If you wanted to invest your life’s savings of $5,000 in the stock market, would you invest in something that’s high-risk and high-reward, or would you invest in something that you know is going to turn your $5,000 into $25,000?
Restaurant advertising is no different. You make a monetary investment and should get more money in return. The question is: What is the best restaurant advertising campaign that you know will generate more profit?
What are Restaurant Promotions?
The idea of restaurant promotions is mainly about getting loyal customers to come in multiple times a month. The impact can significantly drive up revenue, potentially by 33 percent to 100 percent. For instance, if a customer who typically visits once a month starts coming in twice, this doubles their contribution, marking a 100 percent increase in revenue from that individual. Even a more modest increase, such as a customer going from two to three visits per month, represents a 50 percent rise in revenue from that customer. This amplifies the overall revenue, as it’s easier and more cost-effective to encourage existing customers to visit more often than to acquire new ones. Therefore, nudging customers from one to up to three visits per month can have a profound impact on a restaurant’s financial health, capitalizing on loyal patrons to drive significant revenue growth.
One of the simplest ways to promote return visits is through promotions. Promotions can be offered in various forms, such as highlighting the most liked dishes, running time-limited discounts or loyalty programs, or engaging your customers in social media challenges or theme nights. You can distribute these promotions through avenues like coupons, QR codes, or email and receipt-based discounts.
The concept of restaurant promotions is not new; it has been practiced for many years. However, the ways of promoting restaurants have been evolving every year, and we are being introduced to new ideas for advertising campaigns at every step. So, what worked during earlier years may not work today or in the future. This means you need to explore new techniques and ideas to promote your restaurant.
Restaurant Promotion Preparation
Here’s a simple guide to help you prepare before diving into any marketing campaigns for your restaurant:
Know Your Customer Base
Take the time to identify and analyze both your existing dine-in customers and those you aspire to attract. Ask the following pertinent questions to understand your customer base better:
- Where do your target customers live?
- What time of day do they visit?
- How frequently do they dine out?
- Does your restaurant attract families, or is it an individual?
- What’s the motivation behind their visit to your restaurant – is it for a unique experience, culinary exploration, or savings?
These questions help you maximize the incentive for your customers. One simple example is the frequently used BOGO – Buy One Get One Free offer. This can be a great offer if you have families coming in at dinner. But if you are serving a lunch crowd from office buildings, those customers act a lot like individuals who each pay for their own meal. The BOGO means little if you are only ordering a single meal. By addressing these questions, you’ll get valuable insights for crafting promotions that resonate with your target customers and inspire them to revisit your restaurant.
Define your objective
Every restaurant faces unique challenges, whether it’s competition, location, or changing consumer trends. Identifying these challenges is essential to working on them and overcoming them with a robust strategic move. Restaurant promotions can serve as strategic solutions to overcome specific challenges that are unique to your restaurant.
Analyze the data and analytics from your point-of-sale system to identify underperforming menu items, periods when staff are idle, or any such issues. Tailor promotions to address these challenges by offering discounts on slow-moving items or launching happy hours during off-peak hours.
Revenue vs. Branding?
Before initiating a promotion campaign, it’s pivotal to determine your primary focus, whether it’s to increase sales and profitability or to generate buzz and attract news coverage. While many promotions are made to boost revenue, some want to generate press for long-term brand awareness. Initiatives that attract press attention can have a more lasting impact than immediate revenue-focused promotions but take longer to get going, and the returns may take a long time.
Your promotional ideas should align with these overarching goals. If revenue enhancement is your primary objective, create promotions that focus on driving more customers to your restaurant and increase sales. But, if you are more inclined to grab attention and news coverage, your promotion ideas should be on creating unique and eye-catching experiences. Additionally, consider coordinating with local reporters for periodic press opportunities throughout the year and then create a sustainable story to attract traffic over a long period of time.
Know Your Margins
A crucial element of effective restaurant promotions is a deep understanding of the profit margins associated with each menu item. Analyze the financial indications of each campaign and make sure that the costs associated with discounts, offers, or special events align with your business’s financial health.
Prioritize promoting offerings with high profit margins as a gateway to the broader menu. Instead of offering a free dessert across the board, offer a free appetizer with the promotion of a high-margin product, like newly introduced signature dishes. Informed decisions about discounts and inventory management can help you optimize your promotional strategies and maximize the impact of your offerings.
6 Restaurant Promotion Ideas that Will Help in Increasing Your Sales
While nothing in life is a guarantee, here are 6 restaurant advertising tactics that are proven to increase sales when done consistently:
1. Coupon Advertising for Restaurants
To be specific, grocery store receipt coupons for restaurants. This type of advertising can unlock access to new customers who wouldn’t have come into your restaurant otherwise.
So, how does the grocery store advertise your restaurant? Everybody who buys groceries still receives a paper receipt, and statistically, that happens 1-2 times a week. The back of those receipts (as you may have already noticed) is some prime real estate for ads. Get your restaurant’s coupon on the grocery store’s receipt tape that’s closest to your location. And, if your type of restaurant (i.e., Chinese, Mexican, Pizza, etc) is already on that store’s receipt, check out other grocery stores within a 3-5 mile radius. You can strategize based on where, when, and how many people shop at your local grocery store. Coupon receipt advertising has been around for over 30 years; it’s proven to increase profits for restaurants just like yours.
2. Restaurant Loyalty Programs
How do you reward customers who dine frequently at your restaurant? Do you have a loyalty program in place? Encouraging repeat visits with special offers will help lead them back through the door. This can be super low-tech or high-tech, from punch cards to magnetic stripe cards that work with your POS. Offer something that will be enough of an incentive to frequently return so they can earn their reward. Be sure to track redemption of the loyalty program offers.
Loyalty programs work because they make your customers feel like a VIP. Who doesn’t want to feel important and earn free things at the same time? Your customers feel like they are part of an exclusive group that is separate from other customers. A great example of this is Starbucks; you load money on your Starbucks card, and then you start building up star rewards with every purchase. Since you have already put money on your card, you are more likely to use it and pick Starbucks over the other coffee shops down the street. You are then able to use the stars towards a free drink or food.
Creating a loyalty program that brings your customers back will also increase your customer retention. A study has found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25-95%. Read more about customer loyalty in our blog.
3. Social Media Advertising
Take your restaurant’s personality, delicious food, and upcoming events to social media. Be sure you have a business account (not a personal account), especially for Facebook, which should be a Business Page. (Learn how to make a business account in our blog, How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Restaurant). You’ll need to start posting regularly, but then take it one step beyond to get results. Using the Facebook Ads tools, boost some of your yummiest-looking Facebook posts and include an offer in the ad. Essentially, you’re giving your post a “boost” by running an ad that will drive more people into your location.
With Facebook ads, you can target people who you’d really like to have as customers in your immediate area. It’s one of the best ways available to carefully target your specific audience.
4. The Craze of Seasonal Items
Foodies with FOMO (fear of missing out) could be your ticket to increased profits. When a popular menu item is only available for a limited time, from pumpkin spice lattes to BBQ rib sandwiches, foodies will stop at nothing to make sure they are part of the latest food fad.
Sometimes, it’s about the food item itself, but sometimes, it’s about being included in a collective experience. Take McDonald’s brief reintroduction of Szechuan Sauce, for example. Yes, it was a marketing tactic to get customers through the door, but it wasn’t about the sauce. Most of the people drooling over it had never even tasted it before! McDonald’s knew that fans of the TV show Rick and Morty wouldn’t want to miss out on a real-life experience that related to their favorite show. If they reintroduced the sauce, they’d get a big bump in sales from people who just wanted to be able to say, “I was part of that.”
What can you offer for a limited time that people will come back for as soon as they can get it again?
How do we know this works? Follow the money. Starbucks makes millions off their PSLs.
5. Happy Hours and Game Time Promotions
One of the most effective ways to promote your restaurant is to have happy hour discounts on special drinks and dishes. The slight discount does good for your loyal customers and attracts new ones who will proceed to order even those drinks that were not discounted. Also, show sporting events that would be popular in your community and then offer discounts on food, which is always a great way to bump up the per-person total value. Be sure to use your social media accounts and website to tell everyone what you’re offering during these special times and events.
So you might be wondering if happy hours really help increase sales. Check this out: a study found that restaurants with happy hours generate 60.5% of their average weekly sales during happy hour.
6. Something for the Kids
When parents take the family out, it sure would be nice to have a few moments of conversation that didn’t involve the entire family. What makes that nearly impossible? Their children. Find ways that your restaurant can help entertain the kids. Some places have playgrounds, while other restaurants give out the standard crayons and coloring sheets. Is there something creative you can offer to keep the kids happy without being on their electronics the entire time they’re at the restaurant? Pizza shops can offer to let kids play with a ball of dough. How about puzzles?
When word gets out that you help keep the kids happy (because you post about it a lot on your social media accounts), your restaurant is more likely to become a go-to destination for families. To further draw in families, you can offer a special on a specific (slower) night of the week. That will boost sales on what would have otherwise been a lighter profit day.
How do we know mom and dad are looking for kid-friendly places? Social media, of course! Join your local Foodies Page on Facebook and monitor it for questions. In our small Houston suburb, parents ask for kid-friendly restaurants at least once a month. Not only can you monitor what other restaurants are doing to bring in families, but this gives you a chance to promote your restaurant as well.
Restaurant promotion does not have to be a nail-breaking hassle. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Use tactics that are proven to work for other restaurants. When you use the right tactics and target the right people, you’ll see improved sales, loyal customers, and increased profits. Contact IndoorMedia for more profitable, proven ideas to promote 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.