Running a restaurant is challenging. On top of managing the staff, creating schedule, buying supplies, and running the day-to-day operations restaurant owners need to market their local business and must remain competitive. Restaurant owners often struggle with marketing their business, and here are the tested-and-proven methods & strategies for restaurant marketing in Chicago.
1.) Boost your local presence by 500% via Yext – Yext will significantly improve your online presence & allows you to offer promotions for holidays & special events from a single dashboard that is super easy to manage. Yext also can push your business information to over 60 local sites such as Yelp, FourSquare, Google+, Yellow Pages, among others. Scan your restaurant and see where it stands & how people see it online.
2.) GrubHub.com, DoorDash.com, Reserve.com, OpenTable.com. Technology is changing uber fast. Technology is also changing the way people eat. Partner with restaurant websites such as GrubHub.com, DoorDash.com, Reserve.com, and OpenTable.com to feature your food/ drink menu, and these sites will allow customers to pick-up or let you deliver their food. Reserve.com and OpenTable.com will allow super fast reservations at your restaurant. All of these websites exist as mobile app, and be sure to use their widget and embed the RESERVE feature on your website. (See the example at Sumi Robata Bar, by chef Gene Kato.)
3.) Run a Groupon special – You will not make much profit but you will get increased brand exposure. Pros: You will get new customers. Cons: Most of those new customers are there to take advantage of the special offer. You will not see them again. (Alert: cheapos!)
4.) Send monthly & holiday e-mail offers. If you do not have subscribers start building the list immediately. Build your community and the easiest way to build is to have “email sign-up form” on your webpage. Make the sign-up form stand out: put it on the top fold of your website. If you are out of ideas and not sure what to send here are some restaurant email tips: include upcoming event info, soon to expire coupon codes, “exclusive only on social media offers” (encourage readers to follow your Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.), featured local events in the area. Sending one or two email per month is ideal (as opposed to sending weekly – and people will get annoyed & unsibscribe).
5.) Run a 11″ x 47″ print banner ad campaign in Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains. The preferable ones are Blue, Brown, and Red Line trains. Most restaurant owners think that banner campaigns cost a lot, but in reality it does not actually cost arms and legs. Running a four-week-long campaign will cost you around $6K (200-250 pieces of copy) and focus your marketing message on restaurant brand awareness. Or simply attack your audience with delicious and mouth watering dish images. The fewer the text the better your ad will look.
6.) Run a print ad on Red Eye Chicago newspaper – If you are not aware of what Red Eye Chicago is – it is a free daily publication for Chicagoans and it can reach approximately 5 million people weekly. Also, the second page of Red Eye Chicago features local restaurants and your restaurant would be a good fit for that. Similar Chicago publications are: Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Magazine, Modern Luxury CS, and here is a list of other Chicago’s 50 favorite magazines.
7.) Put a big and clear sign – Invest in your outer appearance. People now a days have extremely short attention span. If your sign became old and worn out – change your sign, now. Make it big, clear, easy to see from distance. If you need to re-brand your restaurant and give it a facelift don’t delay it, act now.
8.) Yelp will make you (or break you) – Whether you love or hate Yelp, it is a necessary evil you must engage with. According to Yelp, restaurants are among the top three businesses that are ideal for Yelp. Monitor your reviews and respond to all (good or bad) reviews. (See this good example of how Dive bar delivers perfect response to Yelper’s one-star review.)
In addition, offer check-in offers for Yelpers who checks in at your restaurant. Reward them for checking in and publicizing your restaurant. This feature is free. Also, use Yelp’s paid ad feature and test it for a month or two. If successful, run it longer than two months (especially during your slow periods.)
9.) Listen to restaurant & marketing podcasts – Podcasts are on the rise. More Americans are listening to podcasts and the quickest way to learn new marketing tips, tricks, and ideas is through marketing podcasts. Don’t be afraid of using podcast. Simply open your Podcast app on your smart phone and search & subscribe to at least three marketing podcasts that focus on restaurant & marketing. Some of the best podcasts are The Growth Show by Hubspot, The StartUp podcast by Gimlet Media, and Secret Sauce by James Eling.
10.) Find a Mentor – Most successful business owners have a mentor (or two). Finding a mentor will help you get to success more quickly, save time, and help you learn valuable lessons. You can learn from your mentors’ mistakes and find out what worked and what has not worked in the restaurant business. Finding a mentor may seem like a difficult task – but it really is not – search for the person who have built a triumphant restaurant business – and reach out to them. (Hint: Google is a good place to start. Twitter will allow you to communicate with your mentors – directly.) Create a list of ideal mentors and reach out to them. Take action today.
11.) Surround yourself with positive people & delegate tasks – Running a restaurant is not an easy task, and you cannot possibly do all by yourself. Learn to delegate important tasks (such as payroll, operations, advertising, management etc.) and have the right talent in your team. Positive people will make a difference in your business. Assign roles and you must trust your employees. Most leaders will tell you that put your employees #1, then put your customers. Why? Because happy employees will keep your customers happy. As a business owner you ultimate goal should be to work “on your business” not “in your business.”
12.) Run a PR campaign on PrWeb, Vocus, and PrNews. Write a short press release about an upcoming event and make it news worthy so that PR sites and food journalists pick up your article. If you are thinking about offering a happy hour during 4-5 pm announce it in your press release. Don’t delay, take action immediately. The more PR campaigns you run the better it is for you.
13.) Reach restaurant marketing experts – We mentioned that you can hardly ever do all by yourself. Restaurant marketing requires a lot, and it is a good idea to hire the marketing experts for certain tasks such as restaurant menu design, restaurant re-branding, PR campaign, website, outreach campaigns & more. The marketing experts will help you with high quality & professional work – so that it enhances your brand image. Don’t delay, reach out the local marketing experts and stay ahead of the competition.
In summary, we just gave you thirteen marketing tips and ideas. Restaurant marketing is not that hard if you follow our advice and you will see greater ROI. We root for your success.Get Started on Restaurant Marketing