The truth is this, your food probably speaks for itself. It’s good enough to keep people walking through the door again and again, but the real struggle is getting them through the door that very first time.
When it feels like there’s a new restaurant popping up on every corner, the restaurant marketing space can seem woefully crowded. But this just means you have to get a little bit creative to stand out from the rest.
Use one or all of these 40 restaurant marketing ideas to tempt diners towards your fresh and steamy offerings.
How to create your restaurant’s marketing plan
Like most marketing strategies, at the core of a restaurant marketing plan is this: you have a product, and you want your consumers to buy it. What makes restaurant marketing a little different is how broad your target market likely is. Everyone eats food. How do you form a marketing plan that appeals to every person within a 50-mile radius?
The answer: Trial and error, testable marketing methods, and a delicate balance of proven tactics alongside some out-of-the-box ideas.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one marketing plan that works for every restaurant. (If there was, we’d give it to you.) But we’re not sending you off empty-handed—we have a giant list of ideas for you to try. Before we get to that, though, we’ve got some basic dos and don’ts of restaurant marketing:
- Incorporate video into your restaurant marketing (Biteable can help!)
- Embrace social media with open arms
- Remember the power of giveaways
- Aim to be digitally responsive
- Change with the times and the tech
- Underutilize social media
- Rely solely on word of mouth
- Avoid getting to know and understand your customer base
- Be resistant to change
- Phone it in on your website
Create videos that drive action
Activate your audience with impactful, on-brand videos. Create them simply and collaboratively with Biteable.
Online marketing for restaurants
Digital marketing is a major player in any space, but particularly when it comes to food. Food blogs, drool-worthy foodie Instagrams, and online restaurant reviews own the restaurant marketing space. Take note of these digital marketing ideas every 21st-century restaurant should be on top of.
1. Make sure your website looks snazzy
You might be asking, “Do we really need a website?” (Yes.) “Isn’t Facebook enough?” (No.) You really need a website, period. And that website should be pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate.
A website helps your restaurant show up in search engine results and grow its digital presence. It also serves as a hub for all the important and up-to-date information about your business.
It’s not hard to create a beautiful website these days, a restaurant website builder can do most of the hard work for you. If your existing website looks tired, put in the time to give it a refresh. A stale and dated website doesn’t send a positive signal about your restaurant, and it might actually do more harm than good.
2. Create a Google My Business account
When someone searches for your restaurant by name, Google pops up with a snapshot that includes your address, open hours, and links to your website and socials. Your Google My Business account is how Google gets all of this information. This snapshot can even act as a table reservation tool with Reserve with Google.
If you really, really don’t want a website, Google My Business is a must. Even if you have the world’s best website, Google My Business is still a must. Guaranteed first page results with information you can control? That’s a marketing dream come true.
3. Invest in professional photos of your food
Suppose you claim to be a quality establishment right next to a blurry photo of a (nevertheless delicious) bowl of pasta. In that case, there’s a clear disconnect between the message you want to send to your audience and the message they actually receive.
Photos of your food are one of the most important ways to show off your brand and what you offer. You can do better than some shotty iPhone snaps of your best-selling dishes. Invest in professional photos; it’s worth every penny.
4. Spotlight your best dishes with a pro video shoot
Once you have professional snaps aplenty to feed your socials, level up to a professional video shoot. Short, mouth-watering clips of your best dishes are all you need. Get those good close-ups of your dishes’ best angles, and make the most of the extra engagement video posts pull in on social media.
Turn your stunning video clips into a restaurant promo video with Biteable in minutes.
5. Offer coupons and discounts
Add a little incentive to stop by your restaurant with coupons and discounts. Offer discounts on your socials or other discount or coupon websites. Light a fire under anyone sitting on the fence by only running your offers for a limited time.
If you’re trying to attract a specific demographic, discounts can be a great way to do it. Offer students a student discount when they show their student ID, for example.
6. Set yourself up for reviews
Digital reviews are a modern-day restaurant’s best friend. Everyone is checking the reviews before choosing a new place to eat, so be sure your stellar reviews are easy to find. Sign your restaurant up for Yelp and Google Reviews, as well as any other food-centric review websites popular in your area.
If you are new to the reviews game, how do you get those first five-star posts? Ask for them. Put up a sign telling people where they can leave reviews and add a link to your email signature and newsletter footer. You can even start with an in-person ask for regular customers.
7. Make sure your menu is online
This might just be a personal foodie pet peeve, but when a restaurant doesn’t have its menu available to scour online before heading out to eat, we’re going to a different restaurant.
Make life easier for planners, picky eaters, and those with special dietary requirements by putting your menu somewhere, anywhere, online. Your website is the best place for it, but your Facebook page also does the trick. Your future customers will thank you for it.
Also make sure to add a menu link on your Google My Business account. People appreciate convenience. When that picky eater makes their dinner decision, an easy-to-find menu might just tip the scales in your favor.
8. Have an online booking option
Similar to the idea above, if there’s no clear way to book your restaurant without calling, Millennials and Gen Zs will probably just choose a different restaurant.
Many potential customers are motivated by a deep desire to avoid phone calls, so if you want reservations in advance, make it easy (and stress-free) for people to make them. Add an online booking option to your website, or use any number of online reservation apps and services made for this very thing.
9. Get to know search engine optimization
You know when you’re looking for a new recipe and you search “world’s best chocolate cake” and inherently trust the judgment of Google’s search results? Same. However, what you’re looking at is less likely to be the world’s best chocolate cake recipe and more likely to be a recipe from the food blog with the best understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).
Delve into some basic SEO strategies, and in no time you just might find yourself ranking on the first page of “best restaurant in [insert your location here]”.
As a first SEO step, consider starting a blog on your website. Here, you can share your knowledge and passion for food alongside some super SEO-friendly content. Search engines will love you for it.
10. Start a foodie-forward newsletter
Gather. Those. Emails. Keeping a customer database is one of the best ways to target your marketing at the right people, and starting an email newsletter is a great way to do it.
There are plenty of options for low-cost, user-friendly email marketing platforms. Many of these also make it super easy to add a newsletter signup prompt onto your website.
Newsletters allow you to keep in touch with your customers and share the latest events, offers, specials, and updates relating to your business. Include behind-the-scenes peeks into life at your restaurant, some foodie inspiration, or drop the exclusive on next month’s Taco Tuesday special.
Social media marketing for restaurants
11. Share your customer’s social snaps
When diners post your insta-worthy food on Instagram, share it for all your followers to see. Share your favorite Stories and repost the pictures that make your food look the most drool-worthy.
User-generated content makes an excellent, slightly more subtle version of a positive review. Visual proof that people had a great time at your restaurant and enjoyed the food enough to share a snap to their socials? That’s powerful marketing juice; use it.
12. Don’t be afraid of targeted ads
Most social media platforms offer insanely specific targeting tools as a part of their paid ad services. To get the best bang for your marketing budget’s buck, target a specific demographic, such as only people within a certain radius of your restaurant,
Even if you’re not sure exactly who your target audience is, try aiming at a few different sectors of the market — families, young professionals, college kids — and test which audiences respond best to your ad. It might take a bit of trial and error, but eventually you’ll gain an even better understanding of your most engaged customer-base.
13. Strive for Instagram fame
There’s probably no better social platform for food than Instagram. Make the most of a bunch of people who just want to look at pretty pictures of delightful dishes and give the people what they want. Consistently share photos and videos of your food on Instagram, as well as promos for upcoming events, giveaways, or the announcement of your weekly specials.
One brand nailing their social media presence is Taco Bell. They might not be a small, up-and-coming restaurant, but they’re also not splashing out millions of dollars on their marketing budget to rake in their 1.4 million Instagram followers. All they do is post engaging content they know their target audience will love (including a bunch of snaps of delicious tacos).
14. Introduce your staff
Give your friendly staff their 15 minutes of fame with a social post all about them. Highlight a staff member by posting a photo of their friendly face and sharing a little bit about them. Even better, turn it into a quick “meet the team” style video.
Taking the time to shout-out your staff shows people you are a restaurant that cares about its team. It also lets diners get to know the faces behind their food, which is no small thing. Not to quote Cheers, but plenty of people really do “wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
15. Share testimonials and positive press
Take a break from convincing people your food is freaking great and let someone else do it for you. Share any positive press on your social media, and let the article do all the talking. No one sells better than a happy customer — customer testimonials are your marketing secret weapon.
Pro tip: Turn your best reviews into a testimonial video for a dazzling alternative to a boring old link. Post a video like this one on social and on your website.
16. Connect with foodie influencers
Food bloggers are powerful people in the restaurant world. The power they have is almost unmatched. Get on the good side of your local foodie influencers by reaching out and making connections.
A positive review from a well-respected food blogger is worth its weight in gold-crusted cauliflower wings.
17. Run a giveaway or competition
The only thing better than delicious food is free delicious food. Encourage social engagement with a giveaway or competition that features a free meal or voucher as the grand prize.
Giveaways are relatively inexpensive to run (especially when the prize is from the kitchen) and can be an incredible way to grow your social presence and attract new customers. Ask audiences to follow you and tag a friend to be entered into the running. Chances are you’ll see your follower count rise like pizza dough in a proofer.
18. Use video
One-up the other image-based foodie socials with video. According to the latest video marketing stats, video consistently outperforms static images on social media.
Platforms prioritize showing videos in social feeds, and followers are more likely to like, share, and comment on videos.
But video doesn’t have to take up much of your time. Create custom video content in minutes with the Biteable video maker. Get some saucy close-ups of your dishes to stop the scroll or use the engagement powers of video for your ads and promos. Start with a video template, like this one made specifically for restaurants like yours:
19. Put something insta-worthy on the menu
Create something newsworthy to get people snapping and talking. It doesn’t have to be a culinary revelation, it just has to look cool.
Think rainbow bagels. They don’t taste any different, they’re probably a pain to make, but they gave the restaurant that created them viral status and a whole lot of money.
20. Find your way to Facebook groups
Facebook groups deliver a very special breed of marketing magic, especially if your restaurant targets a specific dietary requirement or is relevant to a niche in some way.
Humans are a social species, and we like to group up with people who are similar to us. When it comes to Facebook groups, that often looks like groups full of vegans, or people with celiac disease, or families looking to dine out on a budget.
If your food caters to a specialty category, make use of the demographic jackpot Facebook groups afford you and promo directly within these groups.
21. Be responsive
Customer service is just par for the course when it comes to a brand’s presence on social media, and that’s no different for restaurants. Respond quickly and accurately when people reach out to you. This includes timely, thoughtful responses to negative reviews.
Answer customer questions and deal with their complaints like you would if they were visiting your restaurant in person. Take these extra steps to form strong relationships with your followers and a positive reputation for your brand.
22. Tell your story
Humanize your brand with a social post all about the origin story behind your restaurant. If you’re a family business, share a little bit about your family and what inspired you to start your restaurant. If you spent 15 years in the best cooking schools Paris has to offer, share that too.
23. Be transparent
Use social media as a platform to teach your audience about their food and where it comes from. If you try to focus on locally grown organic produce, highlight the farmers who grow the food.
Sweetgreen are experts at keeping things transparent across their socials. Transparency is a major part of the farm-to-table brand’s entire concept, and their social media is no exception. Their followers know where their food comes from, the impact it’s having on the environment, and the local farmers and producers they’re helping every time they buy a salad. Those are some persuasive reasons to choose one restaurant over a less-transparent other.
24. Ask your audience for their input
Trying to decide which new flavor to launch or which special people would rather try? Just ask them!
Use Instagram Stories to poll your audience on what they want to see in your restaurant. People love feeling like their input matters. You’ll help them feel more engaged with your brand, and you’ll get useful data to boot.
25. Encourage people to post on social media (and tag you while they’re at it)
The truth is sometimes people just don’t think about it until they’re reminded. Set up signs around the restaurant or at the tables encouraging customers to share their visit on social media. Make sure the sign lists your social handles and any hashtags people should use.
Incentivize social sharing with an offer, like a free drink when guests check-in at your restaurant on Facebook or tag themselves at your location on Instagram.
26. Have some fun with TikTok
Just do it. Jump aboard the TikTok train. There are no rules here. Just try something and see if it works. Worst case scenario, your TikTok career flops and you continue on as a thriving restaurateur; best case scenario you go viral on TikTok.
Be the TikTok stars yourselves, or perhaps run a competition with your customers. Prompt your customers with a challenge like: “tag us in a TikTok that shows what you do while waiting for our pizza,” or “tag us in a TikTok with your best pizza-related hacks.”
TikTok videos don’t take long to make, certainly less time than it takes to wait for a pizza. And if a customer’s video accidentally goes viral, you can offer the creator free pizza for life in return for that juicy promo.
Offline (but no less creative) marketing ideas for restaurants
Take your efforts offline with these creative marketing ideas you can put to the test within your restaurant.
27. Power up a loyalty program
It always comes back to free things. But really, people love free food. Make your customers put a little effort into their free food with a loyalty program.
Use an app or an old-fashioned card and stamp to track how many times your regulars dine in. Once they’ve suitably proven their loyalty, celebrate their milestone meals with a freebie.
28. Consider delivery services
Although they take a chunk of your profits, delivery apps and services also provide a new method of marketing. By signing up with delivery services, you show up on the screens of hungry people in your area at exactly the right time.
If you already offer your own in-house delivery, a delivery service might not be for you. But give it some consideration. From a marketing perspective, the pros might outweigh the cons on this one.
29. Run holiday and event-based promotions
Holidays aren’t just an excuse to celebrate. They are also fodder for creative marketing ideas. Use the gift of holidays and events as a reason to have some fun with your marketing.
Run a Valentine’s Day dinner giveaway, celebrate World Spaghetti Day with a new spaghetti special, or deck out the place with holiday decor and share snaps of your winter wonderland to your socials.
30. Host an event
Restaurants are the perfect type of business for event marketing. You’ve got the venue covered; you’ve got the catering covered; all you need is a reason for people to show up.
Host theme nights and events to get people through the door. You can take your event in any direction you choose: a cooking class, a Dress Like Dolly Parton Night, a trivia event, or perhaps host a local cookbook author’s book signing. There’s no shortage of reasons why people should stop by your restaurant to have some fun and eat some food.
31. Establish a food challenge
Give guests 30 minutes to finish a 3-foot pizza (or something else challenging to achieve) and reward them with a free meal and their picture on the wall if they manage it. People will show up to prove themselves, and chances are not too many of them will actually cash in on the prize.
32. Be a part of the community
Support your local community with events and fundraisers. Host a fancy dinner to raise money for a community cause or sponsor local clubs and events in your area.
Is your local school throwing an event to thank their teachers? Provide the grub and do some good for your community.
33. Prove you listen to what the people want
Do your customers constantly hound you to put that limited-time special back on the menu? Do it! Prove you’re listening and live to make your customers happy. You’ll help build a better relationship with your customers, and they’ll be more likely to keep coming back.
34. Run a business card giveaway
It’s a little old school, but it’s still fun. Keep a bowl of business cards near the register and encourage customers to add their own. Draw a card out of the bowl once a month.
This style of giveaway has nothing to do with social media, which means customers have to physically show up at your restaurant to be in with a chance. It’s a fun way to thank your diners for stopping by.
35. Align yourself with a good cause
Prove you’re a business with heart by aligning yourself with a good cause or charity. Perhaps choose a day each year where 100% of your profits go towards a cause you care about. Let people know it’s happening, and they’ll turn up for some good food and a good cause.
Keep the good karma rolling with small things throughout the year, like a charity donation box near the register, or a monthly special supporting a local charity.
36. Celebrate your customer’s birthdays
Show you care with a Happy Birthday email alongside a coupon or free offer. Once your coupon has them in the restaurant, you can embarrass them with an enviable rendition of “Happy Birthday” while they blow out their candles.
37. Good ol’ fashioned sidewalk chalkboard signs
You know them and you love them. Grab the attention of people walking past your restaurant with a creative chalkboard sign on the sidewalk. Make a joke, highlight your specials, or simply let them know there’s a pint of cold beer with their name on it ten steps to the left.
38. If you’re dog-friendly, make it known
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but people really love their dogs. If you are a pet-friendly restaurant, make sure people know about it.
Post on social media about the pups visiting your cafe and pop a sign out front, too. To combine this idea with number 26, how about a TikTok account entirely dedicated to the dogs dining at your restaurant? Is that too much combined power? It might be. But we won’t know until you try.
39. Keep up with mainstream trends
The times, they are a-changin’. Keep on top of mainstream trends and social causes people care about, then implement changes where you can.
Sustainability and sustainable practices have been on the rise in recent years, and restaurants that were keeping track might have ditched the plastic straws and reduced their reliance on single-use plastic.
There’s a new diet trend every week, but catering to the ones that stick around can really bring in the happy customers. Every menu should have some gluten-free options and some vegetarian choices, but why not see if you can cater to keto customers, low-fodmap diners, or paleo patrons as well?
40. Use video in your restaurant
Show off the food that’s coming your customers’ way with a sizzle reel to play on a loop in your restaurant. Encourage diners to order that extra appetizer by promoting it nearby.
If you have updates or promos to share, swap out your food-centric video for a video all about the info you want your customers to know.