Looking to boost foot traffic and sales at your restaurant or bar? Here are some low-budget marketing ideas and tips to get you started
As every restaurant or bar owner knows, your most important asset is your existing customer base. Do you know who they are? They're not only the ones who traipse in to buy your food and drinks, but are the core of your business, the ones from whom you learn (sometimes the hard way), the ones that spread the word about your great food and service, and even make or break your establishment’s reputation. Since they're so important, it’d probably be a good idea to create a customer-centric marketing infrastructure. The basic idea is 1) to Reach New Customers and 2) to Build Customer Loyalty. So, read on to learn about everything you need to ensure success!
Reaching new customers in the information age
When it comes to attracting new walk-ins, there’s one thing that makes your restaurant or bar totally unique, and we aren’t talking about your great ethnic food, special atmosphere, Northern Italian Melanzane, or that incredible Moscow Mule you serve. When it comes to walk-ins, the most unique thing about you is your address. This is especially true as far as search engines are concerned, and since 94% of new restaurant or bar clients usually research online before visiting restaurants or bars, search engine optimization and listing management are crucial for attracting new customers. The simplest way to ensure potential customers will find you is to make sure you are listed on all the free online local directories, including Google’s Local Business Center, and Yahoo’s Yahoo! Local. Once that’s in place, you can celebrate all the other things that make you unique!
Once you’ve got the search-engines covered, the next step is to set up profiles on directories that cater specifically to restaurants and bars such as Yelp and OpenTable. These sites usually include reviews and serve as a tool for modern-day ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. A great review can go a long way towards getting you new business, but on the flip side, if you are like every other bar or restaurant in the business, you know that you can’t escape an occasional bad review. Clients can be fickle, and sometimes, the kitchen or wait-staff might just be having a bad day. The best way to deal with a bad review is to respond to it. Be polite and let them know that whatever they are unhappy about has either been fixed or was a one-off freak event, and offer to make it up to them somehow. While you are at it, take a moment to thank a couple of positive reviewers for their kind words.
3. Location-Based Marketing tools
There are a variety of low-cost marketing platforms and apps that are designed specifically to reach clients searching for restaurants and bars nearby. Good loyalty programs offer this feature so that businesses can attract new customers. In an increasingly mobile world, it’s a good idea to use marketing or loyalty platforms that offer location-based targeting that is fully integrated with smart-phones, in order to reach all the potential customers in your neighborhood.
Building Customer Loyalty
Since a huge source of income at restaurants and bars comes from repeat business, the goal is to make your customers want to come back again and again. So, while we can’t help you with recipes that will bring ‘em back, we can offer some ideas about what makes customers happy and likely to come back.
1. Acknowledge Each Customer with a Special Treat
This isn’t like that old show Cheers where you need to know everyone’s name, since there are great tools that will automate this process for you. Choose platforms that give you the flexibility to offer personalized specials, such as a loyalty club that can recognize each individual client, reward a first-time customer for joining your loyalty club, send off a birthday special, or reward loyalty with a virtual punch-card. Today, this type of customer engagement is made possible by the incredible advances in mobile technology platforms. Personalized, automated reach was just a dream a decade ago but now it’s here, and it’s making the lives of bar and restaurant owners and managers much easier.
2. Great Staff Make Great Vibes
Whether your bar or restaurant is fancy, a dive, a specialty spot or a fast-food joint, it’s not just the theme and décor that wins over repeat business, but the vibe of the place, and that’s where your staff are key. Their attitude can make or break a customer’s experience. Customers remember when their server is upbeat, efficient, puts them first, and makes them feel special— and when they don’t. You can also show you care by celebrating your staff, such as with an employee of the month featured on a wall along with a cute bio. Warm fuzzy feelings will ensue.
3. Community Involvement
Depending on your style and what you serve, you can create partnerships and get your community involved in your restaurant or bar. You can connect with local gyms to offer healthy specials for members, or offer wall-space to local artists to display their goods. You can have a special of the month named in honor of a great customer, and join up with local breweries or farmers to promote and share success with other local businesses. These initiatives create secondary marketing streams for you when your partners mention you and spread some fantastic local word-of-mouth, while also creating a general sense of good-will towards your establishment. This can be more powerful than spending top dollar to advertise to new customers.
So, to summarize:
- List your establishment on local directories.
- Respond to reviews, including negative ones.
- Use a loyalty platform that offers location based marketing as well as personalized engagement and rewards for customers
- Create great vibes with an upbeat staff that puts customers first
- Form local partnerships to build and maintain your presence in the community
- Serve great food and drinks! (goes without saying - but we thought we’d say it anyway!)
Got some other marketing ideas for restaurants, bars and the food & beverage industry in general? We’d love to hear from you! Want to learn more? Flok University is a click away