6 effective restaurant promotion ideas

Editorial Team

4 min read
Restaurant owner writing on sidewalk sign

In 2019, there were more than one million* restaurants nationwide, with approximately 10,000 new establishments** opening every year.

Then COVID-19 came along, making the industry even more competitive. Most restaurants experienced some type of shutdown during 2020, with some even closing their doors permanently. Those that managed to stay open suddenly found themselves catering to a general public that was cautious about dining inside.

Against this backdrop, you may be concerned about how your restaurant will weather the current storm. Now that lockdowns and social distancing have become the norm, sponsoring events or hosting happy hours are no longer reliable strategies for promoting your business.

Below are six restaurant marketing ideas to help you survive – and potentially thrive – in the “new” normal.

1. Create special offers

One way to attract more traffic is to create special offers. Most dining establishments focus on food-related perks – such as 50% off appetizers or family meal deals. Incentivize larger check sizes by upselling, cross-selling, or bundling some of your highest-margin menu items.

2. Expand your restaurant’s capacity

With social distancing rules in place, you likely have less available floor space in which to seat tables. However, you can “expand” your restaurant’s real estate by:

  • Introducing outside seating (if the space exists)
  • Extending your hours (if possible)

Either way, these two restaurant promotion ideas allow you to serve more customers (and help generate more sales) on a daily basis.

3. Embrace mobile payment processing

Another way to help increase sales is by offering curbside pickup or delivery. Although these aren’t really restaurant marketing ideas, they both help promote social distancing by allowing customers to receive their orders without entering your establishment. Implementing these options is as simple as adding mobile POS card readers or a virtual terminal solution to your payment environment.

4. Double down on advertising

Advertising budgets are usually the first ones to go during hard times. With less money coming in, you may not have as many resources with which to build and maintain a marketing strategy for your restaurant. Yet, because other restaurants are facing the same budget constraints, those that do manage to advertise may end up with the lion’s share of new customers.

One can argue that your advertising spend may go even further during lean times, helping you to earn higher-than-average returns from every dollar invested. In addition to food-related discounts, you can highlight online ordering, curbside pickup, outdoor seating, or any other restaurant promotions you’ve recently introduced.

5. Launch a loyalty program

Advertising is what you use to attract new customers, but loyalty programs are how you keep regulars coming back for more. According to recent studies, customer acquisition can cost up to five times more than customer retention. Thus, if you’re looking for better returns for every dollar spent, it may be time to launch a loyalty program for your restaurant. Check out our Starter Guide to learn how to begin.

The impact of your loyalty program becomes stronger still when leveraging integrations. With Clover’s POS solutions, for example, you can send loyalty rewards to your customers using whatever communication channels they prefer – from email to SMS to native mobile apps. Every time they redeem those points or buy something new, this information is automatically captured in the tools you already use to run your restaurant.

6. Future-proof your operations

Most restaurant owners focus on generating more sales. The real goal, though, is to generate higher profits. This can be done by buying in bulk, shopping local, and keeping your menu as simple as possible – steps that all help control costs and let you keep a higher percentage of every sale.

Equally important, this simplicity helps to future-proof operations since you don’t have as many moving parts to manage. Buying inventory that never spoils, for example, makes it easier to pause and resume operations if there are future lockdowns.

Looking for a restaurant POS solution?

Whether you need contactless credit card machines for curbside pickup or loyalty program support for your most enthusiastic patrons, we have the tools to help you get there.

To learn more about our complete line of POS solutions for restaurants, schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.

* “Restaurant Industry Facts at a Glance,” National Restaurant Association
** “Here’s how competitive the restaurant industry really is,” Restaurant Business Online, 18 April 2018

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