The best hospitality businesses take advantage of a wide range of restaurant marketing techniques and strategies. As the food industry grows increasingly competitive, it’s more important than ever to get creative when it comes to marketing your establishment.  If you’re not familiar with the 80/20 rule of marketing, 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to access world-class marketing tools from the comfort of your restaurant or office. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at a detailed list of actionable marketing ideas that are all simple to implement but offer a tangible return on your time investment.  You don’t have to jump on all these trends to increase business, some are no-brainers, but pick a small handful (say 20%) and go for it!

Here are our 30 Top Marketing Ideas and Trends for Restaurants in 2020

1. Go Full-Throttle with Instagram

While Facebook has traditionally been the king of social media marketing, Instagram is now one of the titans in the industry. Many restaurant owners are turning to Instagram to promote their business, upload images, and interact with potential customers. Many Instagram users search for food hashtags and eateries in their area — it can be an excellent tool for connecting with modern consumers.

Instagram is a useful restaurant marketing tool because it focuses on images, graphics, and videos. In recent years, Instagram has also drastically improved its advertising platform. If you’re looking to build quick, useful advertising posts, it’s never been easier using this image-based social media giant.

If you don’t have time to upload your posts, or you want a professional to develop a campaign for your restaurant, there are plenty of social media marketing companies that focus on restaurants.

2. Attend Local Events

If you’re a locally owned and operated restaurant, it’s critical to work with customers in your area. While passersby might purchase a meal from your restaurant, it’s local eaters that you can turn into loyal fans of your food. Attending local events is an excellent way to establish yourself as a participant in your community.

If there’s a local fair, or an elementary school in the area is hosting a carnival, handing out free samples of your food can be a great way to introduce people to your menu. Modern consumers are much more likely to trust local businesses, so make sure to use your position to your advantage.

As business owners turn to digital marketing, it’s essential to remember that focusing on local customers is still a powerful restaurant marketing tool.

3. Promote a Competition or Giveaway

Nothing gets consumers more excited than a free competition or giveaway. If you want to draw attention to your business, building a creative giveaway can be the perfect way to promote your business and offer a lucky customer a free meal.

Whether it’s a complimentary dinner, gift card, or gift basket, a giveaway is an extremely cost-effective way to bring natural attention to your restaurant. It’s much easier to get eaters to focus on free food than a traditional advertisement or social media post.

By promoting the giveaway on social media, you can even encourage users to share, tag, or perform several interactions with your post; this can increase your organic promotion efforts.

4. Optimize Your Website for Mobile

The time has come when mobile browsing has eclipsed traditional desktop browsing. This means that it’s more important than ever to have a restaurant website that’s built with mobile devices in mind.

While optimizing your website for ‘mobile use’ doesn’t seem like a traditional restaurant marketing technique, it’s one of the most critical steps you can take to gain online exposure. If you want customers to be able to view your restaurant’s menu and key details, your site should be optimized for mobile.

Fortunately, many of the top web builders now offer automatic mobile optimization tools or functions. If you’re using a web designer to build your website, make sure to stress it needs to include a mobile site.

5. Choose a POS System with Built-In Loyalty

Creating a loyalty program with your restaurant POS software can help you reward frequent customers and increase brand recognition. By adding incentives for eating in your restaurant, you can increase the number of return customers that visit your establishment.

Unfortunately, keeping track of your loyalty program can be very difficult if you don’t have a robust system in place. You need to be able to track purchases and rewards without exposing your restaurant to fraud.

Many leading POS platforms now offer in-house loyalty programs that allow you to create customer profiles, track sales, and issue rewards. It’s an excellent way to automate your loyalty program and prevent individuals from taking advantage of your system. If you want a restaurant marketing technique that rewards your most loyal customers, this is a very trending option!

6. Build an Email List and Leverage It

When you consider the progression of modern technology, email can seem like an outdated form of communication. Surprisingly, it’s still a handy tool for advertising any business — especially restaurant marketing. If you want your email marketing campaign to be effective, it’s essential to build up an active email list.

By creating a loyalty program, hosting a sign-up form, or requesting customer details, you can begin to build an email list of potential customers. You don’t have to run a “salesy” ad campaign; you can send updates about specials, promotions, new menu items, and seasonal changes.

7. Invest in SEO

If you run a restaurant, it can be hard to stay focused on the latest digital restaurant marketing trends. Still, as a business owner, it’s critical to understand the significance of your search engine ranking. The majority of eaters research online before they choose a restaurant.

For example, if someone is looking for ‘Greek Food in Houston,’ your Greek restaurant should be one of the first options on the search list. This can help you bring organic traffic to your site and capture the attention of potential visitors.

By using certain keyword combinations, building content, and optimizing your website’s layout for search engines, you can dramatically boost your current rankings. There are plenty of digital marketing services that specialize in optimizing websites for restaurants.

If you don’t use search engine optimization, you might not even be the first result for your restaurant name. If a potential customer can’t find your restaurant online, you won’t stand a chance of competing with other top eateries.

8. Register on Top Review Sites

While receiving reviews can be nerve-wracking, it’s best to register your restaurant on the internet’s top review sites like Yelp, Zomato, Opentable, Zagat, and Trip Advisor. By registering your restaurant, you can ensure that the review site has the correct contact details and menus. You can also post your pictures and content to boost your restaurant’s profile.

Eaters want to see evidence that people visit your restaurant. If you don’t have any online reviews, modern consumers might choose to eat at a more ‘well-known’ establishment. Promoting customer interaction is one of the best restaurant marketing tools you can use.

9. Reply to Customer Reviews

You can’t please everyone. Inevitably, your restaurant will receive some negative feedback online. While many restaurant owners choose to ignore these posts and hope that future positive feedback will cover them up, you can use negative customer reviews to your advantage.

Most review sites allow you to interact with customer reviews. You can write a response apologizing for the negative experience and requesting the customer to contact you to discuss the problem. If the issue is legitimate, you might even want to offer the complainant some free food as a consolation.

10. Add Your Details to Google My Business

As Google continues to dominate the search engine market, it’s more important than ever to add your details to Google Maps by joining Google My Business for free. Considering that the majority of people perform online research before choosing a restaurant to eat at, all of your online information must be correct and up-to-date.

By heading to Google and searching “Google My Business,” existing or new restaurant owners can begin the process of uploading their official business information and data. Not only does this ensure you control the online contact information for your business, but it also helps lend legitimacy to your restaurant.

11. Offer Coupons in Local Publications

We’ve spoken at length about how important it is to make yourself a member of your local community. Aside from attending local events and functions, it can also be a good idea to target local publications. If your neighborhood or city has a weekly newsletter or monthly magazine, get in touch with their marketing department.

You’d be surprised how affordable it is to place advertisements in local publications. This also means that your efforts won’t be wasted on consumers that are outside of your geographic area.

Using a coupon as an advertisement is one of the best ways to grab attention. Everyone enjoys free or discounted food!

12. Invite Local Influencers

Influencers have become one of the hottest trends in digital marketing. Social media influencers attract attention from their followers and other social media users around the world and within their community.

Many consumers are sick of traditional advertisements. Influencers use the trust they build with their audience to recommend brands that they use or enjoy. If there are any established influencers in your area, invite them to try your food. If they have a big audience, an influencer post may cost you.

If you live in a major city, it might be worth contacting a social media marketing agency. Many agencies have relationships with influencers and can get you in touch with the right people.

This might not be possible for restaurant owners that operate in a rural or remote area, but it’s still important to remember the credibility a trusted figure can offer.

13. Contact Food Bloggers

Food blogging has exploded as an industry. Almost every major city in the United States has a collection of notable food bloggers who visit restaurants, try the food, and offer their own two cents on the flavors and atmosphere.

The opinion of some food bloggers can carry serious weight. Many famous bloggers appear to have the same credibility as food critics. If you want to appear in a particular food blog, contact the owner and invite them to try your food.

In some cases, you may have to pay a food blogger to visit your restaurant. If they have the right crowd, their fees will be worth the investment.

14. Leverage Google Ads

As Google is the internet’s most popular search engine, it’s no wonder that so many business owners invest in the platform’s in-house marketing platform. While investing in SEO can increase your organic traffic, using Google Ads can boost your restaurant to the top of search results for specific keywords. It’s the perfect restaurant marketing technique if you’re willing to pay to direct search engine traffic towards your website.

One of the primary benefits of Google Ads is that you can track your ad performance, and you only pay when a customer clicks on your advertisements. This pay-per-click (PPC) model means that you bid on clicks and pay when a consumer interacts with your ad. This can be much more cost-effective than paying for traditional advertisements that primarily focus on reaching a broad range of people.

15. Hire a Full-Service Agency

If you want to take your restaurant marketing efforts to the next level, hiring a full-service agency can be a perfect solution. Agencies can help you develop marketing campaigns that target the most optimal market segments. They can also help you design graphics, take photos, and create a range of other professional materials for your restaurant.

Digital marketing agencies are particularly good at using their expertise to leverage different online mediums. If you want to employ a modern restaurant marketing approach, it’s critical to use an agency that has experience in the digital realm.

16. Create Great Content

If you want to boost your online traffic, creating world-class content is one of your best options. Whether it’s informative blog posts, fun videos, recipes, or any other related information, creating authentic content can help you boost your organic traffic. While this might not seem like a natural way to utilize restaurant marketing, it can have long-term benefits.

Consumers enjoy working with brands they can trust. If you establish yourself as one of the most reputable names in a particular restaurant niche, you’ll benefit from brand loyalty and recognition. It doesn’t take much effort to create good content for your website or social media channels.

17. Analyze Your Sales Data

If you want to employ successful restaurant marketing techniques, you must be able to target the right markets. There’s no point in promoting your business to consumers that aren’t interested in your products. By analyzing your sales data, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your popular products and the type of customers that you serve.

This can help you develop more robust restaurant marketing strategies. Many modern point-of-sale systems now have built-in sales tracking software that provides in-depth reports and advice. This can help you automate the process of collecting and processing your data.

18. Sign Up for Food Delivery Services

Over the past few years, third-party food delivery services have exploded in popularity. Restaurants used to require an in-house delivery team to dispatch to-go orders, but you’re now able to use UberEats, Deliveroo, and a range of other third-party services that offer their own delivery runners.

While the cost of using a delivery service can be quite high, it opens your restaurant to a whole new range of customers. Not only does this mean you can offer delivery options, but it also means that your restaurant will be promoted on the delivery platform that you choose. This means that when eaters in your area browse for local food, your restaurant and its menu will be an option on their homepage.

19. Set Up an Online Reservation System

While accepting reservations might not seem like a restaurant marketing technique, it can help create an aura of exclusivity around your business. If visitors feel they need to reserve a table in your restaurant, it can do wonders for your reputation. It also helps larger parties ensure they have space in your establishment if they’re celebrating a particular occasion.

If you don’t want to manage your own reservation system, or you don’t currently employ a host or hostess, there are plenty of online reservation systems that can take care of the leg work. OpenTable and other providers make it easy to accept and manage online reservations.

Some restaurant management systems also offer internal reservations systems that help you automate the process of accepting reservations over the phone or in person.

20. Work with Other Local Businesses

Creating partnerships with other local businesses can help you build trust with customers in your area. Engaging in joint promotional activities can be a great restaurant marketing technique. Some restaurant owners will offer discounts to customers of individual shops or businesses — this can help you target consumers that are already shopping in your area.

Also, offering discounted food to other small businesses in your area can help you take advantage of a lunch hour or other break times throughout the day. Not only does this help you support your fellow local business owners and staff, but it can also improve your company’s bottom line!  You might also consider working with local POS dealers in your area by utilizing our POS directory.

21. Run Alternate Menu Items

By keeping your menu fresh, you’ll be able to ensure that customers don’t get sick of what you have to offer. It’s best to keep your core menu the same while alternating other menu items (depending on the season and other factors). By alternating menu items regularly, you’ll always have a reason to promote new offerings to your customers.

This can help you alternate your restaurant marketing efforts and offer more variety to your customer base.

Another creative restaurant marketing technique is to create a ‘secret menu.’ McDonald’s and other popular fast-food chains are often known to have secret menus. This means that visitors can order ‘secret’ items that aren’t listed on your traditional menu. While this might seem like a pointless exercise, creating a layer of exclusivity around your menu can help you draw attention to your restaurant.

22. Regularly Update Promotions

Promotions, seasonal menus, and other attention-grabbing initiatives are a great way to bring customers through the doors. This being said, if you don’t regularly update your promotions or offerings, their impact may be reduced. By regularly updating your advertisements, you can ensure there’s always something new for your customers to enjoy.

Each time you update a promotion or offer, make sure to advertise it on your website and social media channels. A promotional sign outside of your storefront can also help improve foot traffic.

23. Put Your Menu Online

Many business owners still make the mistake of leaving their menu and prices offline. While it might seem like a good idea to surprise your customers with pricing, it’s not. Being transparent about your food and its cost will help portray your business in a positive light online.

Restaurant visitors don’t like surprises. Even if you don’t offer delivery or to-go orders, it’s a good idea to host an online menu so your customers can browse before they visit your establishment. Sometimes your menu is your most effective restaurant marketing technique.

24. Use Local Media

While we’ve already covered local publications, there are other local media sources that you can target if you’re looking for creative restaurant marketing channels. Radio is still an extremely useful channel for contacting local customers — you won’t have to waste money on advertising to listeners outside of your city’s radio limits.

Local TV channels can also be a reliable avenue. Just make sure that you’re not paying an arm and a leg for local media advertisements — digital marketing still offers local targeting.

25. Enter Food Competitions

Food competitions can be a great way to promote your business. If you want to gain exposure while potentially winning an award, enter your favorite menu items in a local competition. Even if there’s no prize, your name is printed on the winner’s list can be some of the best free restaurant marketing ideas that you can find.

26. Take High-Quality Images

Visualization is critical if you want to sell your food to potential customers. If you don’t have attractive images on your website or social media platforms, you won’t be able to attract new visitors to your restaurant. Unfortunately, many restaurants overlook the importance of investing time in taking high-quality images.

If you don’t have any experience with photography, it might be best to contact a professional food photographer that can take and develop the images you need for your menu, website, and advertisements.  You spend a lot of money on your kitchen and restaurant equipment, so might even consider taking pictures of your complete restaurant evironment.  It’s also a good idea to personalize your restaurant with pictures of your staff and chef.

While this might sound like an expensive investment for a small restaurant, using a professional photographer is much more affordable than purchasing the photography equipment on your own. Some social media marketing companies will also include food photography as part of their services list.

27. Offer Gift Cards

Gift cards continue to be a popular item for birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations. Offering them at your restaurant can help individuals gift your food to their friends and family. It’s an excellent way to promote your business to new people.

This being said, managing a gift card database can be difficult. Fortunately, many of the leading POS systems now offer in-house gift card solutions for their users. When comparing POS systems, the best point of sale platforms allow you to manage gift card balances and automatically process transactions.

28. Lunch Specials Can Create Long-Term Customers

Many restaurants struggle to create foot traffic during the daytime — just because you’re busy at night, doesn’t mean you’ll be packed during lunch. For this reason, some restaurants choose to offer lunchtime specials that include discounted food or multi-course deals.

And while this is an excellent restaurant marketing technique for increasing your foot traffic, it also has other advantages. By offering cheap lunch deals, you may expose new customers to your restaurant. If they enjoy your food, they’re likely to become long-term customers that visit your establishment outside of lunch hours.

29. Facebook Ads Still Work

As mentioned in our first tip, Facebook has always been considered the king of social media. Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow executives managed to build one of the most robust marketing platforms on the planet. Businesses can pinpoint consumers based on interests, location, age, previous purchases, and a host of other metrics.

While Instagram appears to be dominating the restaurant marketing industry, Facebook Ads is still a relevant platform. Like Google Ads, you typically only pay for Facebook Ads when they’re clicked or interacted with, which means you’re much more likely to see a return on your investment.

If you’ve owned your restaurant for a long time, it’s probably been years since you’ve updated your branding. Before you know it, your logo might be outdated and in need of an upgrade. Redesigning your logo can do wonders for your branding if you’re currently using an unappealing graphic.

If you don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer, there are now plenty of free online logo design applications that allow you to design basic logos in a matter of minutes. You can also order signs, banners, and a host of other promotional products directly from the internet.

It’s Time to Increase Your Revenue

All restaurant owners are passionate about their food, but it’s still essential to run a viable business. If you want a chance to compete with other restaurants in your area or niche, you need to get creative with your restaurant marketing. By using even 20% of these restaurant marketing techniques outlined in this detailed article, you’ll be well-positioned to increase foot traffic and improve your revenue.