12 business strategies to drive more customers to your restaurant

As a new or existing restaurant owner, you may well have spent many hours researching on how to attract new customers to your business.

Now, with COVID-19 social distancing regulations, that task has become even more challenging.

In your search, you may have come across some of the generic ways people advertise their restaurants to potential customers. But the problem with generic strategies is that they target a very broad audience. So even though people might know about your business, it won’t necessarily drive foot traffic.

Despite the new COVID-19 regulations, the restaurant industry is still expected to grow and be worth about $15 billion by the end of this year.

So if you’re a restaurant management company who was initially planning to spend money to attract more customers, you can still hold on to that vision.

12 business strategies to drive more customers to your restaurant

But how can you do that practically speaking? To help you, here are 12 affordable business strategies that will drive more customers to your restaurant. (Scroll down for a handy visual summary of the 12 strategies by Displaysense.)

1) Make your business a free Wi-Fi zone

The internet is a powerful resource… you are reading this article because of it! And just as you are using the internet to get more information and grow your restaurant business, you should also offer it to your customers.

Free Wi-Fi zones can help to attract customers into your restaurant and turn them into loyal, returning fans. If you are operating in big cities, many customers expect to access the internet inside your restaurant. And parents will often rely on a good WiFi connection to keep their children occupied and entertained.

While waiting on their orders, customers can use your free WiFi to catch up on their social media or respond to emails. In more rural areas, offering free Wi-Fi could help you become a more popular choice for customers – especially if the 4g connection isn’t great.  

Ensure that you adopt measures so that you and your business are not taken advantage of. Offer free Wi-Fi to only customers who buy food or beverages, and make sure that you change your password regularly to avoid freeloaders using uo your bandwidth! 

2) Create and maintain social media pages

Social media is a powerful tool for all kinds of businesses, including your restaurant, and when used correctly and strategically, it can attract many customers.

Ideally, it’s best to start with one social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, so it is easier to manage and remain active on it. When it comes to social media success, consistency is key. So work out what you want to say, to who and create and maintain a regular posting schedule.

Your core messaging needs to be consistent, but your story should be interesting and varied, with plenty of interesting media, such as gifs, videos and images, etc. (You can always get tips from people like Adam Guild if you need help with marketing.)

Engagement is also vital – you don’t want to shout into a vacuum. So make sure you share content that is interesting and useful to your followers (and potential customers). You also need to interact with others by commenting on, sharing and liking their posts.

Yo also want to tempt people with stunning pictures of your dishes and decor, announce any promotions or contests, and give your followers a behind-the-scenes tour of your business. The possibilities are endless as long as you understand your target audience and what makes them tick. 

3) Create or upgrade your business’ website

Your restaurant needs a website. Not only will it help you to get found in Google searches by people looking for somewhere to eat near you, but it’s a communication hub in which people can learn more about you website, check ou details lie your location, opening hours and menu, and you can share offers.

Put it this way: if you don’t have a restaurant then you’ll be at a significant disadvantage over your competitors who do.

Your website doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive (your social media does most of the work that the site may have done originally). In fact your website could be a single-page site with pictures of your food and relevant information on updated menus, making reservations, and other useful details. 

4) Make your business easy to find online

A website will make it easier for people to find you online. Some might be looking specifically for your business, whereas others might be searching for somewhere to eat near you, or your type of restaurant.

Once you’ve got a website there are two more things you need to do: ensure you have good SEO and register your restaurant on Google My Business.

The right SEO will ensure that you appear high up in the right search results. And a Google My Business listing with all essential details completed will ensure that you’re visible to people looking for a restaurant like yours. So when they’re searching for random restaurants in your radius or zone, there’s a high chance they will stumble upon yours.

5) Use email marketing to boost your business

Just because your business operates at a physical location does not mean you can only interact with customers in person. Email marketing can also help to boost your business and bring in more customers.

But first you’ll need to gather customers’ data dn get their consent to stay in touch. To do this, you can leave sign-up sheets for your customers to fill if they want to hear about offers, run a competition or create links on your website or social media to sign up to your newsletters.

With email marketing, you will be sending your subscribers newsletters and discounts and exclusive offers. One of the best ways to get people to subscribe to your email marketing services is to offer them a higher incentive when they first sign up, such as a free drink or appetizer, or run a competition.

Once they’re on your list, you can encourage repeat visits (or more business on quiet days) with more modest discounts.

6) Make use of your busiest hours

As a restaurant owner, ensure that you track the days and hours when you make the most sales. Is it Friday nights or on big sporting event days? Whatever the day or season, you need to identify these customer patterns and trends to make more profit. 

However, you should not just keep track of the busy days; you should also identify slower business days and take advantage of it.

For some restaurants, those days are usually Mondays and Tuesdays. On those days for instance, you can offer some promotions such as extended happy hour periods or half-price discounts on appetizers to try to encourage customers in. 

7) List yourself on an online food delivery app

Developing an online app may be relatively expensive, but it might benefit you in the long run. However, if that is still too expensive for you, you can get your website listed on numerous food delivery apps to help you reach customers who want to eat your food but cannot physically come to your restaurant.

There are many of these kind of apps available, but you will need to be strategic about where you want to list your restaurant. Yelp, for example, allows listers to upload their menus so that customers can order straight away. Being listed on a food delivery app has become more important than ever since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

8) Get Google+ reviews

Google is a trusted source for information, so it’s pretty much essential that you have a Google local listing, AND complementary reviews. This way you’ll appear in search engine listings when someone is searching for restaurants in your local area. Or when people are looking specially for you.

As a rule, people rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions – about 68% of consumers trust businesses with positive feedback. So the more reviews you have, the more confident people will feel when deciding to dine at your restaurant. 

9) Reward loyal customers

The best kind of customer is the one who keeps coming back. That means that they are impressed with your service, love your decor and food, and want more of what you are offering.

But it is vital to give back to your loyal customers as well. Not only will it encourage them to keep returning, but they will also be more likely to spread the word to others.

You can do this by creating loyalty schemes (for example giving a free coffee or slice of cake for every 10 they pay for) or offering them birthday items like complimentary desserts or meals.

You will get bonus points if you reach out to them first on or before their birthdays, especially if you have a customer database to refer to. That shows that you care about them and are grateful for their support. 

10) Build your visual branding

Branding is vital in the foodservice industry, and having a strong brand presence can attract new customers while maintaining your existing ones.

There are many ways to build your restaurant’s brand. You can do it through the service you provide, the quality (or uniqueness) of your food and drink, the look and feel of your restaurant, and also through your merchandising. Another way to build your brand would be by utilizing the knowledge and expertise of one of the restaurant consulting firms in your area. 

Visual branding includes your logos, menu, website, and decor. It will also help if you stand out from your competitors. For example, let’s say you operate your restaurant on a well-known street with other restaurants. To stand out you can place branded market umbrellas for outdoor diners. This will have a big impact if your competitors use generic umbrellas or none at all.

Ensure that your restaurant is consistent with its branding, too. There’s no point investing in a beautiful logo and expensive decor if your food is cheap and poor quality. Likewise, if you’ve spent great care and attention on your food, but your decor and logo are shabby, you’ll struggle to attract the kind of diners who’ll pay for a beautiful dining experience.

It’s worth investing in a professional designer to create your branding, and have branding guidelines or documents to refer to whenever you need. 

11) Host events

Another way to drive more people to your restaurant is by hosting special events. This strategy will ensure that people associate your businsss with good times.

So organise and promote your availability for events that will help people create wonderful memories. For example, promoting your venue for private events like birthdays, anniversary parties, and wedding and christening receptions.

You can also organise your own events, such as trivia nights, or even sporting night events if your space is big enough for televisions, and your clientele would enjoy them.

For big holidays like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, you can offer special menus and even encourage customers to reserve seats.

Don’t assume that you’ll automatically be on someone’s list for an event – even if they’re a regular. You need to ensure that you’re known as the go-to venue for parties and celebrations by promoting your availability and planning enticing menus and offers.

12) Contact media outlets

You want everybody to know about your business, especially when you have something unique and special to offer.

Maybe you have invented a new pastry? Have won an award? Or your restaurant has hot a big milestone, like your 25th birthday? Whatever your story is, you want it out there for people to heart. So contact your local media stations or newspapers to see if you can be featured.

When you’re pitching your story, try to find the local interest angle. Why should anyone care about it? What benefit is there in the newspaper running a story, or someone reading it?

If you can piggyback your story off an existing local story, all the better. For example, if the news lately has been full of depressing stories about businesses closing, you can add some positivity by sharing your business birthday news.

Or if you’ve invented a new pastry, make sure you describe it in such delicious terms, and write an interesting story about how you invented it, sp people will be curious to try it.

How can you drive more customers to YOUR restaurant?

We hope you’ve found these ideas useful – and they will help to drive more customers to your restaurant. However, they will only work IF you actually use them! So please use this is genuine inspiration, and start planning new ways to encourage paying customers through your doors.

Infographic by Displaysense