When learning how to market restaurants, it can seem like a hassle to get your name into the limelight. Oftentimes, it appears as though there are too many things to focus on; posters, social media, campaigns, and not to mention competition. You wonder what you could be doing better, as you watch customers flock to neighboring restaurants while your own tables sit empty.

The good news is that for every restaurant menu, there’s a beautiful marketing campaign just waiting to come to fruition. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to market restaurants.

1) The Best Way to Market Restaurants is Knowing Your Target Audience

people drinking and socializing

The truth is this; different types of venues attract different types of people. This is true for any business, whether it be a technology company, a clothing store, or in this case, a restaurant. There’s no way to attract everyone to your store, and it is not a great idea to attempt this. The best way for a start-up company to gain traction is to target a specific brand of people.

Perhaps your restaurant is made for health-conscious people who care about the environment, or maybe it’s more for people who like to party and eat comfort food. Some restaurants, such as Friendly’s, are known for targeting young children and their parents. Other places, such as The Capital Grille, will cater to upper-class adults.

For every restaurant, big or small, you can see the target audience through every poster, social media post, and picture.

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2) Create and Manage Your Yelp Account

Yelp homepage

Setting up a Yelp account is one of the first things you should do when opening a business that services people. Regardless of whether you make an account, customers are naturally going to review your establishment. By managing your own Yelp page, it gives you -the business owner- more control over the narrative.

Make your Yelp page accessible and alluring by adding photos, writing about your business, and most importantly, engaging with customer reviews. It may seem like a small gesture to comment with a “thank you” message under a pleasant review, but it goes a long way in showing customers that you value their time.

In this day and age, people live very busy lives; so the act of taking time out of their day to leave a review shows that your service meant a lot to them.

Do not forget to also comment on negative evaluations. Some may see this as counterproductive; after all, the last thing a business owner wants is to draw negative attention, especially if their restaurant is newly established. But if you don’t respond it reinforces the idea that the unhappy customer is right.

Instead, try replying with a good apology, with a way to remedy the situation. Perhaps you can instruct them to contact you. You can offer a discount, a free meal, or their money back. This method will boost your business’s trustworthiness.

3) Create a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Person with a bowl of well-made food in front of them. They have a phone in their hand.

To add onto the idea of account creation, it’s in your best interest to be active on social media. That means you must provide consistent updates to the big three; Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Popular social media sites are subject to change as the years pass and technology evolves. Though as of 2022, these three websites are some of the best places to drive traction to your restaurant.

When it comes to social media, many establishments make the grave mistake of posting the exact same thing to each of their platforms. While this is more productive than posting sparingly, it is much more effective to use different platforms for different varieties of posts. For example, Twitter is a great place for quick, snappy information, whereas Instagram is the go-to for gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing pictures.  

Whether you post on a platform every day or every week, make sure that your upload schedule is consistent. Even simple, low-effort posts will subconsciously plant your brand inside the mind of a person scrolling through their feed. 

4) Have A Website with a Fabulous Online Menu

A restaurant menu stand that's been placed on a well-decorated table.

No matter how small your business is, it’s never a bad idea to create your own website. This increases online presence, while further establishing your brand.

Furthermore, if you want to market a restaurant and attract customers online, you’ve got to have an appetizing menu. This could mean simply copying the contents of the physical menu to your website, or making something separate that fits well with the website’s aesthetic.

Whatever path you take, the emphasis is always on the presentation. Keep your wording neat and easy to read, choose complementary colors, and of course, no menu is complete without pictures.

5) Always Post Beautiful, Appetizing Photos

A tray filled with restaurant food.

Photos are the main ingredient of restaurant advertising; without pictures of the food you offer, it’s hard for new customers to trust whatever you’re selling. Every restaurant owner wants quality images of their best recipes, and that’s for good reason. Appetizing visuals are what gets the brain to focus on hunger. 

When deciding how to market a restaurant, the ideal situation for any establishment is the ability to hire a professional to take care of pictures. Though for most small businesses, hiring a photographer for every Instagram shot or menu change is unrealistic. In this common scenario, try researching the best ways to take food photos.

  • Lighting is everything; showcasing your dishes in natural lighting will illuminate all the details while being easy on the eyes.
  • Be sure to experiment with your camera angles.
  • Use props such as knives, forks, and sauce containers in order to visualize portion sizes.
  • When photographing sandwiches, burritos, or wraps, go for a downward angle. This way, customers can see the contents inside.
  • Here’s a little-known secret: editing makes a big difference. There is nothing wrong with moderate touch-ups to give your photos an extra appeal.

6) Stay on Top of Restaurant Trends

A person putting cream into a macaroon

Nothing draws in new customers like a change. Changes in menu items, decorations, and overall branding strategy can sometimes become crucial for a restaurant to stay around long-term. Much like fashion, food dishes can go in and out of style depending on population changes, time progression, and even seasonal changes.

In the autumn, for instance, you’ll see that certain restaurants are filled with pumpkin-spice options. Once winter rolls around, some of those options disappear from the menus. Currently, foods that are vegetarian, gluten-free, or keto-friendly, are becoming more prevalent in the restaurant scene.

It’s always a beneficial idea to pay attention to industry reports, as they can help your establishment stay Paying attention to industry reports is always a good idea. They can help your business stay relevant.

Learning how to market restaurants is no easy task, but if you’re already in this business, then you know that it’s one of the most important things to focus on. Marketing is what will determine whether your restaurant succeeds or fails. In all honesty, it can seem like a daunting task. Though once you’ve gotten familiar with social media, and have established your target audience, you’ll find that restaurant marketing can be a breeze.