5 Little-Known Ways to Set Your Restaurant Business Apart

Restaurant Trends

Stay on top of restaurant trends to impress customers.

If more restaurants like yours are opening nearby, you’re probably doing something right! But how do you set your business apart from new competitors?

These five ideas may help…. 

1. Be the neighborhood geek

Don’t just stay on top of tech-trends, get ahead of them. Become the pioneer that paves the way for other businesses in your area. Know what’s happening in the global industry and adopt the best ideas.

Don’t be a follower in the restaurant industry. Get ahead of industry trends. (tweet this)

You might be the first in your town to start using online booking or e-gift coupons. For more adventurous restaurants, digital wallet payments could be the next big step.

Research each new technology thoroughly, and see how it’s fared in other markets. Then turn some heads by applying the best ones to your restaurant.

Make your restaurant website the best in town by learning about responsive web design.

Everyone remembers a trendsetter!

2. Behind-the-scenes marketing

There’s often so much left to the restaurant customer’s imagination. Those kitchen doors are shrouded in mystery.

Build your restaurant ‘s image past the generic view that most customers have. Show them all the hard work that goes into making your food special.

Your website and social media are perfect for this. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow for candid behind-the-scenes shots (for more on Facebook see How Your Restaurant’s Facebook Page and Website Can Be Friends). Try featuring the first version of a new recipe, or a special tasting event for your newest ingredients. Use your website and blog to build a brand personality and share your first-hand experiences in the industry.

People are important! Tell a story about the people behind your food. Who was your founder, and what inspired them? Honor your most dedicated servers with quick online features. Show off notes and photos from your most loyal customers.

Other restaurants may copy your layout, marketing strategy, and even your menu. Noone can copy the real-life personality that makes your business unique.

3. Give back to the community (without promoting it)

Wow Factor

Give your customers the “Wow Factor” to get them talking.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) continues to become more important in consumer decisions. Maybe the Internet has made us more aware of our impact, or maybe the recent recession has shown us the value of sticking together. Either way, this is a great opportunity for restaurants to gain some positive exposure while making a real difference.

Stand out in your community by helping those in need. It can be anything from catering a charity event, to donating unused ingredients to a nearby shelter. It could also be environment-focused, like dedicating your menu to local, organic ingredients.

Involve your customers too! The suspended coffee movement is one of my favorite recent discoveries.

Sometimes giving back will cost you nothing. Most often the hidden benefits will save you money in the long-term.

Charity is actually a pretty standard promotion strategy. The little-known part is to keep it on the down-low. Let others do the talking. No act of kindness goes unnoticed. The humble approach shows you care about making an actual difference, rather than being just another promotional tactic.

4. Value-added features

This is a really useful marketing concept that’s often overlooked by restaurants. Value-added means extra features that the customer don’t expect, but with little to no extra cost.

Giving restaurant customers a surprise “Wow Factor” makes them talk about you. (tweet this)

The type of feature you choose depends on your restaurant’s theme and marketing strategy. For a down-to-earth indie cafe, a bookshelf full of used novels and games is a great way to add value without paying a dime. For a classy Caribbean venue, hiring an authentic steelpan player could be your ticket to a packed dining area.

The more innovative you get with value-added feature, the more you’ll distinguish your restaurant from competitors.

5. One-of-a-kind specials

Get creative with your promotions. Make them fun, unique, and memorable. Go beyond the standard “20% off” or “Happy hour” strategy.

Involve your customers in new promotions. Offer your newest menu item to those who helped you decide on the recipe. Create an online poll with an e-coupon reward.

Hold a competition through social media. Have your Facebook fans comment with a description of their best memory at your restaurant. Post the best response from your official page, and award the winning entry with a free meal.

You can also get original by supporting other local businesses. Did a local ice-cream parlor just open next door? Team up to offer your customers a free frozen dessert during their first week of business.

Inspiration for unique promotion ideas is just one more reason to connect with your local area.

For more restaurant marketing ideas, see my previous post on expanding your customer base.

Want to set your restaurant business apart with a great website? Try Restaurant Engine free for 14-days.

Photos by Centives and Wine Terriors

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