On its surface, a restaurant marketing plan seems simple: it’s a document that highlights restaurant goals, budgets, and the path you intend to take to get there. But behind that fairly simplistic definition lies a world of nuance. Restaurant marketing plans are as varied as the restaurants that use them, which means your objectives and strategies—and even the complexity and length of the document—depend on your culture and what exactly you hope to get done in the next year.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than charts and PowerPoint presentations. Innovative restaurant marketers are getting out their thinking caps and creating groundbreaking strategies that make use of the latest social media trends and restaurant technology. Here are our tips for a thoughtful and original plan that’s sure to fill up those seats!

 

Go Big or Go Home

Fortune favors the bold — both in war and in marketing. The restaurant business is all about image, and you certainly don’t want yours to be just the next pizza place/casual dining chain/New American tavern. So it pays to be gutsy with your goals.

Give yourself lofty objectives that will inspire your team to greatness, such as the number of media mentions you hope to get in the next 12 months, the number of customers you want to enroll in your loyalty program, or the average number of online orders you plan to handle on a typical weekday lunch rush. Your mission should reflect both your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and the kind of establishment you’re hoping to build. Why not make fearlessness your business’s unique marker?

 

Get Real About Your Budget

Creating a realistic marketing budget is tricky. Most of your figures are going to be ballpark estimates based on what you think things will cost and how much revenue your efforts will generate. However, whatever your final totals may be, you probably don’t want to spend over 10% of sales on marketing (most small businesses top out at around 4%).

Depending on your annual sales, that could make for a pretty lean marketing budget. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to spend the big bucks to see a return on your marketing efforts. Hosting a giveaway or having your chef lead an expert demo cost almost nothing and will generate plenty of buzz. The same is true for posting to Instagram, publishing online content, or pitching a press release to a local news outlet. An inflated budget isn’t necessary to get the results you want.

 

Let The Creative Juices Flow

Once you have your budget settled, you can get down to the exciting part: designing the campaigns and promotions that will play a major part in your marketing plan. Each campaign should be laid out in detail, with its own purpose, budget, steps — and a way to measure whether it was successful or not. For example, an email mailer offering recipients a discount if they request delivery with your new online ordering tool should have its own benchmarks for success — say, 60 new online orders.

However, beyond the tried-and-true techniques like social media advertising, direct mail, and email, we recommend you get a little inventive with your promotions. Take Hell’s Pizza in New Zealand, which created a challenge called the “Pizza Roulette.” Participants received a pizza with extremely spicy hot sauce hidden on just one slice — meaning participants had no idea who was getting the fiery piece. That promotion cost virtually nothing and generated over $2.3 million in extra sales! Not bad for a bottle of hot sauce.

Other examples include a Grand Rapids pizza joint that offers freebies to customers that bring in their parking tickets, and McDonald’s, which issued a challenge to its patrons to design a custom burger for their next special. That promotion netted McDonald’s seven million page impressions—pretty promising results!

The bottom line is that restaurant marketing plans don’t have to be boring. They just have to capture the unique flavor of your establishment to help get it out there for everyone to see. After all, nothing’s more popular than a true original!