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6 Effective and Creative Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

The competition within the culinary industry is fierce!

It’s not always easy to come up with creative marketing ideas for restaurants. As a restaurant owner, you have a lot on your plate and marketing is just a small slice of your business. But it’s an important one that’s key to getting more customers in the door. If you’re looking for some effective and creative marketing strategies for your restaurant, here are 6 marketing ideas for restaurants that want to stay ahead of the curve.

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In the hot competition of the culinary world, coming up with creative marketing ideas will help your restaurant survive and even thrive.

According to Visually, a few years ago there were about 98,000 total restaurants in the U.S. in just the pizza, pasta, and Italian category. Mama Mia! That’s a lot of competition in only one area. Now multiply that across all categories and you can quickly see the importance of creative marketing ideas for restaurants. If you don’t market yourself to stand out from the crowd, you’ll quickly be buried.

Fortunately, marketing doesn’t need to be expensive. Many creative marketing ideas for restaurants can be implemented without stretching your tight budget too far. So, if you’re holding back because of concerns about cost, don’t! Effectively marketing your restaurant is as important to the success of your business as the food, ambiance, and dining experience.

Ready to get innovative? Here are six creative marketing ideas for restaurants that want to get noticed.

6 Creative Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

1. Create a Unique and Clever Hashtag

hashtags on social media are a popular way customers find new places to dineThe best creative marketing ideas for restaurants today are sparked by social media platforms. Hashtags specifically are a must-use tool for restaurants who want to stand out in the wonderful world of social media.

Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are where your potential customers hang out. Many customers check social media first when considering which restaurant to visit. Fun hashtags engage patrons and inspire them to interact with your business. Encourage diners to post photos of their tasty meal, rave about your cool décor, or a share a group shot from their stellar experience with a clever hashtag that sticks. Look at it as free marketing!

Saif Alnasur of Eat App said, “Using the right hashtags can expose your restaurant to a large and highly targeted audience. By putting yourself out there, you make your restaurant more discoverable to potential customers.”

Shake Shack is a great example of a food establishment using modern social media marketing strategies and hashtags to their advantage. Various trends like #shakeshack and #shakeshackfan are popular on Instagram and Twitter. Fun location-specific hashtags like #shakeshackchicago and #shakeshacktokyo are also widely used. Through their use of hashtags, Shake Shack has successfully created a social media presence recognizable to patrons. Customers share photos of their delicious shackburgers before they dig in. The unstoppable power of real customers sharing real experiences at real establishments is a dynamite marketing combination that truly can’t be beat.

Remember to get innovative with hashtags and steer away from what’s considered “normal.” The best creative marketing ideas for restaurants are a little quirky. Have fun with this process and think up a few whimsical hashtags to compliment your restaurant’s vibe. Is there a word that rhymes with your establishment’s name and could be catchy? Is there an inside joke only loyal customers would appreciate that you can build off? Can you make the hashtag punny? Whatever the direction, taking the road less traveled will pay off.

2. Offer Incentives for Social Media Participation

Creative marketing ideas to incentivize customers include perks and special offers. A great way to promote your special offers is through social media—create a buzz by making offers time and location sensitive. These efforts will increase your social media engagement and participation.

A prime example of a food establishment succeeding at promotions is the Modern Market’s Austin, Texas location. They’re a farm fresh eatery style restaurant unique from many other places in the vicinity. To promote the opening of their newest location, Modern Market held a giveaway competition for customers. All patrons needed to do to enter was follow the @modernmarket Instagram account, “like” the photo they posted with the rules, then tag two friends in the post. Customers who completed all three of those simple tasks would then automatically get entered to win an ENTIRE year of free pizza.

In the end, Modern Market chose not one, but two lucky winners. In addition to a fun experience, the food establishment gained many new followers, increased likes, and successfully spread the word about their new location opening. Now they’ll promote delicious photos of their food, share their specials of the day, and interact with all their new followers.

This type of crowd-sourced marketing is a great way to advertise without paying a dime towards traditional advertisements or high-class marketing strategies. Cases like this prove that a little creativity is all you need. Free pizza for a year is still less cost to you than a traditional restaurant marketing campaign.

If you’re too busy for social media, or less familiar with the platforms, taking the time to learn can really pay off. Do some research on creative marketing ideas for restaurants by checking out these 20 fellow food establishments dominating the social media game!

3. Start an Original Food Blog

Creative marketing ideas for restaurants aren’t limited to just social media or promotions; branching out and starting a food blog on your restaurant’s website is a great way to draw more attention to your business and share behind-the-scenes musings and insights.

There are several tips and resources available online for food business owners hoping to start a restaurant blog and it can really pay off. Experts found that 60% of consumers reported feeling more positive about a brand or company after reading their blog. A blog makes you “real” and accessible to your readers. They will instantly feel a deep connection to your establishment.

Another fun and creative marketing idea for restaurants in the blogging world is to pin the focus of your business blog on you, the restaurateur. A restaurant blog offering unique advice and tips from a business owner’s point of view is specific, helpful, and intriguing to a lot of people. If you’ve been in the business a while, take advantage of your experience and create a blog focused on industry insights you’d like to share. Leverage and promote your business by helping hopeful restaurateurs or struggling food entrepreneurs with great advice from your blog.

Original content you produce in-house will set you apart from other establishments in your same category or in your neighborhood. Creative marketing ideas are all about going the extra mile to stand out to customers and starting a food blog accomplishes just that!

4. Network with Local Foodies and Influencers

Restaurant marketing strategies that make the biggest impact and grow a business are the ones involving other successful professionals. Networking and engaging with established foodies, professional food bloggers, industry workers, and local influencers in your area is an effective marketing technique to get the word out about your restaurant and more importantly, get customers in your door and dining with you.

Many professional foodie influencers already have a strong social media following, so if you’re a new restaurant and your online presence isn’t as strong, a positive relationship with just one of them could greatly work to your advantage and assist you with expanding into a steady, lucrative business. In today’s modern world, patrons often don’t turn to highly acclaimed food critics or stuffy restaurant reviewers; they follow the trendy, cool people on Instagram who tell them what to wear, when to shop, and most importantly, where to eat.

Pieology Pizzeria is an awesome example of an establishment implementing this creative marketing idea the right way. One of their locations recently held an exclusive, special celebration for local influencers to come and mingle while tasting food. This “Influencer Media Event” was extremely successful and smart because it gathered a bunch of influential people in one room and made them feel important.

Above and beyond all of this, the pizzeria followed up by posting a social media “thank you” to all the influencers who came out AND encouraging participation by asking followers to tag their favorite blogger or influencer in the comments section. These simple calls to action were a great tactic to draw more eyes to their social media page. They established themselves as an influencer as well and integrated into the social community.

Keep in mind, marketing strategies must be easy-to-do in order to work. Networking with local foodie bloggers, fellow business owners, and influencers is an achievable goal for restaurant owners everywhere to utilize!

5. Use Local Search to Your Advantage

If your restaurant wants to show up in google searches, focus on your local SEO to stand outWhen you search for “creative marketing ideas for restaurants” in Google, some of the first and most important results are local. To get your restaurant to show up among those results, it’s important that you have a website that’s “optimized” for search. This means implementing what’s called “SEO” or “Search Engine Optimization” into your restaurant’s website. Using proper SEO will boost your online presence and work wonders for growing your food business locally.

To give you a bit of a breakdown, Tribe Local explains local SEO: “The most effective way to market the business online is the use of Local SEO. It is all about increasing the searching visibility for businesses that serve their communities face to face.”

Setting your restaurant up for success with local SEO includes adding your address and contact information in an easy to find area on your website as well as creating profiles on Google+ Business, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, and other location-focused websites. Any action you’re able to take to further establish your restaurant’s online reputation as a local business in the area will help search engines recognize you quicker. This means, when patrons are looking for a place to dine, your restaurant will get noticed.

Utilizing local SEO to your advantage is a creative marketing idea for restaurants that’s largely underused and underappreciated. If you’re looking to pop up in the location results when a customer searches “pizza” or want to show up when someone asks “Google, find me Greek food,” then local SEO is what you need.

As a business owner, SEO often seems scary or difficult. But proper local SEO has the power to positively improve your restaurant’s revenue. There are plenty of resources out there to help you increase your presence online. A few tweaks to your website may be all that’s needed to improve your presence and help your patrons find you quickly.

6. Think Outside of the Box with Drink and Food Specials

Your customers will quickly get tired of the same old specials. Implement these creative marketing ideas to get them excited again and energized to dine with you.

Ask yourself a few questions before promoting another special:

  • Are you offering a unique dish that’s relevant to the season (i.e., chili in the fall or peppermint drinks during the holidays)?
  • Are your specials up to par with what the competition is offering?
  • Is there anything extra you can do to stand out from the rest?

Sure, happy hour is great and taco Tuesday is legendary, but these specials are expected, and patrons may get bored with the same old routine. If you’re ready to spice things up, partner with other local food establishments in the area to mix of the specials at your restaurant. Working with another food establishment in the industry is a great way to cross promote each other’s businesses. Try something really different like swapping chefs, offering a fusion dish with the best of both worlds, or simply grouping together for promotions.

Modern Market is once again another great example of this strategy. They recently ran a promotion where each lunch customer got a free scoop of ice cream. The unexpected treat was possible because of the restaurant’s mutually beneficial relationships with local ice cream purveyors. The promotion got customers in the door (free ice cream!) and got them to sample another local product as well.

Your specials could include pairings with a local brewery, a great seasonal dish that showcases farm-to-table produce, or simply a different take on your favorite special dish. Choose fun, unique specials for your customers to blow them away and get them excited about eating at your establishment. Creative marketing ideas for restaurants like this one are a sure way to attract more patrons and increase business.

The food and beverage industry continues to develop and grow every single day. If you want to promote your restaurant, you don’t need an endless advertising budget. You simply need to get innovative! Think of new and different creative marketing ideas to boost your restaurant’s success.


Featured image via pixabay.

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