to do marketing when you are busy. Don't wait until you are quiet. Remember, for a restaurant it is more, much more difficult and more expensive to do external marketing.

What you want to do is to invest in your current guests, and build loyalty and relationships. However, most restaurants spend 85-90% of their budget trying to get new customers.

What we are going to look at now is how to do that effectively by using simple tactics.


You want to have branded signage that is the best on your street, considering relevant laws.


Don't be scared to distribute flyers if you are opening, reopening, or launching a new dinner menu. It is the most powerful mode of direct marketing and if done right can result in a fantastic return on investment.


Before creating a newsletter, list on your website reasons for visitors to register, by giving out a receipt or a free drink if they book online. Once you have your mailing list, do a newsletter every week, informing guests of your news, menus and once in a while offer something to them as a thank you for being on the list.

The internet has become one of the most powerful marketing tools for restaurants. So, make sure your restaurant is up to speed.

Food testing:

Have your positive staff members offer samples in places where your potential customers congregate.

One to one:

Go around town, or in front of your business dressed in a themed costume (for example, if you sell pasta, dress up as such) and hand out your flyers. I know businesses that have used that tactic in bad times who are now extremely successful.

Themed Dinners:

On slow nights offer diners a reason to come to the restaurant. For example, on Mondays offer wine at cost price, lunchtime specials or a specific set menu that is cheaper during slow times. Remember, give your guests reasons to come in.

Prize Draw:

Have fishbowls for collecting business cards and offer chances to win prizes, for example, dinner for two.


Make sure your website is interesting and well presented, but most importantly, make sure your information is CORRECT. I see many restaurant websites that feature old menus or outdated information. Many people before they buy something make a decision to check the internet for information and reviews. This includes restaurants. More than 50% of adults aged between 18 and 44 have used the internet to gain information before going to a new restaurant.

Comments Card:

Ensure that if you decide to have one, it is professionally presented and offer a prize for completing one, for example a bottle of wine. Obtain the guest's information, for example, e-mail or phone number to increase your customer database.

Loyalty Program:

You may want to create a loyalty card for regulars by giving 20% off the bill, or offering a free bottle of wine with every fifth dinner.

Happy hour:

Make people stop for a drink after work by offering a two for one drinks or free starters.

Live Entertainment:

Select a specific night to do live music. Be specific about what you are playing, could be jazz, or another genre of music.

Some restaurant operators have on the back of their personal business card the message, "please come and have a drink on me." This is a very powerful strategy!

Remember that you must offer great customer service and warmth to your visiting customers. Make them have fun and have an exceptional experience, so that they tell their family and friends about their positive experience.

Only then you will have the best form of marketing - free marketing!

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