There's no question that the restaurant industry faced significant challenges in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. As 2021 approaches, many restaurants will need to make plans to adapt to these ongoing challenges and changes. Not surprisingly, some of the top restaurant business ideas for the next year include expanded contactless pickup options, delivery and other ways to make diners feel safe. 

restaurant promotional ideas

1. Add Online Ordering and Delivery

One of the top restaurant marketing ideas and trends for 2021 will be online ordering and delivery. The pandemic has forced the restaurant industry to adapt. Many diners are reluctant to eat indoors and prefer to order online. Delivery and pickup options have become the go-to choice as consumers switch to off-premises dining options.

In fact, a survey from Gallup found that more Americans are embracing contactless or low-contact methods of getting their food during the pandemic. The survey found that 44% of American adults picked up food from a restaurant in May while 36% used curbside. These figures were up from 26% and 19% respectively since March.

Customers will likely continue using pickup and delivery services after the pandemic has subsided.

Many establishments will need to look at new restaurant menu ideas to cater to the delivery and pickup crowds.

2. Pods, Patios, Rooftop and Drive-In Options

Restaurant decoration ideas will change in 2021. Many restaurants will be looking to transform their interiors to continue social distancing practices.

Expect to see expansions in outdoor dining, particular patio and rooftop dining. The installation of pods, which give diners a private enclosed space to dine without concerns of being too close to others and staff, may become more prevalent. The advantage of pods is that even after things return to normal, they still offer a unique dining experience for guests.

Many restaurants are also reviving the old drive-in concept. Customers can place orders online, drive up and wait for their food to be brought to their vehicles. Along with convenience, drive-up dining also helps customers stay safe. Adopting a retro theme and training your staff to provide a memorable experience will keep customers coming back for more.

restaurant marketing ideas

3. Install Designated Pick-Up Windows and Counters

To help maintain social distancing and streamline the pick-up process, consider installing special pick-up windows or counters. In many locations, restaurants are forced to reduce their capacity, which means that you may not be able to handle rush-hour diners if you don't have a pick-up window.

If you cannot add a drive-thru, a pick-up counter or window is the next-best option. This is one of the more effective restaurant ideas to increase business, especially if you're located in an urban area where a drive-thru simply isn't possible.

Windows can be installed at your storefront simply by repurposing an existing window.

If you have the budget and are willing to adopt new technology, consider installing pickup warmer lockers in a designated pick-up area. These lockers will keep food warm until the customer arrives and also allows for contactless pick-up. All the customer has to do is enter a code to pick-up their food and be on their way.

4. Focus on Social Media for Marketing

In 2021, one of the leading restaurant marketing ideas is to focus on social media. The pandemic has led to a decrease in indoor dining, so more customers are using social media to find new establishments to order pick-up and delivery from.

Restaurant social media marketing isn't a new concept, but it will become especially important in the coming year.

A recent survey found that nearly half (45%) of American diners tried a restaurant because of a social media post made by the establishment. Among the respondents, 22% said social media posts convinced them to return to a restaurant.

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to promote your pick-up and delivery options while showing off your mouth-watering menu items.

Social media platforms allow you to connect and engage with your customers. You can also answer questions they may have about your safety precautions and dining options.

restaurant promo ideas

5. Offer Special Promotions for Pickup and Delivery

If you're looking for restaurant promotional ideas for 2021, one thing to consider is focusing on your pickup and delivery options. The pandemic will still have an effect on indoor dining for much of the year, which means many customers will still be looking for pickup and delivery options.

Offering special promotions that focus on these services will help attract more customers and may get more first-time diners through your virtual doors.

6. Offer Meal Kits

One of the more interesting and unique restaurant business ideas for 2021 is offering meal kits. These are also great restaurant promo ideas if you're looking for a new way to grab the attention of customers.

Meal kits are a new trend in the restaurant industry, and they've become a hit with customers. Many big chain restaurants are offering these meal bundles, which usually include basic protein options and sides so that everyone can serve themselves.

Small, local restaurants can also benefit from offering these kits because they offer the same great food that your customers love in a family-friendly-sized package.

Some restaurants have gotten creative and started offering take-and-bake or take-and-heat meal options for customers.

restaurant marketing ideas and trends

7. Focus on Digital Channels for Marketing

Marketing your restaurant doesn't have to be complicated, especially when digital channels are so easily accessible and affordable.

Digital marketing will continue to be important in 2021 for restaurants. Whether it's social media ads, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, blogging or posting on social media, restaurants have many options when it comes to online marketing.

Invest more in digital channels to help your restaurant grow and even thrive in the coming year.

Restaurants face many challenges heading into 2021, but these ideas can help you grow your customer base and keep your regulars coming back for more. Learning to adapt to changes can also help ensure that your restaurant survives the pandemic and future crises that may arise.