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December 2, 2019 Straight Up Advice: What Type of Restaurant Marketing Gives You the Best ROI?

restaurant marketing

Influencer marketing is a must! Boosted Facebook posts, that’s where it’s at. If you’re not on Snapchat, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t forget about email marketing!

Many bar, restaurant, and brewery owners feel overwhelmed by all the restaurant marketing ideas out there. The question is: which ones provide the best return on your investment? To find the answers, we turned to owners and managers like you. Here’s what they had to say….

NOTE: Some names/cities changed for confidentiality.

 “Social. Social. Social. It’s cheap (for now), super targeted, and in everyone’s pocket.”

-Matt H., owner of a steakhouse in Cleveland, Ohio

Matt hits on the key reason that paid restaurant marketing on social media delivers such a strong ROI: it’s hyper-targeted. You aren’t wasting cash on ads seen by people who won’t respond.

For example, if you own an upscale steakhouse in your town with a great whiskey selection, outline the audience you want to target with your restaurant marketing on Facebook and Instagram. You can select people within a 10-mile radius of your bar, who like whiskey (even specific brands), and have a higher household income. Even better? You can specify people to EXCLUDE from your Facebook or Instagram campaign, such as vegans and vegetarians (because steak just isn’t their thing, right?). To get started with paid social media restaurant marketing, check out this guide from Hootesuite.

John S., another bar owner says he “boosts” Facebook posts that have already gotten a high number of likes and comments. This is a smart restaurant marketing tactic with a strong ROI. If you know a Facebook post is performing well, why not invest $50 to “boost” that post so more people see it? John reports that it works wonders:

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said ‘we saw that dish on your Facebook page and just had to come try it.’ So it shows my boosting tactic works.”

5 Step Marketing Budget Planner

The ultimate guide for owners & managers.

“Networking gives me a great ROI on restaurant marketing. Get out and volunteer, join some groups, talk to people. Sponsor a local team or two. The business comes naturally.”

-Jim P., manager of a neighborhood pub in the suburbs of St. Louis

Don’t fall into the trap of solely focusing on digital promotions. Jim recommends that you mix it up with your restaurant marketing by getting out in the community and networking. His restaurant marketing tactic involves good old-fashioned, face-to-face interactions:

“Nine times out of ten, when I invite someone to my pub, they show up later that week. It’s easy to say ‘no’ to an email or Facebook post, but much harder to reject an invite from a real person.”

Jim also sponsors a little league and an adult softball league, which he says is hands-down one of his top restaurant marketing tactics:

“I pay their league fees and buy the t-shirts – which have my logo, by the way. Then, the teams all meet up at my place after the games. It’s give and take, and everybody wins.”

What’s interesting about Jim’s restaurant tip to sponsor a sports team is that after social media, it’s the 2nd most popular restaurant marketing strategy for today’s owners according to the Toast Success in the Industry Report.

“Facebook Messenger is the new frontier for restaurant marketing. Stay ahead of the competition and strike while the iron is hot.”

-Jeremy Wells, CMO and Partner at Longitude Design in Springfield, Missouri

Here at Buzztime, we often turn to the hospitality and foodservice expertise of Longitude Design. Here’s what CMO and Partner Jeremy Wells had to say about one of the top restaurant marketing strategies today…

“It can certainly be difficult to attract new customers into your restaurant these days. There’s a ton of competition, food and labor costs are higher than ever, and the labor pool is small. This makes the importance of restaurant marketing greater than ever.

The unfortunate reality is that when restaurants begin to struggle the first thing that gets cut is their marketing budget. I would bet that this is because most restaurant marketing strategies aren’t strategies at all. They’re simply hopes and wishes.

The days of sending direct mailers to the masses and praying it’s going to convert into sales are gone. It’s no longer enough to post on your social media page and hope someone sees it and visits your restaurant. Even email restaurant marketing is quickly becoming antiquated – it’s white noise to most people.

However, with the latest features and programs available through Facebook Messenger, there are opportunities to engage with your audience like never before. The best part is that these restaurant marketing methods are trackable and measurable. This means that you know your exact return on investment (ROI) and can feel confident that your marketing dollars are being spent most effectively.

The simplest way to explain is the following:

1. You create an ad targeting your ideal audience with an irresistible offer. You can target people who have visited your restaurant with loyalty deals or target people who have never heard of your restaurant.
2. Your audience “opts-in” to redeem the deal, and you capture all of their information which automatically gets added to your database. This allows you to continue future correspondence with them.
3. They interact with your chatbot which provides them all the information they need to visit your restaurant and redeem the offer.
4. Your customer visits your restaurant (preferably with a friend or two!)
5. Optimize, Rinse, and repeat.

This is something you can set up yourself if you have the time and know-how, but for most people, it’s best to work with an experienced team – and it’s actually quite affordable. The results can be incredible, which is why here at Longitude Branding, we’ve begun offering this service to our clients as well.

Facebook Messenger is the new frontier for restaurant marketing. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, then you definitely need to strike while the iron is hot.”

“For us, weekday events give us the best ROI on restaurant marketing. I’ll do a paint and sip night or a trivia tournament and instead of the usual 30% capacity, we’ll more than double crowd size.”

-Ellie P., co-owner of a small chain of casual restaurants in the greater Detroit area

When you think about restaurant marketing, events may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But for Ellie, events are her main strategy for driving customer traffic through her doors – especially on weeknights:

“The thing with advertising is that it doesn’t always give people a good reason to get off their butts and come into our restaurant. A really fun event is going to do that, especially if it’s a social event.”

Ellie has found success tapping into the DIY craft trend. Companies like YAY Maker provide hosts, materials, and even invite local customers to a “paint and sip” or “pot a terrarium” event at her restaurant. Ellie likes that she doesn’t have to pay anything up front. Guests pay YAY Maker directly to participate. The restaurant marketing ROI for Ellie is what she makes on food and drink sales.

“We also do live trivia nights, and have found a way to keep costs low there as well. We don’t hire outside hosts. Instead, we use Buzztime. They provide all the questions, answers, scoring system, and best practices. Then, one of our staff members will host the live trivia. It gives customers a chance to bond with our staff, and we save money not hiring a trivia host.”

Dave G., who owns Fia Rua Irish Pub in Richmond Hill, Georgia, also uses Buzztime. He’s achieved a great restaurant marketing ROI with parents and families. Buzztime also provides handheld tablets, loaded with digital arcade games and access to on-demand trivia.

“Kids love Buzztime because it’s fun. Parents appreciate it because while their kids are occupied with the games, they can relax, unwind, and catch up. Overall, everyone stays longer and spends more – so it’s a strong ROI for us,” explains Dave.

“Honestly, the best restaurant marketing tactic is word of mouth. It costs nothing. It’s insanely effective. The trick is to earn that word-of-mouth advertising by nailing the customer experience – every time they’re with you.”

-Alesha W., manager and co-owner of a restaurant and bar in Chicago, IL

Alesha hits on the restaurant marketing method with one of the best ROIs out there. Like she says, word-of-mouth advertising is flat out free. Yet, it can result in thousands of dollars in revenue if word spreads that your bar or restaurant is the best in town! In fact, research shows that 92% of consumers trust reviews and recommendations by people they know.

Alesha went on to explain that for word-of-mouth restaurant marketing to work, you need to give customers something worth talking about:

“Good doesn’t get people talking, great does. My team is trained to be great. Their goal is to go out of their way to make every guest happy. The guest complains about their food? No problem, here’s a new dish AND your money back. A guest has an allergy to dairy? No problem, our kitchen staff is trained to handle all food allergies and knows how to keep our patrons safe. We go above and beyond, and that’s why people love us – and talk us up.”

Marcia P., who owns a bar in a small town in Nebraska is also a big fan of word-of-mouth restaurant marketing:

“Word of mouth can be the best – or the worst – form of advertising. To me, it’s like a little competition! It keeps us on our toes, making sure we put our best foot forward to earn positive word of mouth.”

What type of restaurant marketing delivers a strong ROI for you? Tell us in the comments!

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