We all know about loyalty programs, direct advertising and discounts, but what are some less conventional ways to build your restaurant’s customer base?
Here are five less-known ways to tap into new markets…
Your recipes are the pride of your business. Brand them outside of your restaurant to reach a new market.
A recent experience got me thinking about this. I’m signed up for a produce delivery service run by a group of local farmers. Each week they send a surprise selection of whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. They just recently started sending recipes with the delivery, custom-made to fit the ingredients in the box. This would be a fantastic opportunity for a local restaurant. Instead of having the farmers design the recipes themselves, they could ask a local chef to contribute custom ideas. The restaurant’s name would be included in the recipe title. Its unique cases like this that restaurants should look out for.
You can also brand your recipes by contributing to a local cookbook or blog, or starting your own blog with a special ‘recipe release’ each month. You could even make signature meals and sell them readymade at the local grocery or gourmet store.
A great success story in recipe branding is Vikram Vij. He started out as the owner of a small restaurant in Vancouver, and has expanded by branding his recipes with a line called Vij’s at Home. He’s also published a couple of cookbooks. It’s all adding to the buzz around his restaurant locations in Vancouver and Seattle.
E-gift coupons aren’t just for big chain restaurants. (tweet this) As an independently owned restaurant, you can tap into an entirely new market with e-gifts.
Offer the option to buy restaurant ‘credit’ on your website. Try a service like Giftango to send the recipient a special code to redeem at your location. You can offer flat amounts like $20, $50, or $100.
The great thing about this is that you’re reaching out to a market beyond your local area. You’re giving the option for someone in another city to buy a dinner for their parents back home, or send a free lunch to a client as a thank-you gesture.
Not many independent restaurants are doing this. Get in as an early adopter to connect with your more internet-savvy customers.
Location-based apps are one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get your restaurant’s name in front of a local audience. They connect people to nearby businesses, and offer a chance to interact with your restaurant.
My favorite check-in app for restaurants is Yelp. The app is designed specifically to help restaurants off special discounts and rewards. Offer a small reward to customers who repeatedly check-in. This gives new customers a great incentive to keep coming back.
Check out an in-depth guide to Yelp for restaurants here.
I get an email from Starbucks every year on my birthday. They remind me to come in and order any drink on the house. It’s a nice way to start the morning!
It’s surprising that more restaurants don’t do this. Sure, they may offer free birthday stuff, but it’s the reminder that really gets people in the door. If anything, at least you’re connecting with customers on a personal level.
Birthday customers are great because they usually travel in groups. If you offer a free drink or dessert, you’ll be getting the extra business of friends and family who are along for the celebration
The more locally-oriented and personal your restaurant, the better a birthday email strategy works. (tweet this)
Ok, so this one may not be totally unknown, but it’s often overlooked.
Tap into a new market by collaborating with another business in your area. It could be anything from clothing stores, to a local art gallery, to a spa or sports arena.
A great example of restaurant co-marketing is Applebees’ Weight-Watchers menu. They’ve reached out to more health-conscious diners using the trusted Weight Watchers’ brand.
Another good example is The Grid magazine’s $5 burger week in Toronto. A bunch of restaurants get together and offer gourmet burgers for $5, using a local newspaper to advertise as a local event. It’s been a huge success for the independent restaurants that participate.
Whether it’s a two-way partnership or a collective effort, working with other businesses really helps.
Some other co-marketing ideas:
Think beyond mainstream marketing to expand your customer base!
The first step to attracting more customers to your restaurant is to have a great restaurant website. Restaurant Engine provides a great website for your restaurant and it’s easy for you to use and update. Take the Restaurant Engine Tour today.