Restaurants need to know how to be competitive in today’s fast-paced world. Restaurant marketing in a merciless modern market means more than just offering exceptional service and great food. Restaurants have to do more to win over consumers.

One-time customers are not what makes you stand out – it may actually sink your business. A restaurant strategy must focus on repeat customers. Once a customer has tried your restaurant, you want them to come back. It’s often what you do when the customer is sitting in your restaurant is what makes your establishment successful.

restaurant marketing

Know What Your Audience Wants

Your customers are hungry, and that’s obvious. The problem is that your audience may want more. You can create a customer persona to understand better what’s taking place in the mind of your customer. For example, let’s assume that you own a restaurant in a college town.

Food marketing strategies may include:

  • Deals on nights when big games are played

  • Discounts for college students

  • Watch parties

But you also need to understand what your audience wants. College kids are often low on cash, so they want a cheaper meal and may even want а loyalty programs. These kids may also want a “party destination,” so you may need to offer discounted drinks to stand out from the competition.

Let's assume that your town is known for being a major football town. The atmosphere may be much different from an upscale restaurant that business professionals visit after work.

In a college town, displaying football games on big screens and offering a low-cost, fun atmosphere may help your restaurant stand out.

But in a location where your demographic is primarily business professionals, you may do better by standing out with:

  • Soft music that helps the customer unwind

  • Higher-end drinks and options that business professionals can afford

  • Quick, efficient service

When you know what your customers want, and this should also include food options, it’s easier to find what makes your business unique. You should, to some extent, craft your menu and even form restaurant décor ideas based off of these personas.

Unique marketing strategies can be formed with much greater ease by creating customer personas. A persona should include:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Likes

  • Pain points

  • Hobbies

  • Family life

You can create as many personas as you like, but most restaurant marketers recommend coming up with three personas to start.

restaurant marketing ideas

Consider Offering a Delivery Service

Millennials are eating out more often, but this demographic also likes unique restaurant ideas. Staying in and watching Netflix may be a top priority for a millennial, and they may not want to go out to your restaurant to sit down and eat. Offering a delivery service will bring the consumer’s favorite food right to their doorsteps.

Every few months, 44% of millennials will order from UberEATS or Grub Hub. Why not offer this service to your customers? You'll want to add your restaurant to these third-party delivery services. On your menu, you can always have something along the lines of:

“Don’t feel like dining in? We deliver through GrubHub straight to your door.”

Consumers like having options, and when a person has had a long week, they may not want to sit in your restaurant – they may prefer their couch. Offering third-party delivery can bring in more customers and keep your customers coming back.

Even restaurants that do offer their delivery service will want to ensure that they’re listed on third-party delivery services. Why? 

Exposure. If your competitors are on these sites, you should be, too.

restaurant promotion ideas

Use Feedback to Strengthen Your Restaurant

If you’re having trouble standing out from the competition, use the feedback of those that are most important: employees and customers. After all, who better to ask than your customers on how you can improve your restaurant?

Creative restaurant promotions are not enough to keep customers coming back. You may involve your customers with:

  • Picking out a new item to add to the menu

  • Incorporating new promotions

  • Establishing new delivery options

Sure, you can look at your restaurant’s competition for ideas, and this has been done with some of the biggest names in the food industry. Starbucks offers rewards programs, and once they started offering rewards programs, it seemed like everyone else in the industry followed in their footsteps. You can be different, but if everyone in the area is offering Tuesday night deals, you may have to provide the same to remain competitive.

Survey your customers, ask for their opinions and analyze all of these opinions. You'll want to be able to determine what suggestions are viable and implement them as best you can. This implementation will help your restaurant stand out more.

Survey your market.

restaurant marketing strategies

Stay Ahead of Trends and Harness These Ideas

Innovation and trends drive industries. You need to keep on top of trends and also be innovative with your menu. Did you know that 73% of consumers trying a new menu item that they like will return? Why? You're offering a new menu item that your local restaurant competition doesn’t have.

Restaurant marketing ideas and trends should be followed, and this may mean:

  • Following the local trend. A lot of restaurants are supporting the local community, and this has allowed businesses to stand out. For example, one restaurant near me promotes that they buy all of their ingredients locally. This local purchasing brings a sense of pride to the community and influences a lot of consumers that go out to eat.

  • Sustainability. There’s a massive trend among consumers to choose sustainable products and to prefer eco-friendly practices and ingredients. Your choice in eco-friendly straws or sustainable ingredients may make your restaurant stand out from the local competition. Sustainability is a major marketing tool in today’s market.

  • Authenticity. While you want to follow trends, you also need to be authentic in your approach. The atmosphere needs to be authentic. Your food needs to be authentic, and so does the entire dining experience.

Keep up with trends, and this will help your restaurant stand out from the competition.

But also offer something different. Introduce signature dishes, add new, exciting flavors and you’ll be able to play off of the cravings of your consumers. The goal is simple: be different to keep customers coming back to your restaurant.

how to be competitive

Capitalize on Customer Service and Experience

What makes a good restaurant? For a lot of people, the answer is food. Your food and menu are the keys to your success, but if you want to know how to make a restaurant successful, you’ll need to do more.

Customer service is key, and this means:

  • Remembering the names of frequent customers

  • Chefs coming out to check on the quality of food

  • Owners walking the floor and mingling with customers

  • Servers making small talk with customers that want to talk

When you order from Amazon, you know that you’ll receive great customer service. Not only are the prices high, but if you have a problem with your order, customer service is ready and waiting to correct the issue. Restaurants need to follow this example when trying to stand out from the competition.

Standing out in the crowd may mean:

  • Comping a meal when there was an error made

  • Promptly correcting issues with the order

When guests feel welcomed, know that the owner and chef care about their dining experience and feel special, it is one of the best ways of standing out as a restaurant.

Unique menu items help, but customer service can really make or break the entire dining experience. A person that is out to eat wants to have a good time, and it’s up to the owner of the restaurant to ensure that servers are well-trained and that their customers receive the attention that they deserve.

unique restaurant promotion ideas

Embrace Technology to Keep Ahead of the Competition

The world is digital, and it’s time for many restaurants to follow in this direction, too. When a customer wants to place an order, do they have the option of going to your website and looking at the menu on their smartphone?

Do you offer a takeout? Can the customer use an app to place an order? Many big-name chains have been using tablets placed on tables for quite some time, and it allows guests to:

  • Order items

  • Pay

  • Play games

Guests can do everything with minimal interaction with servers. More customer-friendly and progressive, restaurants need to embrace technology to stay ahead of the crowd. Offer new, fun ways for customers to interact with your business, be on social media, and interact with your target audience.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to think outside the box while focusing on the customer.

Learn more on how to market your establishment: