Traditional marketing works great for restaurants. Regardless of your restaurant concept, traditional marketing can be just as effective as digital advertising. The following are some traditional marketing ideas that can deliver solid results:

Make sure people know that you are OPEN:

People are still shell shocked by the pandemic. You need to let them know you are open and appreciate their business. You can do this by using simple 10-foot tall flags, A-frame signs, yard signs, etc. The old fashion “open” sign in the window is not going to cut it. Tell people how to order online, use QR codes on the signs, put the website, and phone number on the sign.

Send thank you baskets to loyal customers:

There are people in your network that you want to stay top of mind. A simple card is nice but I think for your top friends/customers you need to honor that relationship and send them something that signifies you are grateful to have them in your life.  Here are a few samples of the ones that I have sent in the last year.

Golf Ball Promotion:

Give out a free drink with a lost golf ball. The first time I saw this was on Facebook from John Rudy at the Magic Tree Pub and Eatery in Youngstown. Mr. Rudy puts out a golf ball that states “Return 2 restaurant 4 a free drink.”  I think this is so smart and cool. I am not even a good golfer.

Be Part of Your Community:

The people in your town and the surrounding suburbs are your customers. Some of them may just not know it yet. Engage them with special discounts for locals on your slow days. Provide vouchers to the local soccer, baseball team, PTA, etc.  You will get new customers by being seen as a pillar of the community. You are a Local Independent Restaurant, let everyone know it.

Join Your Chamber of Commerce:

This is a great way of engaging in your community, increase your visibility in the community, networking with local businesses, and even hosting events at your restaurant. Membership brings credibility to your business. Your local chamber receives calls every day from individuals and businesses looking for potential vendors. Joining is about becoming a part of the fabric of your community.

Business Card Giveaways:

You can have the giant bowl next to the cash register or put a note with their bill.  Offer customers the chance to win a free meal for two if they give you their business card. With this, you will learn more about your customers and be able to connect with them on LinkedIn.  You can email them and tell them that they won (or didn’t win this time), and they can join your email newsletter list. Make sure that you ask everyone to be on your mailing list. You don’t want to spam nor annoy anyone.   It also gives you a good idea of who your higher spending customers are so that you can target them with offers.

Digital Signage:

Digital signage from companies like Samsung is a great tool to automate and continually update your messaging to customers. Whether it is a standard menu or a promotion board, digital signage can promote your business all day long. Digital signage displays elevate the conventional viewing experience, helping restaurants deliver content that engages, informs, and entertains.

Phone System:

What are your phone system’s KPI? How many people are calling your restaurant? How many people are clicking on your phone number via Google? How many people hang up without ordering? How many people get up-sold? How was your staff trained? Do they know the answer to what do people like?  What is good here?

Loyalty Rewards Programs:

Keep people loyal. A loyalty punch card is a little annoying but there are apps that can take care of this with a customer’s phone number. Most POS systems also have an integrated loyalty program. Customers in loyalty rewards programs return more often, so get them loyal early, and keep them loyal. Study the data, Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review about “Do Rewards Really Create Loyalty?”

Customer List:

You need to create a database of your customers. I’m always shocked when I help a restaurant with business improvement and they don’t have any customer information. Your customer list is GOLD!!!!! You always need to be collecting and updating the customer’s NAPE (name, address, phone number, and emails).  

Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude:

Continue the message of gratitude with your to-do items. Put a thank you business card in the to-go bag. It can be something as simple as “We sincerely appreciate your business. Thank you for your purchase. We are honored to have a customer like you.”  A great operator over at iRiE Jamaican Kitchen put a thank you card in each to-go bag with a chance to win a $50.00 gift card if you give them your email and follow on Facebook or Instagram.

Send a Thank You Card:

The easiest thing to do in the world is to say Thank you. Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. When someone eats at your restaurant more than once they are supporting you and your family. Tell them you are grateful by sending a thank you card. 

Ask for the business:

How often would your regular customers tell their colleagues, family, and friends that your restaurant is the local best in the area? I had a lawyer friend that would track all of his referrals. He found that 90% of his referrals were coming from three (3) people. How many more customers would he of had if he would have asked all of his clients for referrals.

Sample ask:

How do you like your meal and the service?  I noticed that you have been here a few times in the last two months. If you have a friend who has not tried our restaurant, we greatly apricate referrals.  I want to thank you for your business and support. Dessert is on us tonight.

Finally, after you get the business, tell the person thank you.

Sample Thank you:

Thank you for referring Mr. and Mrs. Stewart to our restaurant. I recognize the faith you have placed in me by these referrals. I assure you that I will make every effort to provide them with the best possible food and service. Please accept the enclosed gift card as a small token of our appreciation.


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