Restaurant Marketing Strategies

15 ideas and strategies for marketing a restaurant

Take a trip down memory lane with me for a sec.

In ye old days, marketing a restaurant used to be relatively simple. If you got your food and labour costs down, had your staff focus on increasing spend per head and actually delivered a reasonable quality product. People came, they ate and you made some money.

NOW, if that’s ALL you did, you’d hear crickets every night and probably be out of business in under a week.

So, what are the latest must-do’s for Restaurants in 2020 and beyond? READ ON.

1. Respond to restaurant reviews

I have had this discussion with business owners, managers and supervisors alike. Responding to reviews should become part of your weekly tasks. It doesn’t have to be difficult, or time consuming and you don’t even have to be the one to respond. But you should aim to respond to all reviews positive or negative.

If it’s positive – thank them for their time and explain the difference a positive review makes to your business.

Thanks for your review of our restaurant, we appreciate the time taken to give us this feedback and we hope to see your friendly face in our restaurant again soon.

Of course, it goes without saying not to write the same response to every positive review otherwise it looks ingenuine. If you can, try and personalise the review as much as possible.

Thanks for your review, we also think our Bao Buns are to die for, but we might be a little biased. Thanks for the time you’ve taken to give this feedback – we hope others have the same experience and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

And if you want to be a five-star review responder… use it as a chance to build your email marketing list.

We are thrilled to receive feedback like this and we do hope that you come back and visit us again soon. If you’d like to stay informed about when we’re releasing our new menu or speciality nights – join our email list here (link to signup page).

Now, for negative reviews…… the primary objective is to take them offline. I cannot stress this point enough. DO NOT get into the habit of attacking the customer or fighting them on the intricacies of their review, times, who said what etc. Take. It. Offline.

Thank you for the time taken to leave this feedback, our reputation is extremely important to us and we apologise for not rectifying your concerns on the night. Please respond with your contact details or please call 1234 5678 and ask for NAME, we’d appreciate the opportunity to resolve this.

Nine out of ten people will not respond or contact you again, but the odd one will so be prepared to hear them out and genuinely try to resolve the problem. Some of my client’s most loyal customers started from bad reviews. Win them over and they’re loyal for life.

Responding to reviews won’t necessary help you build your local market. Though a small percentage of locals will read them – they are mostly influenced by word-of-mouth. Reviews are primarily for those visiting your locality whether that be from another suburb, interstate or abroad.

2. Diversify your restaurant offering

If you’re not doing takeaway and you could be, then it might be a good idea to start thinking about it, seriously. Every kitchen has the ability to do this, whether it’s during a current service or by adding in an additional one.

I don’t have to tell you that the margin in food isn’t great, so if you decide to use an APP to help market your new delivery arm, then pick one that will deliver the most bang for buck.

These days Deliveroo and UberEats are charging 30% plus start-up costs but they do offer the highest number of engaged users in Australia. Door Dash is doing no commissions for the first month (at the time of writing this blog) but they are still relatively new, SkipApp charge 10% for pickup and Yello offers a driver for a per hour cost – but then you need to provide your own marketing around it. Plus there is a stack more!

3. Develop a voice for your restaurant

Every restaurant should have a voice, if yours doesn’t, start developing one. Develop a language, a tone and a personality. Even the way you describe your menu items needs to be aligned to your brand.

If you don’t align your product and your voice your customers won’t be able to understand what it is you offer, or what it is about your restaurant that’s different from the one around the corner.

4. Be consistent

This one seems like a no-brainer but there are countless businesses out there who are their own worst enemy.

Try to streamline your business hours, if you open for lunch seven days don’t open at 11am one day and 12pm the next – pick one time and stick with it. If you make it easy for the customer to remember, then you’ve got more of an opportunity of them dining with you.

I once worked for a client that had the following open hours…. I could never remember when they were open, how was the customer?

Monday – Wednesday 8am-3pm,
Thursday 8am -5pm
Friday 8am – 11pm
Saturday 5pm – 11pm
Sunday open for functions or large bookings only

5. Utilise your restaurant’s Google listing

Your Google My Business Page is often the first experience your customer has with your business, so keep it current.

Use all the features – include your menu items, update photos, make sure your open times are correct, post about events or offers and list all your available features.

It’s free and it’s the best way to make sure your customers know everything they need to know about your restaurant before they dine.

6. Post on social

Do it and do it well. Generally speaking, a post stays in a feed for four hours so time your post well. If you offer lunch a post around 10am should stay in a feed until 2pm. Same with dinner, post between 4-6pm and it should stay in the feed until 8-10pm.

From Opentable reservation data we know that most people book a table 24 hours before the experience occurs, with fewer people booking further in advance.

Make sure you put in place a social media plan so that you are targeting your most optimal times. Test and retest this to make sure you are in fact getting the most engagement and reach.

7. Story etiquette

Stories on Instagram and Facebook are another great way to reach extra customers, but there are a few simple rules to follow.

Firstly a story stays in a feed for 24 hours, therefore if you say ‘We’ve got one table left tonight, give us a call to book’ you really need to specify the day or service you are talking about eg “We’ve got one table left for dinner on Wednesday, give us a call to book’.

If you want to get extra reach, tag your story with the location of your restaurant and your nametag. By adding your locality/suburb or city you can assist in showing your story in the location stream.

8. Social Media Ads

Advertise your business. It’s the fastest way to get your business in front of new potential customers and it doesn’t have to cost you the earth. Ensure you understand who your market is and try and find more of those people. If your restaurant is Asian cuisine – target those who like Asian food.

Ads can be used to not only get more bums on seats, but you can use it to re-engage with past diners and target other services you offer like function spaces.

If you get more enquiries for Hen’s Days than any other function, then develop a campaign around targeting those women who are recently engaged or friends of these people. That way you are putting your business in the best possible position for targeting those planning an upcoming Hen’s Day.

9. Grow your following

Seems like no brainier but honestly you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t do it, or simply don’t know where to start. I’ll just cover Facebook and Instagram here.

When you post on Facebook if you post is liked by someone who doesn’t like your page already you are prompted to invite them to follow your page. Simple click that button. And continue to do that every time it happens. It’s a slow approach but it’s the most natural way of growing

Easy, find an account in your locality that you know would have followers in your region. Click on any of their posts, click on “Liked by …. and others” and a list of accounts will display. Follow up to 20 account profiles per day, you’ll be amazed how many people follow you back.

10. Run competitions

It’s a great way to give a slow week or month a boost. Make the prize something worthwhile, if the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, you’ll have a low uptake.

Don’t give away something for nothing, if you’re handing over a dinner or birthday package, get an email or mobile number and when selecting the winner make sure they know they’ll have to post about the experience on socials – so you get the added bonus of user generated content from the prize-winner.

11. Enable Social Call-To-Action’s

Within Facebook and Instagram profiles you have the ability to enable Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons. You should absolutely have these turned on and lead customers to your primary offering. If it’s to order food online – set up that functionality. If it’s to call you to book a table then set that up etc


Select your button

The button at the top of your Page helps people take an action. People see it on your Page and in search results when your Page appears. You can edit it any time. You have the ability to select the following buttons

  • Book with you
  • Contact you
  • Learn more about your business
  • Shop with you or
  • Download your app or play your game

Once you have selected your button move through the steps for setting it up, test it and make sure it’s working properly.


Within your business profile you have the ability to list a range of extra CTA buttons as well as listing your Website + Contact.

For additional CTA buttons to appear like Order Food or Gift Cards, you need to click on Action Buttons in your profile settings. (Click edit profile and it should be the last button at the bottom of your screen)

If you have set up integrations with Instagram’s partners below, you can add additional links to your profile.

Gift Card

  • Gift Up!
  • Neto
  • Square
  • TheFork

For Ordering Food

  • Deliveroo
  • DoorDash
  • HungryHungry
  • Menulog
  • Ritual
  • UberEats

Simply select the partner integration you have and then insert the link in the next step and press done.

Added bonus: You can also add the Order Food or Gift Card button to your Insta Story. Do this by clicking on the sticker at the top and scrolling down to the respective items. You’ll then be prompted for the URL to link.

12. Photography

Once upon a time I would have suggested that a professional photographer was the only way to go. Whilst I still recommend this approach as it does yield the best result, it can be a costly exercise.

These days any modern phone has the ability to take a great photo. Portrait mode on iPhone’s is a godsend when it comes to food photography. Try it out and if you’re not handy with a camera – find one of your staff members who is. You’ll be surprised by the result.

13. Use email marketing

If you use reservation software chances are you can utilise the logins customers use to book, for your own marketing purposes. If not, ask for an opt in tick box on the booking form.

If you have the ability to use customer emails you can import these into your email software systems like Mailchimp and send out blasts. Use email marketing to update your customers on what’s going on in your business – what your offer is, what’s new etc.

It’s a ready-made market of people who already have experience with your brand so your aim should be to give them one reason to come back.

14. Text messaging

In some cases, reservation software also collects mobile numbers. Be very careful with the use of this. In my experience one text message a month or one bi-monthly has the least amount of opt outs, the more regular the text message the higher the number of unsubscribes.

Effective text messages are the ones that get the user to take action, therefore discounts or offers work really well.

An example of one I received the other day is below, this would integrate with reservation software as they had my birthday details.

We hear it’s your birthday soon Marie, show this message for 10% off your total bill. We can’t wait to celebrate with you.

Well played!

15. Speciality nights

A great way to get a little extra attention and potentially target a new market. If you have one menu day in day out, try changing things up. Take one service out of the week or month and do something different.

A client of mine Wah Bah is a Bao Bun bar. They offer Wah Bah Wednesday where you can mix and match their Bao Buns for $3 a piece. Ingenious!

That’s it from me, this list is by no means exhausted, there are many more marketing initiatives you could be doing as a restaurant owner to market your offering, but it should provide a solid start.

If you need more ideas, give us a call we love a chat!