According to a recent study, seventy percent of restaurant customers will only order menu items they’ve eaten before. This same study suggests that dining customers are creatures of habit, and they tend to only try new menu items listed in the same food categories as their familiar, trusty favorites.
So, how do you motivate first-time and repeat menu item orders? In this post, you’ll find suggestions to help you create demand and get your customers to try, and love, your new menu items.
Giving your product away for free may seem counter intuitive. Yet, the old saying, “You have to spend money, to make money,” applies here. Food sampling of your new menu items allows your customers the opportunity to try something new, risk-free.
Offering free samples is a valuable tool that establishes goodwill and provides you an opportunity for customer feedback. Consider this your market research at a relatively low cost. Offer food samples to customers who are waiting for a table or sitting in the bar area. Have designated wait staff deliver new menu item samples to your customers’ tables.
Consider an out-of-the-box idea – the Business Blitz. Take bite-size samples of your new menu item around to local businesses. Grab the attention of hungry office workers with your samples and encourage them to visit your restaurant for more. Food sampling is never a full portion so it can be a cost-effective sidekick to the big budget demands of coupons.
Bring customers back by providing an offer or incentive when they order full-size versions of your mini samples at a future visit. (tweet this)
Whether offering samples inside or outside your restaurant, create a review card for your customers so they can leave a comment about your new menu offering. This engages the customer and lets them know you value their opinion, while helping you decide if you should leave the new item on your menu. Use these reviews to market your new items on your restaurant’s menu, website, email newsletter or social media marketing.
It is easier to encourage customers to try something new when they can easily find it and see it on your website. Place links to the new menu introductions throughout your website, not just on your home page. Many visitors arrive at your website through search engines and specific landing pages. If your new menu items are only on the front page, some people may never see them.
It’s important to use high quality photos of your new menu items on your website. Let the photo do the work for you. If you aren’t comfortable taking photos, consider hiring a professional to photograph your menu items.
Make sure you use a site-wide search box so your website visitors can search for new menu items. Don’t forget to optimize your keywords and content to reflect the new menu choices.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are inexpensive marketing tools with superb reach. Consider posting daily specials including new menu items with terrific photos. If you have a live Facebook and/or Twitter stream on your website, then the new menu special will automatically show up there, too.
Try offering social-only discounts on new menu items. Reward your customers for interacting with you via social media and offer them exclusive discounts when they bring in the code that was posted (Facebook) or tweeted (Twitter). For these discounts, make them time-sensitive for a stronger call to action.
Include a special, time-sensitive discount on your customer’s receipt. These can be printed or even hand-written for use at your customer’s next visit. Make sure it is for new menu items to encourage them to try your new offerings.
Reward the loyalty of your repeat customers as these people are more likely to trust your new menu offerings. (tweet this)
Institute a Bounce Back program. Give a promotional offer to customers after a recent visit and encourage them to re-visit soon or “bounce back” to the restaurant. Tailor the offer to your new menu items. The promotional offer can include a straight discount, time-sensitive discount, product-specific discount or a free item with purchase such as a BOGO (buy one, get one free).
Create buzz for new menu items with a VIP Party with free food. Invite your most loyal and long-standing customers. Encourage them to bring their friends. Where do you get their names? Make sure you are collecting names and emails from your customers so you can send them special offers such as the VIP Party invite through email marketing. Use your social media channels to invite your friends and followers.
According to Ninth Decimal, menu info and pictures in a mobile ad are the biggest influence when people are deciding where to eat. In their December 2013 study, they found more than one third of the people polled said menu info in a mobile ad was the most likely influencer on their choice of food.
What’s more, nearly half of consumers had tried a new menu item based on a mobile ad. Almost seventy-five percent said they were more likely to try a new menu item after seeing a mobile ad for it. Bottom line, give mobile advertising a try, and remember high quality, mouth-watering photos of your new menu item(s) are the most appealing to customers.
Lastly, when it’s time to introduce new menu items, make sure you provide your wait staff with the tips and tools they need to keep customers coming back for more. Make sure your employees have tasted the new menu items and encourage them to share their positive feedback with your customers.
Employee buy-in combined with the suggestions in this post are sure to inspire your restaurant customers to try your new menu items, and love them.
Are you already using some of these tools to promote your new menu items? What specific strategies have worked best for you? Comment below to share!