Like you don’t have a thousand other things to worry about when opening a new restaurant! Hiring staff, developing a menu, organizing construction…unfortunately you still have to worry about marketing. If you don’t get the word our properly all of your hard work may go unnoticed.
Here are 5 effective marketing strategies for new restaurants that will help you do just that.
Get Your Sign Up
When we opened our second location we stumbled upon this one by accident. Since the other construction was taking longer than expected our restaurant’s sign was one of the first thing to be complete.
Luckily we had some brand recognition in this new area so we had people stopping by on an almost daily basis asking when we were going to open. They also got to see the construction process.
You could tell it generated some real excitement!
Our future customers also drove by that sign every day for almost 4 months just waiting for it to say “We’re open!” People are always looking for the next new thing in town, your sign will give them an advanced warning that your restaurant is on the way.
Now that you have your sign up, hopefully it has a marquee so you can point people towards your Facebook page. Even if it doesn’t, create a Facebook page and other social media profiles early on in your construction process.
Your future customers will be looking you up to see what you are all about. People love to hear your story, so tell it!
Use social media to document the entire experience of building out your restaurant. Your future customers will feel like they were a part of it.
Don’t just share the exciting news, let them know about the problems and the disappointments as well. They will be rooting for you!
I have even heard of one restauranteur that used his future customers to completely design the restaurant. He had acquired a location and put a message on the restaurant sign “Mexican or Italian, text 555-5555 to vote”
He received hundreds of replies, so Mexican it was! You don’t have to go to that extreme (although it seems like the ultimate market research) but maybe have a couple color options you can get some feedback on or some different logo designs.
They are paying you so give them what they want!
As you get closer to opening you will need to get some real test runs in with your staff before you go life. One way to do this as well as get some exposure in the community is to reach out to a local charity.
Offer to host them and their guests at your restaurant one night and donate all of the profits to their organization.
I know this might sound like a lot but if you are going to make some mistakes in the beginning you want to do it with a group who might be a little more willing to forgive you (since you are donating the profits!).
Be sure to ask them if they can promote your restaurant to their email lists and other social media so you get some decent exposure out of the deal.
Friends & Family Night
Similar to the charity night, this is mainly for fine tuning your staff just before opening. You might want to plan this on the day before your official opening.
You can invite not only all of your friends and family, but your staff’s friends and family as well. This will create some goodwill with your staff and let them know you appreciate their service.
If you can afford it offer your food for FREE. This will ensure you get a decent crowd simulating a nice rush for your staff. You can then see how ready you are to open or the areas you need to work on.
As an added bonus I would print some kind of coupon to get them back in the door relatively quickly when they bring someone new. The best way to create regulars is to get your customers back in your doors multiple times in a relatively short amount of time.
You want to go during a slow time of day like mid-morning or early afternoon. You want them to be a little hungry!
First get yourself a map or better yet get on Google maps. Find your restaurant and then draw a circle around your address with a 3-5 mile radius. The distance is up to you, however far you think customers would drive to go your establishment.
Pick out a handful of nearby business and get on the road with a few trays of some of your most delicious food. Everyone loves free food so you should be greeted with open arms.
You should also bring some menus and maybe even some coupons to generate some early traffic to the restaurant. When you walk in don’t just drop these items off and go. Try to interact a little with your future customers.
Have your elevator speech ready to go! Remember people like a story so give them your background and let them know who you are a little bit.
If you plan on offering catering services, this a great time to possibly find out who the decision maker is and get their contact info (valuable information). This will also let them see how your food travels and is presented, so make sure it looks nice!
When you first open up a new restaurant you will need to try and build your customer database as quickly as possible. After the first 3-4 months your initial rush will level off and it will be an uphill battle from there to get back to those opening sales levels.
In the beginning, the word gets out that you are open and everyone is itching to try your food. If you do a good job then hopefully some positive word of mouth spreads and this last for a few months. After that you see who your true regulars are and you can work on building up that base.
Comment cards are a great way to do this as well as get initial feedback on how to improve your operation.
They don’t have to be anything fancy, simply ask for as much contact information as you can fit on one side of the card and on the back ask them what they like the most and what you could have done better.
Keeping it simple like this will encourage more guests to fill it out. You could also run a contest with your servers and pay them a bonus for the most completed comment cards.
You should also offer the customer something for filling this out. If you are still in the early stages of opening the restaurant I would offer some kind of bounce back offer to get them back in the door quickly like a free appetizer or dessert on their next order.
As your database and sales grow you could switch the offer to a monthly gift certificate drawing.
So with this collection device you get brand new customer information to fill up your database as well as some constructive criticism so you can provide your customers with a better dining experience.
I hope you can see the logic behind these ideas and they have inspired you to start spreading the word about your new establishment. These 6 effective marketing strategies for new restaurants are sure to generate a nice buzz and get some customers in the door quickly.
Have you used any of these techniques before? Let me know how they worked for you in the comments below.