Looking for low-budget ideas to promote your restaurant? Are you struggling to attract customers and want unique and creative ways to advertise your business without spending much money? If so, you’re in the right place.
Fast, productive, and free. These are the three ingredients that all restaurant owners want to add to the recipe to cook up the winning marketing plan. Unfortunately, “free” is often not a readily available ingredient, but you can still get along without spending much.
In fact, if on the one hand advertising a restaurant is a deep-seated process that requires money, on the other there are other many creative and affordable marketing tactics which allow you to attract new customers to your business.
What you need is patience, a willingness to give yourself over to your job, and a few bucks. It’s clear that what I’ll list are 10 low-cost restaurant promotion ideas for you to get inspiration from, not a bunch of magic rituals to fill your cash register. Therefore, read carefully, activate your brain, and work hard to put these tips into practice.
Now let’s cut to the chase and see the 10 strategies to improve the sales of your eatery.
10 creative strategies to promote a restaurant without spending much
1. Handshakes and business cards
There is an upstream new social network that is becoming very popular lately. It’s something revolutionary called “meet people and talk to them.” We’ve got in the habit of thinking of marketing as something tech-related which involves at least one social network. Yet don’t forget that you can still promote yourself even by directly speaking with people.
And you, as a manager or owner, have the duty of talking and engaging with people whether you like it or not. The role of a restaurateur is not to lock themselves up in the restaurant and scold waiters now and then. You must instead act as a PR and grab customers out of your business’s four walls.
Have you ever heard of Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder, being inside his restaurants? Have you ever heard someone saying that they’ve seen him? Go out and inform people about your existence as much as you can. You meet prospects everywhere: the bank, post office, nightclub, bar, laundromat and so on. Entice them to your business!
There’s no need to run your mouth and cause people to leave with a headache. Just a simple, “Hello, I’m John, the owner of the pizzeria down the road. Our customers regularly come in for our four-cheese pizza. I just wanted to introduce myself, and will leave my business card just in case you feel like popping over.”
Then, pull out your business card and on the back write “an offer he can’t refuse,” like Don Vito
Corleone would say.
Let’s do the math. If you are a good restaurant manager, you’re public-relations oriented, and you’re probably meeting at least 5 new people every week. In a year are 52 weeks, which multiplied by 5 makes 260.
Potentially, you could have 260 new customers every year who in turn have other dozens of friends to whom they might recommend your eatery.
What is really fantastic is that the investment is almost zero. Nowadays, you could print 500 business cards for only $9.90.
In short, with some handshakes, a few words and $9.90 you could have a significant increase in sales. What are you waiting for? Create your business card now!
2. Check in and enjoy
Unlike the previous one, this marketing strategy exploits modern technologies. This is one of my favorites as a small investment allows you to promote your restaurant across Facebook dramatically.
I’ll tell you how it works. Facebook has a feature whereby you can share your location with the built-in GPS system of smartphones and let your friends know where you are and what you are doing at that moment.
Let’s do the math. On average, American Facebook users have 350 friends. Now, imagine that 5 people daily check-in at your business and publish a post like the following.
If we multiply 5 by the average number of friends these people have, it makes 1750. This means these check-in Facebook posts could be seen by 1750 people daily. And, if we multiply this number by 30 days, the result is 52,500 potential viewers each month. Eventually, in a year 630,000 people could hear about your restaurant on Facebook via their friends.
And what makes this strategy so powerful is not only the potential users you can reach, but the fact that users don’t perceive the Facebook post as a promotional message but as a recommendation, simply because it has been posted by their friends.
You are likely wondering: “How can I make customers check-in at my business?” Easy! By offering something in return. Put a flyer on the tables and tell your clients that if they check-in on Facebook and show you the proof, they will get something for free like coffee, tea, a starter, pizza, a 5% discount and so on.
With a small investment (how much does coffee cost you?), you will have a breathtaking advertising return. Go to VistaPrint, design and print your 210×297 mm flyers at a low price and then order simple, transparent holders to put them on the tables.
3. Motivate your staff
When staff gladly do their job, this benefits all customers as they will be infected by the positive atmosphere. You’ve almost certainly been into a store before and perceived a certain tension in the air.
What was your first thought? Of course – you headed towards the exit.
To put your customers at ease, you have to work primarily on the so-called “internal customer,” i.e. waiters, chefs and all involved in the restaurant operations. You should motivate them to such an extent that they will come to work with a big smile painted on their face and think, “I’m so lucky to work in the best restaurant in the world.”
Their smile must be contagious. When customers leave your restaurant, the memory of that smile and positive spirit should last for a long time. How many times have you heard opinions about other restaurants like, “In that place, the food is great and all the staff are very kind”?Countless times.
A great atmosphere will contribute to spreading the name of your restaurant throughout the city. It may seem obvious, but it is not. Most of the restaurateurs I meet are neglecting this aspect. They have employees operating under a regime of fear and oppression.
You should train your staff and create a celestial atmosphere. I know what you’re thinking: “Do I have to shell out money to pull out smiles?” No. You have many other ways of doing so. Read this article to get inspired to motivate your staff without investing money.
4. Google Maps
The first map appeared at an early stage of humanity. These were representations engraved on perishable materials such as wood, bone, and even skin. Over the centuries, humans have constantly improved their mapping system, right up to GPS and Google Maps.
Why have giant companies, and our ancestors beforehand, worked on mapping system? Don’t they have anything better to do? Of course not. They give themselves over to improving it because they meet a high need of people: saving time! No one is willing to waste their time wandering around the city to find shops, bars, pharmacies as well as restaurants.
Who loves you, no longer follows you. Unless you don’t share your location.
People have stopped thinking: they have understood that technology makes life easier for them, and thus have let it possess them. Even to find the bank down the street, they pull out their smartphones, open Google Maps and set the GPS off to go through that 114 m to the destination.
Unless you don’t want to invite your prospects to play “the treasure hunt,” appearing on Google Maps with a clear description, representative photos, working hours and a link to your website will definitely get people to your threshold.
TripAdvisor is the largest travel community in the world with 260 million visitors each month, and more than 150 million reviews. It is perhaps the most popular and hated web platform by restaurateurs from around the world.
In short, people armed with smartphones visit your restaurant, photograph anything on their table and churn out verdicts on restaurants’ profile pages. It is evident that it is a double-edged sword: you can receive positive as well as negative reviews. But if it’s used properly, you might get a flood of people eager to dine at your place every day.
How do you receive good reviews? You as a restaurateur should know the answer. Customers, once inside, all want the same thing: good food, good service, and good price in a good location. That’s it!
6. Facebook page
How many times have you heard that you can promote your restaurant with Facebook? Many times, I know. Perhaps you have already tried to tempt Facebook folks by cranking out pictures of your fantastic food in a bungled company page with poor results.
It requires a bit of knowledge and experience – especially with paid ads – but once you’ve learned how to handle it, the screens of your audience will be a window overlooking your restaurant from which they can see and smell your delicacies.
To run things the right way, you should entrust your restaurant page to a social media marketing expert. This could cost you a bit though, so you yourself can learn how to get along with Facebook marketing by reading this book for beginners.
Armed with this book, patience, and persistence, many of my clients have managed to achieve very surprising results.
7. The rule of reciprocity
Since childhood, we have been taught to reciprocate favors or what people offer to us. At Christmas, I give you a present, and you give me something too. This good manner is called reciprocity, and you can exploit it to promote your restaurant.
Listen carefully, for this is an extremely effective way to promote your restaurant.
It consists of giving something to someone and making them feel like they’re in the position of owing you something else. How do you feel when someone gives you a present? Don’t you feel like you should reciprocate?
I’ll give you an example in everyday life. I don’t know about your city, but mine is full of street traders who are successfully exploiting this technique. They haunt the main square in the city center, identify their target, and put on their wrist a bracelet, assuring that it’s a gift. Then, the unfortunate passer-by finds himself with something he didn’t pay for, and the rule of reciprocity burst forth. He pulls out some change from his pocket and gives it to the street trader.
How can you use it in your restaurant? I’ll tell you. Equip your restaurant with nice gadgets to be given to your customers once they’ve asked for the check. Bring the gadget along with the receipt, and after you’ve received your deserved “thank you,” ask them to leave a review on TripAdvisor or to check-in on Facebook.
This – as I’ve already explained in points 2 and 5 – will contribute to spreading your name across social networks efficiently. Besides, on gadgets, you can print your logo on them, so you will be branding even in the houses of your customers.
I recommend that my clients use these cute horoscope mugs. People love it! Ask customers for their sign, and bring them the cup. Many people come back to my restaurants’ clients just to get another of them!
8. Keep customers waiting
How many times have you been frustrated at seeing your customers going to your competitor on the other side of the street after waiting for a table for too long? I understand this horrible sense of powerlessness.
A gone client is lost forever.
Fortunately, you can easily keep people waiting and promote your restaurant at the same time. What? Yes, you read correctly. Simply provide your queueing customers with pagers, and let them go anywhere they like. You will alert them once their table is ready.
This will increase loyalty and spread positive word of mouth. Moreover, you can attach a sticker with a QR code to pagers that takes them to a page of your website with the latest promotions or with the menu.
I recommend investing in these gizmos as they keep customers waiting as well as bringing in new ones.
Here’s his majesty, the menu. The king of restaurant promotion. Among all the ideas to promote a restaurant that can come to my mind, the one to work on the menu, is certainly the most brilliant. Everything revolves around it, but many restaurant managers ignore its extraordinary power. It can make you sell the unsellable and shoot up the sales of your best dishes.
How can you design a winning menu? Well, there are many factors to take into account and it all depends on your restaurant. Here I’ve listed the top 20 things to consider when you create a menu.
10. VIP cards
How many big offices are around your restaurant? Any banks, factories, malls, or supermarkets? Their employees represent a goldmine. Create a VIP card with a special discount reserved only for them. For example, 30% off at lunch time from Monday to Saturday. Or a complete meal, starter, main course, and soft drink, at $5.90.
This will make the workers around you loyal to your restaurant, guaranteeing you constant revenue at lunches.
The above marketing tactics have worked for most of my clients who didn’t have a large budget to invest. If you also have a good low-cost promotional idea that is working for your eatery, don’t be shy – use the comment box below to share it with us!