5 Bad Habits in Launching Restaurant Advertising Campaigns

Restaurant Advertising Campaigns Image

Restaurants of all sizes, from the largest fast-food chains down to the independent coffee shop on the corner, invest time, effort, and money in advertising. In fact, American restaurants collectively spent more than $6.4 billion on advertising. But…how much of that $6.4 billion was wisely spent? Large chains may be affected less when restaurant advertising campaigns don’t work.

But small, local restaurants can’t take the same risks. Profit margins are already tight for locally owned restaurants, so a bad decision or an unexpected negative outcome can be costly.

What can you do to advertise your restaurant, especially to the local crowd, and have confidence that it won’t bomb? The key is making smart choices, like deciding on the right restaurant ad, and avoiding bad habits before, during, and after you run an ad campaign.

Here are five bad habits that restaurant owners may have related to marketing that you can watch out for:

1. Not Setting Goals or Learning From Data

Too many local businesses jump into a restaurant advertising campaign without much direction, figuring that as long as they commit to some advertising, customers will find them. But there’s a problem with doing that.

First, you have to take a step back and ask what you hope to achieve with your campaign. Of course, the overall goal is to increase profits, but more specific than that, do you hope to increase dinner sales by 20% with a specific coupon over the next two months? Or do you hope to increase repeat sales by 50% over the next six months with a loyalty program?

Be sure you know where your numbers are now and how you’re going to track success. Another pitfall is panicking and then stopping your campaign before it’s had time to sink in. It can take a little bit of time for people to see your coupon often enough to take action, or for enough customers to sign up for your loyalty email or texting program for there to be an impact on profits.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing that walks you through creating a marketing strategy to bring in new customers. 

2. Expecting Too Much from Expensive Advertising Options

A lot of restaurant owners are pretty sure they’re not official till they’re on the radio or TV. Don’t fall for it! Yes, you will get some exposure and it may bring in new customers. But at what cost? Be wary of city-wide advertising if your restaurant isn’t easily accessible by everyone in the listening or viewing area.

Remember, too, that the way your ad is exposed to prospects can affect profits. When you get a quote for advertising, ask which times and days your ad will be distributed; it should be exposed at a time when prospects are paying attention and can be encouraged to come in or place an online order. It’s not that radio and tv can’t work, but the hefty price tag means you need to generate a lot of customers to get a return on your investment.

Because restaurant customers are typically pretty local, radio and TV are best reserved for those restaurants that can say they reach much of the region served by those ads.

3. Establishing But Then Ignoring Social Media

Many restaurants today understand the importance of a Facebook page or Instagram profile. With the exception of those age 65 and older, numbers show that pretty much everyone is using some type of social media every day. Restaurant owners may also have the impression that social media is “free marketing.” While it’s free to use the service, there’s a lot more that goes into social media marketing than just setting up a profile with a few photos and your address.

Did you know that when people “check-in” at your restaurant they are more than likely also going to show a link to your profile in their post? Here’s an example of what that looks like.

Facebook Post in Restaurant Image

Complete strangers may be clicking to see what you’ve got at your restaurant. If it’s an old, stale page with nothing going on, they’re not gonna stick around for long. Give visitors who find your page something to look at! Pictures are best, but throw in some explanation of what they’re viewing. This can be of food, people, staff, etc.

But.. this means it takes some time. Whether that’s an internal staff member or a cousin that manages your social profiles for you, it’s really important to keep your social media presence fresh and up-to-date.

Learn more about Facebook advertising for your restaurant.

4. Avoiding Discount Offers

Some restaurant owners get worried that if they offer a good discount it will “cost them too much.” Of course, you should not offer anything that can put your restaurant’s financial success at risk. But offering 20% off a specific item or a buy one get one offer can help bring in customers that you might not have had any other way.

You also have to have a way to distribute the coupon so that you can see if it’s doing its job. Coupons on the back of supermarket receipts are one highly proven way to get a lot of distribution in a very local area.

Through this medium, your coupon is literally handed to customers every time they shop – which is usually more than once a week. Compare this cost and the return on investment to something like a TV commercial and there’s no comparison. Coupon distribution is much more likely to produce profitable results. You might also be interested in reading our blog on coupon advertising for restaurants.

Interested in how grocery store coupon advertising can work for your restaurant? Learn more.

5. Not Advertising at All

Choosing the best restaurant advertising campaigns for your restaurant can sometimes be so overwhelming that you choose to do nothing. Relying solely on location, reviews, word-of-mouth, and the quality of food and service as marketing tools isn’t enough in a competitive market. Even when a restaurant is excelling in every way, great restaurants can fail simply because they aren’t promoting themselves.

Advertising your restaurant allows you to:

  • Create more brand awareness
  • Show your commitment to your local community
  • Engage with your customers to bring them back

The goal is to give your business a boost that gets people in the door so that they can experience how good your food is, tell their friends, and write glowing reviews that attract even more customers. And that’s exactly what an advertising campaign can do.

If you need help starting your restaurant advertising campaign contact us to get started. At IndoorMedia, we help you increase the profitability of your restaurant with specific tactics that support community-based, out-of-the-ordinary advertising.

downloadable guide with marketing strategy to bring in new customers to your restaurant

Finding the best ways to advertise in your local area is key to driving new customers through the door every single day. Learn more about some of the top restaurant marketing tactics and how to apply them to your restaurant.


We updated this post on June 17, 2019.

IM In The Know

At IndoorMedia, we believe our blog can help business owners make profitable advertising decisions. Subscribe to our blog to stay in the know!