Attracting customers to your restaurant can be a challenge. Even venues with the best food or the cheapest prices struggle to fill all their tables on a wet and cold Tuesday evening.
This article is designed to help. It is filled with ideas restaurants can use to attract more customers. The ideas are affordable, and most can be done by restaurants of all kinds.
When choosing a strategy, restaurant owners should think about the type of customer they want to attract, as well as their own brand positioning and available resources. Here are our five ways to attract customers to your restaurant.
Offer Packages to Local Businesses
Local businesses often put on events that need catering. As a restaurant, you have the expertise required to provide these events with great food. Do it well, and corporate catering can be a great way to expand your customer base.
Catering business events is different from serving food in a restaurant or online ordering. While you’ll want the food you serve at the event to be related to what you serve at the restaurant, you will have to tweak the menu to make it suitable for a corporate setting.
Many restaurants that offer catering services have specific offerings they provide, although you could be more flexible if you have the resources. Types of packages you could offer include individual pre-prepared meals or buffet style food selections.
Other things you’ll need to consider before offering catering services are whether or not you need to purchase extra equipment (packaging equipment, utensils, portable cooking equipment, etc.), where you will prepare the food (in your restaurant or on-site), whether you will provide staff to help with serving, and whether you will provide a delivery service.
Here are some examples of restaurants that offer packages to businesses:
- Subway offers sandwich platters that contain a selection of mini sandwiches that businesses can easily share at meetings or lunches. This is a great idea because the catered food is actually the same, albeit cut slightly smaller than the menu items Subway serves in its outlets. This means it doesn’t require much extra work.
- Meejana offers Lebanese catering options that include everything from sandwiches to buffets. This makes it suitable for a wide variety of events.
- Buca di Beppo offers a full menu as well as special catering packages. The catering service goes the extra mile by providing plates, utensils, and napkins.
There is also an additional benefit to catering. As well as a potential increase in sales, it is a good way to promote your restaurant’s name and hopefully attract more customers.
Create Enticing Promotions and Loyalty Programmes
Promotions give customers an excuse to make a trip to your restaurant. They can be a good way to get people through the door on nights that would otherwise be quiet. However, the deals need to be well thought out. Slapping a ten percent discount on your menu every Wednesday is unlikely to build the excitement needed for a promotion to be effective.
Promotions can be used in several ways. Ideally, your offer will help build excitement about your restaurant, while bringing in extra revenue and new customers. Here are some ways you can effectively achieve one or both outcomes:
- One of the best restaurant marketing tips is to take advantage of holidays or events. For example, you could provide special offers or set meals on days such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Alternatively, you could put on a promotion that lasts throughout a whole event, such as buy-one-get-one-free drinks during the World Cup.
- Use a loyalty card to give deals to loyal customers. This will encourage people to come to your restaurant frequently. The traditional method of stamping cards is outdated, now you can use a digital punch card app to manage your loyalty programme. This gives you a fun, simple and secure way to give out stamps for purchases via an app (this is built into our app builder and customers love it). Once customers have collected enough stamps, you can offer them a free meal as a reward.
- Offer promotions to those who share their experience. Offering a benefit to people who share photos and posts on social media will both draw in new customers for the offer and give your restaurant publicity on social sites.
- Promote new items on your menu. Releasing a new menu item is always exciting for the restaurant owner. By offering it at a discount or with a free appetiser, you will be more likely to get other people to try the item.
When running promotions, it is important to balance a good deal for the customer with making it worthwhile for the restaurant.
There are many ways to do this. For example, you could bundle high margin items with low margin items. This means even if you lose money on the low margin item, you will get it back on the high margin one.
Alternatively, you could offer discounts to groups. By giving group discounts, you can make up for a decrease in profits by selling more overall.
Put on Events to Give Customers a Reason to Eat Out
Events can be a great way for restaurants to attract customers as they bring an extra element to the experience of eating out. They are also a great way to get people to come to your restaurant on quiet days.
Another benefit is that excitement about events can help with marketing, putting your restaurant’s name in front of more people. This could drive more customers to your restaurant on non-event nights.
There are many different types of events restaurants can put on. The most suitable one is the one that is in line with the branding and the customer base of your restaurant. For example, while a quiz might be a good idea for a local pub that sells food, a wine tasting event might be better for a French establishment.
Things you’ll have to consider before putting on an event include whether you want to sell tickets and how to advertise the event.
You’ll also have to think about how the event will affect the experience for diners. For example, a regular customer may be annoyed when they turn up to your restaurant and find the whole place is being used for speed dating.
Here are some event ideas and examples:
- Food experiences: Beer and food pairing, wine tasting, guest chefs, local food nights — for example, a Chinese restaurant could do a night focusing on Sichuan cuisine, wine and cheese night, vegan night.
- Entertainment:Offer free live music, live comedy, quiz, show sporting events, movie nights, celebrity guest appearances, board game night.
- Other: Cooking classes, speed dating, offer free karaoke, open mic, VIP night for regular restaurant customers and those who share photos on social media, dark dining.
Get Some Media Coverage
Getting coverage in the press can be a great way to build excitement about your restaurant and bring new customers through the door. The only issue is that to gain press coverage, you’ll need to do something newsworthy. Here are some ways you can do that:
- An easy story is a grand opening or a new menu item. Inviting local media outlets or social media influencers to the opening could result in press coverage and attract customers to your restaurant.
- Unfortunately, a restaurant opening isn’t necessarily a great story in itself. If you can combine this with a genuinely interesting menu or restaurant concept your campaign could be more successful. Think about things such as world (or area) firsts or unusual themed menus. For example, this Glasgow restaurant received coverage in a national outlet due to its Buckfast inspired pizza.
- Bringing a celebrity to your restaurant may result in press coverage. Ways to do this while increasing value would be to ensure they are doing more than simply turning up at your venue. Examples could be local ex-footballers talking about their careers, famous chefs doing a tasting menu, or musicians putting on a performance.
- Getting involved in community events can be a good way for a restaurant to receive press coverage. You could do this by, for example, offering discounts to pensioners, sponsoring local events, donating money to a local cause, or serving food at a local event. This restaurant gained local press coverage by hosting a fundraising lunch for the Aberdeen Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Communicate with Customers
In order to keep customers coming to your restaurant, you have to provide an experience they enjoy. One way to ensure this is always the case is to speak openly with customers about what they like and dislike about the restaurant. There are several ways you can do this:
- Post links to surveys on your restaurant website. You can encourage people to complete the surveys by offering discounts to those who do.
- Ask restaurant staff to create notes of complaints or compliments made by customers and try to identify trends.
- Track what people are saying about your restaurant on social media or in reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Identify trends within this that could point to your restaurant’s strong or weak points.
- Hold open days for friends, family members, or trusted customers and ask for their opinions. This can be especially useful when introducing new items to the menu.
- Just speak to people. Obviously, not everyone who comes into your restaurant will want to talk, but if some people seem willing, you could ask them what they liked about the restaurant. Or, you can engage with customers on your social media pages.
- Suggestion boxes or comment books can be a useful way for customers to provide feedback and leave their honest reviews for other customers to read.
- Another efficient way to communicate with your customers and drive traffic to your restaurant website is through email marketing. This is a simple yet effective way to let your customers know about promotions, new menu items, online ordering and any other updates they would find useful.
That’s all for this article on how to attract new customers to your restaurant – make sure you check out the restaurant management section on our blog for more ideas on how to fund, grow and manage your restaurant.
Our article on restaurant marketing ideas gives you 22 invaluable tips from leading industry experts on how to grow your restaurant’s revenue, including detailed insights on:
- Leveraging local influencers to boost awareness
- Building a pipeline of customers using SEO
- Using Google Places to fill up your restaurant
And much much more.