Wondering how to make a marketing plan for a restaurant? Here’s Rosie Marsh, Associate Consultant at Bums on Seats, to help you get started.
Creating an effective Marketing Plan for your venue, especially if you’re an independent or smaller business, can seem like a really daunting task.
Where do you begin? How do you compete with bigger chains who have generous budgets or huge marketing teams? I’ve come up with five simple steps to get you started on creating your own Plan, putting it into action, and seeing results.
Why am I doing this?
You may know the old proverb, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Regrettably, the days of simply opening a business and people just rocking up are over.
You need to spread the word and build a loyal community of people who will tell their friends and family how much they love your place. Having this mindset is central to everything you do, and will actually transform your Marketing Plan from a chore into a delight as you begin to see your business prosper and your brand become a byword for a fabulous customer experience.
To begin your new Plan consider some of the most important aspects of your business. Do you want to engage the local area? Do you want a younger audience? Are you looking for a way to boost lunchtime trade? Simply try and pinpoint what you want your strategy to focus on, and make it work for you. Use your family, friends and staff to help think through this fun and important first stage.
What makes me special – what makes them special?
The busiest restaurants and venues do not have a secret formula. It’s simply that they know exactly who they are. This then feeds into every aspect of their business, from image design and tone of voice right through to the type of glasses used to serve drinks. Gaucho, for example, are renowned for their luxury steak houses; they aren’t about to start doing Taco Tuesdays and Pina Colada happy hours. Why? Because they have built a reputation for the thing that makes them special.
Start by making a list of everything relevant to your venue. Be open and honest with yourself: What makes it unique? Can you describe the atmosphere? What’s the tone of voice like? Is your brand respected locally? Find out what others really say about you.
Think of your brand as a person with its own personality. If you’ve got a Mexican theme, be colourful, loud, fun, bold – and don’t start serving chips on the menu just because you’re panicking.
Think about the kind of customers you want, and please DO NOT say to me ‘it’s all of them.’ To build loyalty you need your ‘tribe’. You need loyal followers who keep returning because of the excellence in everything you say and do.
Write down the main characteristics of people your business will appeal to the most, such as their locality, jobs, income, gender, hobbies and food preferences. The more you know about your demographic, the more effective your marketing will be. Your circle of customers will widen as the word spreads about your particular style of delivery and warm reception, in time making it possible for you to spread your wings more widely.
Marketing will only be successful if it’s properly planned and delivered. You don’t need one for every season (although if you can, then great) but it’s key to have an overarching plan which drives everything you do.
Ideally have at least five main focuses for your business. For example, who do you want to attract: local business or corporate? Which aspect of your business needs most focus: day or evening? Weekend or weekdays? What about seasonal offerings including Christmas or Valentine’s Day? Takeaway or off-the-shelf offerings available now or post-lockdown?
Write down everything you need to do to achieve your goal for each area of focus. Then decide what you can do immediately to achieve that goal or what needs a little longer.
You could split timings up into one month / three months for example, but you must have a clear timetable apportioned to each goal so that you don’t feel overwhelmed, your staff are clear about the way forward, and each goal can be progressed and monitored.
Build a Marketing Calendar
If you’ve never built a Marketing Calendar, I’m about to blow your mind! It will completely change the way you work.
By working ahead, rather than playing catch up, your venue will always be on the front foot. It helps to put your Marketing Plan into categories like social media, newsletter, etc and (very importantly) your brand Awareness Days! I love an awareness day; it’s a profitable way for you to focus on something fun and relevant which is going to get traction on social media platforms.
Look at Awareness Days specific to your brand. Are you a cocktail bar? Great, there’s a cocktail day every year and countless other days celebrating specific spirits. Sushi restaurant? You’ll be able to celebrate Japanese Independence Day, as well as International Sushi Day and many others. Think about promotions and activities focused on these days and you’ll soon find yourself brimming with ideas!
By having a calendar that lays out each separate thread of your Marketing Plan, you’ll be able to bring them all together and create a multi-pronged approach for your customers.
This is a vital part of building a digital marketing plan for a restaurant, and there are hundreds of free marketing calenders out there. Just search online, find one that works for you, and commit to it for the months ahead.
Creating and maintaining a successful marketing strategy for a restaurant takes time.
You know that restaurant who suddenly appeared from nowhere and was booked for three months straight? I can guarantee you they had a marketing and PR team working away in the background for months before that.
Please do not be disheartened if you don’t get results straight away. Stick to it, stay committed to planning and execution, and results will come!
If I can give you just one more little piece of advice, it’s to not be afraid of taking risks. At the same time, if you’ve done everything described above, if you’ve put the work into knowing your customer base, really understood the strengths of your own brand and planned ahead… then whatever you’re doing won’t actually feel like a risk at all.
It might be whacky, a little bit ‘out there’ or different, but if you’ve put the work in you will see customers return time and again, and profits increase. We at Bums on Seats can help you further with all of this, no matter how small your own precious enterprise!