Restaurant Marketing Plan

By February 15, 2019Restaurant Marketing

How to make a restaurant marketing plan?

A successful restaurant marketing plan should drive all of your business. It should touch on all aspects of the running of your restaurant, whether menu choice, advertising, decoration, even the staff you hire. It should be the backbone of your restaurant business and influence all of your business decisions. So spending time to get your restaurant marketing plan right or understanding how to improve your existing restaurant marketing is a key element to your restaurant’s success.

restaurant marketing plan

Restaurant Marketing Plan Foundations

Marketing, restaurant marketing ideas and a well thought out restaurant marketing plan is the underlying foundation of your restaurant business. It is, in reality, about understanding your customers, and giving them what they actually want in order to get more new customers, as well as more revenue from existing customers.

The top 3 most important things that will make your restaurant business robust and successful are:

1. Understanding what the customer wants

2. Getting new customers

3. Leveraging existing customers

Even if you are lucky enough to have staff that can help you, you will still need to have a good working knowledge of restaurant marketing plans, because to be profitable, marketing must influence every aspect of your restaurant business. The success and failure of your restaurant is entirely dependent on how well you acquire new customers and how you market to those customers. It is as simple as that.

The good news is that creating a restaurant marketing plan doesn’t have to be quite as painful as one imagines. On the contrary, the true objective of marketing is to understand the market and the consumer, therefore positioning a business to better provide what a customer is looking for. It’s about getting the right product and service to the right people; people that value what you are supplying. It’s about ensuring a Win Win experience at every step.

Win Win Restaurant Marketing Plan

For your restaurant marketing plan to be successful it must be a combination of your vision and the value you give to your customer. It is based on the fact that when it comes right down to it, all business is really just an exchange of value; you give a product or service to a customer and he gives you money. So, logically, the more value you give, the more money you will make and the more successful your restaurant will be.  Shifting your focus from how much value, or money, your customer gives you, to how much value you give him is crucial for any business.  Providing more value to your customers will eventually bring you your own rewards in increased revenue, referrals, new customers and more. It’s a Win Win situation.

Before we start writing your restaurant marketing plan: The Success Mindset

restaurant owner

The indispensable first step to getting the things that you want out of life is this: decide what you want. – Ben Stein

Visualisation

Making sure you know where you want your restaurant business to go is essential and using visualisation  is a powerful tool that many successful businessmen, athletes and leaders use on a regular basis. It consists of picturing exactly what you want in order to help you get it. The practice has been the object of many studies and is based on the fact that your brain cannot recognise the difference between reality and imagination. So that if you imagine something often and clearly enough the brain will take it as truth and will do everything in its power to treat these visualisations as reality and help you achieve them. You will begin to be aware of opportunities that exist to help you achieve your goals. If you decide that you would like to open a second restaurant, then all of the sudden, ‘by coincidence’, you will notice an advertisement for a perfectly located space to rent, where before you would have passed it over.

Visualise what you want, where you are going and set goals.

Headed for Restaurant Success

‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.’ – Les Brown

Let’s face it, you have a better chance of hitting a target if your eyes are open and you’re aiming at it. Without a vision how do you know where you are going or when you have arrived? How do you know how you are going to improve your customers’ lives? Business is like any other journey – you need to know where you are going and have a map and a way to get there. Without this vision you risk turning in circles, or meandering through the fields. And while the buttercups may look lovely, you aren’t actually getting anywhere. To succeed in the long term a business owner needs a vision, as well as clear objectives. This vision gives purpose to your company’s actions, motivates its employees and customers, and gives the business energy.  

Take for example, McDonald’s vision: ” to be the world’s best quick service business experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every business smile.” Or that of Budweiser: “Through all of our products, services and relationships, we will add to life’s enjoyment.”  These are lofty and inspiring and truly encapsulate how these successful businesses will improve the world around them.

As you begin developing your restaurant marketing plan and business strategy, the first thing you should do is to craft your own vision, your mission and your short, medium and long term goals. If you are just setting up your business it’s worth the time to think long and hard about where you are going and how you plan to get there. If you’ve been in business for some time, then now’s the time to bring out your goals, dust them off and refresh them. And don’t assume that these are theoretical exercises that only the big players need to worry about. Any business, whether a multinational or a corner business will need to know where it is going in order to truly achieve what its managers have set out to do. And it’s your passion for what you are doing and your vision for where you are going that will ultimately make you successful.

Do you remember what you wanted to accomplish when you first went into business? What difference were you planning to make within your industry? How were you going to add value to people’s lives? Put your Win Win hat on. Your vision should have the customer at the centre. How are you going to better the world with what you are doing? Were you going to help people live a better quality life by selling organic produce? Were you going to bring affordable lunch time meals to business people?  Whatever your vision might have been, take time to visualise what you want to achieve and where you are going with your restaurant business.

The one thing that all great restaurant successes have in common is having a clear vision.

Can You See the Future of Your Restaurant Marketing Plan?

The beginning is the most important part of the work. – Plato

Think about the future: where will you and your business be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? A key element that many business owners fail to work through is their exit strategy. What does the end of your project look like? Will you be selling your restaurant business or are you planning to pass it on to your children? How long are you planning to be in business, 5, 10 or 50 years? Will you continue to run it, or will you move to being a silent partner? Do you want to open a chain, or stay just the corner restaurant? Will you sell franchises or keep all branches under your own control? These are essential questions that will dramatically change many decisions that you make, from how you set your company up, to strategic decisions on how to invest and run your business. Do not leave this to chance or you may find yourself in a situation completely different from what you wanted and less than ideal for your objectives.

Decide today what situation you will be in 10 years from now.

Once Upon a Time in a Restauranteurs’s Life

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. – Michael Althsuler

Don’t forget your lifestyle vision. How you would ideally like to live your life is, after all, the ultimate objective. Think about how you would like to be living now, in 5 years, 10 years and further. What hours would you like to work? How much money would you like to earn? What hobbies would you like to be able to spend time on? Business owners live through long hours and relentless activity, so having a picture of your lifestyle is crucial if you don’t want to end up like thousands of burnt out, weary business people who wonder how they ever got into such a mess.

Don’t forget what it’s really all about.

Restaurant Mission Control

Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit… then the business must die as well, for it no longer has a reason for existence. – Henry Ford

Once you have your vision, now it is time to determine your business’s mission. While this might all seem like fruitless exercises to you, a mission provides future direction for the business, and expresses the consumer benefit.

A mission is a statement that describes the business’s basic reason for being, and how it will deliver on its promises. It should not just be pretty words. It should state your purpose, the reason you get up in the morning, and why your customers should come to your establishment. In Sainsbury’s mission you can see exactly what keeps them in business; “to be the consumer’s first choice for food, delivering products of outstanding quality and great service at a competitive cost through working faster, simpler, and together.”

As you prepare your mission statement, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the purpose of your business?
  • Who do you serve? Who are your customers?
  • What needs do you fulfil?
  • How do you fulfil those needs?
  • What values represent your business?

Spend time to get the best answers to these questions. Talk it over with friends, family, partners and long-term staff. Think about your values and philosophy.

Now, write your mission statement:

1. State what your business does, simply and don’t worry about form at this point. ‘My business sells affordable organic produce’, ‘My business gives a superior dining experience, ‘My business helps people get to know new and exciting foods’.

2. Now describe how you do it, what core values and competency you use in the way you do business. ‘Provide high quality service’, ‘creative cuisine, ‘unique ambiance’.

3. Add the why, the driving force, the passion behind what you do. Think about why you started your business in the first place. ‘to give people healthy food options’, ‘to expand people’s taste horizons’ ‘to bring people pleasure’.

When you are finished, combine all three ideas in a phrase. You can wordsmith your mission to give it the inspiring tone it deserves. Keep it close at hand. Put a copy on your desk, in your lobby, in your staff’s changing rooms. Make sure all employees are familiar with your mission and believe in it. It is your rallying call, your motto, your meaning for existence. Post it on the wall and don’t forget to go back to it regularly, tracking your achievements to it. Don’t let it become part of the wallpaper. Bring it out and have your staff quote it at the beginning of meetings. Communicate it to your customers so they know who you are and what you stand for. It’s important to remember that if people understand what you are doing and where you are headed, they can more easily help you get there. Happily you will find that most people want to help you achieve your goals, but they must know what they are to do so.

Your mission must be motivating. It will reassure your customers. It will energise your employees. It will produce measurable results.

Restaurant marketing plan goals

Goals are dreams we convert to plans and take action to fulfill. – Zig Ziglar

Now that you have the right mindset it’s important to set your restaurant marketing plan goals. Make them specific and anchored in time.

When you are setting your goals focus on the key areas of your restaurant business:

  • Awareness (how many people know about my restaurant?),
  • Acquisition (how many new customers to get, and how much will it cost to get them?),
  • Retention (do your customers come back? Do you have a strategy to make more money from them? Do they give you referrals?
  • Efficient business execution (are you making the most margin on product, can you cut costs, are you charging enough, etc)

Finally, continually check that every single one of the tactical activities being carried out feed into and satisfy one of your goals. If that is not the case, then don’t waste any money or effort on it.

Measure Your Way to Increased Restaurant Profits

writing a marketing plan

Of all the theories in marketing, one of the most crucial to implement is the concept of metrics; of measuring every activity that you do, analyzing its effectiveness, throwing out what is ineffective and doing more of what is. It is a simple concept and one that when applied will turn your marketing spend into an investment (each dollar spent brings in x revenue) rather than a cost (each marketing campaign costs x). Which makes your business even more profitable. 

Good marketers and business people know that anything you measure improves. If you actively track your sales, they improve. If you track the rate of complaints, you end up with less. It makes sense. If you focus on something and therefore understand what the issues are and what needs to be addressed then you can make improvements. 

In your restaurant marketing plan make sure to measure at least:

  • restaurant customer lifetime value
  • Return on investment on restaurant marketing plan programs
restaurant marketing plan

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Restaurant Customers: Your Most Important Asset

…the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason. – Gerry Harvey

Your base of restaurant customers is absolutely the most important asset that you have and you should take care of it above all else. For your business to be successful, you must grow this asset by getting more customers, and exploit it by getting more from them.  To do this, again, we go back to the Win Win philosophy. If your customer wins with you, then you are sure to win customers, keep them and get more out of them.

Know your restaurant customer

“…the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

busy cafe

To begin with, just as you do in everyday life, to interact with your customers you will need to identify whom you are speaking to, and what you need to say.  If you get it right, speaking the language of the target so that they feel understood and listened to, then you will not only win customers but will be able to charge a premium for your services and products. It’s just like being the most popular guest at a party. They know how to talk about what others are interested in, and so they get all the business.

But who exactly IS your ideal customer? Do you even know? How do you find this information?

– look within your own restaurant customer base. New customers will most likely be like existing customers.

– create a profile of all the information you can about them (demographics, lifestyle, etc)

An example of a typical customer profile for a restaurant might look like this:

Upper middle class families with an average of 2 children under 10 years of age. They eat out at the weekends and spend an average of £150 per family. They are willing to pay for quality, but do keep to a budget.  These families consume little alcohol and prefer organic and freshly prepared foods. They are sensitive to ambiance and décor. They read the local newspaper such as the Evening Sun and are active in several charities and community events such as the local Red Cross and Parent Teacher Organizations.

Restaurant Marketing Plan Activities

Put in place the basics or your restaurant marketing plan:

  • an exit survey to know more about who your customer is and what they are thinking
  • restaurant referral program
  • restaurant loyalty program
  • offers that resonate with your customers (free cocktails, surprises for the kids, group discounts, etc). Wow them with an offer and communicate around it. Make an astonishing guarantee (‘Satisfied or your meal is free.’), solve a problem (‘Your kids will have fun while eating out), identify the value you are adding (‘We’ll bring romance to your date night.’) or look for holes in the competition and communicate around how you fill those holes (‘The biggest selection of wine in town.’)
  • a great website with all information (including prices) and lots of images of the food and decoration
  • Use social media. The potential of social media or using the myriad of user sites (Facebook, Digg, Delicious) and individual blogs to get the word out about your company, like the Internet, is infinite.  Having a blog and participating in the online community are fantastic tools to create relationships with customers. However, this medium is in the hands of the consumer, and can be potentially risky. You must use a Win Win approach at all times
  • campaigns for special occasions and filling down times
restaurant marketing plan

We’ve already done all this for you! Check out all of our done for you restaurant marketing activities

Creating your Restaurant Marketing Plan Materials

You’ll need to develop a set of marketing materials that you can use when approaching customers, partners, the press or anyone else you are in contact with.  Carry your materials with you ever where you go, to parties, to the doctors, to pick up your kids at school. You’d be surprised at how many times a day you’ll have the opportunity to communicate around your restaurant. I’ve seen successful restaurant owners hand out flyers to everyone they meet. Heck I’ve been that restaurant owner!

It’s amazing how effective a hand given flyer is. And of course, a flyer in the hands of one person who tries your business and is happy is the equivalent of many flyers. . And think creatively of how you can keep your business ‘top of mind’. Your customers may love your business, but with their busy lives they may simply just forget that you are there. A little reminder is always a good thing. I want to encourage you not to discount simple actions such as putting flyers in mailboxes and placing magnetic signs on the doors of your cars. Use every opportunity you have, even in your own establishment – in your lobby and waiting areas, in the parking lot, on your own publications.

Marketing is a creative exercise – so have some fun!

Make Your Restaurant Marketing Materials Successful

When developing your restaurant marketing plan materials, keep the following points in mind:

  • There should be a benefit for the customer expressed in every paragraph of your communications.
  • Try to own a word or phrase in the customer’s mind; Dominos Pizza = home delivery, Apple = cool technology,  Mercedes = engineering. What would your business’s one word be?
  • Use your knowledge of the customer to make your materials speak his language. Repeat his own words back to him. Don’t be afraid to get your customer’s input while creating any materials.
  • Use the following formula for any advertisements or flyers and if writing is not your thing, consider getting some professional copywriting help. It’s worth the money to get your message right.
    • State the customer’s problem, showing you understand his issues: “Bored with all those cookie-cutter restaurants?”, “Looking for a restaurant like the old days?”
    • Give an image of the customer’s life when the problem is solved: “Your girl will love you after a date at Hippos.”
    • What path does the customer have to follow to get to this solution? “Just come down to Lola’s on Main Street for the perfect evening out.”
    • All marketing must have a specific call to action. “Call 222-222-2222 and make a reservation.”
    • Have a clear no-risk guarantee. “You’ll be delighted with the service, or you don’t pay.”
  • Have testimonials from satisfied customers in all materials.
  • Be creative: consider expanding your business card into a bigger format with some referrals, or put a short article from an important newspaper on the back of your flyer.
  • Never skimp on quality. Image is important and is formed in the first few minutes and on such arbitrary things as the paper quality of your flyers. No matter what your business is like, you’ll want your customer to feel that he is in the hands of a professional. One could argue that the look and feel of your documentation is as important as the content it contains.  In reality, many people only read the salient points of most documentation, but they do form a lasting opinion from the look of it.

Restaurant marketing ideas for getting new customers

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty – finding more restaurant customers! Now that you have an idea of who your customer is, and what you want to say to them, all you need is to find more of the same type of people. Armed with the image of your customer profile in your mind, create a prospect list. First decide how many people you need to contact in order to get the amount of business that you can handle while upholding your standards of quality. Then create a prospect list by looking for more people with the same profiles a your ideal client; people that would benefit from your product or services.

For example, if one of your customer profiles is ‘small families with young children’, then consider where you can find more of those. Look at where they go (parks, libraries, children’s activity centres) and give out special offer coupons or hand out samples there, or consider a partnership with one of those places of business (for example: a coupon for a free toy at your business with every entrance to a neighbouring amusement park). Look at the local magazines that these families read and consider taking out an ad in that publication. Make sure to entice customers with a profile appropriate offer – free ice cream for kids, etc. Where there are several clients there are liable to be more.

Think of it this way, it costs a certain amount of money to get a new customer. If you spend your marketing budget on broad advertisement where 90% of the people just aren’t going to be interested, then you are going to have to do a lot of marketing, which will cost you a lot of money. If you spend your marketing where 90% of the people ARE going to be interested in what you are offering, you’ll have to do a lot less marketing and that means less money spent.

One of the most common mistakes businesses make today is wasting time, money and energy on trying to approach too many people and too broad a category.

Many Restaurant Marketing Plan Tools

Over the years I have observed that successful marketers all have several things in common. One of these being that they use every marketing tool available to them. They do not carry out 1, 2 or even 3 marketing actions; they apply 6, 10 even 15 different methods. Successful marketing isn’t just about advertising (on the contrary, actually advertising is often one of the more difficult methods of getting your message out effectively). To be truly profitable use a wide mix of direct marketing, partnering, press, advertising, and more; your goal being to make each of these marketing pillars strong. Your immediate question may be how to find the marketing activities that work to make up an effective multi-level marketing strategy. And the answer here is to try, try, again. In a small, low risk way trial an activity, learn if it works or not and why. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it does work then keep doing it and modify it to see if you can make it even more successful.  Try something new every month, but don’t invest lots of money until you know that it works. Instead of sending out 2000 emails send out 200 until you have a winner. Then send out 2000.

Click here for done for you monthly restaurant marketing activities.

Free Restaurant Advertising, or the Art of Public Relations

Public Relations, or PR is all about your public image, and is most often concentrated in your relationship with the press. It is basically free advertising, and even better, you can consider good press as a referral, that is seen by many people. Exponential word of mouth. PR is an invaluable way to get awareness for your enterprise. It is a powerful tool because it is seen as a neutral judge of your product or service. The general public trusts the press or public figures to filter through the market and give honest feedback. If someone has heard about you through the press, and in a positive light, then half of your battle is won.

Read our blog post on Restaurant PR

People Will Talk: Leveraging the Most Effective Restaurant Marketing Plan Tool You’ve Got

restaurant marketing plan

Potentially the most valuable type of lead generation is referrals, otherwise known as ‘word of mouth’, and this is where the power of Win Win truly takes off.  If a customer has won by doing business with you, then you can bet that he will share the information with others around him. There are a myriad of referral opportunities and what makes these so compelling is that someone else does your marketing for you. This is powerful because it is cheap, it is seen as trustworthy (80% of people say they trust their friends and colleagues opinions and take action on their referrals) and it is exponential (they’ll tell 2 friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on). Everybody likes to be the one to have a recommendation of a great business or service, so tap into this. And, if these are so powerful why not have a systematized process to encourage them?

Don’t hesitate to ask your customers directly to refer you. Make sure to do this immediately after an interaction with your company or during ‘moments of truth’ where you have truly delivered a great experience so as to take advantage of the honeymoon feeling. Then make sure to educate your referral sources by telling them who you are looking for, what you want from them and what your core message is. Give them materials, such as prepared postcards or coupons and make it easy for them to refer you.  

Click here to access referral cards already been created for you

Offer rewards for referrals (discounts on further services, a complimentary product, etc) or give special pricing for customers that refer.

You can also create Win Win partnerships and networks to increase referrals. Bring a customer some business of their own by referring their services to others. Offer your service as a trial to another business that serves your market in exchange for referrals (i.e. add on a free cinema ticket from the movie theatre next door). Create a network of businesses that refer each other and get partner firms to distribute your materials. Co-brand and partner for services, conferences and advertising. Be sure that your staff is aware of all referral programs, and understand their importance. Use your creativity and connections to develop Win Win referral programs that harness this powerful marketing method.

The golden rule for referrals is to do everything in your power to deserve those referrals. Always give 200%, have outstanding customer service and just be plain likeable.

Restaurant Advertising that Works

A warning about restaurant advertising: it can be effective, but like all restaurant marketing plan activities it must be applied in the right way. Big image building campaigns are for the multi-nationals that already have an image. And be wary of all of those ad sales reps that come begging for your marketing budget to put an ad in another guide or newspaper. Keep this mantra in mind: If advertising isn’t about making a sale, or achieving a specific goal, then don’t do it.

See our article on how to create effective restaurant advertising

Give something away

A reoccurring resistance from business owners is that they are afraid of leveraging strong offers like free. But if you are confident in your product, and are convinced that you will get repeat customers once they have discovered your business, then the up-sell far outweighs the expense. The cost of what you give away is small in comparison with the upsurge in business that results. Just consider it marketing money; you are taking money away from advertising or another campaign that doesn’t work and putting it to something that does. As with everything, try it, test it and look at the average uptake and overall cost (not the one person who came in and didn’t buy anything else, but the 5 people who came in accompanied by their friends, AND will keep coming back.). If your numbers are up because of the activity, then keep it.

Let me tell you about a simple, but incredibly effective campaign carried out by an Italian Ice shop at a beach resort that I frequent that shows the power of ‘FREE’. I was on the village trolley with my two young children while on our annual beach holiday. While getting off the tram the driver handed us a coupon for a free Italian Ice at a place up the road (I came to find out later that the trolley driver was told to give the coupons out to families. What was in it for the trolley company? They were able to put advertisements about their trolleys at the Italian Ice shops). Now, these coupons were for a free Italian ice at any time. Not one free with a purchase or after midnight or when accompanied by four other people, or any other complicated criteria. Just a free Italian Ice if you came into the shop. Although I’m not much of a fan of Italian Ice, I couldn’t resist something free, and off we went to make a special effort to find the Italian Ice shop (which by the way, was off the main drag, so they did have to do some good marketing to compete). Well, not only did we end up buying a few other items (now that they had us on their floor space, they had a better chance of selling us something), but we so liked the Italian Ice that we went back several times, and now their Italian Ice has become a summer tradition for us.

If we do the maths, wouldn’t you say that acquiring a family of loyal customers was worth 2 free Italian Ice’s that probably cost them less than $1.00 to produce? The manager confirmed that the campaign was highly successful and that their revenue had increased that month because of this marketing activity. This was simple, clever and inexpensive marketing that was very effective.

Use free offers to touch a new market. Put postcard offers on the windshields of cars parked in an industrial zone to introduce your lunchtime massages to local business people. Get creative and entice people to try your outstanding establishment. You yourself know that once they have tried it they’ll be back.

The best way to encourage people to act is to remove the risk and give them something to try. Remember the power of FREE.

Geographic Restaurant Marketing and the Power of Local Restaurant Marketing Plans

Most likely as a business, a good portion of your customers will be from a 20 kilometre radius, and most customers are more comfortable doing business with local companies. Therefore it is critical to determine what kind of local marketing you should be carrying out. Be sure to capture post code data in your customer database as one of the first pieces of information that you ask for.  Focus on areas and postal codes around your business and build specific programs for these groups. Target different offers in relation to proximity; personal services and delivery to neighbouring companies, family discounts for people from further afield. Use local search terms on your Internet site and foster local partnerships.

Take a look around and see how you might be able to package your services and business for different local needs. Are there groups and clubs that could use your hotel as a meeting place? If so create a package with room rental, refreshments and hosting available. Ask different groups and businesses what they are looking for. Observe what goes on in your neighbourhood and see how you can be involved. These types of packages can be powerful in filling what are normally down times for your business and in competing with big chain businesses that can’t supply such personalised service.

What is known as ‘Guerrilla Marketing’, such as handing out flyers, stuffing mailboxes or putting up posters is a low cost and effective way of getting to potential customers. Don’t underestimate local marketing such as passing out flyers at events, putting up posters at universities or placing offers in mailboxes around your business. Paired with a compelling offer, and if possible some free samples, this can be a powerful way to get your message out there.

Local marketing is a quick, affordable and effective way to reach an important part of your customer base.

Partnering: Win Win among Colleagues

Partnering has to be one of the most important secrets of successful companies. No man is an island, nor is his business. Partnering can bring you business, press, web traffic, new suppliers and rapid growth.  A good partnership can give you whole new groups of people to approach, quickly and cheaply. Once again, think Win Win when developing a partner strategy.

When choosing partners to work with, be strategic. Your partner must reflect the same values and goals that your business does. If you are a high-end business you are not going to want to partner with a low-end service. Not only will this be inefficient as you won’t be approaching the same clientele, but it can damage how people see you by association. Just like your parents told you – show me who you are friends with and I’ll show you who you are. Your partner should have the same characteristics (have the same level of quality, customer service, etc) as your business. Remember, clients will perceive you similarly.

Concentrate your limited time and resources on those partnerships that are likely to bring you the most business; those that have the most influence on the largest set of your profiled customers. Look for companies that are in contact with the most people and who have a certain influence on them (taxi drivers have the time to speak to out-of-towners and people trust their haircutter’s recommendations). Also look at their situation geographically. The bakery down the road that sells bread to all the foodies in your area would be a clever partnership. How about doing a deal with a real estate agency. You’ll recommend them to your clients if they will agree to put one of your ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ special offer in the houses that have just sold.

Be creative. There are myriads of ways you can work together with partners: joint events, block parties, shared databases, referrals, complimentary services, etc.

Make it an advantageous relationship for your partner and you can be sure that he will make it an advantageous one for you!

More restaurant marketing plan ideas

There are a myriad of ways to reach your restaurant customers and your restaurant marketing plan should have a selection of different marketing methods planned, such as:

  • effective emails
  • newsletters
  • filling down times
  • membership and loyalty programs
  • new revenue streams and getting more out of your customer
  • keeping and getting more out of existing restaurant customers
restaurant marketing plan

Click here for more restaurant marketing plan tips or to access done for you restaurant marketing campaigns.

Building a Relationship with Your Restaurant Customer

The purpose of a business is to create a customer. – Peter Drucker

As we have seen, a crucial way of thinking about your business is to be aware that your customer is your most valuable asset. Building a Win Win relationship and making the customer loyal is the most intelligent way to leverage this asset. It is 5 times more expensive to find and win over a new customer than it is to upkeep a relationship and continue selling to an existing customer. So a robust marketing strategy consists of getting new customers and keeping them for as long as possible, building a relationship, marketing additional services and products to them and using them to do your marketing for you. On average a customer needs to interact with a business 3 different times before becoming a ‘loyal’ customer, which means you are going to need to woo the customer several times in order to be effective.

Focus your energies on building a Win Win relationship with your customer base.

The Restaurant Customer Lifecycle and Customer Centric Programs

It helps to understand that your customer has a lifecycle with you, starting from when he is just a name on a sheet of possible contacts, or a face looking in your window, until he is one of your best repeat customers, and recommending you to everyone he knows.  You want to make his lifecycle as long and as fruitful as possible. A fundamental element to a strong and profitable business is to understand exactly the needs the customer has and the solutions he is looking for at each one of the steps in his lifecycle, and then to provide that service or product to him, approaching him in the most appropriate way at each stage. Armed with your knowledge of customers and your metrics, you’ll be able to decide how much money, effort and what kinds of activities each category in the lifecycle deserves and put together a plan of action for the year.

So, what would this look like when put into practice? Let’s imagine the following scenario for a restaurant business:

One of your customers gives you her friend’s contact details and recommends that you get in touch, she will love your restaurant. So, after putting her contact details in your database you send the customer a ‘foot in the door’ offer telling her that a loyal customer has recommended her and you would like to offer her $10 off any meal as an introductory offer. All she needs to do is fill out the email (which asks for more detailed information such as postal code, birthday, etc), bring it in and enjoy her time with you. The customer comes in and loves her meal (of course).  In order to anchor your burgeoning relationship, you send her a post-first visit offer to get her to come back within the month. You now continue to send her regular communications – newsletters, special offers, birthday offers. You notice that the customer hasn’t been back in quite some time, so you send her a return offer (maybe a free glass of champagne).  Once she begins interacting with you again you ask her for referrals (by giving her pre-prepared referral cards and an incentive) and begin introducing her to your other products (books, packaged products, additional services, etc). Once she becomes part of the top 10% of your customers you offer her special value adds (a visit with the chef, a complimentary meal, visit to the kitchen, a ‘favorite customer’ night with a special treatment, holiday greeting cards, etc) and membership in a club, giving her the goodies reserved for your most loyal customers.

A multi-step relationship restaurant marketing plan is the key to leveraging your customer base to its full advantage.

For all of these materials access our restaurant marketing kit

Encouraging Repeat Visits to Your Restaurant

Because of their low cost and high effectiveness, repeat visit campaigns should be an important part of your restaurant marketing plan. Focus on getting your customers to come back regularly, and ideally within a month of the first time they try your business. Use the exit survey contact details that they gave you to send a thank you for trying your business along with a bounce back offer (perhaps a free gift or a money off offer on their next visit, or a free offer if they come with another guest).  A repeat visit coupon campaign is an easy and effective marketing activity that increases return visits. As a first time customer concludes his time with you give him a coupon with a simple offer redeemable on his next visit. The offer should have no conditions and should be redeemable within the next 6 months. Tell him to bring in the coupon and make sure to have him fill out contact details (name, email, postcode and birthday as a minimum) on the coupon so that you can send him other offers. Measure the results, modify the program if needed and if you find it an effective way of encouraging repeat business then make this part of your marketing system.

Make it a goal to have 75% of your customers become repeat customers.

Undertake programs that will thrill and delight your customers, make your business stand out from the crowd and keep you top of mind.

Excellence in Customer Service

The absolute fundamental aim is to make money out of satisfying customers. – Sir John Egan

Great customer service is one of the most powerful, yet often most under utilised, marketing assets that a company can have. A happy customer, or even more so, an unhappy customer that has been turned around, is a great force in bringing you new business. But unhappy customers are a tsunami capable of bringing your business down. A satisfied customer refers you to 2 other customers, but an angry, unsatisfied customer talks to 7 or more. You do the maths. In the context of the Win Win marketing philosophy, if your customer has a bad experience, his needs haven’t been met and he has ‘lost’ and therefore, he will give you less value, which in turn affects your business negatively. As a business, you cannot afford to ignore unhappy clients or provide less than great customer service. It is critical that you meet your customer’s needs and give him a great experience.

Remember the Win Win philosophy. If your customers win by having an extraordinary experience, then so will you by their continued patronage of your establishment and their referrals.

Slow and Steady Wins the Restaurant Marketing Race

Decide on the budget you can dedicate to marketing and armed with your budget, put together a plan of regular ongoing restaurant marketing plan activities and communications, using a mix of approaches: email, snail mail, telephone calls, etc. If you don’t have time to do these restaurant marketing campaigns, find some that are done for you.

Audit Your Current Restaurant Marketing Plan

Take a look at the marketing activities that you are currently doing. Are you doing enough? Are you measuring what you are doing? Do you know what the results are of what you are doing? Is it working? How much does it cost you? Do you know how effective it is? Do you know how much money you spent per new customer?  Take a look at anything that you have out now; yellow page ads, flyers, brochures, etc. Do they all clearly state the benefits to the customer of dealing with your company (do you know what the benefits from your customer’s point of view are)? Do you have compelling headlines that will stop people in their tracks or are you using your company name and logo? Do you have a guarantee (You’ll be delighted or your money back.) and a great offer ($10 off your next purchase)? Are these communications in places where you are sure that your customers will see them? And can you measure how well these activities work? Do you have systems in place to track the effectiveness of each offer? Have you analyzed what works and you are doing more of it, but have eliminated that which doesn’t?

Leverage your new knowledge to answer these questions and put together a plan that will employ smart marketing to help you reach your business goals and vision. Analyze everything that you do with the well known 80/20 rule in mind; 20% of your marketing gets 80% of new customers, 20% of customers bring in 80% of your revenue, 20% of your effort brings 80% of the results. Continue identifying and focusing on those 20%s and culling the rest. This will make your business focused and razor sharp.

Finally, it is important to have a plan to keep you on track and keep things moving. However, make sure that your plan is not set in stone and that you can modify it as you get results back from your campaigns and accumulate new customer insight. Vow to review your plan once a month.  Keep doing what is working, eliminate what isn’t, try something new, and make changes as you move along.

Have a well thought out, targeted restaurant marketing plan that will grow with your business.

No Restaurateur is an Island

Where are you personally in all this? One thing that many business people lose sight of is that their business is a reflection of themselves. Your personal growth will be reflected in the growth of your business.

Coaching and mentoring are some of the best kept secrets of the successful. Having a mentor is an important step you can take to grow personally as you grow your business. It is no coincidence that apprenticing has always been one of the most important ways of learning a trade and of passing down knowledge through the ages. Take advantage of the wisdom and experience that has gone before you and benefit from the contacts and resources that will become available to you. Make sure to have a mentor; an expert and leader in your chosen area who will give you tips, contacts and help you avoid many newcomer pitfalls. There are mentoring programs through professional organisations and networks, or simply identify the leaders in your field, the ones you’d like to emulate and contact them directly, explaining why you are contacting them and that being a mentor to you will take up no more than half an hour every month.

At the same time consider getting a coach to help you with both overall performance and setting goals as well as with specific skills.  In addition, joining a network of fellow entrepreneurs and managers is the perfect way to find a forum for trading advice, learning from others who are in a similar situation and building a psychological safety net.

Coaching, mentoring and networking are some of the best kept secrets of the successful. Join a mentoring group now.

Restaurant Markting Plan Guiding Principles

A good, strong, profitable business is Win Win business. It will always be about the customer – what they need and want to solve their problems or meet their desires. So remember the following always has, and always will be the basis for a strong business:

  • Give something of value.
  • Make things simple; to understand, to do, to like.
  • Listen to your customers and know them intimately.
  • Learn what makes you successful and keep doing it.
  • Be honest.
  • Encourage great customer service.

If you have a vision of how you can provide value and help others win, and you follow it with integrity, then you too will win.

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