“If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying.” This adage applies to most retail industries, and foodservice is no exception. As a restaurant operator, it’s your job to consistently seek out new business, cement the loyalty of regular guests, and boost profit margins on daily sales. Use these tips to build a marketing strategy that will grow along with your business, all while keeping your guests engaged. 

 

Traffic Jam

Whether you’re seeking out new guests or reconnecting with loyal fans, driving traffic is equally important. In this era of social media, this means more than bringing guests into your brick-and-mortar restaurant. Keep in touch with your guests on social media, review sites, and your own website. As online ordering grows more popular, restaurants can capitalize on the trend by connecting with guests online. That way, they’re only one click away from making a purchase. Meet your guests where they are: on the internet.

Interacting online is vital to keeping your guests engaged, but there’s still gold to be mined in face-to-face interactions. Depending on your restaurant’s aesthetic, it may be appropriate to put a chalkboard on the sidewalk nearby advertising your specials. If that’s too casual, you might connect with local offices to talk about catering events. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Is your patio perfect for hosting wedding receptions? Does your barista know several local musicians? Is your bartender also a prolific painter? Cross-marketing with artists or nearby businesses can draw in foot traffic and help guests create positive associations with your cuisine.

 

The Loyal Treatment

Once you meet them, how do you keep guests engaged? There are countless ways to reward customers for coming in or ordering regularly. You might offer discounts for any number of things: for example, a punch card giving them a free coffee after 10 purchases, or a 10% break for online orders over $50. Over time, these little perks will pay for themselves. Guest satisfaction is worth more than any one-time discount.

Many restaurants are also making use of applications that are integrated into their POS systems. Encouraging guests to connect through this kind of application makes it easy to track their spending habits, so you can improve your menu over time. It also allows you to personalize their dining or ordering experience, which can boost brand loyalty.

 

Check It Out

In the short term, increasing check sizes will do wonders for your bottom line. In the long term, this same practice will improve employee loyalty (especially if your employees work for tips). It can even cut down on the hours you must stay open to meet overhead costs – meaning that any additional hours you keep go straight into your profit margin.

Teaching servers how to upsell is an essential first step, but bear in mind that this is a delicate art. You don’t want guests to feel pushed or cajoled into spending more than they want to. Successful upselling means offering them additions they already had in mind. Saving personalized guest data in your POS system makes this process more accessible than ever.

Once you understand your customers’ spending habits, you can also create an atmosphere that encourages them to sit and stay a while. An inviting atmosphere is especially effective at bars, where longer stays translate into larger tabs. It can also work at restaurants that serve a variety of appetizers, such as late-night diners and dim sum or tapas restaurants.

As you try out these strategies, make sure your marketing plan remains dynamic. What happens if you offer a punch card for early-morning coffee drinkers, and then the nearby commuter train station is closed? Pay attention to your guests changing needs so you can keep them engaged, rain or shine.