August 4, 2020

Creating a marketing plan is essential for restaurant owners as it helps facilitate long-term growth and consistent revenue. That said, it can be difficult to know where to start when drafting a marketing plan as it impacts all areas of restaurant operations, such as the kitchen equipment you use and your overhead costs. While this is a daunting task for many owners, with a proper understanding of restaurant marketing principles, the creation process can be simplified. Here are five steps you can follow to create an effective marketing plan:

1. Define Your Business Objectives

The first step is to establish business objectives. Think about what you want to accomplish with the resources that are available to you. The goals you set will influence all aspects of your marketing plan so it is very important that they are clearly defined and obtainable. Below is SMART criteria that you can use when setting objectives:

smart action plan

It is important that you quantify your goals with dates and numbers. Setting revenue goals using percentages and time frames will help you more accurately measure the success of your marketing initiatives. Setting sub-goals for servers and backroom staff is recommended as well as it will help you identify areas where improvements can be made.

Some examples of goals include:

  • Increase monthly net sales 10%
  • Bring in five new customers every month.

2. Define Your Target Customer

Defining your customer base can be challenging since restaurants appeal to a wide audience.  This is why it is essential that restaurant owners create a customer profile. Having a customer profile helps owners streamline operations and prioritize their marketing efforts. To create a customer profile, start by defining your ideal guests’ demographic information. List their age, gender, income, location, and race. Additionally, be sure to include qualitative details such as what their favorite time to dine is, how often they dine out, and what their favorite types of meals are.

In order to build informed customer profiles, you will need to conduct research on different people’s dining preferences and habits. Administering surveys and browsing online restaurant communities will help you gain insight into different dining demographics. The more research you do the better, as the information you gather will play a major role in marketing and product decisions.

3. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

As a restaurant owner, you should always be assessing your strengths and weaknesses in order to identify new opportunities for growth. The same can be said when you are creating a marketing plan. Speak with guests and staff about what you do well and where you can improve. Focus on areas that directly impact your customer’s dining experience such as cleanliness and presentation. The strengths they list will be the main selling points of your marketing campaign. Focus on the things that you do better than the competition. 

For the weaknesses, evaluate your processes in order to determine where changes can be made in areas where the competition outperforms you. It is worth evaluating your weaknesses on an ongoing basis so that you are able to provide the best quality service to customers.

4. Create a Marketing Budget

Budget is an essential component of any restaurant marketing plan. It determines where and how you spend your money, so it must be considered at every stage of the creation process. This is why the objectives you defined are so important as they will dictate how much of your budget goes towards each marketing initiative. A general rule for restaurant marketing budgets is that they should be between 3% to 6% of your total sales. If you are spending under 3%, it will be difficult to recoup your investment and if you are spending over 6% you run the risk of losing a substantial amount of money should your marketing plan not work.

If you are a new restaurant it may be worth spending more than 6% in order to attract new clientele and grow your customer base. Your budget can then be scaled back once you have regular customers in order to reduce overhead costs. Conversely, if you have an established restaurant business consider scaling back your budget once your marketing initiatives have been running for some time. This will give you a chance to analyze your profit margins and re-evaluate your plan if needed. 
You should also consider seasonal trends when determining budget. If you typically drive more sales during summer months then your spending should reflect that. Analyze customer habits to determine when to spend money on marketing.

5. Choose a Marketing Strategy

Once you have built out your marketing plan, the next step is to determine which marketing strategies you will employ. Some marketing strategies you can implement include:

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is ideal If you want to grow your customer base. Advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter allows you to showcase your restaurant’s ambiance and selling points. Posting pictures of happy customers eating delicious food helps you visualize what customers can expect if they come to your restaurant. When taking pictures, the dinnerware and glassware you use is very important. Choosing dinner and glassware that compliments your meals is recommended as it helps convey quality.

The right tableware helps set the mood by complementing both the visual aspects of the food and also the general theme of the dinner. 

social media and marketing

All three of these platforms have advertising capabilities you can use to promote your business. You can run targeted ads to generate local interest and attract new guests in your area. With social media usage growing, there is a real opportunity for restaurants to generate sales and recognition.

Email Marketing

Email marketing campaigns are great for building customer loyalty. Sending regular emails that outline specials and event updates makes customers feel like they are part of a community and strengthens their relationship with your business. On top of that, you can use the data collected by email marketing platforms to categorize customers based on their preferences. This will help you optimize your promotions by running highly targeted ads. Some examples of email marketing platforms include Mailchimp, Hubspot, and Omnisend.

Mobile Advertising

Using Google or Microsoft Ads can help you tap into the quick dining market. With location ads, you can advertise to customers who are using their mobile device to search for food near them. If you do choose to run mobile ads, make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. This is very important as customers are less likely to visit your restaurant if your site is not optimized for mobile usage.

Creating an ad schedule is recommended as it will allow you to better manage your available budget. Setting bids to increase during peak lunch and dinner hours will ensure that you reach your intended target audience without overspending during off-hours.

Final Thoughts

Effective restaurant marketing helps generate sales opportunities for restaurants, meaning it is an essential part of their business. In the digital age, having a marketing plan is becoming more important than ever before. By using the five steps outlined above, you can create and implement a marketing plan that aligns with business needs and enables consistent growth in the future.