So you’re opening your own restaurant. It’s exciting and it’s scary and, where promotion is concerned, you don’t know what you don’t know right now. You’ve thought about all the details about location and target customers. But now it’s down to the last, scariest, yet possibly most important aspect of your venture – the marketing plan. We all know we need marketing, but not what all the options are, how to do it and where exactly to start.
I will walk you through a restaurant marketing plan that you should put in motion about 90 days before opening. Marketing is less pressuring when you give yourself time to do it right, invest in it and be consistent in your energy spent.
Remember: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
90-60 days before opening – Your restaurant marketing plan starts now
First of all, start creating all your social media accounts. Reserve accounts as well as vanity URLs on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram. A vanity URL is a customized short URL or domain name that should, on Facebook, read like www.facebook.com/your_name.
Now ideally, your account IDs would all match or at least be similar, but don’t worry. Make the IDs as similar to your restaurant name as possible to make them searchable across all platforms.
Once all your social media is set up, you need to add some information on those accounts. This is a crucial part of your restaurant marketing plan, as it will provide potential customers with validation about the quality of your venue, service, etc.
First of all, you need Facebook likes. Get some easy first followers – share your page and tell friends and family to follow you. On Twitter, interact and build relationships. Start following local businesses and charities and have them follow you back.
You can advertise your opening special on Facebook and take cool photos when your location is complete to post on Instagram.
Before the launch, you can tease with photos of the venue, recipes, and anything that would get an audience involved.
Instagram is a visual platform and is more suited to visual content. Load pre-opening photos, food pics and try to keep everything different from your local competition.
Create an Instagram marketing plan for your restaurant. Do so by posting everything from quotes, personal images that can build a bond with consumers, food inspiration pictures, etc.
60-30 days before opening
The second month before the opening is reserved to creating your website, menus, brochures, and marketing leaflets.
Reserve a domain name and get started on creating your website. This is where people will see your menu, photos of your location, etc. It has to reflect your values and the style of your venue, and it has to be consistent.
In order to have that website done, you will need a logo and a complete brand identity including colors and other elements. Plan how you would like your restaurant to be represented visually from the start. Make sure that menus and other marketing materials have similar styles, colors and identifiers.
You might need several menus if you have a detailed, extensive wine list or several cuisine styles. It’s important to know that there is no formula for success and all print materials should be created based on your specific needs.
You should also keep in mind that the restaurant industry is built on customer loyalty. Creating a marketing plan to turn one-time restaurant diners into loyal clients is a must, so prepare to train your staff for collecting feedback.
Our clients – who have started a restaurant business – have created birthday special sales, loyalty cards and coupons to achieve this goal. It really depends on each individual restaurant. We are experienced in the design of restaurant marketing materials and can provide a comprehensive plan of action. Don’t hesitate to give us a call, as this month will make or break you.
30-0 days before opening
During the last month, you really have to start working on getting your website out there. While dining establishments usually get the most traffic from review sites, don’t forget to optimize for Google local search. In order to have your place visible, you need to register it.
Your business will rank higher once you get reviews. Your accounts also need a bio, description, contact numbers and photos of the staff and location.
If you’re in the US, claim your Yelp listing ASAP. Yelp is king when it comes to dining, with 20% of all Yelp reviews concerning places to dine. However, try to get listed and fill out profiles on several other review sites as well.
Be sure to create accounts on review sites like Zagat, OpenTable, Zomato (previously Urbanspoon) and TripAdvisor if targeting out of town travelers.
Furthermore, flyers and display banners are an integral part of any good restaurant marketing plan, since you are targeting diners in your area. However, that is not necessarily the case for all brick and mortar locations. Print leaflets spread them across the neighborhood and start a buzz about the brand new location.
After the big opening
As you might have heard by now, making it in the restaurant business is based on reviews, reviews and, well… more reviews.
As several surveys show, most customers will give a review once prompted. However, you need to integrate asking for reviews in your customer feedback collection plan.
One of our clients, Fort Lauderdale-based eatery Mini Pita, created a following for their newly opened place rather interestingly. They passed out cards and asked for Facebook, Yelp and Google reviews. Social proof led to an increased customer base. This is because these days, potential clients read online reviews before visiting a dining establishment. You can read more on our Mini Pita experience in this case study.
Having received this request from most of our restaurant owner clients, we have perfected a review collection plan via marketing cards, a phone number or an email address.
With our app Bright Reviews, we have seen great progress with businesses going from 0 to 30 reviews in the first month of use.
In the future, you can try cross-promotions with other local businesses. Also try to help the community by participating in food drives or similar events. This PR technique will get you in local news, create links to your website and get your logo on banners around town. Local food fairs or any events where you can offer food samples will help spread the word about your new venue.
Last but not least, you need to check for results regularly. Know which sites are sending you more visitors and which marketing efforts are the most successful. However you decide to promote your restaurant, remember to always plan ahead. Only reinvest in the marketing methods that are bringing you the most clients.