Business development 8 February 2017

How to effectively market your restaurant business

Local restaurant owners should form links with neighbouring companies, both large and small

There are often many aspects you need to market your restaurant business, but more important than anything is that the business should become an integral part of the local community, writes marketing specialist at catering experts Nisbets, Robyn Henderson.

Online marketing, a website, SEO, public relations, promotional events, customer relationship management (CRM) and social media are all integral parts of the machine when it comes to market your restaurant business or bar.

However, they all need to work together if they’re going to work, and your business should always become an integral part of the local community.

The best way to do this, according to many PR professionals, is to form links with neighbouring companies, both large and small.

For example, discounts for local businesses, or cross-promotions with department stores offering exclusive discounts for customers.

As well as this, what type of strategy will your marketing campaign use? Restaurant business owners should attempt to establish who your campaign is trying to target and how you’re going to target them.

According to Alison Davey, an executive from Real Eyes Marketing, the most effective marketing techniques are the ones that help to grow customer loyalty and grow the customer database.

These can take the form of emails or newsletters, and social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Through these channels, “customers can promote the bar or restaurant to their networks”.

Social media has become increasingly important. Instagram is a great platform to help grow customer awareness and enthusiasm for your business, even if they haven’t visited the venue yet. Photographs of your surroundings, interior, food, style and staff can be used to create a buzz even before the launch of business.

Get back to basics every now and then as well. By keeping a simple outdoor blackboard outside your restaurant, customers can stay up to date with all the specials you have on offer, or the live events that you may be advertising in the coming weeks.

If passers-by are aware of the extra effort you’re going to reach them, then this will more than likely turn into more custom.

Retelling your journey

it’s not always about trying to go for the hard sell. Alex Griffiths, from startup The Veeno Company, argued that “some people make that mistake, but really it’s about telling a story.

“We engage our customers with stories of our history, ethics and informing them how our family wines get from grape to glass”.

Nishil Nathwani, the owner of Aluna, a cocktail bar and restaurant opening in Birmingham and (subsequently) in Bristol, said: “I had a branding workshop to develop the brand and the messaging we wanted to create. I wanted to launch the best cocktail bar in Birmingham, without it being a pretentious place.”

A marketing workshop was a space where the brand’s identity could be evaluated and discussed in depth. For example, analyses of colour, target audience exposure and the personal needs of the audience were all discussed. Clients can build up the profile of a brand.

PR campaigns are crucial when promoting your bar or restaurant within the local community, as you’ll need to interact with the local press and bloggers if you’re going to make an impact.

When Aluna Birmingham opened, for example, her marketing agency hosted an opulent party for the launch. As the owner, Nathwani was clearly pleased with the results. “All the movers and shakers from Birmingham were invited, including respected food and drink bloggers,” she said. Aluna became a popular night spot in Birmingham as a result.

For any new business, Davey is of the same opinion – a successful launch party is crucial for future profitability. To kick the marketing off, use social media to win followers and fans. Listen to customer feedback and be quick to change direction if necessary.

You don’t want your media attention to dwindle after your restaurant’s initial launch party either, so make sure interest in your restaurant is kept at the forefront of your audience’s mind by distributing information through local media outlets, email and social media.

Asking customers what they enjoyed about the launch is a good indication as to what should remain, as well as what should be improved in the future. If your chosen audience is well targeted, use regular events as a promotional activity that ensures your venue is always in the public eye.

Regular events, such as food and wine pairing, are an excellent way of drumming up business while educating guests on what products your business has on offer.

Marketing your restaurant online

Before a potential customer visits your bar or restaurant, they will more than likely have a look on your website. It’s therefore important that your website truly reflects the nature of your business.

Griffiths explained: “Our web visits have exploded in the last six months particularly around events such as Christmas and New Year. We make sure we’ve answered our customers’ questions on the website before they have even thought of them”.

Images of your business during the day and night are also invaluable assets when you’re trying to capture the life and soul of your brand to customers.

Ensure a professional photographer take images of your restaurant, otherwise it could be counter-productive. Also, include online booking, so customers can make a reservation at any time of the day.

Your website should always reflect your core values and brand identity. Content is key – offer customers all the information they require at the click of a button.

Ensure that communication channels between the business and the customer are clear and reliable too, as it is an integral part of ensuring the success of your business.

There are a variety of different ways to gather and store customer details. The Veeno Company uses sign-up forms on their website, but if you’re more old fashioned, pen and paper data collection forms are also appropriate.

Griffiths commented: “We use these details regularly to keep our customers informed about events and promotions, as well as giving them exclusive offers such as a free wine tasting on their birthday.”

Try to draw the line between a healthy amount of communication and spamming. Include an ‘opt out’ option within any email-based communication and make sure you don’t saturate customers with emails.

Tried and tested methods of communication are still in use, and can help to advertise your business in a sufficient way. Methods such as direct mail, adverts, signs and posters, are reliable ways for attracting any passing by trade.

These traditional methods of communication do work well, but the added advantage of online marketing is that it can be measured.

Robyn Henderson is marketing head at catering supply specialist, Nisbets

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