Ideas for Restaurant Marketing: Top Tips for 2021

With ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants popping up seemingly overnight, the competition in the restaurant space is growing stiff. Fortunately, there are all sorts of different restaurant marketing strategies that you can employ to keep those rumbling tummies coming in the door. Choosing the best strategy may depend on the type of restaurant you run and your goals. However, there are some proven ideas for restaurant marketing that you can incorporate into your strategic business plan.

5 Restaurant Marketing Ideas You Need to Try

1. Include Reservation Links on Your Google Business Page

If you have been prioritizing Yelp, you may be behind the times. Google has come to dominate searches for food and restaurants, which means your Google business page deserves some more attention. Hopefully, you have already created your business page and included photos, a website link, address, hours of operation, etc. The next step is to find new ways to leverage your page to earn new customers. 

One simple way to better utilize your page is to take advantage of the option to add a reservation link that allows visitors to make an online reservation. You can either link directly to the website or your own reservation system. Customers appreciate the ease of online reservations so much that restaurants that add this option see an increase in reservations of up to 20%.

2. Work on Improving Your Visual Presentation

Since customers are visiting your restaurant to eat a delicious meal, it only makes sense that you would have high quality photos of your food on your website and social media channels. It is worth investing in a good camera and learning the basics of photography. However, if it is within your budget, hiring a professional photographer is the better option. 

As you think about presentation, don’t forget to use the best tableware and table linens that will help make every dish look Instagram-worthy. Basically, you want to be serving up dishes that encourage people to take photos and post them to their profile along with a hashtag that will help other people find your business. This is a great strategy because it means that you can take advantage of user-generated content rather than paying for advertising.

Creating an Instagram-worthy dish might not be completely straightforward, but it can be worth experimenting with different presentations. The impact of having a dish that goes viral can be more valuable than any other marketing strategy. 

3. Don’t Forget about SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) will help make sure that your restaurant appears in the search results when people type in certain keywords on Google. For example, people search the term “restaurants near me” over 20 million times a month. If your restaurant isn’tshowing up on the first page of search results, then you are losing out on a huge marketing opportunity. To help with your SEO, make sure you have these basics in place:

  • An up-to-date Google My Business profile
  • A prominent and accurate location listing
  • An SEO optimized website
  • Google reviews
  • Location keywords that are built into your website URLs

4. Email Marketing

If you are really invested in leveraging marketing strategies, email marketing is a must. The easiest way to begin collecting email addresses is by including an opt-in form on your website. Offer a coupon or discount in exchange for entering an email address. From there, you can send out newsletters that promote everything from upcoming events and sustainable practices to specials and new dishes. When it comes to frequency, you should be sending out one email a week. 

Birthday Emails

You can also target customers by sending out emails on customers’ birthdays and offering them a special gift. A free appetizer or dessert can be enough to get them in the door. Hopefully, they will be celebrating with a large group of friends and family and that will mean a big crowd for your restaurant. 

Behavioral Targeting

Email marketing can be tough because you are competing with big-name brands and trying to get noticed by people who are probably already sorting through an inbox full of emails. The key is to target your recipients based on their behavior related to your restaurant. If someone has only dined at your restaurant once every three months, you may be able to get them in the door more often with a targeted email. Customers who already visit once a week should be handled differently. By using data and email marketing automation, you can create more effective campaigns rather than simply casting a wide net and hoping for the best. 

5. Collect Data

Any marketing strategy should be data-driven. The more customer data you can collect, the better. When possible, you should track how often customers dine with you, the menu items they prefer, and the dates of special events, such as birthdays. Relying on data gives you the power to better manage your restaurant and deliver truly targeted and personalized messaging. 

Services like Sixdots and BarInsights specialize in turning your customer data into valuable insights that you can use to upsell to your customers. From menu item performance to food and beverage pairings, Sixdots and BarInsights provide reports that can help you promote the right items to your customers. 

How to Attract Customers to Your Restaurant

In addition to social media and email marketing, you can also attract customers to your restaurant by hosting events. Here are just a few fun ideas:

Wine Tastings

Guests can sample different wines on your menu, learn how to correctly drink wine, and expand their taste. This type of event may help bring in customers who wouldn’t have tried your restaurant otherwise. If they enjoy themselves, you will have earned repeat customers.

Sporting Events 

If you have televisions, you can make your restaurant the place to watch big games. This type of event is easy to promote and guests will spend several hours eating and drinking. You can further capitalize on sporting events by offering discounts on certain drinks or appetizers.

Live music. Add some entertainment and make dinner an event rather than just a meal. It is an easy way to get people through the door and make your restaurant a destination.


“Meet the Chef” 

Customers like when they can get a behind-the-scenes look and meet the chef responsible for the dishes. Hopefully, you can get additional advertising out of the event if guests blog or post about the event.

Holiday Parties 

During the holiday season, family, friends, and businesses are looking for the perfect venue to host a holiday party. Be sure to offer reservations and advertise for holiday bookings on your website, social media accounts, and email marketing campaigns. 

How to Promote Your Menu

As you experiment with new dishes and add new items to the menu, it is important to make sure that you are promoting your menu. Start by advertising to current customers who are already at the restaurant. These customers obviously enjoy your brand and food, which makes them more likely to try new dishes. Here are some more in-store marketing tips for promoting your menu:

  • Use digital signage and touch screen kiosks to showcase new menu items. Take advantage of design and formatting options to help draw attention to dishes. High-quality photos and descriptive language will also help to highlight dishes.
  • Handheld menus can use the same formatting tools to promote menu items. You can even place a special insert to highlight new dishes.
  • Build some buzz and excitement before launching your new menu items by adding photos, descriptions, and launch dates to digital menu boards. Since digital menu content can be easily changed, this platform is perfect for time-sensitive content.
  • Offer free WiFi and use the login page to advertise new items. You can even include a coupon code as an added incentive to try something new.
  • Use your email list to offer coupons and time-sensitive offers that will prompt them to act quickly. 
  • Leverage the power of social media. Share your new menu on your social media accounts and tell the story behind the dishes. Photos and videos of the dishes being prepared will also be helpful. Be sure to attach a hashtag to your posts that will encourage guests to share photos of their meal and use the hashtag. You can even award prizes to those who post and share content on their own social media pages. Social media influencers may be willing to share new dishes on their page in exchange for a free meal. Finally, invest in social media ads that target people in your area and those who already know about your restaurant.
  • Use your website to advertise new dishes. It is also important to try to gain notice on third-party websites. You can reach out to bloggers and restaurant review sites and invite them to try your new menu.
  • Have your staff promote items as they take orders and serve guests. Be sure to offer some training on best practices for promoting dishes and allow team members to sample the menu items for themselves. 

How to Advertise a Secret Menu

Secret menus are another restaurant marketing tool that is becoming more popular. Secret menus add a little excitement and make customers feel like they have some insider knowledge. The challenge is finding the right balance between spreading the word while still keeping the secret menu under wraps so that it doesn’t lose the feel of being something special. 

Word of Mouth and Presentation

The easiest approach is to let your regulars in on the secret. They can provide you with some helpful feedback and perhaps some social media content. You can also draw attention to special dishes with the help of special plating and presentation. Get creative with how the meal is served and other diners will take notice and start asking about the dish.

Social Media Influencers

It is also a good idea to enlist the help of social media influencers and local foodies. These people will be able to reach a wide audience and endorse your brand. With a little research, you can identify people who would be excited to try your secret menu. They may want to be paid for their services, but for many, a free meal should do the trick.  

Restaurant Marketing Tips and Technology

In 2021, restaurant marketing efforts need to be creative and embrace technology and social media to help move the industry forward. From email marketing and SEO to data collection and upselling, there are a lot of low cost marketing strategies that can help you win over new customers and create a loyal following. Remember to take advantage of tools like Sixdots and BarInsights to help streamline and automate your marketing efforts.   

Restaurant Marketing FAQs

What is the best marketing strategy for restaurants?

There are a variety of different effective strategies that can be used in restaurant marketing. Here are five proven marketing strategies worth implementing: add a reservation link to your Google Business pages, improve your online presentation with high-quality photos, utilize SEO for organic website traffic, use email marketing to connect with customers and advertise special offers, and collect data on user behavior to support better selling techniques. 

How do you attract customers to your restaurant? 

Host wine tastings, “Meet the Chef events, live music, holiday parties, and sporting event watch parties. 

How do you promote a restaurant menu? 

Promote your menu through digital and handheld menus that are well designed. Offer teasers leading up to the launch of new products. Use social media, hashtags, and influencers. Advertise on your website and try to connect with bloggers who may be willing to discuss your restaurant on their site. Finally, train your staff to help with promotions. 

How do I advertise my secret menu? 

Start by letting regulars know about the secret menu. Invite bloggers and other influencers to come try the menu and encourage them to share their experience on social media. You can also plate dishes from the secret menu in a special way to help bring attention to the menu.  

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