Eight Free Restaurant Marketing Ideas
You can get all kinds of advice on marketing from professional writers and from the marketing companies you might talk to. Wouldn’t it be nice to get advice from someone that has tried all of the different advertising medias and has a good idea about what works and what doesn’t?
I'm Isi Cano and over the past ten years, I've run several successful businesses along the East coast. Now that I'm getting older, I can't stay on my feet all day to run my restaurants. So, it's time to pass on the knowledge I've gained during all those years. I know starting a restaurant is tough, and that sometimes making a profit after you start is just as tough. So, I thought I'd share eight of my free marketing ideas from my Restaurant Business and Marketing Plan book. Most of the ideas here are simple, but effective.
1. Your Restaurant Menu
Marketing inside your restaurant is also important. One place for internal marketing is your typed menu. Make room in your menu to market your restaurant to the customers that come in to eat. If you set aside a full page for advertising and increasing sales, you have done much of your marketing job without having to pay a single dime to anyone outside of the restaurant. You can advertise many aspects of your business, including discounts on booked parties, catering, products you are selling in the restaurant aside from your meals, coming events, and many other products that will increase your overall sales.
You can also use that space to remind customers to pick up their loyalty cards, business discount cards, and to remind them of your “bring a new customer” program.
2. Chamber of Commerce
Participating in your local Chamber of Commerce is a subtle marketing strategy. Participate in the monthly meetings. Pass out business cards and press releases and offer them a discount for going to your grand opening.
Some of those members are the elite of the community and have many employees that work for them. If they have a wonderful time at your restaurant, imagine what they will say to their employees.Becoming well-known and trusted in the community can't be underestimated.
3. Local Civic Clubs
This strategy is similar to the previous one, except it will give you a broader reach.
Before you open, contact as many local civic clubs in your area that are willing to let you come in and distribute either a discounted meal or a free meal for your restaurant. At the same time, let them know that you can cater their functions.
Do the same with all the schools in your area. They quite often look for caterers for many of their functions throughout the school year. Offer them whatever you feel comfortable with in return for them to advertise your restaurant in their school functions. Schools have many outings during the year for their students; they might as well think of coming to your restaurant for their lunch.
4. Press Releases
Before you open your restaurant, you can contact your local newspapers, radio and television stations through what is called a “press release” to let them know you will be opening your restaurant, along with whatever details would be enticing for people to know.
Not all of them will run a story on you, but they will all contact you for future advertising. Send the press release to as many as you can think of and you will get some action from it that will set the stage up for your opening day. Your cost for this kind of advertising? Just letters and stamps. Potentially, if you’re good on the Internet, you can just email your press releases. There are even free press release services out there, such as www.pr.com.
5. Employee Discount Cards
Make a list of all the businesses within a 10 to 15 mile radius of your restaurant. If you can visit them personally do so; if not, send them a letter of introduction and offer them an employee discount card. Plus, let them know that you will cater their next company party. Let them know that you are there to give them the opportunity to benefit their employees.
Your marketing should have two purposes: one is exposure to your business, and the other is to bring customers to your business for the future.
6. Touring Companies
Contact local tour companies, if you live in an area where they operate, and offer your restaurant as a place where they can take their customers to eat—bus loads of them. Strike up a deal. You might have to offer something to the tour company in return, but it’s cheaper than paying for advertising that you don’t know will have any return.
Offering a 20% discount to a busload of people is often better than paying for advertisements.
7. Customer Loyalty Cards
Preprint customer loyalty cards, or use your register system to load plastic cards with the program (for more information about register systems to help with marketing, see my book Restaurant Operations). This requires you to start working on this very important marketing long before you open.
There are different kinds of loyalty programs. The one I implemented had one loyalty card for lunch and a different one for dinner. The lunch card was punched every time they had lunch. After 4 lunches, the 5th one was free. The dinner card was 5 dinners and the 6th one was free. You have to make sure it’s one punch per visit. You will be surprise how this will increase your business, especially for lunch.
8. Location--Your First Marketing Decision
The first marketing decision you’ll make is the location of your restaurant. The better the location you choose, the less advertising you’ll have to do. How much money can the right location save you in advertising? More that you can imagine. Think of it this way, what is the reason you advertise your restaurant? The answer is to get people to know that you exist and to get them to come and try out your wonderful offerings.
You want a location with lots of traffic. Traffic translates into people and people translate into customers. Where do you find the majority of national restaurants if not in heavy traffic locations and locations where they are the most visible to the greatest amount of people. If you have the choice of two locations and one is more costly, but within reason, and has lots of visibility and traffic, my advice to you is pay the extra money!
Also, when you choose your location, pick a place that gives you the most signage. Do your due diligence with the city and county and check out restrictions on signs. After all, if you can’t advertise your restaurant on the windows of your restaurant and the largest outside sign they allow you to have is 2 feet square, you’re already at a great disadvantage before you ever open your doors.
Some city governments even go as far as to tell you that you can’t park your vehicle in front of your restaurant if it has a sign that advertises your business. Again, do your due diligence when it comes to the marketing of your restaurant.
Go Get 'Em!
I hope you'll benefit from these ideas from my Restaurant Business and Marketing Plan book. Some of your efforts may take a while to pay off, but once they do, they'll serve you well as long as your customer service is great.
I'd like to invite any other restaurant owners to contribute your ideas and comments here, too. We'd love to hear from you. These hubs have been getting some good readership, so please don't be shy.
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