Word of mouth is a great way to promote your restaurant. We’ll deal with how social media helps later. For now, here are some offline ways to create a buzz.
How to get restaurant reviews when you’re new
Just opened? How do you get your new restaurant reviewed? The first stop is to send out invites to food bloggers. Tempt them in with a free meal or appetizer, then after politely ask if they’d be willing to review your restaurant. Some might decline, but the more you ask the more reviews you’ll get. Just one review or mention from a major foodie can work wonders for your restaurant’s reputation.
Get local media to create a buzz about your new restaurant
Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch obviously never opened a new restaurant. To create a buzz, you need people from local magazines, newspapers and radio stations talking and writing about your restaurant. And offering a free meal is a great way to get them in, and in the mood to give you a great review. But be careful about who you invite – a gourmet critic isn’t likely to want to have much to do with a hotdog stand.
Make branded merchandise work for your restaurant
Imagine your logo emblazoned across a T-shirt or printed on a pint glass. Producing merchandise that features your branding is a highly visible way of promoting your restaurant, and it can be done pretty inexpensively. Think about branding up some or all of the following:
- Pint glasses
Advertise your restaurant locally and attract locals
Deals sell meals. And advertising to people who don’t have to travel far to your restaurant is the most cost-effective. And that’s why featuring a deal in your local paper can really pay off. Make sure your offer is aimed at your target audience. Coupons work well. Readers can easily cut them out and bring them along to claim their deal.
CASE STUDY: [BUSINESS NAME] advertised their $25 high tea with a buy-one-get-one-free offer via a coupon. The local newspaper estimated the restaurant would sell 40-50 of these coupons. They actually sold over 200, serving high tea to 400+ women!
Mail out offer coupons
A free course here, 10% off there. Everyone likes a deal, especially when it comes to eating. Offers work well for restaurants. So get the message out to as many people as possible. Mailing coupons to potential customers in your area is a great way to do this. A direct mailing service like Valpack can help you.
Flyers can really help your restaurant promotion take off
By all means have a standard flyer that includes your menu and prices. But also create flyers for special events. Offers should last for at least 30 days to give busy people the chance to make the most of them. Some tips for great flyers:
- Don’t bombard people with multiple messages.
- Make sure they are professionally designed and sized to fit pockets
- Don’t just slip them under windshield wipers, hand them out in person, to get your face as well as your place known.
Be present at big events to hand out branded items
Target places with lots of people – festivals and other community events, and hand out something that will get your brand remembered. For instance, get plastic spoons branded and tell anyone who brings one of the spoons to your restaurant that they’ll get their dessert free.
Tap up local influencers and news hunters
The media and bloggers love scoops (and we’re not just talking ice cream). They’re always on the lookout for stories and there are plenty of PR-able things that happen in your restaurant that will be of interest. So tell them about new menu launches, new chefs joining, when it’s the restaurant’s birthday. Invite them to special VIP nights. It’ll help keep your restaurant on their radar.
Take inspiration from other restaurant marketing ideas
Keep an eye on what other restaurants in your area and around the world are doing. Obviously don’t copy them, but take inspiration from them.
CASE STUDY 1: Page, at 63 Main in Sag Habor grow food inside their dining room. It makes for a great PR-able story and taps into the importance people now place on knowing where their food comes from and how it’s cultivated.
CASE STUDY 2: Victoria Station and Vic’s Boathouse in Salem, Massachusetts, run Parking Violation nights every Monday to Wednesday. They invite people to bring in their parking tickets. The restaurant provides the postage and mails the letter, and gives them a free appetizer to ease the pain of the fine.
You can’t beat “Beat The Clock”
If you’re wanting to generate an exciting atmosphere and increase sales in your bar or restaurant, a Beat The Clock event works time and time again (sorry). This is where you raise the price of drinks every so often, encouraging customers to get there early to get the best prices. It’s a simple way to generate interest and encourage more drink sales.
Make customer birthdays a happy time for your restaurant
Everyone appreciates their birthday being remembered. And you can tap into this by mailing customers in the run-up to their big day, telling them a special offer awaits if they visit your restaurant. Of course, the first step is to capture this information, so be sure to add a birthdate to the other information you collect from customers.