7 ways to attract more tourists & business travelers to your restaurant

Editorial Team

5 min read
Coffee shop staff sprucing up the outdoor garden and setting the sign out front

Travelers can be dreamy restaurant customers. Generally, they’re curious about your food and region, grateful for a place to rest after a long day, and willing to spend more money than they would in their hometown. If they feel comfortable at your business, they might consider it a second home and return throughout their stay.

Business travelers? They’re the dreamiest. They’ll fill bar seats that other customers may find less desirable, quietly relax or have a friendly chat with the bartender, and happily consent to upsells, as they’re often paying with a company per diem. More and more people traveling for work are folding sightseeing and entertainment into their trips as part of the “bleisure” travel trend. As food tourism also continues to grow, restaurants are well positioned to receive valuable business from work travelers.

Tourists and business travelers have distinct needs and desires, but they’ll all find your restaurant via a limited number of avenues. Here are a few ideas for how to attract tourists and business travelers to your restaurant—and how to serve them effectively once they’ve been seated.

1. Track Google Reviews and Yelp scores

Out-of-towners often rely on websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google to point them toward good food. Keep tabs on your restaurant’s feedback, and check out our advice to earn great Yelp reviews. Don’t pay too much attention to any particular review, whether good or bad. Instead, use reviews to identify patterns. And remember: Always use a professional tone and appropriate spelling and grammar when replying to customers.

2. Spruce up your website and social media pages

Your digital presence is like a second storefront. If a potential customer lives too far away to pass by and peek through your actual windows, they’ll likely visit your website or Instagram to learn about your restaurant. Your job is to make them feel welcomed and enticed when they interact with your business online.

We’ve already covered restaurant marketing strategies in depth on our blog, but here are a few quick tips to help you net travelers’ business: 

  • Build out your website with helpful information about your business’s concept, hours, and parking/transit options. 
  • Create and share at least one social media post per week. Simply sharing other users’ Instagram posts and stories to your business’s account can even help make your restaurant look engaged and popular! 
  • Finally, interact with users by replying to private messages and posting comments.

Pointy by Google is a helpful Clover App that can help products from your business show up in Google search results. Especially if you have a retail component, consider adding this app to help visitors find you online.

If social media, website design, and other forms of digital tourism marketing are not your thing, don’t worry—you’ve found a great opportunity to delegate work. Find out if a manager is interested in digital marketing duties, or even engage a social media-savvy employee with additional responsibilities.

3. Win the hearts of hospitality workers

Travelers often ask servers, bartenders, and hotel concierge attendants for recommendations on where to eat and drink. Make sure the name of your business comes up favorably in those conversations by treating hospitality workers well whenever possible. Show gratitude to hospitality employees who recommend your establishment to guests. And, when industry workers visit your restaurant, consider offering them a dessert or a small discount to build mutual goodwill.

4. Pitch your restaurant to national media

How many restaurants have enjoyed big bumps in business after a visit from Anthony Bourdain or a feature in a New York Times best-of list? Whether your eatery is a one-person operation or a fine dining establishment, you can access travelers’ attention through national media such as TV shows, newspapers, and podcasts. You can’t control media coverage, of course, but you can distill your restaurant’s unique appeal and pitch its story to media producers and food reporters. If you aren’t sure how to tap into those networks, consider hiring a restaurant marketing agency that can help you hop onto travelers’ “to-visit” lists for their next trip to your area and assist with a restaurant tourism approach.

5. Collaborate with a food tour provider

“Culinary tourism has boomed in recent years, topping $805.9 billion globally in 2022,” Food + Wine wrote at the end of 2023. Accordingly, food tour companies have sprouted all over the world. Link up with a tour operator in your town and offer to host a segment of their experience, and before you know it, you’ll have first-time customers in your door on the regular.

6. Consider offering coupons

Depending on your business model, you might be able to entice tourists to visit or order from your restaurant by offering coupons. Provide local hotels with menus to leave in their rooms, and if your food travels well, offer free or discounted delivery for hotel guests. 

7. Earn future business

Once you’ve netted travelers, make sure they tell friends about their experience (and return the next time they’re in town!) by tailoring your service to their needs. Train your bartenders to read the body language of a tired business traveler who wants to look at their phone versus a lonely business traveler hoping to chat. Similarly, make sure servers feel confident about upselling items to customers who may only have one opportunity to dine at your restaurant. Lastly, the worst part of business travel is keeping track of expenses, so ask your service staff to ease that burden by providing an itemized receipt with every credit card signature slip. (Sometimes, travel expense policies prohibit travelers from expensing alcohol, so make sure your employees know how to split checks on their Clover POS system.)

Of course, as you court travelers and build your reputation as a tourist restaurant, make sure you’re delighting locals by delivering great food and service. No matter where they live, happy customers can make your life richer and your business healthier. 

Clover offers a suite of tools designed to help restaurants thrive. From online ordering and a kitchen display system to customer engagement and inventory management, Clover has your back. Reach out to a Clover Consultant for more information. 

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