Opening a restaurant isn’t the gloom-and-doom proposition some people portray it as. For years, a statistic has been tossed around that a whopping 90 percent of new restaurants fail in the first year. However, more recent research has discovered that the failure rate is only about 17 percent—around the same rate for small businesses in general.
Now for the more sobering news: New restaurant owners must still work hard to achieve even a modicum of success in that first year, much less turn a nice profit. You can deliver great food, excellent service, and a convenient location yet still struggle. Hitting the ground running is important, and effective advertising and marketing are integral to both early and long-term success.
But what is the best way to advertise your new restaurant? Your budget is likely limited, so expensive print and broadcast channels might not be feasible (but don’t worry—they don’t work that well anyway). You want to create a buzz before the restaurant opens and then attract customers after launch whom you hope will turn into repeat customers. Here are some strategies that you can follow for determining the best way (or ways) to advertise a new restaurant:
Social media channels—including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube—are great avenues for inexpensively yet effectively advertising your new restaurant. For starters, social media offers a chance to begin promoting your business before you serve your first customer. Future customers can like and follow your Facebook page, tracking progress and updates leading up to your grand opening. Then, once you launch, satisfied customers can subscribe to your channels to learn about promotions and menu items, leave reviews, view content you post, and recommend your restaurant to friends. You’ll need to get the word out that you have social media channels, but once you do, the benefits can be impressive.
Targeted Online Advertising
Have you ever noticed after you visit a business’s webpage, you start seeing ads for that business on other websites? Or that if you turn on the location function on your phone or computer, advertising for local businesses shows up on your social media feeds? Targeted online advertising delivers hyperfocused ads to internet users who most likely are interested and will respond to those ads. This is a good strategy for new restaurants to reach potential customers who might not yet know your business exists. This type of paid advertising does come with a cost, however, so proceed carefully when considering such a path.
Food Columnists and Bloggers
Local food columns and blogs provide a great chance to earn some free publicity before the opening of your restaurant. Newspapers often run a “Restaurant Happenings”–type feature that highlights new restaurants, and bloggers can write about openings whenever they like. Contact the restaurant writer and ask if you can send a press release announcing your new venture. Be sure to include details about your fare, atmosphere, location, website, operating hours, and any other relevant information about your restaurant. Even if the writer includes just one sentence about your new restaurant, that’s advertising you didn’t have before—advertising that may spark a reader’s interest enough to give you a try. After the mention, make a quick call or send a note of thanks and invite the writer to visit your restaurant after it opens to write a review.
Register Tape Advertising
Opening a restaurant requires much capital, and after all those initial expenditures, you might not have too much cash left for advertising. But failing to market your new business is a recipe for disaster. One of the best, most cost-efficient ways to advertise a new restaurant is register tape advertising. The concept is simple: You pay to place coupons on the back of local grocery store receipts. These ads are practically unavoidable—shoppers are handed a receipt every time they complete a purchase. Consumers love value and, given a coupon, will be more apt to try a new, local restaurant. Another powerful benefit of register tape advertising, besides offering a great counterbalance to your digital efforts, is the price: It can cost as little as $6 per month to reach 1,000 sets of eyes. That sort of return boosts your bottom line during the first few critical months of your new restaurant and beyond.
What do you think is the best way to advertise a new restaurant?