Running your own restaurant or cafe can be challenging. With so much choice for customers, how do you stand out from your competitors? How do you hold on to your existing customers but continue to reach new customers regularly? Your marketing strategy doesn’t need to break the budget. There are plenty of affordable ways to build your customer base, drive new traffic to your website and to your doors, secure repeat business and build a trusted brand.
11 tips for marketing your restaurant or cafe on a budget
Build a great website
With so much choice in the cafe and restaurant arena, how often will your prospective customers check you out before coming to your venue? Almost always! Forget yellow pages and forget business directories – you need a functional, visually appealing website telling your customers who you are, where you are, what time you open and why your shakshuka is better than Joe Bloggs down the road. And make sure you’re mobile friendly.
Get on Google Maps & Google My Business
More often than not, people are searching for restaurants and cafes in their local area. Google Maps is a great tool for getting discovered locally. Not only this, having a Google My Business page is excellent for SEO. Google have made it even easier for your customers to leave reviews online; people no longer need to be signed in to a Gmail account to leave a 5-star review. Registering for Google My Business & Google Maps is free and simple. There’s no excuse not to be on there.
Put your menu on your website
Dining in is more than a meal, it’s an experience. Start the experience early by giving your customers something to look forward to. By having your menu online, customers know what sort of dishes they can expect, the price points and style of cuisine. ‘Anticipation is the greater part of pleasure’, as the saying goes.
Engage with your customers online
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, – pick a channel and engage. In the age of armchair experts, you as the restaurant or cafe owner have the chance to both engage in positive conversations online, and, to nip criticisms in the bud quickly. Your audience has the chance to leave feedback and you, in turn, have the chance to respond to that feedback in a professional, clear and honest way. Always be open and transparent. Own up to mistakes if they happen. You have a chance to continue the conversation if things go wrong, or, thank your loyal customers for their positive reviews.
Build your customer database
The trusted bowl of business cards in a vase at the till is still around for a reason. Just this week my boss received a $200 voucher to a local restaurant. He took his friends, now they’ve been to the restaurant and will most likely tell their friends. Incentivise people to leave their details with you so you can send them specials, promotions, information, and be front of mind when they’re considering where to eat or drink next time. It goes without saying not to spam and always to ask for permission to add people to your mailing list.
Hire great staff
Employ good people and pay them competitively. Hospitality is fickle so treat your people well. Bad service always leaves a foul taste in people’s mouths, no matter how good the cuisine may be. Know your demographic of clientele and hire people that reflect those values.
Hook up with an online vendor
Do you offer takeaway or home delivery? A myriad of options now exists from Menulog, Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Foodora. Team up with an online vendor so you can reach more customers and drive more business to your restaurant.
Conduct some industrial espionage
There’s nothing wrong with checking out your competition; everyone does it. Make notes on what they’re doing right, what’s not so great, how you can differentiate yourself, how you can do better. Sometimes it all comes down to the finest details.
Service. Service. Service.
If you’re lucky enough to have a waiting list of people or a line out the door, offer them coffee or a glass of wine while they wait. Provide nuts or snacks to tide customers over until dinner. Service begins before your customers sit at the table, from the way in which they’re greeted, the length staff goes to secure a table, to thanking customers as they depart and offering to call them a taxi. Good service is the backbone of repeat business.
Set yourself apart
Have something on your menu that is iconically yours. It could be a signature dish or cocktail or smoothie. You might roast your own coffee on premises. A café in Melbourne make their own chocolate inside the same building they serve brunch. Hospitality is a competitive space, find a way to stand out.
Get some PR
With so many bloggers, online publications, review sites and magazines, writers and journalists are always looking for fresh content. Reach out to Broadsheet, TimeOut, local bloggers, food critics and get some PR for your restaurant or cafe. Publicity isn’t just going to fall in your lap unless you’re a celebrity chef, so get out there, be proactive and make a splash! You don’t ask, you don’t get.