Most restaurant owners and managers ask me how much money they should be spending on marketing.
There is no one fit for all because every restaurant business is different. It all comes down to the overall budget and deciding how much you can afford or not afford to spend on marketing. Marketing is vital to the overall success of a business.
What is marketing?
We must first clarify what marketing is. It can be defined as a communications-based process where individuals and people discover that their existing, or new, needs and wants can be satisfied with the products and services of others—in your case, your restaurant.
So first things first. Your marketing budget should be a percentage of your sales. If it’s a new restaurant, refer to your forecast and review the budget every three months. In the early months, you will want to invest a good 20% to 25% of your revenue on marketing to get your brand known and reach your target market.
Once your restaurant is established and growing, you can drop to 10% or lower. As I said, every business is different, so once you decide on a number that fits with the overall budget, you can maximise your marketing’s return on investment. Try to measure everything so you can analyse your results.
The question is: Are you just waiting for guests to come in or do you need a marketing plan with a clear budget for your restaurant? A marketing plan means thinking in advance. Don’t wait until the revenue goes down to do it.
To get the marketing plan right, you need to have a good understanding of your potential customers and be clear about why they decided to visit your restaurant and not someone else’s.
You then want to look at all of the following factors:
• Nature of the market.
• Financial and marketing history.
• The industry as a whole.
• Any external influences, such as events, festivals, etc.
Obtain a good analysis of where your guests are coming from and how often they visit your restaurant. When writing a restaurant marketing plan and putting together a budget, you have to consider the seven Ps of marketing, plus one of mine.
• Physical evidence
Let’s focus on the last four for a moment. To have a good competitive advantage, you need to focus on people. Therefore, get the right staff and train them to deliver what people expect from your business. Aptitude and service knowledge need to be equal to what your customers are paying for. Your very first efforts at marketing start within the restaurant. It’s much more economical to make a customer want to come back than to generate a new one.
The process is the system you have to implement and follow. Consistency is essential to get it right and supply what you are offering. Every step in the process is essential, from the first few words spoken to a guest (when they call to make a booking) to a conversation during the guest’s departure.
Physical evidence is a critical ingredient in the restaurant service mix; your guests make perceptions based on their view of the restaurant. Make sure you keep your restaurant clean, friendly, fun, organised and an enjoyable place to be.
Positive statements and positive organisations attract people. Do everything in your power to keep your business and everyone who works for you POSITIVE. If you have great power and energy, this will eventually pass on to your guests.
Your restaurant should spend at least somewhere between 6% and 8% of the total sales on marketing. The idea is to do marketing when you are busy. Don’t wait until the business is quiet. Remember, for a restaurant it is much more difficult and expensive to do external marketing.
Most restaurants spend 85% to 90% of their budget trying to get new customers, but what you want to do is invest in your current guests and build loyalty and relationships.
We are now going to look at how to do this effectively, using simple tactics.
You want to have branded signage that is the best on your street, considering the applicable laws.
Before creating a newsletter, list on your website reasons for visitors to register, such as giving out a recipe or a free drink if they book online. Once you have your mailing list, do a newsletter every second week, informing guests about your menus or any news, and once in a while offer something to them, such as a thank-you for being on the list.
3. The internet
The Internet has become one of the most powerful marketing tools for restaurants. So make sure your restaurant is up to speed, and present your business on all free and paid platforms, with updated menus and images.
4. Food testing
Have your positive-thinking staff members offer samples in places where your potential customers congregate.
5. Themed dinners
On slow nights, offer diners a reason to come to the restaurant. For example, on Mondays offer wine at cost price, lunchtime specials or a specific, set menu that is cheaper during slow times. Remember to give your guests reasons to come in.
Make sure your website is interesting and well presented, but most important, make sure your information is CORRECT. I see many restaurant websites that feature old menus or outdated information. Before they buy something, many people check the internet for information and reviews - this includes restaurants. More than 50% of adults between 18 and 44 use the Internet to gain knowledge before going to a new restaurant.
7. Social media
Since 88% of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, a digital strategy is very important. To do it on a budget, I suggest you focus on Instagram and Facebook.
For , use the limited Instagram bio space to speak directly to your customer. Make sure the name handle is the same as the one for the business and website. It makes sense to have the meal featured prominently in the bio and in the photos. Your guests can book directly via the app to your booking system.
Facebook pages offer an easy way to input your information, including opening hours, address, messaging options and popular times to visit, as well as adding a ‘book now’ button, menus uploading, cuisine type and different types of services. In addition, you can allow reviews.
With a manageable budget, you also can do sponsor ads, which can be very effective.
8. Comments Cards
Make sure that if you decide to have one, it is professionally presented. Offer a prize for completing one, like a bottle of wine. Obtain the guest’s contact information, such as e-mail or a phone number, to increase your customer database.
Some restaurant operators have on the back of their personal business card a message: ‘Please come and have a drink on me’. This is a very powerful strategy!
9. Loyalty Program
You may want to create a loyalty card for regulars by offering 20% off the bill or a free bottle of wine with every fifth dinner.
10. Happy hour
Encourage people to stop by for a drink after work by offering two-for-one drinks or free starters.
11. Live Entertainment
Select a specific night to do live music. Be specific about what you are presenting, whether it’s jazz or any other genre of music.
12. Customer service
Remember that you must offer excellent customer service and warmth to your guests. Make sure they have fun and an exceptional time so that they tell their family and friends about their positive experience. Only then will you have the best form of marketing: free marketing!
13. Word of mouth
The most powerful way to ensure that your restaurant is busy and that you will eventually be successful and popular is to have happy customers doing the advertising for you.
• Give your guests reasons to talk about you or the business.
• People will talk about you and your restaurant only when they like your restaurant so much that they are happy and excited to let others know about it.
• Make people interested in your restaurant.
Your product and service in your restaurant must be exceptional. Do more than the guests expect. What you want to do is to get your guests to leave with a sense of energy and excitement, as well as eager to tell everyone about their dining experience.
• Fulfil their needs; be honest and earn respect.
• Find people to talk about your restaurant.
• Give reasons for people to talk about it.
• Spread key messages.
• Be part of it.
• Keep track of what people are saying.
I’d like to conclude by saying you should not lose sight of what’s important. Make sure that you have a well-maintained, clean restaurant with amazing, high-quality offerings served with great professionalism. Then spread the word with the best budget you can afford, using the resources that work for you.