Let’s face it: the restaurant business is a tough racket sometimes. Even truly gifted restaurateurs are up against shifting dining trends and tight real estate markets — and an ever-growing selection of competition for diners to choose from.

Doom and gloom aside, inspiring proprietors have been able to pull off enviable marketing tactics, the kind of innovative strategies that have inspired leagues of marketing managers. These days, restaurant marketing goes way beyond coupons. They’re fully formed programs and events designed to sidestep more conventional approaches for a truly authentic connection with diners and nearby businesses.

Join us today as we marinate in the most creative restaurant ideas on the block. These techniques are so inspired, they may just reaffirm your faith in the restaurant business.

 

Loyalty Programs

A loyalty program isn’t exactly a bolt out of the blue. However, there’s a good reason you should think about incorporating one if you haven’t already. Millennials, the world’s premier restaurant generation, are in love with them. Millennials are much more brand-loyal than you’d think; they’re particularly likely to join programs that offer savings and discounts as a reward for frequent visits.

And loyalty programs can be much more than a glorified punch card — Sony’s, for instance, gives customers access to movie premieres and exclusive swag. In fact, programs fare better when they have that air of exclusivity. Members-only access to exclusive products — such as an elaborate tasting menu, complete with wine — is likely to fuel that feeling of belonging. And coupled with competitive, easy-to-use restaurant technologies like a truly unique app, that sense of exclusivity can be the icing on the cake for a competitive marketing strategy.

 

Make a New Menu a Reason to Celebrate

Your team puts a lot of time into dreaming up new menu entries, so why not make launch day a full-scale event? A playful, creative launch can drum up new business — and even better, it can be enough to generate social media buzz.

The idea is to get your customers involved. Use restaurant technology to crowdsource ingredients for your next dish, for instance, and post pictures of the menu creation on social media to keep customers captivated. Or turn the whole thing into a party: mix up cocktail-sized portions of each new item and host a tasting party complete with music, drinks and of course, lots of people and their phones! Prompt guests to post pictures using your desired hashtag of your food on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Anything to get the word out!

 

Book a Celeb Charity Function

A celebrity guest is a big deal for any restaurant, but it can be difficult for fledgling restaurants to draw a big name. One way restaurateurs have successfully approached this is by asking celebrities to add their name to a charity event. One popular idea is to host a celebrity cook-off, or to “hire” a celebrity to bartend at a charity dinner. It’s also a great chance to network with nearby businesses, by asking them to partner with you for the event. And who knows where that could lead (Can you say “catered lunch function”?). Hey, there’s strength in numbers — and power in celebrity names.

 

Capitalize on Nearby Events

Every restaurant owner loves a big event. A nearby game or concert can draw a huge dinner service or late-night crowd — and soaring revenues along with them! But you can do more than just wait for diners to show up. Pitch directly to event-goers by offering a “game day” special: a free appetizer with their ticket, for instance, or a percentage off their meal if the home team wins. Take advantage of available restaurant technology to pull it all off: use social media to leverage a wider audience and tag the venue in your posts. That way, it’ll be your restaurant that hungry attendees come to and not the one down the street.

 

Pitch Some Expert Content

If you’re as good with a pen and paper as you are with front of house (FOH), you might want to put those skills to use pitching your restaurant. Writing food-based content for well-known publications and sites is a gangbusters way to gain notoriety and sell your expertise at the same time. Publishers are always strapped for articles and love to solicit input from experts like yourself. In return, you’ll get a built-in readership and a channel to promote your unique spin on food, all while providing a freebie in the form of useful information for your audience. Ideas for topics that get reads?

Offer a house recipe, report on foodie trends, or give readers chef-level cooking advice from the pros. Get your staff involved and host a pitch session to come up with ideas. Ask them to dream up some new recipes. Sous chefs are always eager for a chance to put their own spin on a dish, and the whole experience can turn into a unique way to re-evaluate your menu and offerings. And if that doesn’t get your juices flowing, we’re not sure what will!