10 Ideas to Drive Customers to Your Restaurant

Our previous post talked about ways to bring in more customers, mostly using online marketing tools. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram figure prominently in contemporary marketing. So does Google and Apple Maps. We live in a digital world so it makes sense digital tools are part of your marketing strategy. Even if you aren’t normally online very much yourself, you will want an online presence, especially in an age when everyone uses a smart phone for guidance from one place to the next. However, there are plenty of other ways—digital and not—to bring in more business that weren’t discussed last time.

Here are 10 more ideas to drive more customers to your restaurant. 

1. Good Customer Experience

Whenever someone has an extraordinary experience in your restaurant, a happy customer—and great word-of-mouth—is born! A dining experience includes service, taste, price, atmosphere, etc. Even the way your staff dresses will make an impression: team jerseys for a fun atmosphere, or dark slacks and white shirt for more elegant atmosphere, for example. Think about how you can provide a positive, unique experience. 

2. Personal Visits

If you are surrounded by other businesses, you potential breakfast, lunch, or even dinner customers. There are many ways to generate awareness—flyers, business cards—but the most effective way is to visit these businesses personally. This shows how much you want their business, and changes their perception of your restaurant. Instead of just the café on the corner, it’s now the café owned by that nice person you just met. 

3.  Percentage Off

Your personal visits could be even more effective if you offered those you met a certain percentage off their meal (or even select items). It’s very personal but also gives potential customers a reason to act, especially if you make the offer good for a limited time. Percentages off, as long as they don’t eat into profits, are basically no cost because they require you to spend no money. Twenty percent would be enough of a discount to attract a targeted group but still make a profit. Especially with local businesses, you might also try 10% off delivery good for one month. 

4. Customer Database

When you have regulars, you might notice the smile they give when you remember their name or their favorite menu item.  Take this several steps further by keeping a database of customers: their birthdays, favorites, etc. Even if you just have a name and email address (which most are willing to give in exchange for online coupons and other goodies), you can send offers every week telling about specials or new promotions. Although you could spend money on sophisticated software for this, a spreadsheet program (Excel, Open Office, etc.), an email account, and time are all you really need.  We also recommend using Mailchimp that offers a 'free forever plan' for up to 2000 subscribers.

5. Sporting Events Promotions

Regardless of the kind of restaurant, promotions based around sporting events can be a goldmine! A pizza parlor might offer 20% and free delivery during the Super Bowl, for instance. If you have a bar and big screen, you might have two-for-one wings during a big game. A coffee shop might get into the act by offering a discount on coffee the day after the local team wins.

6. Attend Foodie Events

Most city neighborhoods and many other places host events for “foodies.” Showing up at these events not only gets the attention of prospective customers; local press usually attends such events and your restaurant might end up as the subject of the next feature or review.

7. Free Food Tasting

Highlight the quality of your food by giving free samples. You can set up a booth at local events such as street fairs, carnivals, or any place else that will bring in a crowd. If you are located in a high-traffic area, you can also give out samples in front of your place. You can even offer samples to customers in your dining room to upsell—sampling a dessert special to the dinner crowd, for example. 

8. Reward Loyalty

There is a lot of competition for your customers, and a loyal customer is more valuable than several new customers. Hold onto these loyal customers with incentives. Use the database discussed in #4 to keep in contact. Offer discounts known only to regular customers signed up for your emailing list. With the DIY data base, it only takes a few minutes to add details for repeat customers and reward them after a certain amount of visits. 

9. Make It Fun

You might have noticed national and international chains using games in their promotions (including a certain fast food company incorporating a certain board game involving buying and selling property). That is because using games in promotions is more fun for the customer and raises effectiveness of the promotion significantly. You don’t need to spend money on scratch-offs. You could have a trivia contest with questions at the hostess stand certain days, or a contest to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar. The more fun you make it, the more engaging it is, the more successful it will be. 

10. Cross-Promote

Find local like-minded businesses to partner with and cross-promote. If you are near a comic book store, for instance, you might offer discounts on items at the store while they promote discounts at your restaurant. If your restaurant follows a theme, you might partner with a business following that theme. A Hollywood-themed restaurant and local cinema, for instance, would go together perfectly.