The 3 Most Common Marketing Mistakes of New Restaurants

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It’s an exciting time to be a restaurant owner, as industry sales are expected to reach $799 billion in 2017, the eighth consecutive year of growth. This number indicates a strong economy—but it also suggests high competition. From managing vendors and employees to ensuring that seats are filled, opening a new restaurant in a crowded, competitive market requires innovation and dedication.

While word of mouth can be effective when you first open, it’s important to strike a chord that lasts longer than opening week. This is done through effective marketing. Not only does marketing help create a positive public image, but it increases your reach and targets new customers—which, in turn, increases revenues.

However, because you’re scrambling around to finalize paperwork and ensure that your doors open as scheduled, you may not have time to research marketing best practices. And even if you have the time, it can be tough to discern which techniques are effective.

To help illustrate effective restaurant marketing, here are three common restaurant marketing mistakes—and how to avoid making them.

1. Giving Up Too Soon

In 2016, Americans spent more at bars and restaurants ($54 billion) than on groceries ($52 billion) for the first time. However, more recent data from February 2017 found that one-third of U.S. adults were eating out less frequently than three months before.

With two seemingly opposed facts, what does this mean for you? While customers are willing to spend on dining out, the competition for the fewer times they go out is more fierce than ever. To ensure you create a steady stream of customers, it’s important to market your concept consistently and repeatedly.

Despite the hype around “viral” marketing, professional marketing campaigns are a marathon, not a sprint. In advertising, the term “effective frequency” or more simply, repetition,  describes the number of times a consumer must be exposed to a message before businesses or marketers get a desired response. The more positive contacts you make with your customers, the better. While restaurants may not follow the mystical “rule of seven”, there is undoubtedly a correlation between the frequency of seeing an ad and generating new sales.

What do these terms mean for your business? That the more that customers see your marketing messaging, the likelier they are to visit your restaurant. Repetition is key. And pushing your campaigns to your consumers takes dedication. Give it time before you give up on a marketing methodology.

2. Assuming a Customer Is for Life

We’ve all heard the adage that it costs more to acquire new customers than it does to keep existing ones. Obviously top notch service and delivering value is crucial if you want your customers to return. However, as far as marketing goes, this extends beyond what you provide inside your restaurant.

To avoid one of the most common restaurant marketing mistakes and really understand your customers—and effectively reach new ones—you need to think of your customers as being “rented” not owned. This means that while you may have a happy customer today, without due attention and consistent reminders, you may fade from your customers’ minds just like the last meal they had.

Talk to your guests and ask specific questions about their dining experience. Learn their wants and needs. Make the rounds during dinner service and ask for their opinions on the menu, food, and service. By engaging with your customers, you’re not only showing them that you care—you’re soliciting honest, transparent feedback. In doing so, you will build relationships that can stand the test of time.

3. Overlooking Promotion Campaigns and Coupons

Think that reviews on social media sites such as Yelp and Facebook are the primary influencer in restaurant selection? Think again. Despite today’s technology-driven, hyperconnected society, deals and special offers still drive more than one-third of the decisions on where to eat out, compared to reviews, which only influenced 14 percent of diners. Moreover, coupons can serve as a tiebreaker for diners deciding between two restaurants.  

Given the high value of coupons to consumers, why is this form of direct response advertising overlooked? Mostly, objections to using coupons fall under two common misconceptions:


  1. Coupons do not eat away profits. By carefully structuring your coupon offer, you can increase the perceived value of your ad while comfortably adding to your bottom line.
  2. Coupons are used by everyone. In fact, the higher the level of education and income of a consumer, the more likely they are to use coupons.


The challenge then becomes how do you place your promotion in the hands of your customers? You do that by reaching your customers in areas they frequent, such as the grocery store. Receipt coupons increase restaurant owners’ ability to deliver targeted, ongoing campaigns that increase exposure—at the best value for their advertising dollar.

It’s easy to make restaurant marketing mistakes when opening a new concept. However, by dedicating time and resources, listening to your customers, and incorporating promotions and coupons into your strategy, it’s possible to turn your restaurant into a busy, bustling hot spot.


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