Idea in a Nutshell

Looking for a list of the best marketing strategies to promote your restaurant? Look no further for 35 types of successful technique to reinforce your restaurant marketing plan.

You may know your way around a commercial kitchen. But do you know your way around advertising well enough to make the best of your restaurant start-up?

The growth of the internet has made restaurant marketing more important than it used to be. You can build a brand online that you simply wouldn’t be able to afford using print and TV ads. New types of advertising online tend to be less expensive than some traditional media (like print, radio and TV), but can also be more powerful and attract more attention (if you get them right). The online world is all about interaction, which means customers can really get involved with your brand even when they are not onsite.

To advertise your restaurant effectively, you will need to mix and match advertising across online and offline channels:


(including website, apps, social media, Pay-Per-Click ads, chatrooms, promotions, influencers, )

(including traditional media like SMS, events & PR, print and radio)

You need to populate your marketing strategy with a combination of advertising across different media channels. First you need to get the basics of your strategy straight. 

Take time to refine your USP. Your Unique Selling Proposition is the one message that needs to be put out in all your advertising. You must stay consistent. Always keep saying the same thing. Then potential customers will not be confused: they know exactly what your brand is about. Your USP should be expressible in a single sentence. 

You need to be clear about what your marketing is trying to achieve or you will waste money. You want more customers, right? Well, how many exactly? By when? If you are clear about your objectives, you can then assess whether your advertising investment in a particular area is worthwhile. You can do this by reviewing your customer figures and seeing whether your advertising had an impact; to get to grips with which of your restaurant guests came from what advertising source, you can also use a variety of tracking devices across online and offline media (like vouchers, online discount codes, flyers etc). You can also simply ask guests when they show up where they heard of your restaurant.

With the basics of your marketing strategy established, it is time to put it into action by populating media channels with content. Here are 35 top tips to advertise your restaurant startup in Saudia Arabia and the rest of the GCC:

Online Restaurant Marketing

1. Website branding

Make sure you don’t skimp on spending on your website. Your website is the fixed point of reference for all of your marketing. Aim for all your other media channel advertising to lure potential customers back to your website. Here you have the space to give your definitive pitch to customers: plenty of high-quality images of your delicious dishes, loads of background on the passion and experience that your team offers, as well as a properly thought-out visual brand that makes the best of your offering. Don’t forget to develop a blog, where you can post short articles selling your brand in a more relaxed format. That’s just the beginning! 

2. Facebook page

A big advantage of a Facebook (FB) page is that it is free (unlike a website). Lots of potential customers use FB already, so it is also easier to attract them to a FB page. You can post multimedia content, as well as link to FB groups which might host likely customers. Another key advantage of a FB page is that it allows you to give up-to-the-minute updates on your service and offers. The chief disadvantage of a FB page is that you cannot use it to take orders (as with a website).

3. Website landing page

Your website landing page is usually your home page. This is where visitors ‘land’ at your brand. Make sure you spell out your USP and any up-to-the-minute offers here. 

A website landing page is also used to describe a special page you might have in addition to your home page. This is where you receive visitors who you have pulled in by specific advertising elsewhere (maybe online or offline). The advantage of having a special landing page in this situation is that you can customise your message here to suit the visitors. This allows you split your website visitors up, and offer them different things. For example you might be advertising using Pay-Per-Click advertising a special offer which is only for new customers; when they arrive at your website, your special landing page can give them the VIP treatment that other guests do not see.

4. On Google Business & Google Plus?

Make sure your restaurant is signed up with Google Business and Google Plus. Both are free. Google Business allows you to take reservations. With Google Plus, When a potential customer searches for your business online, added details will come up on the browser sidebar – but only if you have registered with Google Plus. Research shows that almost 90% of restaurant visitors research potential venues online before choosing, so make sure your details are perfectly correct and full of enticing information.

5. Direct mail & newsletters

Sending emails direct to customers can be a tricky business. Do it without having a genuine offer to make, or do it too often, and customers will simply spam you. Show you are not wasting your customers’ time by getting your direct emails customised to suit the type of customer: whether a hot prospect, a new customer or a loyal customer. One excellent form of customisation is to send your customer an email a month before their birthday, asking whether they want to take advantage of your special birthday offer.

The same rules apply to email newsletters. Make sure they have something genuine to offer, whether that is news or discounts or something similar. Always plan your email output with it firmly in mind that people do not have time to read your email; you have to work to claim and reward their attention!

6. SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is how you optimise your website such that Google places it higher up in search results. It is not that complicated, although paying for some expertise is a good idea. Basically, make sure that the copy on your website is full of the sort of phrases that you think a customer would search for. Top of the list is, of course, ‘restaurant’! 

SEO can be challenging because it is not a science; sometimes, you can have a lovely bit of SEO copy prepared and Google totally ignores it. That is just the way it is. What is certainly true, however, is that there is no point wondering why you don’t show up on search results if you have not SEO’d your website.

7. Google Pay Per Click (PPC) ads

These are a form of advertising where you, as the advertiser, bid to have your advert come up when an internet user types in certain keywords. With it being a global market, you will find that top keywords like ‘restaurant’ are fearsomely expensive. Cheaper, then, to go for combinations of keywords that suit your exact offering ie. ‘shawarma’ ‘restaurant’ ‘Riyadh’. A key advantage of Google PPC ads is that you can make changes as often as you like and immediately review how this affects their impact.

8. Facebook and Instagram PPC ads

Facebook and Instagram offer Pay-Per-Click ads, as well as Google. You can advertise here without having a Facebook or Instagram page – and lead customers to your website – but it is more sensible to establish a native online presence first.

9. Online menu

The most useful thing you can offer on your website is your menu. Ensure that it is up-to-date, easy to read, and beautifully-produced. Feature a big button on your homepage which leads directly to it.

10. Online delivery

Fast food/take away restaurants in particular benefit from having an online ordering mechanism. Either people can come and collect their food, or your staff deliver it. Either way, online ordering means customers can get their eyes on your fare immediately and consume it shortly afterwards. Give the customers what they want, which is immediate gratification. 

11. Delivery apps

Team up with apps that already offer online ordering. In Saudi Arabia, a great choice would be Hunger Station. You can still run your own online ordering from your website, whilst extending your reach massively. Online ordering apps will advertise your brand with far greater reach than you could afford yourself.

12. Instagrammability

Instagram is the best social media site to show amazing pictures of your food. You should also produce food/beverages specifically for people to take photos of and then publish themselves; people love taking snaps of ‘instagrammable desserts’ for example. Pictures of perfectly-poured cups of coffee are popular too. But what essentially makes a dish instagrammable? Attractiveness: use ingredients with matching colours, crockery with matching colours – and spend ages getting the lighting just right. If you are no good with aesthetics, one of your staff might have that special gift instead.

13. Hashtags

Hashtags are an Instagram phenomenon. Hashtags make you look very internet savvy and allow you to affiliate your advertising content with a popular existing idea expressed as a hashtag, such as #greatfood. People who then search online for this term will see you if you use #greatfood. Using too many hashtags can make your advertising copy unreadable, so be sparing. 

14. Getting reviewed?

Who can you get to review your restaurant? There are plenty of online restaurant lists and reviewing sites. Get in touch. If you get good reviews, publish them on as many appropriate media channels as you can afford. If you get bad reviews, maybe relent on your marketing for the moment and concentrate on the quality of your offering. Reviews, whether good or bad, are all useful to the determined restaurateur.

15. Responding to reviews?

Nothing will impress a reviewer more than if you get in touch and thank them for their work, whether it was positive or negative. Say thank you, offer them a discount, and move on … the next time they review you (which may happen), they will not have forgotten your basic courtesy.

16. Food Bloggers

Writers who blog about restaurants are common. You can ask them to review your restaurant and, since it is their job, it is likely that they will do so. You can even entice them by offering a free meal (on the understanding that they will mention this gratuity in their review).

17. Social media influencers

Social media influencers have a reputation for being expensive. But you might be able to find the right ambassador for your restaurant at a reasonable cost; you will only know if you do some research. Make sure your chosen influencer is the type of person you want to see in your restaurant!

18. Tweets, timing and Twitter

Tweets are Twitter’s 280 character max messages that you can use to promote your products complete with photos. Time your Twitter output to advertise appropriate dishes at appropriate times ie. breakfast, lunch, evening meal.

19. User-generated content

User-Generated Content (UGC) works really well in the restaurant trade. The idea is to get customers involved in promoting your brand by rewarding them to do so. A good way to do this is to run a competition on your website or social media site with prizes for winners (make sure the prizes comprise your own products!). A popular competition for restaurants is to invite diners to take a photo of their guests and meals on a favourite night out – and the best one wins. If you then display all the photographs on your website, you can then communicate to other visitors that your brand has a loyal, happy customer base.  

20. Amplify your wins

If you get a good review or testimonial, be sure to spread the news across your other online channels immediately. You want to be working towards an online advertising strategy that feeds itself after a while.

Offline Marketing

21. Grand Opening

It is just one night, right? So it doesn’t really matter? Wrong. Your grand opening can be a giant boost to your advertising. If you spend some money and make a special effort, customers will not forget it. You can then use photos, testimonials and contact details from the big night to enrich the rest of your marketing.

22. Billboards

Giant billboard advertising is traditionally one of the most expensive forms of advertising. You can see why. You can achieve great impact to huge numbers of potential customers at once. It is unlikely your startup budget will stretch to giant billboards – but have you considered small billboards, the ones you see on roundabouts and in shopping malls? These are less expensive, and offer the added advantage of local advertising.

23. Events

You should take any opportunity you can to match your offering to big national holidays and events. The obvious opportunity is Eid. Advertise in plenty of time before big days with an appropriate offering.

24. Print editorial

You may have attracted plenty of copy online – but don’t forget about offline too. You may be able to get yourself featured in local/national/international magazines, particularly in trade magazines if their brand specialises in the food you are making.

25. Print ads

Print ads have, apart from TV ads, always been the most glamorous form of advertising. Expensive? Hugely. Worth it? Definitely. Don’t make the mistake, though, of supplying high quality photos to newspapers and expecting them to come out perfectly. Your high resolution shots will look superb in a colour magazine. 

26. Flyering and Postering

Handing out flyers in the locality of your restaurant is one of the most underrated ways of drumming up trade. Just make sure that your staff flyering are ambassadors for the brand; or, if that’s not possible, at least make sure that they do not let the side down. 

Putting up posters can also be effective, but tends to be expensive. You also need to ensure that you do not run into trouble putting up posters where they are not allowed.

27. Local Business Links

Within a few miles of your restaurant, there are likely to be other businesses with whom you can do promotional business. Maybe you link up with other restaurants to make group offerings to the market. Or maybe you associate with other companies whose staff could become your customers; offer them a deal. Make them feel special. 

28. SMS

SMS (short message service) marketing is when you send short messages via people’s text messaging service on their phone. SMS ads tend to have a high pick up rate but a low click through rate. Keep your message very brief, and make sure you are offering something worth having – whether that is giant news about your restaurant or, better, a new offer. As with other forms of direct marketing, try and schedule your communications around known events like public holidays/the weekend/key dining times.

29. Press Release

When you open your startup, you will need to inform the press. The press may not be interested – so make sure you tempt them with a professionally-created press release. A standard format for writing a press release exists, which is to cover the following areas in this particular order: Headline, Date, Introduction, Body, Standard Copy, Call to Action, Contact details. Be sure to write no more than 400 words, double-spaced. Be sure also to spell out what the single news item is (great new restaurant opening!) as well as highlight the human angle (Say something about yourself as the owner).

Any Media Channel

30. The Visual Appeal of Food

It’s not just Instagram that needs high-quality photography of your dishes. Any restaurant advertising, whether online or offline, needs this. Build up a collection of good food photos. Buy a decent camera phone if you have too. In the restaurant trade, this is an essential.

31. Loyalty Programme

Using your POS system, you can run a loyalty scheme. This means that customers who come often to your venue will be rewarded with discounts/free meals/upgrades. You can calibrate your loyalty scheme to suit your resources. Experiment! 

32. Give-aways, Promotions and Discounts

Aside from your online presence, your bricks and mortar venue is the place to base a thorough campaign of promotions and discounts. That means that, when customers come to your restaurant, you advertise to them special deals you are offering. Popular choices are to offer 10% off or BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free). You can also use the outside of your premises to advertise.

A popular form of onsite promotion is to host a competition. Diners are invited to leave their business card in a hat/bowl, and a winner is picked out at the end of every month and rewarded with a free meal. Be sure to get a photograph of the winner and post it on your website, and somewhere in your venue.

33. Your Staff

Online marketing has a big appeal, not least because it is flexible and creative and can often be inexpensive. But, when it comes to promoting your brand, nothing can match a smiling staff member in person. A happy, competent human being serving customers is the best ambassadorship your brand can attain.

34. Testimonials

Both online and offline, testimonials can give the credibility of your brand a big boost. Online, apps like Trustpilot can give your testimonials that edge of authenticity. Offline, display testimonials across print channels like local magazine/newspaper advertising. Customers like to hear from other customers, and tend to believe them.

35. Tracking

You must be tracking your advertising efforts, or you will have no idea which media channels are working and which are not. Applications like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to track your social media channels. You should certainly be tracking customers when they come to your restaurant – brief your staff to simply ask ‘do you mind if we ask where you heard of us, sir/madam?’ Use Google Alerts to tell you when your brand is mentioned on the web.

Thank you for reading this guide to advertising your restaurant. If you have any queries or suggestions, please use the comment area below, and we will be delighted to respond.

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