How to Do Restaurant Marketing in 2024

How to Do Restaurant Marketing in 2024

Author Swathi Bhat
Author Swathi Bhat

Swathi B.

February 2, 2024


Feb 2, 2024


15 min read

Marketing strategies for restaurants
Marketing strategies for restaurants
Marketing strategies for restaurants
Marketing strategies for restaurants

The number of restaurants in the US has returned to close to pre-pandemic levels, with approximately 749,000 as of 2023. And as we move into 2024, the restaurant industry faces a period of recovery, innovation, and new challenges.

This revival signals intensifying competition, with 47% of restaurant operators expecting things to become more competitive. How can your restaurant attract business when a dozen or more other businesses are vying for the same diners?

The answer is effective marketing. Solid marketing can help you attract new diners and establish your restaurant business as a staple in your locale.

This article explores top restaurant marketing strategies to help your business stand out in a crowded market. Specifically, it highlights how to navigate the changing landscape, adapt to consumer trends, and leverage digital tools to maximize impact and growth.

8 tips to ensure optimal restaurant marketing

Here are eight strategies you can use to effectively market your restaurant:

1. Establish your brand identity

Why do some restaurants always seem busy — with a line out the door or fully booked tables — and others struggle to get customers?

Brand identity.

A brand that offers a great experience and great food will always beat the competition.

You need to pinpoint what makes the dining experience at your establishment unique to attract new and repeat diners. A good starting point is to define your restaurant’s theme, core values, and unique selling points.

Does it have inviting decor? Trademark dishes? Do people go dine there because they want to savor the creations of a five-star chef?

Take Slappy Cakes, for example. It’s a wildly successful restaurant in Portland that offers a fun, interactive dining experience. Diners get to make pancakes at their tables, creating a memorable meal that appeals to families and the millennial brunch crowd.

Similarly, Porto in Chicago turns dining into a magnificent experience that can’t be found anywhere else, with its wood-burning kitchen and seafood flown in directly from Galicia.

To use a better-known example, think of McDonald’s, the fast-food giant known for its consistent branding across the globe. Its golden arches and red-and-yellow color scheme are instantly recognizable.

By firmly establishing what sets your restaurant apart, you create an irresistible appeal that forms the foundation of all your marketing efforts.

2. Develop a website

A good website generates customer engagement and direct sales.

Sixty-eight percent of consumers prefer to order from a restaurant’s own website or app rather than through third-party platforms. This trend highlights the importance of having a well-designed, mobile-responsive website.

Make your website easy to use and navigate so that customers can find information quickly, especially since 88% say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience. Integrating features like online reservations, menu previews, and order placement can further provide convenience to customers.

You can also gain insights into popular dishes, peak dining times, and customer preferences by analyzing website traffic and customer interactions, such as menu views and reservation patterns.

Lastly, remember that your website is an extension of your restaurant’s brand. Align your website design, including its colors, fonts, and imagery, with your physical restaurant’s aesthetic and messaging to provide a cohesive brand experience.

3. Set up social media accounts

Social media has become an indispensable marketing tool for many brands. Having social media accounts establishes your restaurant’s online presence and allows you to directly engage with your customers on the platforms they use daily.

Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) are spaces where you can share your restaurant’s story, highlight your daily specials, and connect with your customers on a personal level.

Social media platforms on a phone

Regularly posting quality content helps build a loyal community around your brand. For instance, share high-quality images of your dishes and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your kitchen.

You can also use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live to offer real-time interactions, like Q&A sessions with your chef. Collaborations with food bloggers, influencers, or local celebrities can further amplify your presence.

Social media also allows you to tap into local food trends and participate in relevant conversations. Use trending hashtags to increase your visibility and reach a broader audience.

Remember that responding promptly and thoughtfully to customer feedback on social media strengthens relationships, as it demonstrates your restaurant’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

4. Create a Google Business Profile

With 87% of consumers relying on it to evaluate local businesses, Google holds significant sway.

Having an active Google profile is essential for local SEO, as it can significantly boost your restaurant’s visibility and make you more discoverable in local search results and on maps. It also allows customers to quickly find essential information, like your address, hours, and contact details.

Encourage your loyal customers to leave reviews, as positive feedback can attract new customers and build trust. Some restaurants offer incentives, like a free dessert for leaving a review.

However, it’s important to remember to consistently update your profile with new photos, menu updates, and special events to keep your listing fresh and engaging.

It’s important to address both positive and negative reviews, as this shows that you value customer feedback and want to improve. This ongoing engagement on your Google Business Profile can lead to higher rankings in search results and a stronger online presence.

5. Get your physical marketing materials ready

While digital marketing is essential in the 21st century, don’t overlook the importance of physical marketing materials. Well-designed menus not only list your offerings but also reflect your restaurant’s ambiance and culinary style. For example, a rustic-style restaurant might use menus with natural textures and earthy tones, making the dining experience more authentic.

Other printed materials, like flyers, brochures, and promotional posters, can be effective in local advertising. Outdoor signage can also make a bold statement, as it’s often the first impression potential customers will have of your restaurant. A distinctive, well-lit sign can attract passersby and help your restaurant stand out in a crowded marketplace.

6. Know your target audience

Understanding your customers’ preferences, dining habits, and demographic details will help you design more targeted and impactful campaigns. You should know who your customers are, what they enjoy eating, what time of day they prefer to dine, and what kind of dining experience they are looking for.

Lark’s sales analytics can also provide deep insights into customer behavior and trends. This information is invaluable for helping you tailor your menu, special offers, and marketing messages to appeal directly to your audience.

Let’s say your data shows a preference for vegan dishes. If that’s the case, you can focus on promoting your plant-based options.

A high level of customization in your marketing efforts helps ensure that your restaurant meets your patrons’ wants and needs — ultimately driving more business.

Track customer spending and preference

7. Understand your competition

Awareness of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses allows you to adapt your marketing strategies to highlight your unique selling points or address unmet gaps. In a crowded market, this understanding can be key to standing out and drawing in more customers.

If your competitors focus heavily on fine dining, you might find an opening for a more casual, family-friendly dining experience.

On the other hand, if the market is saturated with fast-casual eateries, introducing gourmet dishes could set you apart.

Conducting regular competitive analyses gives you a clearer picture of the local dining landscape. Researching and analyzing your local competitors’ menu offerings, pricing, marketing strategies, and customer reviews will help you spot market trends and identify new opportunities for your restaurant.

8. Create a documented strategy

With all the previous steps ready, it’s time to create a marketing strategy. Your strategy should include channels like social media platforms, email marketing, and local advertising.

You’ll also need to track your marketing strategy’s effectiveness. You can do this through website traffic analysis or customer feedback surveys.

Start by defining your marketing goals. Are you trying to increase sales, build brand awareness, or expand your customer base?

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs), such as the number of new customers to your restaurant, the frequency of repeat visits, or the growth of the restaurant’s social media following, will help you measure the success of your campaigns.

Document your strategy, but keep it open to change. It should evolve as you learn what works best.

9 key restaurant marketing strategies

Now, let’s explore some top restaurant marketing strategies you can implement to optimize your business in 2024.

1. Optimize for local SEO

In an era when people rely heavily on search engines to find local businesses, if you’re not optimizing for local SEO, you’re missing out on a significant opportunity. Getting your restaurant to appear prominently in local search results boosts its visibility.

To improve your ranking, start by claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing. Make sure all details, including your restaurant’s location, operating hours, and contact information, are accurate and up-to-date.

Then, conduct local keyword research to identify the key phrases potential customers use when searching for restaurants in your area, and incorporate them naturally into your website’s content. It’s a good idea to plan and update keyword lists on Lark Base, as this facilitates team-wide SEO strategy collaboration.

Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp also enhances your restaurant’s visibility. Google’s local search algorithm considers the number and quality of reviews when ranking businesses in local search results — so more positive reviews mean more visibility.

2. Create a mobile app

Nowadays, almost anything can be done on phones through applications or even superapps. Restaurants must have a mobile app if they want to provide quality and convenient service for their customers.

A mobile app can serve as a central hub for reservations, ordering food, and even loyalty programs. By integrating features like push notifications, restaurants can keep their customers informed about new menu items, special offers, and events.

Customer ordering on restaurant mobile app

Clean Juice, an organic juice bar chain, launched a mobile app that did all that. Their app not only simplifies the ordering process for customers but also provides nutritional information, educational content on their superfoods, and exclusive deals on products.

The success case of Clean Juice highlights the potential of mobile applications in not just improving operational efficiency but also building a strong, interactive community around a brand. While it may take some time to develop an app, it’s a worthwhile investment. Use Lark’s project tracker template to keep you organized and on schedule.

3. Invest in targeted paid ads

Targeted ads are a great way to boost your restaurant’s visibility and reach a wider audience.

Ads can help you pinpoint and identify the right target audience based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. They help ensure your marketing efforts reach those who are most interested in your offerings.

However, this is an iterative process. Consistently track and adjust your ads to get the best results and stay cost-effective. Keep an eye on ad engagement and conversion rates to help you fine-tune your messaging, visuals, and targeting criteria.

Retargeting is a marketing strategy that reaches out to individuals who have interacted with your restaurant online but haven’t yet made a purchase. By reminding them of what they viewed, retargeting can significantly increase your chances of turning these visitors into paying customers.

Lark Base can help streamline the marketing process since you can use it to lay out your campaigning plan. Its calendar view, in particular, lets you see your campaign flights.

Not only that, but Lark also integrates with TikTok, allowing you to easily analyze your TikTok campaign performance.

Screenshot of a Social Dashboard in Lark

4. Start email marketing

Email marketing is another powerful tool for keeping your customers informed and engaged with your business.

Email newsletters are an excellent way to maintain a direct line of communication with customers. Through them, you can share updates, special offers, events, and even glimpses into your restaurant’s operations. Consistent engagement helps you build a stronger relationship with your customers.

Lark Docs is ideal for creating and editing newsletters. More than just co-editing, it provides a blank canvas on which your team can brainstorm and visualize ideas. You can even incorporate interactive elements, like polls, graphs, and sheets, into your newsletters, making your docs more engaging and informative. Plus, Lark Base allows you to set automations, letting you send out emails whenever and to whomever you choose with a customized workflow.

Create and collaborate on Lark Docs

5. Implement a customer loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs help retain customers and encourage repeat visits. They are designed to reward patrons for their continued business, showing appreciation and value beyond the immediate dining experience.

Patrons who feel valued are more likely to become brand ambassadors for your establishment. Offering points, discounts, or special perks to frequent diners not only incentivizes them to return but also encourages them to choose your restaurant over its competitors.

An effective loyalty program can take many forms. It might involve a points system where customers earn points for every dollar spent, discounts, free items, or exclusive experiences. Or it could have tiered membership levels, with better benefits at each level. Use tools like Lark Forms to conduct surveys and identify incentives that align with customers’ preferences.

Image of a customer providing restaurant feedback in Lark Forms

Integrating the loyalty program with your restaurant’s mobile app or website makes participation easy and convenient for customers and lets you easily track points and rewards. It also provides valuable data on customer preferences and spending habits, which you can use to tailor your marketing campaigns and menu offerings.

6. Get listed on — and monitor — restaurant review platforms

Review platforms like Google, Yelp, and Tripadvisor are where many potential customers turn to find and evaluate their dining options. Your presence on these platforms makes it easy for potential customers to find your restaurant, browse your menu, and read others’ dining experiences.

Some review platforms come with additional features, like the ability to make online reservations directly, view photos of your dishes, and access promotional offers. These features offer your customers better accessibility and more engagement opportunities.

Given that 95% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, having an online presence and positive reviews on review platforms is crucial. It not only enhances your restaurant’s credibility but also shapes public perception of your brand.

Be sure to respond to customer reviews, too — even negative ones — since not addressing negative feedback can significantly tarnish your restaurant’s reputation and deter customers. It might surprise you that 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, yet 63% report that a business has never responded to their review.

To stay on top of new reviews, dedicate specific team members or times for review management. Using Lark Messenger keeps your team updated so that they can respond appropriately. This ensures consistency in your communication and allows for a collaborative approach to maintaining a positive online presence.

Additionally, you can keep your responses to common questions consistent by creating a record of standardized replies in Lark Docs.

7. Partner with local influencers or businesses

Expand your restaurant’s reach by partnering with local influencers or businesses. These types of collaborations solidify your connections within the community and bolster your reputation as an engaged and proactive local business.

Working with influencers who have a significant following in your area can greatly increase your visibility. Because they already have a following who trust their recommendations, they can share your restaurant’s ambiance, menu, and specialties with a broader audience.

Look for influencers on Instagram, YouTube, or other social media sites who have a large following and appeal to your target market. If you operate in a city that’s well-known for its restaurant scene, such as Austin, New York City, or Miami, you’ll have no problem finding foodie bloggers and Instagrammers whom you could reach out to and partner with for marketing purposes.

Similarly, teaming up with nearby businesses for cross-promotions or joint events can help you tap into a new customer base while also fostering a sense of community. For example, you could offer simple discounts to local businesses’ employees or partner with a local theater to host themed dinners.

Get connected with local partners through Lark Meetings, which transcribes your meetings automatically. This will allow you to collaboratively refine and detail your plans based on the transcript at a later time.

Image of team members filling out a store contingency plan during a meeting

Partnerships build relationships that enhance your brand image. Not only does this attract new customers, but it also strengthens loyalty among your existing customers as they see your commitment to and involvement in your community.

8. Turn your restaurant into a staple in the community

Make your restaurant a central part of the local scene through initiatives that resonate with local values and interests.

For example, if your restaurant is located in a community that values sustainability, source ingredients locally to support regional farmers, or create a seasonally driven menu. Featuring the work of local artists and musicians can enhance your restaurant’s atmosphere while also supporting the regional arts scene.

Donating excess food to food banks and hosting give-back nights where a portion of the restaurant’s sales support local causes can also reinforce your role as a community partner.

Not only will these initiatives improve your restaurant’s reputation, but they will also help you forge deeper connections with the local community. Leverage Lark’s project management tools to simplify the process of organizing community events. Automate repetitive tasks, like sending invitations, so you can focus on building and promoting your brand.

How much should I spend on restaurant marketing?

Restaurant marketing is a necessity in 2024. But how much should you be spending?

Consider the following factors to determine the right marketing budget for your restaurant:

  • The size of your business: Larger restaurants or chains might have more resources to allocate toward marketing than smaller, independent establishments.

  • The level of competition in your area: A new restaurant in a competitive market might need to allocate more funds to marketing than an established one in a less competitive area.

  • Your restaurant’s financial health: Your marketing budget should align with your financial capacity without having to extend.

  • Target customer demographic: Tailor your budget based on the specific demographic you want to attract. This may require different marketing channels and investments.

  • Marketing channels: Assess which marketing channels (social media, local advertising, online platforms, email) generate the most ROI, and allocate your funds accordingly.

  • Market trends: Adapt your marketing strategies and budget to current trends and consumer behaviors.

Additionally, it’s important to monitor the performance of your spending and marketing initiatives. Lark OKR can help you track your business goals, measuring metrics such as customer engagement, sales growth, and campaign reach. This data will allow you to adjust your budget and strategies intelligently.

Monitor spending and measure business goals

Boost your restaurant marketing efforts with Lark

Streamline collaboration, track your success, and maximize the results of your marketing strategies. Experience what other restaurant owners are raving about by signing up for Lark now.