How to market restaurants: Email and beyond

Restaurant owners and managers are often busy running each and every aspect of the business. They often must wear multiple hats at once, sometimes that even includes the cook, server, owner, customer service rep, financial planner, and marketer. When trying to manage and work each of these roles, it can be challenging to nail down how to market restaurants.

If you’re an owner or manager trying to balance it all, you may feel like you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, and that means creating a comprehensive marketing strategy for your restaurant before you can dive into various marketing methods.

Creating a comprehensive marketing strategy for a competitive market in four steps

If you want your restaurant to shine, you must have a solid marketing strategy beneath you that not only spreads brand awareness but caters to your target audience. When learning how to market restaurants, it’s important to have a plan in place. If you're unsure of how to get your planning off the ground, we're here to help get you started.

1. Assess your current business situation

It doesn’t matter if your restaurant is brand new or well established; the very first step in creating a comprehensive marketing strategy requires you to assess your current business situation. To do this, you’ll need to ask yourself and your team several questions:

  • Where is your revenue coming from?

  • Is your business at its most profitable? 

  • Are your audience members satisfied with your current business?

  • Is your staff working at capacity?

  • Are you providing enough time and support into your staff/clients/business?

These questions will help guide through what is working and what isn’t, which will later help you set and define new goals for your team and business. 

2. Set your marketing budget

The popular saying goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail,” and when it comes to learning how to market restaurants, this couldn’t be truer. It’s actually very easy to lose sight of how much money you are putting into various aspects of your restaurant. The only way to keep your funds in line is to set appropriate budgets. 

This is especially true when addressing your marketing budget. Without one, you run the risk of dumping thousands of dollars into methods that simply aren’t working for your restaurant. That means losing out on valuable funds that could have been better spent elsewhere. 

That said, set your marketing budget to include both digital and traditional methods. Once you’ve set the budget, it becomes a non-negotiable. 

3. Know your target audience

Your restaurant can’t cater to the needs of your audience if you don’t know who your audience is. Remember, the idea isn’t to try and cater to the needs of everyone, because that simply isn’t possible. To adequately cater to your target audience, you need to understand the community that you are working within. 

The best way to start this process is by doing a little research and learn who makes up your community.

  • What is their average income?

  • What is their average family size?

  • Do they have a certain job type?

  • Do they have a certain level of education?

From there, you’ll have a better idea of how to create meals, menus, and atmospheres that will draw in a crowd. These are also the same questions you’ll want to be asking yourself when building your marketing strategy. However, you’ll want to take it a step further and learn where they spend their time searching for restaurants.

Are they searching google for “places near me”?

Are they asking their Facebook friends for restaurant recommendations?

While this is a little tricky for some, it’s not impossible. One place to start is by looking at your competition. Where are they focusing their advertising efforts?

Once you genuinely understand who your audience is and where they are most easily reached, you can move onto the next step.

4. Define your marketing goals

Once you’ve checked off those first few steps, you can finally focus your time and energy on defining your overall marketing goals. These are your final objectives. 

Marketing goals can take on several forms, including:

  • Build brand awareness

  • Increase monthly net income

  • Fill x number of seats

Again, that is not an extensive list by any means; however, each restaurant’s marketing goals will look very different. When it comes to setting these goals, you want to make them SMART goals. 

Why? Because this method ensures you're detailing each goal to your best ability. 

SMART Goals makes sure you are detailing each goal down to the last detail

Source: Content Marketing Institute

How to market restaurants using digital and traditional methods

When learning how to market restaurants, the different marketing channels can seem rather intimidating. However, if you’ve taken the necessary steps that we’ve outlined above, you should have some idea as to where your audience members spend their time. This will better guide you in choosing the right marketing channels that suit your restaurant’s marketing needs. 

What is guaranteed is that your restaurant will need to find a balance between both inbound and outbound marketing techniques. 

Mixing inbound and outbound marketing techniques is a must

Source: Business2Community

Inbound marketing techniques are most easily identified as techniques that tend to the needs of the clients. This is accomplished through non-paid marketing channels, including content creation/distribution, organic search results on search engines, and social media.  

Outbound marketing, however, is often considered “traditional” marketing methods that place your brand in front of consumers, whether they like it or now. Now, this may seem rather intrusive, think outbound marketing like TV commercials, direct mail ads, and even radio ads. They aren’t necessarily intrusive, but they still find their way into our day without us going out and searching for it. 

When learning how to market restaurants, it’s important to point out that all restaurants will rely on a unique combination of both inbound and outbound marketing to meet their business goals. 

Digital Marketing Channels

Digital marketing is currently the hottest form of marketing, as more and more people turn to the internet to fulfill their various needs. Common digital marketing channels include:

  • Email marketing

  • Blogs/content creation & marketing

  • Social media marketing

  • Search engine optimization

  • Pay-Per-Click advertisement

  • Affiliate marketing

With digital marketing, you need to meet your audience where they are at

Source: Really Good Emails

Traditional Marketing Channels

While digital marketing seems to be the place on which most marketing teams are focus their attention, it doesn’t mean that traditional marketing channels are dead. In fact, they are far from it. 

This is especially true for smaller restaurants as verse to a large chain or franchise. Traditional marketing methods, including tv and radio ads, gives you many opportunities for creating local campaigns that are seen by hundreds, if not thousands of viewers and listeners in your area. 

Other more traditional marketing channels include:

  • Printed direct mail menus/ads

  • Ads in local newspapers/magazines

  • Billboard ads

Why Restaurants Need Email Marketing

When reviewing the multiple marketing channels available to restaurant marketing teams, there is one that stands out as a clear winner for multiple reasons: email marketing. 

Email marketing currently provides double the ROI that any other digital marketing channel does, bringing in an average of $38 for every $1 spent

Email marketing best practices for restaurants 

As with any industry, when it comes to email marketing, there are some best practices that restaurant marketing teams should keep in mind.

Have a click-worthy subject line

When crafting your emails, you want to make sure you are crafting click-worthy subject lines. This is the very first piece of content that your readers are going to see. So, to ensure they don’t glaze over it, make sure it catches not only their eye but their attention as well. 

Ex: Do you have plans for dinner? Would you like some? 🍽

Personalization is key

Personalizing your restaurant’s email campaigns is essential to building trust amongst your subscribers. By using email list segmentation, you can send relevant content to everyone on your email list. Gone are the days where personalization simply meant adding a reader’s name to your email. Now, you can segment and personalize your email campaigns based on customer’s past order history and more.

Images are your best friend

A picture is said to be worth at least a thousand words, and when it comes to marketing your restaurant’s goodies, using images to show off what you have is much more useful than simply describing this week’s specials. 

Why use up your valuable time describing your delicious food when you can just show readers?

Source: Campaign Monitor

Always welcome new subscribers

Welcome each of your new email subscribers by sending them a special thank you for signing up. If you really want to make your customer’s day, why not include a special promo code or coupon to use on their next order?

Welcome new subscribers with a special incentive

Source: Emma

Monitor all campaigns for best results

Finally, make sure you are taking adequate time to monitor each of your email campaigns carefully. The only way to determine the success of your email marketing efforts is to watch your email KPIs, including: 

  • Open rates

  • Spam rates

  • Click-through rates

  • Click-to-open rates

  • Unsubscribe rates

  • Engagement rates

Wrap up

Learning how to market restaurants doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Once you’ve taken the time to plan out your marketing strategy, you’ll be better able to determine a course of action for both you and your marketing staff. Remember, you’ll want to keep in mind various inbound and outbound marketing channels, including:

  • Email marketing

  • Direct mail marketing

  • Content marketing

  • Social media marketing and more

Ready to see what Emma has to offer your restaurant’s marketing team? Then contact us today to try a demo.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. Unlike other email providers, Emma puts their customers first. It's email marketing that works for you.

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