These are some great ideas, especially the one from Joel Cohen but they are pretty broad. What about some of the simple stuff like getting a sign up during the beginning of the construction phase? This way your future customers will see that you are coming and notice your progress a long the way!
17 Top Restaurant Marketers Share Their Best Advice for Opening a New Restaurant
Restaurant Marketing Tips for Opening Your First Independent Restaurant
“My restaurant is open for business! Hey, where are my customers?” That’s a thought that many first time restaurateurs experience when they open the door to less than rip-roaring fanfare.
There are a thousand things you’ll need to do to get your restaurant off the ground. From finalizing menus to notifying local food bloggers. Not to mention training your staff. Oh and don’t forget the food! So before you know it, you could be in over your head.
With so many things to remember when opening your first restaurant, we thought it would be best to ask the experts. We reached out to restaurant marketers and restaurant owners to ask the question:
What is the ONE best tip you'd give to an entrepreneur looking to open up their first independent restaurant?
Below are some of the best answers we received:
"Hire a branding firm and allow them to do the job you hired them to do"
“Hire a branding firm and allow them to do the job you hired them to do. You focus on the food and the business and allow them to focus on the brand and creative elements. The name and logo are probably the most important elements of your brand, however, there are multiple customer touchpoints that can also have an enormous impact on your customers. The design of those should also be considered when opening a restaurant.”
"Work from a total plan"
“Work from a total plan. Start-up restaurants with no plan are planning to fail. Your plan needs to address finance, operations, the people, and the brand.”
"Setting a vision is the most important thing you can do to stay clear and focused"
“Take some time to get really specific about what you are trying to create. It will impact everything you do in your brand from staffing to location, from the menu to design. Setting a vision is the most important thing you can do to stay clear and focused. Imagine it is five years in the future and things are going the way you'd like--what does that world look like? How are people treating each other in your restaurant? What are you known for in the community? What happens when there is a customer service issue? How do you make decisions? Focusing on this early gives you a place to judge all the decisions you will have to make as you open your first restaurant. Good luck!”
"Surround yourself with people who have more restaurant experience than you do"
“Do your homework, write a financial and marketing plan, determine how you're going to differentiate your concept, have a great location, have previous restaurant experience, and surround yourself with people who have more restaurant experience than you do.”
"Promote, Promote, Promote"
“Just like in real estate, in this digital and visual economy, promote, promote , promote.”
"Identify your brand's voice and tone before you start building"
“Please for your sake answer the question of what is your restaurant brand’s voice, tone; identity before you start designing/building your restaurant. Even with one-location, having a clear brand tonality will serve to differentiate your restaurant in a crowded market while also setting you up for potential expansion as your restaurant thrives.”
"The difficult task is in managing the people who make the magic happen"
“While the answer sounds simple, it is truly a balancing act. Consumer approval of food quality and customer service sounds simple, we all have that goal. The difficult task is in managing the people who make the magic happen. Leadership skills are required in an era of workforce shortages to maintain staff or bring in the experts where necessary to help the owner. Doing all of this while managing cost and cash flow make it one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs at the same time.”
"If you’ve heard that email marketing is dead, you have been lied to"
“If you’ve heard that email marketing is dead, you have been lied to. If you do email marketing well, it can be a very powerful tool for your restaurant. Send out coupons, weekly specials, and other diner incentives and you will have a lot of success with email marketing.”
"Have all the marketing platforms ready to go if not already operational"
“I'd say to have all the marketing platforms ready to go if not already operational: all social pages, e-blast, press kits, must be done.
That way you're off to a running start!”
"Communicate in an authentic way, digitally."
“Plan and implement a digital marketing strategy in a way that's consistent with your in-store experience. Take advantage of technology and marketing communications tools that already exist to attract and engage exactly the kind of guests you want in your locations, and communicate with them in an authentic way, digitally.”
“You can't do it all."
“You can't do it all. Focus on what you're good at and find a partner who's an expert in an area you're not. If you're a chef, then be a chef and let someone else handle the FOH and the other marketing. If you're a business guy and not a chef, then you better find one who knows his or her way around a kitchen, knows how to order product, control food costs, etc.”
"Begin with a simple, clear identity."
“The single most important marketing tip is ensuring you begin with a simple, clear identity. It’s often hard for restaurants or bars to get to this defining position however it is crucial for driving your marketing strategy forward. Within such a competitive market venues need to be able to easily convey their point of difference and be confident to stand behind this in all their online and offline marketing activity.”
"Make sure that you love the idea of being a business owner and not just cooking."
“My #1 piece of advice for aspiring restaurant owners would be to make sure that you love the idea of being a business owner and not just cooking. Being a successful restaurant owner involves a lot more than just getting great food out to the table. Dealing with local regulations, marketing in a highly competitive space, bookkeeping, tax time, and hiring/firing/training employees is just a small taste of the types of things you will need to be great at if you want to have a successful restaurant.”
"Reach out to Food Bloggers."
“Nowadays food business is booming & lots entrepreneurs/food lovers are getting into the restaurant business. It's good to see people are exploring and experimenting. But at the same time, the food business can be crucial too in terms of reaching out to the masses & sustaining, standing out in the crowd. So having patience & being ready to experiment/offer good service to the customers is important. It will take time to build the mark in the industry but patience works.
My 2 cents: Try to reach out to the food bloggers, via Food PR. Have a Blogger's table ready and invite food bloggers to taste your menu & ask them to spread the word on social media. I shall say avoid Zomato initially. Because it's very tough to deal with negative reviews if received. You never know. After a span of 3-4 months then you can get listed your place on Zomato. Make the most use of social media especially Twitter, Facebook & Swarm.”
"It’s ALL about your customers."
“Apart from the obvious ‘don’t do it!’, I’d say it’s ALL about your customers. Forget trying to wow them with novelty or trends, give them what they love and concentrate on making them long-term regulars.
If you want something more marketing based, I would say beware of launching with huge PR hype forcing waiting lists or queues and difficulty in booking/accessing a table. You will annoy and alienate people from day one. In six month's time once the buzz has moved on (and it will) you could find yourself scraping around doing discounted offers because you have no regulars. Better to concentrate on developing a small core of guests with generosity and warmth, offering something that they feel they want to return to regularly, and hopefully turn them into your ambassadors.”
"Think hard about why the public needs your restaurant."
“If you limit me to one tip—one, final, dying-wish-type tip—it would be: please, think hard about why the public needs your restaurant. Don’t just open it because it sounds like fun, you like to eat, and you know some people—open it because there’s some kind of need for it. Nothing metaphysical, necessarily—maybe you simply think your atmosphere is better, or their beer list sucks, or the way you prepare your signature fill-in-the-blank is understandably different (for example, maybe you use a garlic-and-paprika dry rub but they brush on a brown sugar-and-vinegar mix). But you’re entering into a war. You vs. Other Restaurants. Write your “Reason To Exist” into 15 words or less on a piece of paper—it will help you define EVERYthing you do. Not only does it make it clear to everyone from customers to the employees what you’re all about: if you know why people need this restaurant, then you know what to promise them, when to say it, and how. This will give you a basis for deciding everything from menu descriptions to what the hostess wears, from how you behave on social media to what kind of fixtures belong in the bathroom. And it will help you not blend in. “Oh, another one of those kinds of restaurants.” A clear concept based on what customers are looking for is a powerful business idea—it doesn’t require the tireless, all-day-and-night passion of a single person. It begins to build itself, in small ways, among people you can’t always influence. People you’ve never met will be able to enunciate, “Oh, that restaurant wouldn’t do that,” or “Yes, that’s the kind of thing that restaurant would do.” It can be a delightful, surprising, powerful tool—knowing why you exist. Write it down.”
More Ideas to Take From:
Even with these suggestions, there are always more recommendations to learn from. That's why we also suggest you check out EZCater's article First Happy Days Can Decide Everything: How to Market a New Restaurant for more information on how to start your new restaurant.
HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed to this great advice! Please share if you think it was useful! Also, we'd love to have you add to the list. Feel free to leave your own tips in the comments below.
I thought it was interesting when you said to hire a branding firm and allow them to work. My brother is in the process of opening his own restaurant. It sounds like it would be a good idea for him to hire companies to help him brand different food items, articles of clothing, and food containers.
I liked how one of the tips was to use email to send coupons or discounts for your restaurant. A lot of people love to eat out at restaurants, what they don't like is having to pay the bill afterward. Maybe an email with a discount code would get you to a small restaurant or a new one.
Thanks for the great tips.