How to Market a New Restaurant


I like restaurants, I like frequenting the local ones, the nots….not-national, not-franchised, etc.  It is great when new restaurants opens up, and  I get quite excited to try out the place.  Unfortunately, many of these restaurants end up closing their doors shortly after opening.  This could be for a number of reasons:  lousy food, bad service, not enough customers, and lack of publicity.   Now I understand that opening and running a restaurant is quite an undertaking and it must be extremely difficult work.  But nothing irritates me more than seeing a newly opened restaurant not promoting and marketing themselves.  There are a plethora of free marketing options that every restaurant should take advantage of, but few do.  In no way should your restaurant fail because of lack of promotion.  Below is my list of unproven, untested, marketing and promotion tips that are must haves for every new restaurant that wants to get noticed.

Get Listed – Get your restaurant on the map!  Google, and Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Bing, Judysbook, urbanspoon, grnow, whatever. Each has a system in place where you can claim your restaurant or add a new place to the map to post your restaurant.  You can often enter in lots of pertinent information, that consumers are looking for, like:  hours of operations, what type of food you carry, website, credit card information, etc.  The point is to make it easy for someone who uses these sites to find you.  If you are a Mexican restaurant and I am in mood for Mexican I want to be able to search Mexican food near Holland, Mi in Google and get your restaurant on there.  How much does this cost?  Nothing!

Social Media – Get a twitter account, make friends with all the locals you can find.  Announce your grand opening, your happy hour specials, you lunch time menu, new menu updates.  The possibilities are endless.  While you are at it might as well get a Facebook page up and encourage people to become fans.  Join the local networks use your tweets to refer back to your Facebook page and vice-versa.  If and when you do get customers in the store tell them about your social media efforts, encourage them to join or follow you.  Not everyone will but some will and they will spread the word.  Again the cost of this marketing effort?  Nothing!

Website – This one gets me all the time, but as a restaurant you need a website.  You need a website where you have your name, address, phone, hours of operation, a pdf of a menu (very important), and maybe a map.  Yes, websites cost money but there are various websites that offer free hosting and free do it yourself design.  Will it look awesome, no but at least you have a place where customers can check you out before committing to walking into your restaurant.  Check of weebly for free websites, or use your Facebook fan page.  Keep it simple, and again the cost can be free.  Oh and make sure you post your website URL everywhere where you are listed.

Carry-Out Menus – Make copies of your menu and have them available for people to bring home.  If I see a new place I will stop in scope it out and ask for a carry-out menu in order to plan a return visit to eat at your restaurant.  Quite a concept, so please make plenty of copies of your carry-out menu because I hate hearing “oh we ran out”, or even worse “we don’t have any”  Why not?  Ok so there is some cost involved with this one, but a simple black and white menu on white paper is fine with me.  Just make it happen.

Promote Locally – Every town or municipalities has some sort of website where they promote local businesses, find these and promote yourself.  Examples: Downtown Holland, another holland one, chamber of commerces, Visit Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids.

Contact Newspapers – Our local area newspapers seem to love doing stories on new restaurants.  Go ahead and search for restaurants on your newspaper’s website and lots of things will pop up.  Write a press release and send it out to them and see what happens.  Click here for a list.  Cost of writing a press release… nothing again.

Lastly, this post is in memory of Pizza Italia, the best pizza the city of Holland every had.  Sadly, this establishment lasted less than a year despite my constant patronage, (but they did had horrible service) but the food was amazing and the pizza’s were delicious and the best deal in town.  I wish I would have come up with this list sooner to help you guys out.  But you know what I think that the building that they inhabited is cursed because nothing survives there (I think it just claimed its latest victim – Tulipanes), must have been built on an ancient native American burial grounds.  Going back to 2005 Tacqueria Azteca was vacant for a long time, then in 2006 Chonita’s took over only lasted a few months, the was vacant again then in 2007 Pizza Italia moved in for 6 months, then was vacant again until Tulipanes moved in during the summer 2009, but now it has not opened for a couple of days in a row.

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9 responses to “How to Market a New Restaurant

  1. Another way to use social media is to post a ‘secret special’ -a word or phrase that is only posted to your social media site that when used at checkout results in a special, whether it be a discount, a coupon for a future visit, etc…

    • bjophoto – Great insight on the social media twist on the coupon and maybe more importantly, lead tracking. I am kicking myself for not thinking about it. When you have a customer you need to find out how they found you or why they came. That way you can hone your marketing strategy accordingly.

      • Exactly. I have a friend on the West Coast who frequents a local eatery who employs this marketing technique. His wife got so excited the last time they were there, that she forgot to whisper the code word and practically shouted it at the poor girl behind the register. It was a great example of how the customer really enjoys it when you create something that makes them feel like they are a part of something special. This is how viral marketing works, too.

        It’s a win-win marketing solution. It helps to build the brand for your company as well as build a relationship between the company and the customer. Both are so very important to being successful.

        BetsyJo / BJoPhoto
        http://bjophoto.wordpress.com

  2. Great post. I couldn’t agree more! It’s always the restaraunts. I often wonder if these people know what they are trying to accomplish. What are their core competencies? How are they differentiating themselves? I stopped in to Casey’s last Friday to check it out since I heard about them on The Van 92.7 and because I saw their sign on the buliding at their high rent, high-traffic location. I was first confused becasue it was 5:00 pm and the sign just outside their door said something about a breakfast special. I went inside and looked around with intentions of maybe grabbing a beer. I WAS greeted immediately by a nice gentleman who promptly explained to me that “we would not be serving alcohol for atleast 3 more weeks…but we have food.” They are calling themselves another “sports bar”, but most of the layout is covered with booths. It looked more like a family restaraunt with a few TV’s (one very large projection screen). I always ask myself, “What are the one or two things that would make me want to go to ths place? Well, the huge TV screen is nice, and the location is good, but I’m not sure that will be ennough in the long run. As a fellow small business owner in Holland, I truly hope they succeed and I hope they have more to offer than meets the eye. The old saying “If you build it they will come” is usually just a field of dreams.

    • Thanks for the insights on Casey’s. I saw that they took over the space for Taj India, and I was going to visit them as well. Usually these first couple of months are crucial to their success. Looks like they are advertising with the radio spots but I still could not find Casey’s on Google, I wonder if they are doing any of my other suggestions. This could be a good case study. Lastly, how was the food?

  3. SW Michigan Dining

    Can’t tell you how much I agree. I almost exclusively pick restaurants based on menus I can find online. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones because I have no idea what they serve….it’s not hard to build a simple website and it’s damn free advertising. With a little bit of effort via social media and the web, a struggling restaurant could turn itself around in no time.

  4. Mark,
    Let me add to the kudos; the best kind of post, and filled with actual useful information! We, too, ahve often thought, “Gee, we’re the kiss of death for a restaurant. As soon as we find one we like, it goes out of business.” Finally we can relax – it’s NOT OUR FAULT!

  5. Pingback: Simple Marketing Ideas for Restaurants « Northern Pyk Marketing

  6. Pingback: On Marketing a New Restaurant — Eat Local, West Michigan!

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