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40 Restaurant Marketing Ideas: How To Stand Out In Your Community

Published July 14, 2022
/ Updated November 16, 2022

Looking to set your restaurant apart from the competition? Try these 40 unique restaurant marketing ideas to elevate your business to the next level.

Own Your Niche

1. Define A Unique Brand Identity

Brand identity is the combination of elements that create an image for a brand. A strong brand identity can make your restaurant a memorable must-stop for locals and tourists.

Sickies Garage did this by creating a man-cave garage experience. They make themselves memorable with 50 Burgers & 50 Beers.

2. Stand Out With Staff Personality

A staff personality is a specific attitude that the service staff portrays. A staff personality creates a unique atmosphere and influences the restaurant’s overall brand.

Hell’s Kitchen, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, does this well by having the staff act agitated and curt. This type of service aligns with the servicescape of the restaurant and gives the experience of entering “into hell.”

3. Provide Standout Customer Service

Standout customer service is going above and beyond customer expectations. Your team provides a seamless service experience where the customer gets what they need and more out of the interaction. Chick-fil-A adopts this principle well by maintaining the values of service, teamwork, purpose, and innovation.

4. Use & Market Local Fresh Ingredients

Use local ingredients to show support for small businesses. It builds a community around your business, leaving the customer feeling a part of something bigger. Aside from good PR, your food will look and taste fresher. Rosewild of Fargo, North Dakota, includes this in its brand identity and builds a story around the food.

5. Cater Toward Dietary & Allergy Friendly Dishes

Include options for customers with dietary restrictions to reach a more extensive customer base. You can stand out by welcoming those who may not have many dining options.

BrewBird demonstrates this concept by having a mostly gluten-free menu. This more inclusive dining option allows them to offer delicious food that appeals to a broader customer base.

Create Reasons To Dine Frequently

6. Implement A Frequent Diner Loyalty Program

A frequent diner program rewards customers who support your restaurant. Starbucks rewards stars to users when they order food or drinks. This program keeps customers from buying coffee somewhere where they won’t get benefits for their purchase.

7. Launch A “Mug Club” Membership

A Mug Club membership allows customers to purchase a membership that provides them with discounts and perks.

Blarney Stone Pub knows that purchasing a membership locks in loyalty and ensures higher sales in the long run.

8. Host Events

Hosting events in your restaurant creates experiences and memories that customers will associate with you forever. Wild Terra’s Brunch Fest is an event offering food, unlimited drinks, and live music.

9. Rent Out Spaces For Celebrations & Gatherings

Provide a memorable experience for a large group of people by renting out private event spaces. You can increase awareness and show versatility when you hold intimate gatherings in addition to your regular business. Atomic Coffee rents its meeting space for various occasions, giving the coffee shop a differentiation factor to stand out against competitors.

10. Host Happy Hours & Daily Specials

Adding happy hours and specials to your menu gives people a reason to dine with you. Happy hours are successful because they get customers through the door during slower times. BJ’s Brewhouse offers happy hour, daily, and lunch specials. These specials make their restaurant convenient and affordable for every meal.

11. Host Trivia & Bingo Nights

Hosting events like trivia and bingo can create a fun association with your restaurant and be a significant differentiator for your business. For example, Rhombus Guys draws a large turnout on trivia night. Many locals consider it a fixed event on their calendar and look forward to returning weekly.

12. Participate In Holidays & National Days

Make your restaurant a must-stop place to celebrate special holidays and events! Offer special deals as a way to stand out from your competition. Granite City hosts a Mother’s Day brunch yearly to encourage families to celebrate the holiday at their restaurant.

13. Invest In A Food Truck

Food trucks create brand awareness and reach many different audiences. When your business’s branding is posted right on the side of the truck, you can connect with people from all over. Poke Bowl started as a restaurant and became a food truck to supplement business and cater events.

14. Participate With Food Delivery Services

Grubhub, Doordash, and Uber Eats have changed the food delivery game since the pandemic hit. These services provide an easy way for your customers to get food delivered to their doorstep without having to set up a complex delivery system on your end.

Begin Social Media Marketing & Engagement

15. Participate On Social Media

Create an active social media presence as a part of your marketing efforts. Use platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to build an online presence.

The Yard Milkshake Bar uses TikTok to create mouth-watering content for their popular milkshakes. TikTok increases brand awareness with an expected 1.8 billion users by the end of the year.

@theyardmilkshakebar #bestseller #strawberriesandcream #theyardmilkshakebar #icecream #milkshake #cheesecake #whatsgoingon #fyp #newyear #dessert #foryoupage #foryou ♬ Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse

16. Share Food & Mixed Drink Recipes

Share your fan-favorite food and drink recipes to connect more with customers. Customers will love preparing your recipes for their families and friends, which can create fantastic word-of-mouth buzz. Upscale Chinese restaurant Hwa Yuan in Manhattan shares the recipe for their popular takeout-style sesame noodles.

17. Share Food & Drink Pairing Ideas

Share insights on food and drink pairings for people who may not be industry experts. It lets you share content related to your brand while giving customers a taste of what you’re capable of. Cork and Slice Italian Kitchen share wine pairings for each meal course.

18. Share Cooking Lessons

Cooking lessons give people an experience that is tied to your brand and allow them to create connections with your staff. This experience draws brand loyalty. Deep Blue Seafood owner, Bee, hosts a cajun cooking class to bring awareness to her product.

19. Share High-Quality Pictures

One of the most critical parts of building a brand identity is using high-quality images. Curated images help customers understand the quality of the food and show the setting where they dine. You can see this demonstrated in the photos below. Silver Lining Creamery’s images are sleek and upscale, while Jade Dragon’s are more simple and comforting. You immediately sense the quality and experience each restaurant will give.

Example of high-quality, aesthetic brand from Silver Lining Creamery on Instagram

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Example of a high-quality, cozy image from Jade Dragon

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20. Share Earned Media Like Positive News Articles

Celebrating your wins is a positive way to support your team and draw attention to your restaurant’s success. Fargo’s Luna demonstrates this by including Chef Ryan Nitschke’s decorations on their about page. Sharing this information is a natural way to accredit your food, service, and atmosphere.

Example of sharing earned media from Chef Ryan Nitschke

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21. Share User-Generated Content

User-generated content is anything posted by people who do not have an affiliation with your restaurant. It is a perfect way to achieve positive PR at no cost. An easy way to do this is to repost content from customers who tag your restaurant in their posts.

Here’s an example from 20 below’s Instagram account.

Example of sharing customer generated media from 20 Below on Instagram

22. Ask For Shares Of Your Instagrammable Dishes

Share your favorite dishes to draw attention to your Instagram page and website. This social media contest from Scoop N Dough Candy Co. is a distinct way to create excitement around your food and clicks to your Instagram account.

23. Host A Social Media Contest

A social media contest is a simple way to increase engagement with your social media followers. Cactus Club Cafe posts monthly successful giveaways, bringing nearly 100k likes to a single post.

24. Partner With Influencers

Influencers have a large following and can influence people to go places or buy products. Influencers can help draw people to your restaurant. For example, Guy Fieri brings attention to the restaurants he visits in his show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. In one episode, he visited Pounds, a restaurant in Fargo, ND. This visit gave Pounds the title “as featured on” and increased their popularity.

25. Hire A Social Media Or Community Manager

Social media management is the next step to elevating your marketing team. Hire someone to fill this role full-time, so social media marketing becomes integral to your business growth. The Churchill of downtown Phoenix has beautiful social media execution with a theme and graphics to make the most of their social accounts.

Optimize Your Restaurant’s Online Presence

26. Invest In Local Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving website traffic to help a site rank higher on search engines. Local SEO considers proximity to bring the best results for where you are. Use SEO to drive traffic to your website and increase your restaurant’s visibility.

Example of using Keyword to improve search rankings

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27. Optimize Your Google Business Listing

This idea coincides with local SEO. The two concepts work together to ensure that your website pops up on the first page when people search keywords related to your restaurant. Manage your business profile on Google to respond when people make comments about your restaurant.

28. Have A Presence On Coupon Websites

Sites such as Coupons.com or Groupon are great tools to promote your restaurant and offer special deals for new customers to visit your restaurant. Stacks provides deals on Groupon to give their restaurant more visibility and increase customers.

29. Be Present In Restaurant App Listings

Online restaurant listing apps such as Yelp and OpenTable give your business more brand recognition with crowd-sourced reviews and an easy reservation process. They allow you to show up when people search for a restaurant with food similar to what you serve.

Example of restaurants being found on Yelp

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30. Try Google Search Engine Marketing Ads

Google search engine marketing ads are a primary way to achieve recognition for your business. When a potential customer searches your keywords, your restaurant is immediately above the competition regardless of SEO, giving you a competitive advantage.

Example of Google search engine ads

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31. Have A Website

A website is a one-stop shop for all things related to your business. The website should represent your brand identity and give a good initial impression. Take a look at Rustica’s website. Their fancy plating gives you a sense of their overall style and allows you to view the menu, so you know what to expect while dining.

32. Maintain An Online Menu

Maintain an online menu to help market your restaurant. Being able to preview the menu is the main factor when customers are deciding where to eat. Aside from the obvious, it will improve your local SEO results. Look at this one from Kroll’s Diner for inspiration.

33. Take Online Reservations

Online reservations let people book a table at your restaurant without having to call. Easy reservations alleviate roadblocks for the customer and make it easy to dine at your restaurant. OpenTable is a platform that is built solely for this purpose.

34. Start A Blog

A blog is a great way to produce content related to your business. Use a blog to share ideas or strategies that bring the customer closer and help build relationships and loyalty. CoSchedule’s blog post templates are a great way to start building your blog.

35. Start An Email Newsletter

Email newsletters let you stay in communication with your customers. They are a great way to share restaurant updates, new menu items, and special deals. CoSchedule’s newsletter ideas blog can help you develop some initial ideas when introducing your newsletter.

36. Maximize Testimonials & Reviews

Reviews are essential to growth and attracting new customers. One way to increase your positive reviews is to offer stand-out customer service that customers remember and want to share. Another option is to provide an incentive for online reviews. Offer a coupon to your restaurant for anyone who shares a review. Check out how Lucky’s uses reviews on their website.

Other Ways To Market Your Restaurant

37. Postcards

Create postcards of your restaurant to sell or give away to customers. Unique and fun designs representing your restaurant can encourage customers to send them out to family and friends. JL Beers allows customers to send postcards from the restaurant for free anywhere. For every postcard, the staff yells, “Beer Mail!”

38. Free Samples

Samples are a marketing strategy that gives customers a taste of what you’re capable of, leaving them wanting more. Olive Garden offers customers three 1oz wine samples to decide which they enjoy most.

39. Fishbowl Business Cards

A business card fishbowl drawing is the perfect way to learn about your customers and create a database. You are providing the customer with an easy shot at a free meal, and they are providing you with valuable information for your business. Island Time Frozen Yogurt uses this concept by enticing customers with the chance to win a $20 gift card.

40. Free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi is an easy way to invite people to spend time in your restaurant without having a specific service to keep them entertained. Free Wi-Fi lets your customers be comfortable waiting and encourages them to stay longer and spend more money. Take a page out of Cafe Nero’s book and offer your customers free, fast, and reliable wifi to keep them happy.