When you’re trying to create a marketing plan for your restaurant, it can be hard to figure out which strategy you need to implement first.
After all, there are so many things you could be doing to promote your restaurant.
You could be…
- Working on your kids’ menu to make sure it holds maximum appeal for kids and moms
- Planning uniquely themed family events that will make your restaurant stand out from the crowd
- Promoting your brand through social media
- Doing customer research on popular Internet review sites
- Using email to stay in touch with your customers
- Running ads in the local newspaper or on local radio
- Managing a customer loyalty program
- Issuing press releases
But that’s a heck of lot to accomplish — and you can’t get all that stuff going at once.
So today we’d like to show you how to line up all of your marketing dominoes in a way that ensures you get the maximum return on your restaurant marketing efforts.
Nine Steps to a Successful Restaurant Marketing Campaign
Here’s what you can start doing right now in order to build a solid marketing foundation for your restaurant that will grow your repeat business numbers and help to bring a swarm of new customers through your doors, as well.
Step 1: Train Your Staff to Treat Kids like Rock Stars
Here’s a marketing strategy you can start implementing tomorrow. After you get to work, have a quick stand-up meeting with your floor staff and tell them that going forward, they are to go out of their way to make sure that the kids who come into your restaurant are treated like rock stars.
- Offer your younger diners name tags to the staff can refer to them by name
- Encourage your staff to address children directly
- Praise them for their good behavior (this one makes Mom and Dad extremely happy, as well)
- Pick up a package of balloons at your local dollar store and give each child a balloon as they leave your restaurant
All this will cost you is a few minutes of your time and a couple of bucks on balloons — and the kids who come to your restaurant from now on will love you and will beg their parents to take them back there at the earliest opportunity. There is even a service we recommend to train your staff in kid-friendliness.
Step 2: Give Kids Something to Play with
Of course it’s important to make sure the kids have a great time at your restaurant, but Mom and Dad have to enjoy themselves, too.
And the best way to ensure they can relax and have a great time is to give their children something to play with while they wait for their food.
At the bare minimum, have crayons and paper available to offer kids. But in time, you should consider upping the ante and using these small gifts as the valuable marketing opportunities they are.
For example, you can offer children unique triangular crayons and customized activity placemats that are imprinted with your logo and menu. This strategy works even better if you encourage guests to take these small gifts home with them, so every time they see them they are reminded of the fun time they had in your restaurant. We see this technique working every day.
Step 3: Set Up a Facebook Page for Your Restaurant
Once you’re taken some basic steps to ensure that your restaurant provides kids and parents with a fun and memorable experience, it’s time to bring that message to the masses.
And one of the fastest and most effective ways to spread your brand awareness is through Facebook.
If you haven’t already put your restaurant on Facebook, now’s the time to do it. 80% of adults are on there and it’s taking over the place of email for the young parents of today. Simply create a user account for your restaurant (make it separate from your personal account) and then create a Facebook Page on that account. Then use your personal account to “Like” your new business page and encourage your friends and family to do so as well.
You can rapidly build your list of Facebook followers by encouraging your customers to “Like” your Facebook page. You could even secure a laptop computer at the front of your restaurant and persuade customers to “Like” you by offering them a free coupon they can use to get 10% off their next meal.
Use your Facebook page to let people know what’s happening in your restaurant. Every day, tell people what your daily specials are and encourage them to come down and try them out.
You can also use Facebook to give a more personal face to your business. If anything interesting happens to you, your staff, or your employees, share it with your Facebook followers. If they feel like they “know” you they will feel more compelled to pay you a visit.
Don’t worry about inappropriate comments from guests too much; you can always delete them when you see them. The positives generally greatly outweigh any downsides. But do take care to keep up a professional demeanor. Letting everyone see your diplomatic handing of a complaint also enhances your brand image. It says “problems occasionally happen here too but we respond positively”. You’ll get the hang of it – it’s not rocket science!
Step 4: Schedule a Special Family Fun Event
This could be tied into an upcoming holiday or event, or you could come up with your own reason for throwing a “party” for families. Just make sure you offer a sweet deal as part of the event, to provide added incentive for people to come.
For example, you could organize a special Family New Year’s event where parents spend $10 each to attend but kids come free. Then offer them free “champagne” (use sparkling juice for the kids) and tasty snacks as part of their admission fee. You could even do a special “New Year’s countdown” every hour on the hour so that kids who can’t stay up until midnight get to participate in the fun.
Or you could host a special “Dads & Kids” event during an upcoming daytime sporting event, and offer a free order of chicken wings and a milk shake with the order of one adult entree and a kid’s meal.
Try to make your event fun and unique — something no one else is doing. It’s a great way to stand out in the minds of your customers.
Step 5: Promote Your Event through Facebook
Use the Facebook page you created in Step 3 to spread the news about your upcoming event. Encourage all of your followers to tell their friends about it as well. You could even suggest they gather up a gang of friends and all come together. It’s a great way to ensure a packed restaurant.
Step 6: Print Up Some Simple Posters for Offline Marketing
These posters don’t have to be professionally designed — this is something you can easily whip up on your home computer, using just your logo and some words announcing what your event is and why people should attend it is fine.
Put these posters wherever you can — at the front of your restaurant, in your windows where passersby can see them, at local community announcement boards, etc. You want this event to be as visible as possible.
Step 7: Print Up Invitations to Give to Customers
Again, these invitations can be extremely basic — half a regular 8″ x 11″ piece of paper, with your logo and the information about the event (be sure to emphasize the deal you’re offering associated with the event).
Hand these invitations out to customers once they’ve finished their meal and are about to leave. Be sure to give each table at least two separate invitations, encouraging them to share the extras with friends.
Or use a business card creation service like GotPrint.com to make up business-card size promotional cards. They will print as few as 250 cards for just a few dollars.
… And that’s it! Easy.
Step 8: Encourage All Event Attendees to “Like” You on Facebook
If you follow the seven steps outlined above, on the day of your event you are bound to see a huge spike in business. That’s awesome. But you don’t want that spike in business to be a one-time blip.
In order to make sure you are able to build on your success, encourage everyone who comes to your event to “Like” you on Facebook. (Again we encourage you to hand out small coupons in exchange for asking them to add you to their Facebook account — maybe free appetizers or desserts the next time they visit your restaurant and order full entrees.)
Then, the next time you run a special promotion and encourage your followers to share your message with their friends on Facebook, you will see an even bigger response.
Step 9: Repeat Steps 1-8
The great thing about this marketing campaign formula is you can use it over and over to appeal to new customers and grow your business. You could throw a special Valentine’s Day event for kids… You could hold “Kid’s Movie Night” and show a popular recent DVD release instead of sports on your restaurant TVs. You could even throw special celebration bashes on the last day of school.
The point is to keep your special events fun and unique, so your restaurant stands out from the competition. And then, when you fill your restaurant with eager event-goers, you take the opportunity to use Facebook to build a stronger relationship with them and encourage them to spread the good word about your business.
If you have any restaurant marketing questions you would like the Family Hospitality team to address in future articles, please drop us a line using our contact form or call us at (702) 822-4422.
We are dedicated to helping you achieve family restaurant marketing success.
A.J. Mesalic is the Group GM for The Family Hospitality Group, a company that helps make restaurants irresistible to the “family with kids” demographic.