More Strategies to Attract Restaurant Customers
7 Min Read By Jonathon Henderson
If you hope to attract more customers to your restaurant, you also likely want to minimize the cost involved. Thankfully, there are some great ideas for how to attract more customers to your restaurant without breaking the bank. To learn more, read the first part here.
Attend Local Events
If you watch the Food Network, you probably already know that food trucks are insanely popular. People love the convenience of being able to just walk up to the window and grab easy to eat street food.
If you already have a food truck, you can utilize that not only for on-site sales during special events but also to promote your business. Community festivals, county fairs, and even church carnivals can be a great place to park and sell some of your food.
Even if you have to pay for a permit, the sales will likely offset that. Beyond that, even people who don’t eat at your food truck will likely recall your presence at the event, and they look you up at a later time.
If you don’t have a food truck, that’s okay too. A lot of community events actually offer the ability to purchase booth space. You may need nothing more than portable heating devices and a folding table to sell or offer free samples of some of your most popular items at community events.
Special events like this allow you a chance to build an in-person relationship with potential customers. They also help people understand that you are involved with a local community. All of that can help drive awareness of and traffic to your restaurant.
Host Local Groups at Your Restaurant
Does your community have a business Network International Group? Are there other similar clubs that help connect professionals or hobbyists in your area? Locating some of these clubs is a great way to establish community involvement and a broader customer base.
Offer to host a club meeting at your restaurant. You can block off some tables or booths for the club, and you can even offer them some special discounts. While you may not make a lot of money off of a club when they meet, those people will probably want to come back on their own time.
They may also tell other people about your business. Building that kind of community goodwill can pay off for your company many times over again.
Offer Live Local Music
Do you have a great sound system or a stage in your restaurant? Is there a dance floor? If you answered yes to either of these questions, that could mean your business will benefit from live music.
Lots of small bands and local musicians will happily perform for free in the hopes that the exposure will grow their fan base. If you want to attract even more people, you might consider hosting Open Mic nights. The risk here, of course, is that quality is often less noteworthy when you open your stage to amateurs with their instruments instead of rehearsed and established local bands.
Having live music is an attraction to customers on its own. It provides a fun experience with no extra cost beyond the price of food and drinks, making their meal out more of an experience. Customers prize that kind of extra and will be more likely to come back for seconds.
Additionally, it can create a sense of loyalty in the bands that perform in your business. They will likely invite all of their fans to come out to their shows and encourage them to patronize their business even when they’re not performing.
Have Theme Nights
Our society has never been as open about interests and hobbies as it is right now. Comic-Con has gone from a niche event that only the hardcore nerds attended to something that receives mainstream media attention for multiple weeks before it even happens. While chances are good that you can’t put on an event as big and fantastic as Comic-Con, you certainly can draw on niche interests in your own community.
Have regular theme nights. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, hosting a night at your business with a theme that overlaps with your menu is a great way to stand out from the crowd. The possibility for themes is practically endless. You could host trivia events or karaoke, or you could throw parties where people need to dress up to score discounts and possibly prizes.
If you have a romantic or darker bar like setting, Film Noir might make a great theme. Whether your theme involves costumes or a special menu only available on theme nights, it is sure to pique local interest. As an added bonus, you might be able to draw the attention of local news media if your theme night becomes popular enough.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
Don’t underestimate the potential benefits of joining your local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce is basically a network of businesses that work together to promote one another. Many times, a Chamber of Commerce has a physical location or hosts regular networking meetings, as well as maintaining a mailing list and website.
Joining this kind of club can help you entice other business owners to visit, patronize, or work with your restaurant. More importantly, Chamber of Commerce meetings often rotate between member locations. Every few months, you could have a special event where local business people come and spend money at your restaurant.
It’s basically a low-cost form of advertising to other businesses. It can also help you get your name out there if people look at the local Chamber of Commerce website and see your business listed.
Donate to Non-Profit Organizations and Schools
Donating to local organizations can help make you popular with the area community. Whether you are donating free meals to a local sports team after a big tournament win or donating gift cards to a non-profit fund drive for someone looking for a bone marrow donor, the little amount of money you spend on your donation will generate far more value in community goodwill.
The people who directly benefit from your donation will no doubt be thankful for your business’ generosity and want to patronize it. Other people will see your name associated with these charitable events and develop a positive association with your company. Sometimes, donations will mean getting your company logo printed in pamphlets or on websites.
One of the other great factors in local donations is that in addition to the advertising that it provides, it also provides an opportunity for a tax write-off. So long as the recipient is a non-profit organization, you can likely write off any amount of goods or gift cards that you donate.
Invest in Your Ambience
People sometimes say that you have to spend money to make money. That is certainly true in the restaurant business. While your dining area may have been cutting edge when you first opened, it could now look dated and unattractive to customers. That could hold your business back from real growth and profit.
Creating a unique and inviting ambience can inspire people to come back repeatedly and also to take pictures of your decor to share online. The people who post those pictures, especially if they tag your business or post them to your Yelp or Facebook page, basically give you free advertising to potential customers.
Some businesses have turned this process of interior decoration into a revenue-generating art form. Restaurants in big cities may go very far into theme land. Whether it’s the French catacombs or spy movies, themed decor can create a more immersive experience for your guests and help draw tourists and other people to check you out.
Any sort of unique, modern, and beautiful decoration, whether it is a massive synthetic tree in your dining room or an open koi pond in the waiting space, can provide great photo opportunities for customers in our social media-driven world.
Building up a backlog of positive reviews online is a great way to draw new customers into your restaurant. Especially if you have had issues in the past with poor reviews, offering an incentive for new and positive reviews is a great idea.
One five-star review raving about one of your dishes can do more for your company than paid advertising. People will look at that review as an outside and objective analysis of what your restaurant has to offer. The more reviews you have, the better your business looks.
Offering 50 percent off an entree or a free appetizer for someone who leaves a review on Yelp or Facebook does two things. First of all, it generates more online reviews and positive buzz about your business. That can help your business show up higher and search rankings and entice more people inside.
Second, it also incentivizes that reviewer to come back and patronize your business again. After all, they will need to visit you after reviewing you in order to take advantage of that coupon. You will probably make more money than you give away on this kind of promotion.
Add More Options to Your Menu
If you watch food-related reality TV show, you probably already know that having a menu with hundreds of options can overwhelm and alienate potential customers. This suggestion does not mean you should just expand your menu with a bunch of new foods. Instead, you should take the time to consider how you can accommodate people with dietary restrictions.
Offering menu items that are gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan is a great way to expand your potential customer base. These communities are often looking for fun places where they can go out to eat and offering a couple of dishes is all it takes to get some people with food sensitivities in your door. The inverse is also true. If you are not offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan dishes, you are potentially alienating customers who come in your door.
As an added perk, you can probably charge a premium price for gluten-free food items on your menu. Additionally, the profit margin on many vegan and vegetarian dishes is often larger than the profit margin on similar dishes that include meat and animal-based products you can charge the same amount for an entree that cost significantly less to produce.
Leverage Social Media Marketing
If you aren’t already using your social media presence to market to potential customers, you are missing out on revenue. People who follow you on Facebook and Instagram already have an interest in your business.
Regularly posting specials and advertising your business on these platforms is a great way to expand interest in your business. People might share posts if there is a potential for a discount or other prize. You can also pay money to promote posts on Instagram and Facebook. These ads are often some of the most cost-effective options for local businesses, and they allow for much more precise targeted advertising than other mediums.
The most important thing you can do is to make sure that you continue updating all relevant social media platforms at least once a day. Make sure that you respond to customer inquiries and direct messages in a timely manner. Doing that can help you build brand loyalty and local awareness of what your restaurant has to offer the community.
Making the Most of Your Marketing Efforts
These tips can help your business drastically expand its local appeal and help your brand stand out from other local options. You’ll have a hard time locating other restaurant strategies to attract customers that are as affordable and simple to implement into your restaurant today.