Local Store Marketing – LSM – Is it Too Hard or are Restaurants Too Lazy?

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, “energy and persistence conquer all things,” and he could have well been talking about local store marketing for restaurants.  Local store marketing can increase restaurant sales, but not overnight. Your business, much like your body, requires pacing yourself, and local store marketing requires persistence over time. However, many restaurant operators don’t believe in the practice of leaving the four walls of their restaurant, or local store marketing at all.  Many operators, who have been in the restaurant industry for 20-30 years or more, are just trying to stay afloat.  Operators have to regain their energy to stay competitive, after many years of good sales and no energy needed.

National restaurant companies have been struggling with a significant change to branding, marketing, and advertising over the past few years. Search engines, the mobile industry, and consumers are looking for businesses, services, and restaurants in their area using local search. This puts the need for digital branding, marketing, and advertising to the store, restaurant, franchise, at the local level.

National restaurant companies are not particularly enthusiastic about pushing their branding, marketing, and advertising to the local level due to budgets and the level of work required to manage these activities at the local level. In some cases, their ad agencies are avoiding the topic, and in other cases the company’s staff is more focused on advertising and less involved with local store marketing.

  • 80 percent of consumer budgets are spent within 50 miles of the home, according to DMA research.
  • 70 percent of U.S. households now use the Internet when shopping locally for products and services, The Kelsey Group concluded.
  • 82 percent of local searches follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase, according to TMP/comScore.

sports teams

Restaurant operators and marketers have to get out into the community and build their brand by talking with people, building trade area relationships and having each restaurant actively involved in the local community. Local Store Marketing is the understanding of all the specific variables of the trade area, within three to five miles of each restaurant location and, actively getting involved with that immediate community, knowing your competitors and your potential marketing partners.

The key to success with Local Store Marketing is creating community partners. Partners should include all of those business and non-business organizations that interact with potential customers in the trade area.

Every restaurant operator and marketer has a different definition of local store marketing.  Let’s more clearly define local store marketing. 

  • Local Store Marketing is an on-going process intended to build sales over time.It requires a consistent on-going effort and commitment. To set LSM up for a restaurant chain, we provide planning, research, materials and training, and it takes nine months to a year for momentum to start and then tactics are rolled over year-over-year making LSM easier for operations and part of the brand overall.
  • Local Store Marketing plans need to be specific, measurable, planned, coordinated, executed all year long, consistently. This process ingrains the brand in the local community and the customer’s minds. TIP:  Make small goals on the way to bigger goals and track successes along the way. In the end, you will have achieved more with a little patience.  Make a commitment for  daily, weekly and monthly local store marketing goals and schedule the time to do it.
  • Local Store Marketing needs to be part of the restaurants life. From the moment the lease is signed for a restaurant, local store marketing is needed from the beginning and throughout the years. It is about building relationships, giving back to the community, creating a venue for activity or entertainment, and serving the needs of customers within the 3-5 mile radius around the restaurant for many, many years.

community partner 4

Local Store Marketing is a specific plan of consistent marketing tactics targeted to a specific group or groups of potential customers within the trading area (three to five-mile radius) around each restaurant location, which creates awareness, initiates trial and builds loyalty with customers right in your own backyard.                        

Why is Local Store Marketing important?

Local store marketing is one of the most valuable tools for any restaurant brand and is frequently overlooked. Many companies budget their local marketing efforts around Advo’s, Val-Paks, and door hangers without examining the trade areas for sales opportunities. While using other marketing resources can produce results, local store marketing is one of the most cost effective and proven tools to achieve long-term business relationships with customers and the community.

Build Relationships = LSM

Local Store Marketing is the most effective marketing for Restaurants – it never goes out of style:

  • Makes an impact on the three-to-five mile radius around the restaurant.
  • Makes a difference in your community.
  • Builds the brand through customer experience.
  • Differentiates your business with unique promotions and events that tie into the brand.
  • Communicates your message to local and regional media.
  • Focused on customer frequency and loyalty.

If local store marketing is so great, why doesn’t every chain use it?

After 25 years of developing new local store marketing tactics and executing them for restaurant chains across the country, we have found that there are six critical points for NOT doing local store marketing:

  • Challenging and difficult on a massive scale
  •  Long term projects that are difficult to keep going
  •  Requires a great deal of effort and detail
  •  It takes on-going commitment
  •  And Lots of Hard Work!
  • Critical ingredient is inspiration


There are seven reasons (excuses) that many restaurateurs use to “postpone” their marketing efforts.  (The period of postponement is usually indefinite.)

  1. Quite simply, you don’t like marketing… and you wish someone else would take care of it for you. The ego portion of your psyche has a hard time delegating your marketing.
  2. You’re too busy and don’t have time for marketing… you’re too busy working with your crew, customers and new regulations and have no one or no time to “do it.”
  3. You hate writing and placing in-effective ads that don’t work… you’ve made this costly mistake one too many times.  There are too many places to advertise and nothing works.
  4. You are unsure of how to get your customers attention… and you have a difficult time putting yourself in their shoes.  Couponing is not working and offers are not being redeemed.
  5. Spending money to hire a professional and have them do the marketing is not in your budget.  Limited time menu offers and promotions are dictated by the franchisor or corporate and you have no time or money to create these on your own. 
  6. There is no plan or system for marketing your business… and consequently you market by a series of unrelated events and occurrences. 
  7. You’re not sure which marketing tactic, strategy or approach will work best… and you’ve become gripped with “paralysis by analysis.”

Local store marketing is unlike advertising or couponing. Local store marketing is a process that takes time to build and, in most cases, requires labor and persistence to follow through on the process. The ROI, or return on investment, is measured by “Return on Involvement℠”.  Find a starting point. Decide to just do it!  Get involved with the 1-5 mile radius. LSM can begin anytime and continue by managing the LSM activities based on results. You can then modify these activities as changes occur in the industry, competitors become more competitive, and/or your business changes. 

The Secret Sauce? Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes vision, a plan and, confidence.  Above all, it takes performance over time.

Linda Duke is the  author of more than 100 local store marketing tactics, “Four Star Marketing Cookbook—Recipes for Restaurateurs™” and training courses for restaurant operators, LSM-U™, Local Store Marketing University.