Here at Big Cat we specialise in restaurant marketing, having previously worked with Turtle Bay and San Carlo, to name a few. Using his vast knowledge and experience in this sector, Big Cat MD Anthony Tattum, highlights 12 top tips for maintaining interest in your restaurant after the launch.

Make your busiest times even more busy

A crowd attracts a crowd! If your lunchtimes are busy, work on making them even more of a hub. You want the ripple effect: people telling other people what a great place they’ve been to. Word of mouth recommendations are the most powerful form of marketing, and they’re free!

What’s your second busiest time? Market that next

After maxing on your busiest time, move on to the next successful slot. You’re best to work with what’s already working well.  This second time period should be highlighted to customers during the busiest time via point of sale (POS) offers, as well as pushing it out on social media channels

Where are all my customers?

If a timeslot – say weekend evenings – isn’t performing, then consider doing a relaunch. Build buzz, host an event and invite friends, well-known local people and the press, promote with exclusive time-bound offers

Get out and about

Don’t lump your leaflet with the pizza and Chinese takeaway menus that get stuffed through the letterbox! Create a good looking and well-thought out offer, employ engaging – and well briefed and branded promotional staff – and blitz the area around your place. There is still merit to be had from direct marketing (DM) and a good return of investment (ROI).

Hand out leaflets announcing a compelling and time bound incentive. Get staff to engage recipients in conversation, help them with a script, and highlight the top messages to get across, and then after each session, gather their detailed feedback. Monitor how many people are redeeming the vouchers each day thanks to your physical presence out of the shop.

Show people why they should come in

Offer up free samples to whet people’s appetite and heighten awareness about your offering. Choose samples that are portable, look great, and that will deliver an experience reflective of your offer.

Select nearby businesses and hand deliver delicious ware to make them talk. Platters, tailored snacks or hampers will expose your brand to this potential new customer base.

Email why they should come in

But don’t just send one email – send a number as part of a campaign. People might overlook one email, but they’re less likely to claim ignorance after receiving 3 or 5 from the same company.

And make sure you monitor the success too. Have a separate email address or phone number, or put in a code for people to redeem. Over the course of an email marketing campaign you should also look to improve “indicator metrics” like the open rate and click-through rate. While these metrics alone don’t increase the number of restaurant bookings they do indicate incremental improvement in brand awareness, email design and lay-out

Engage local journalists

PR during the launch phase of a new restaurant is very powerful and cost effective. Unlike advertising, PR is about third party endorsement, often by well-respected foodies. Good PR tells stories, conveys provenance, mixes in key messages, highlights points of difference, shares gorgeous pictures and most importantly, earned articles are more believable than paid for advertising

Look vibrant online

Use social media to share daily menus and specials, and create an aspirational brand. Upload behind the scenes info, interiors shots, reviews, and beautiful food and drink photos. Show off your personality, and encourage visitors to share their experiences as well. Get bloggers and influencers to share your message and shout about your offer. Social channels are like a virtual mantel piece – so show off your restaurant’s best bits!

It’s never going to have people queuing around the block, but social activity is a great tool for showing your ‘flavour’ to people who might be checking you out

Make your website look smart

Your restaurant’s website is arguably your most valuable marketing asset. It’s a 24/7 shop window and one that by continuous low level maintenance (after the initial investment) will increase in value over time.

There is no such thing as a perfect website design but a few points of note. Make sure it looks great on mobile phone or tablets. Customers generally like to know about your brand, the owners, your background, your inspiration, the provenance of the ingredients and your unique cooking style. Great photography is a must. A busy blog or news section is a bonus. Menus, directions and a highly visible means of booking a table or asking a question is essential.

Get to grips with Google

There is lots you can do to improve the visibility of your restaurant when people are searching for their next place to eat. Search engine marketing is all about keywords. Be clear on the type of restaurant or eatery that you are. If you’re a Spanish restaurant in Bristol then that should be the corner stone of the content on your website. Here is a beginner’s guide to search marketing.

Get creative with advertising

But in the early stages of your restaurant, avoid booking anything. Most restaurant advertising isn’t well targeted and is ad hoc – “if we’re quiet and an advertiser calls then let’s book an ad”. The majority of advertising is ineffective and overpriced. We’ve found that designing unusual ads, placed in surprising locations, is the best combination – but this is hard to achieve. An ad simply saying what and where you are doesn’t cut it.

Maintain a competitive edge

Know what your customers like and don’t like about you, as well as where else they go and why. Visit places yourself to review successful competitor offers, or get people to visit and give you feedback. If your place is too cold, or Joe Bloggs down the road offers an after dinner cake for free, or plays better music then it’s very helpful to know – and it will ensure that you can make changes to your business that are based on customer preferences and the competitive landscape.

Posted by: Greta Baker on