Restaurant Advertising Tactics That Actually Work

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American restaurants collectively spent $6.4 billion on advertising according to research from 2013. With so much being spent on advertising we have to wonder, “How much of that $6.4 billion is spent on advertising tactics that actually work?”

Whether you’re investing money or time, your restaurant should focus on tactics that are proven and profitable for your category of business.

Let’s review three types of restaurant advertising that have a great track record and are easy on the wallet.

Local Online Advertising

Plain and simple, consumers are making purchase decisions based on research they do online. Restaurants need to have a strong online presence that attracts consumers searching for their next meal. Luckily, not all online advertising has to be expensive.

  • Claiming your local listings is free, quick, and easy to do. This simple tactic makes sure your restaurant can be found by anyone doing a search on Google Maps or other search engines.
  • Adding your restaurant’s menu to your website helps increase online searches that turn into off-line conversions. Research shows that 83% of consumers read a restaurant menu online before deciding on a restaurant. Also, add professional photos of your dishes to further entice consumers to pick you over your competitors.

Coupon Advertising

Providing an aggressive, yet profitable coupon is a win-win situation for all types of restaurants. Your customers will be happy they’re getting a good deal, and your restaurant will generate new and repeat customers that spend more per visit.

Be wary though, not all coupon advertising programs are created equally. Effective coupon advertising provides high impressions, hyperlocal geo-targeting, and consistent exposure.

To find coupon advertising that actually works, ask yourself these questions:

1. How many impressions will I receive each month?

2. Will my coupon be distributed to consumers who live within a 10 mile radius of my restaurant?

3. Will my coupon be distributed to the same consumer more than 1x a month?

4. What is the cost per 1,000 impressions?

The higher the impressions, the smaller the targeted radius, the more repetitive, and the lower the cost the more effective your coupon advertising program will be.

Social Media Marketing

Restaurants should take advantage of social media platforms as a way to connect with new customers and promote loyalty with existing ones. While social media is free, you’ll have to invest time into upkeep. This tactic only works well when you can dedicate time and attention to it.

  • Share photos of menu items, daily specials and new promotions to engage with your audience. Regular updates like these are a great way to remind your existing customers of your value and inspire repeat purchases.
  • Join local “Foodie” groups on Facebook to stay up-to-date with consumer opinions and promote your restaurant through word of mouth. When people leave reviews of your restaurant, make sure to reach out and thank them for their kind words or offer an apology if the review was negative. If you’re attentive and communicate with your customers, they might just reshape their opinion and post a glowing review about how you helped them improve their experience.
  • Take advantage of user-generated content. Wendy’s relied on this tactic to drive its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs campaign. The brand used real comments from Twitter and Facebook to create “love songs” which were turned into music videos used to further promote their new product. Your restaurant can follow suit by running caption contests, sharing testimonials, or offering a donation to charity for social posts and shares.


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We updated this post on April 26, 2018.


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