No one, not a single person, prepared you for how much work it takes to run a successful restaurant. Sure, friends and family were supportive when you started, and colleagues in the industry gave you advice, but it wasn’t until you were in the weeds that you fully understood the requirements of running (and advertising) your counter-service restaurant.
Besides the obvious daily concerns, like cooking, hiring and firing, managing the books, and ordering food, is advertising. You know you need restaurant promotions to bring in new customers, but when you’re a fast-casual restaurant owner, this is often at the bottom of a very long to-do list, especially if you’re just starting out.
Fortunately, we’ve spent 30 years helping restaurant owners like yourself increase profits through advertising. Check out these tips to avoid these advertising mistakes we’ve seen fast-casual restaurants make over the years.
1. Don’t Ignore Loyal Restaurant Customers
With more restaurants than ever in the fast-casual category, studies now show that 85% of Americans eat at a fast-casual concept at least once a month. This means fast-casual concepts are not only popular, but they also offer an excellent t opportunity for you to have repeat visitors. And, because it costs more to get a new customer than it does to keep the ones you’ve got, it’s really important that you find ways to bring back your happy customers.
As the popular TV show theme song once said, “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…”
This doesn’t just apply to fictional bars on TV! Your real-life customers are looking for a place that feels like home, and if your restaurant is the one to provide that experience, they’ll come back time and time again.
Rewards for Loyal Customers
- You should consider creating a rewards program that gives an incentive to return soon. Something like a free appetizer, kid’s meal or dessert can be all it takes to have a customer return again. If a loyalty program sounds daunting, don’t fret. Restaurant POS technology and apps make it easier than ever to create programs that will set you up for success.
- Start up a birthday club for a free “something” on the customer’s birthday.
- Create an email list that customers can join to get freebies, coupons, or early access to new menu items.
These are just some of the ways you can keep people coming back. Read more about it in our blog, 6 Ways Restaurants Increase Customer Loyalty.
2. Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon
Simply put, social media is a part of daily life for just about everyone these days. Restaurants that use social media as part of their branding and advertising strategy are able to make an impression, even when someone may not be specifically looking for a place to eat. And, despite what you may have heard, pretty much everyone is on social media.
The slightly younger crowd
Research shows that Millennials (those who are age 23-38 as of 2019) make up more than half of fast-casual consumers. They’re drawn to the idea that they’re receiving high-quality food at a reasonable price. They are also totally into social media. Seeing where their friends are eating, or better yet, what their friends are eating, can really have a substantial impact on their next restaurant selection.
The slightly older crowd
People ages 38-65 or so are also using social media. They may prefer social platforms like Facebook over others such as Instagram, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as addicted to their phones. This group has a lot of buying power and they’re checking their social media apps every, single, day.
How to use social media for your restaurant
A lot of social media is free to use, but it requires upkeep. If someone sees you mentioned on Facebook, and they click to see what you offer, that potential customer needs to find recent posts and not an empty or abandoned page.
Restaurants that want to truly engage with their audiences must consistently post content and advertise on their social media sites.
If you’re not using social media for your restaurant, now’s the time to create a strategy as part of your restaurant’s marketing and advertising plan. Not only do you get to reach and learn more about your audience, but you also get to let people know what your brand is all about! Learn more about why you should use social media to increase profits and how to pick the right channels for your restaurant.
3. Never Overlook the Power of Restaurant Coupon Marketing
While social media and word-of-mouth can have an impact on choosing a restaurant, you may be surprised to learn that deals and special offers still drive more than one-third of the decisions on where to eat out. If “butts in seats” is what you need (and it is), then it’s important to include coupons as a part of the overall marketing strategy for your fast-casual restaurant.
If you’re going to offer a restaurant coupon, make it easy for a lot of people to find it. Place your discount offer on the local grocery store receipts to increase increase visibility at a very low cost per impression.
Because everyone, regardless of their age, ends up at the grocery store at least once a week, this is a great place to have your coupon visible. Thousands of store visitors every week can get a copy and have it available when they’re thinking about where to eat next. Fun fact… did you know that the higher the level of education and income of a consumer, the more likely they are to use coupons?
We hope that you’ll be able to use restaurant marketing tips to grow your fast-casual restaurant’s customer loyalty, increase visibility on social media, and distribute coupons effectively to increase profits.
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 14, 2019.