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How to Market a Small Restaurant

How to market a small restaurant is not as difficult as it seems and in this day and age if your food is really good and the service is good to great, then your chances for success will most likely increase.

It all starts with the vision of the owner. If this is you and you aren’t skilled and experienced with marketing, then find someone (a solo-specialist) or a team to develop a plan and help implement it.

The restaurant business is tough as it is and you need every advantage to make your establishment grow and prosper. So the people that you surround yourself with are very important.

So here are the real basics of how to market a small restaurant:

1. Planning: You can wing it or you can plan it. I prefer the plan it method. Just like you plan your menu and the ingredients that you put in your food. Keep the plan simple while being flexible enough to adjust where and when necessary.

2. Operations: Always remember that you need a certain number of customers coming through the door every day that you open. Plus you need a certain income per day in order to keep the establishment open for business. Make sure you know what these numbers are including food costs and daily labor, otherwise it’s really hard to test and invest in marketing. Without tight controls all the marketing and promotion will go up in smoke.

3. Service: Once customers arrive in your world – treat them like friends and make their experience so enjoyable that they want to come back and will refer their sphere of influence your way. I call this ‘breaking into the sphere’ and it’s pretty easy to do if you have good to great service. This ‘BITS’ program builds repeat business and grows the small business clientele.

Ok – enough of the basics – now let’s get down to brass tacks:

Wanna know how to market a small restaurant? Here are a few out of the box ideas to help give you a boost:

1. The Bait: Do what this owner did and go around to all the local businesses and give away free sandwiches or whatever you offer on the menu. Along with the free food make sure to bring some menus and an incentive card that gives the prospect a reason to come visit your establishment. Now some will say that’s a lot of money, Dave! That’s the wrong attitude to have my friend. Remember, it’s all about getting to your customers stomach and there’s no better way to do this than through a personal visit with free food or beverages.

2. The Survey Method: If your small restaurant is located around other businesses, take a day or two and go meet and greet the owners, managers and employees. Take a survey with you and if possible some food samples. Ask simple, direct questions and be friendly. The idea here is to find out what your potential customer’s needs are and what they would be interested in. The survey is powerful and will tell you a lot if you line up the questions and keep it informal.

3. PR & The Local Media: Use your local media outlets to help promote your small establishment. Remember – everyone needs to eat, even the gal on TV and the guy who writes his column in your paper or news website. Make a connection. Get feedback. And customize a sandwich or appetizer just for the individual.

How you market your small restaurant doesn’t have to be through conventional methods or channels. The bottom line here is that the more you think outside the box and test, the more you’ll learn about your customers and be able to market to them.

Need more marketing food to bring those hungry customers into your small restaurant?
The SmallBiz Mechanic may have just what you need. Touch bases and see what he can cook up for you in his customized marketing kitchen.

To your small restaurant success,

Dave Krygier