Restaurant Marketing: 14 Effective Ways to Advertise Your Restaurant

By Caroline Cox | 7 min read

Your restaurant can have an impeccable menu, refreshing cocktails, and a stunning interior. But what good is all that if people don’t know it exists? Luckily, there are plenty of restaurant advertising options to get the word out about your space these days. We’re highlighting a few marketing and promotion ideas below, covering various price points, target audiences, platforms, and more.

 

Make sure you’re present on social platforms

When it comes to how to market your restaurant, having your business present and active on social media may seem obvious. But you’d be surprised by the number of eateries that haven’t leveraged these platforms. Social media provides restaurants with a broad, affordable reach that just can’t be found in other advertising methods. It allows you to showcase your aesthetic, increase exposure, and get more diners through your doors.

You know the big players: for businesses, they’re Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By having one or a few designated social media managers on your team, you can create posts in minutes that can potentially reach hundreds or thousands of potential customers.

Self-promote on Facebook

Social media is a great way to attract newcomers to your space and interact with others in your field. But a large part of it also involves creating a space for your brand to toot its own horn. Don’t be afraid to self-promote. After all, most fans and followers want to know about your restaurant’s latest news, specials, and events!

Data shows that 88% of people trust what people say on Facebook about businesses. And, similar to Instagram, Facebook is a great platform to grab viewers’ attention with eye-catching images. Across the board, posts with imagery consistently outperform mere statuses or tweets that don’t contain graphics, photos, or GIFs.

No exciting developments to share at the moment? Simply snap and post a high-quality (meaning: naturally lit and crisp) photo of a cocktail, new entree, or signature dessert dish. Posts like this are a great way to keep your restaurant top of mind — and maybe even entice someone through your doors on that very day.

EVENTup is a top online marketplace for event venues.
EVENTup is a top online marketplace for event venues.

Join an online marketplace

Joining an online marketplace is of the most beneficial ways to get your restaurant in front of brand-new patrons. Say you’re looking for a place to make a Friday-night dinner reservation. You’re probably more likely to go to a site like OpenTable or Yelp over individual restaurant websites, right?

Online marketplaces work the same way. For most, you simply create a venue profile, complete with photos, details, sample menus, and more. Some marketplaces are free, and some charge an annual or monthly fee. Others offer a combination of both, depending on the tier you want.

The Gather Booking Network connects your restaurant to the largest network of planners and diners in the world — learn more here.

 

Fleming’s Steakhouse (a national restaurant group) prioritizes thanking and responding to their followers on Twitter.
National restaurant group Fleming’s Steakhouse prioritizes thanking and responding to their followers on Twitter.

Interact on Twitter

Having a presence on Twitter is great for brand exposure. But if you’re just tweeting out the latest dinner specials once a day, you’re not using the platform to its full advantage. One of the great aspects of social media is the direct way in which it connects people.

If someone tweets at you and asks a question (about reservations, for example), you should tweet back in a timely fashion. This makes your customer feel heard. Notice someone tagged your space or posted about their positive dining experience? Hit that retweet button and tweet back to say thanks!

This is also a great avenue for connecting with other companies, like local vendors and farm businesses. You never know: forming a simple connection online can develop into a full-on partnership.

Mozambique Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, sends out frequent email newsletters that feature the latest specials, holiday reminders, and a calendar of live music and other events.
Mozambique Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, sends out frequent email newsletters that feature the latest specials, holiday reminders, and a calendar of live music and other events.

Start an email newsletter

Restaurant email marketing is another outlet that lets you get creative while getting your brand directly into people’s inboxes. But there are a few rules to keep in mind to ensure recipients don’t hit “unsubscribe.”

First, think of a catchy subject line that will make your readers want to open your email newsletter. Second, don’t over-email — stick to special (and valuable) offerings, exciting new menu changes, or venue updates. And don’t forget a call to action — something that’ll inspire the reader to do something, like visit your restaurant within a certain time frame or take advantage of a limited-time deal. Lastly, the most effective emails are eye-catching. Consider adding a big, high-quality color photo of a new dish or cocktail to get people scrolling.

Partner with other businesses or influencers

The presence of social media influencers has skyrocketed in the past few years, thanks to platforms like YouTube and Instagram. For influencer marketing, businesses partner with people who run social accounts with a large following. The influencer works with a brand to review or highlight that particular business.

Usually, these influencers stick to a certain industry, such as food or cosmetics. Identify the social media influencers in your area, then reach out to start a dialog about their offerings, rates, and requirements. Even if you don’t end up partnering with one, it’s good to have some knowledge around this growing trend and know what other restaurants that do partner with influencers are likely paying.

Check out our guide to how social influencers impact the restaurant industry.

Revamp your website

Maybe you’ve recently updated your restaurant website. It’s simple, has easy navigation, and you’ve got special events and menu information front and center. If so, carry on. If not, keep reading! Your website is often the first glimpse a prospect or potential client sees to get a feel for your business and offerings.

If your company’s site sports broken links, pixelated photos, and outdated menu PDFs, that doesn’t exactly make a great first impression. While it’s easy for tasks like “update website” to fall to the bottom of the to-do list, it’s a crucial aspect of your business that shouldn’t be pushed aside for too long.

 

Camp North End in Charlotte, North Carolina, hosts a holiday market with dozens of local vendors, live entertainment, food, and drinks.
Camp North End in Charlotte, North Carolina, hosts a holiday market with dozens of local vendors, live entertainment, food, and drinks.

Host a market

If you’ve got the space, why not consider hosting a market? Particularly during your restaurant’s slow season, it’s a great way to get people through your doors. You can partner with local small businesses, artists, or makers. It’s a win-win situation: you charge vendors a small fee, and they can set up booths and make sales.

It’s also an opportunity to show off your menu. You can create a pared-down version of your menu for purchase — pre-made batch cocktails and passable apps are usually ideal for this type of setting.

Look into print ads

Our friends at Toast recently released a restaurant advertising report claiming that the three most popular channels that successful restaurants (one that saw profit growth between 2017 and 2018) gravitate to are social media, charity or event sponsorship, and traditional ads in newspapers and magazines.

The appeal of traditional ads in places like newspapers, magazines, and alt-weeklies, is that you can be strategic. Most of these outlets have annual restaurant-focused issues that break down the best eateries in your area. It’s a great opportunity to place an ad in one of these issues or editions to gain more exposure.

Untitled Supper Club in Chicago, Illinois, often hosts live music, from jazz trios and solo musicians to six-member funk-rock bands.
Untitled Supper Club in Chicago, Illinois, often hosts live music, from jazz trios and solo musicians to six-member funk-rock bands.

Attract newcomers with live entertainment

You don’t need a full-on stage setup to host live music at your restaurant. If you’ve got decent A/V capabilities and enough space for some instruments and standing mics, you’ve got the recipe for live entertainment.

Not only are the artists likely to promote their gig, but longtime fans of the band or genre will flock to your space. Worried about volume? You can start off with an acoustic guitar player strumming lowkey tunes, or book an instrumental trio for classy background music during brunch service.

Buy online ads

Many avenues for paid online ads can offer you potentially great exposure at a reasonable price. As we’ve said before when discussing marketing tips to gain more repeat customers: For as little as $100, you could see a solid ROI. The most effective paid ads have good imagery, short-and-sweet ad copy, and a targeted audience (like people who have liked or followed your business’s social media accounts).

Keep in mind that different ads have different objectives — some aim to drive traffic to your site and gather email addresses, while others target potential customers in your surrounding area. Popular places for restaurants to advertise include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp.

Luke’s 32 Bridge in Nashville, Tennessee, (named for country music star Luke Bryan) hosted a special viewing party for the CMA Awards when Bryan was up for Entertainer of the Year.
Luke’s 32 Bridge in Nashville, Tennessee, (named for country music star Luke Bryan) hosted a special viewing party for the CMA Awards when Bryan was up for Entertainer of the Year.

Get creative with special offers

Now comes the fun part: coming up with creative strategies for advertising your restaurant. The methods that’ll work best for your business depend on things like staff size, desired reach, and budget. But no matter your team’s bandwidth, there are plenty of ways you can take your restaurant marketing to the next level.

A few to consider are special deals, contests, and incentives. You can advertise a discount or limited-time offer to drum up interest. Consider holding a contest where people submit their email address (to later be added to your newsletter blast list) to win a gift card. You could also leverage your Instagram audience and offer a comped dessert or free drink if someone posts a photo that’s (accurately) tagged at your outpost. Have fun with it!

 

The Hampton Social (with locations in Illinois and Florida) promotes its events program on social with contact information, event space details and, of course, stellar photography.
The Hampton Social (with locations in Illinois and Florida) promotes its events program on social with contact information, event space details and, of course, stellar photography.

Leverage Instagram

Instagram is a particularly effective outlet for promoting restaurants and event programs. You can post eye-catching photos multiple times a week (including proper hashtags) to maximize the opportunity these platforms provide.

If you don’t feel confident behind the lens, consider hiring a professional photographer to shoot your space. You can also ask a happy client post-event if they’re OK with you contacting their photographer to potentially include some of their event-related snaps to promote your offerings.

Consider working with a PR firm

If you’ve got the restaurant marketing budget to partner with a public relations (PR) company, it’s poised to give you a serious edge over your competition. Shop around until you find one with restaurant experience, solid media placements, and a rate that works for you. From there, you can figure out your target audience, the best places to reach them, and the right message to send out.

While PR teams often do most of the heavy lifting, you’ll want to designate someone (or yourself) on your team who will handle communications, approve quotes, and provide collateral as needed.

 

Now that you know how to advertise your restaurant, request a live tour to see how Gather can help your restaurant business (and your bottom line) grow.

Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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