Just about everyone has been to a restaurant, but the idea is fairly straightforward if you haven’t. You walk in, ask for a table, wait a bit, take a seat, and choose some food. But if you’re running the place, it can be a bit more complicated than that – getting your restaurant noticed is a serious business, so you need to be sure what’s on display is going to entice customers. Yet with around a million restaurants in the U.S. alone, what can you do to make yours stand out from the crowd?
Fortunately, restaurants offer huge potential for personalization and decoration, with countless themes and decors to suit the style of cuisines served therein. If you offer organic, farm-sourced produce, you can easily adopt some rustic interior design to match; or go for an aquatic color scheme if you’re putting seafood on the menu.
Here are some more ideas to help your restaurant rise above the competition.
Get your restaurant noticed on social media
The demands of running a restaurant – updating your menus with seasonal produce, making orders with organic suppliers, interacting with customers – can be so time-consuming that marketing may be the last item on your to-do list. This is why hiring a social media manager could be one of your strongest investments, as a customer’s initial engagement with you is likely to be conducted online.
Having an active Instagram or Facebook account, showcasing the fantastic dishes lined up for the spring, is the best way to demonstrate the dining experience on offer. Moreover, while you run the business side of things, having that designated staff member to handle social media means that customer queries can always be answered and comments can always receive a response.
Utilizing Instagram is another effective marketing move, as a reported 30% of food lovers would avoid a restaurant with a weak online presence. The common trend of photographing food for social media posts is a trend worth encouraging among your customer base, provided they tag your business account. A subtle way to highlight your social media presence is with small print at the bottom of the menu, revealing the names of your Instagram or Twitter handles and the invitation to tag you in any posts.
Hosting live music
The expression “dinner and a show” usually involves two separate venues – the restaurant first and then the concert hall – so why not combine them both? Hosting live music is a savvy way of vitalizing the atmosphere of your business, while also benefiting your reputation as an open-minded, more fun-loving establishment. A restaurant that hosts live music in a local area is likely to be set apart from its competitors and may simply be perceived as a cool place to go. That kind of reptation is invaluable for any business seeking new customers.
To come back to the earlier point about social media activity, this is also an excellent opportunity to invite local bands or artists to perform at your restaurant. If you find someone whose style you like, and who you feel suits the vibe of your setting – you won’t want a death metal band in your seafood bar, for example – then invite them to perform in your venue. This will prove to be a successful quid pro quo, as any up-and-coming artist will be grateful for the exposure, and the fanbase of that artist will look kindly upon you for giving them a live audience.
Invite food bloggers to your restaurant
Food blogging is one of the most popular ways of promoting a restaurant and its services, with the hashtag #foodpost having accumulated over 3.3 million posts on Instagram. The trick here is to find influencers with a sizeable following – somewhere around 5k followers – without simply being so ‘big’ that they can disregard your invitation to test a new seasonal dish or menu update.
It helps if the food blogger you are courting is based locally, as their audience is more likely to be based in your vicinity and thus easily able to visit. Above all else, keep the relationship casual: send a DM via Instagram rather than sharing a press release over email. Present yourself as a person first and business second, but be sure to underline exactly why your menu is worth shouting about.
Animal-friendly restaurants are more popular
If you run a business with open-air dining or any kind of outdoor seating, you are naturally going to attract people who have just been for a walk and suddenly find themselves with a rumble in their stomach – and they might have a four-legged friend by their side.
Of course having the space to accommodate animals outdoors is the ideal scenario here, but if you are able to do so in your indoor restaurant, having an animal-friendly policy may help secure repeat customers. Most restaurants are not overly welcome of canine patrons, but regular customers can be secured with the knowledge that can always bring their pets to lunch.
There is also a lot of good will generated by prospective customers seeing dogs in a restaurant, as they will perceive that venue as having a more relaxed attitude, compelling them to come and enjoy a plate of food while playing with the happy Labrador at their feet. Not only that, but dogs very positively affect the mood of a restaurant, serving as a calming presence for the staff with their happy, slobbery faces.
Running a restaurant involves a lot more than just serving food. You could have the most spectacular, exotic menu in the world but it won’t amount to a hill of beans if nobody knows about it. Think of ways you could entice more customers to your restaurant – how about introducing a new happy hour or a menu taster session for your most loyal customers, giving them the opportunity to sample new dishes before anyone else? Remember to nurture those valuable relationships!