It’s not easy to run a business. To beat your competition to the finish line, you’ll need some strong marketing strategies up your sleeve.
Like any other business, your restaurant won’t reach new heights without consistent marketing efforts.
The competition in the culinary world is fierce. If you don’t make a mark, you’ll soon be among the forgotten ones. However, your customers are the ammo you need to win this battle of food. You’ll need to learn how to retain and create lifelong customers that can swear by your restaurant.
Customer creation and retention become even more important in the first year of opening your business.
How do you make regular customers who keep coming back? By differentiating yourself from your competition using strong strategies.
It’s not simply a game of luck; there’s quite a bit of planning and work required.
Here are a few unique ways you can build a customer base that keeps choosing you over and over again:
Let Them Build With You
There’s just something special about building things – a lingering feeling that says, “a part of me belongs here.” A sense of ownership. A sense of belonging.
Use this when you’re opening or revamping your restaurant. Get customers involved. Let them sign a poster, have them add a decoration piece on the table or the wall, and ask them to add a crystal to your brand new chandelier. This way, they’ll feel involved.
Build loyalty and belonging in their first dining experience with you.
Once a Week, Let Them Decide
Give your menu a break. Once a week or a month, advertise ‘anything goes’ menu day where your customers can ask for any food dish, and you’ll make it for them. This is great for engagement and will let them feel special.
Give Out Freebies (But Smartly)
Don’t just start handing out freebies, be smart about it. Set a goal like, “Bring three friends and get a free meal” or “Crack this puzzle and your meal’s on us!” Make it fun, smart, and super engaging. Chances are, your guests will love to participate, especially when they have a chance of getting something.
Organize a Tasting Event
Tasting parties are an old-school tested method that works. Turn this up a notch by inviting your competitors over to offer their samples. Sounds counterintuitive? It isn’t! Be super prepared with a better product and show your customers how superior your product is. It’s not just about showing you’re better than your competition but also about how confident you are about your food.
Use Creative Ways to Spread the Word
There’s nothing like some classic word-of-mouth marketing. Bring an element of surprise to the table by giving some percentage off the menu randomly. Do this occasionally, and people will start coming in hoping it’s their lucky day.
Entrée Day Endeavors
There’s nothing like engaging your customers. Plan a special entrée day where your guests get to participate in making their own entrée. You can offer them ingredients (don’t go overboard) and let them prepare something. At the end of the night, announce a winner whose creation will go on the menu and offer them a free meal as well! Fun, right?
Don’t Forget to Invite Food Bloggers for a Review
Your local food bloggers are an asset. Find a few of them, offer them to review your food and restaurant, and hold an interview with the head chef. If they want to create a vlog, let them! This will give their viewers a reason to visit your restaurant for themselves
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. It can help you build a stable brand with a lasting reputation. It will allow people to leave reviews, tag you, share pictures of your food, ambiance, and interior on their Instagram and Facebook accounts.
The customers who do tag you and post about your restaurant make sure you like their posts, stories, and reels. Comment on them and share them on your feed as well. People love this. It makes them feel connected to your brand.
You can also organize giveaways like a dinner for four or a romantic dinner. This will increase your reach and many potential customers will be able to know about you.
Ensure Your Plating is Nothing Less than Art
Of course, the taste matters, but that’s not all. People dig art. People consider food to be art as well. Food that looks good sways people. They’d want to take photographs and share them with the world. Plus, it’ll also make eating more fun and artsy!
Special Occasions, Special Prices
When it’s the holiday season or on special days like New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day, most people stay at home and cook. It’s not that they don’t want to dine out; it’s that restaurants offer a very pricey menu during those days.
You, on the other hand, can stand out from the rest. Attract your customers during special events by preparing a special menu available at a lower price. This way, you will get budget-conscious people visiting your restaurant. Don’t skimp on the quality, either. Customers will love going to a restaurant that offers great food at reasonable prices.
Go Out of Your Way
Sometimes, to really get to your customers, you’ll have to step out of your restaurant. Open a booth when a food event or music festival is happening and reach out to new customers. This will let you stand out and be remembered (especially if you serve your best dishes).
Have Happy Hours
You can attract more customers to your restaurant for specific hours when you can offer discounted prices on certain dishes. This way, you get a higher income and encourage more people to pop into your food place even when the happy hour has ended.
Have Loyalty Programs
The goal is to have recurring customers. One way to do this is by having a tailored loyalty program. Use technology to your advantage―with personalized data, you can give your customer’s a special offer like on their birthday. This will help you build close relationships with your customers as well.
Invite Guest Chefs
Another great way to make your restaurant stand out is by inviting guest chefs to your kitchen. This will work very well if you go with a chef that’s already well-known. Regular customers (and new ones) will love the chance to try a different dish prepared by a popular chef that’s available only for a limited time.
Boost Your Curb Appeal
Location matters the most, that’s true, but there are other things to consider as well. To stand out from your competition, market how important presentation, plating, and food taste are to you. Focus on the interior, ambiance, mood, and style of your restaurant to make it a cozy dining place. If you can, go with an unconventional pop of color, creative window or door décor, fancy art pieces, and bold signage to make your customer stop and take a second look.
You can also make your restaurant stand out by not asking what the customer wants but by offering them something new, unique, exciting, delicious, and otherwise unavailable. You need to know your target customers very well and figure out what sways them. For example, modern restaurants are all about minimalistic designs and décor because their target customers are millennials and Gen Z. This target group is swayed by sustainability, minimalism, and the local food movement. So, find how you can tap into your customer’s heart by offering something unique and in line with their ethos.
Offer Private Dining and Event Spaces
If your restaurant has a smaller room, you can convert it into a private dining space. This is a great, low-cost way to bring people who are hosting a party or need a meeting space to get together and chat. Think about offering catered business lunch meetings and a catered menu for dining parties.
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About the Author
Jake S. is a senior masonry technician at CF Vice Constructions who also has a flair for architecture and interior design. In his free time, he blogs