Successful restaurateurs invest their passion and skills to thrive in the restaurant business. Those who’ve never worked in the industry may believe that to bring in more customers it’s enough to offer low prices. In reality, things aren’t that simple.
But attracting customers is a challenge that can be overcome. This article shows strategic approaches to bring in more customers. Though effective when applied separately, these approaches are more powerful when they work together.
How to attract customers to my restaurant? Is a common question restaurant owners ask. In this guide, we outline the keys to filling your tables. Read on!
#1 Offline restaurant marketing strategies
Since the launch of discount coupons in 1887 by Coca-Cola, many techniques have been developed to increase restaurant sales. However, even in the internet age, offline strategies like coupons remain effective.
Most of these restaurant strategies to attract customers can become a vital part of your restaurant marketing strategy. The most popular are:
- Limited-time promotions (LTPs)
- Ongoing promotions
- Happy hours
- Birthday offers
- Events (holiday/theme parties, sporting events, live music evenings, cooking classes, ladies’ nights, karaoke)
- Collaboration with local businesses
Gary Vaynerchuk suggests another creative offline approach that guarantees returning customers: a free menu item for first-time guests.
Offline marketing strategies like the ones listed above help restaurateurs create a positive image of their dining establishment and increase the customer retention rate. But offline strategies are not the only ways to attract customers to restaurants.
#2 Social media restaurant marketing strategies
With social media platforms, marketing strategies to attract customers have reached a new level. A strong presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram – gives a business the best possible results.
The choice of social media channels for restaurants should depend on the nature of the business, advertising options, and the number of active users. Instagram and Facebook can market restaurants best. So how can you promote your restaurant online using these channels?
Creating a business page on Facebook is a must when you want to grow the number of customers at a restaurant. With Facebook, restaurant owners can:
- Offer free recipes weekly. These don’t have to be signature dishes, but rather recipes that the audience will appreciate: three ways to use turkey leftovers, how to make pizza in 20 minutes, etc.
- Pick a fan of the week/month and present him or her with an invitation to your kitchen.
- Use quizzes to show that you value your customers’ opinions.
- Share facts about food.
- Host fan recipe contests.
Depending on the location of tables, you can create a photo zone. This simple idea will promote your restaurant on social media. Say a client comes to your restaurant and, while waiting for their order, takes several pictures in the photo zone. When posting these photos on Facebook, they tag the location. Their friends then like the photos, leave comments, and check out your restaurant’s Facebook page. Who would mind going to a place where they can have great food and post beautiful photos on Facebook? Offer discounts on dessert (or any other menu item) for mentioning your restaurant in a social media post.
Want to know how to advertise your restaurant effectively with Facebook? Set up a Facebook business page.
Create an account on Instagram and become a food blogger who engages with customers, gains fans, and promotes new menu items. Apart from Instagram posts, there are two free tools you can use – Instagram Stories and Instagram Live – to introduce signature drinks and new menu items. Partner with other food bloggers, use hashtags, and encourage customers to add your hashtag to their posts and share photos.
How to increase the number of customers in a restaurant? Connect your restaurant’s Instagram account to your Facebook business page so you can access the Facebook business manager and ads manager for your restaurant. Then run ads on both Instagram and Facebook and track how they perform.
Make your dishes more Instagram-worthy. Clever presentation and bright colors help to make food images go viral on Instagram and Pinterest. You can make the entire restaurant more Instagrammable too. Memorable neon signs and outstanding accent walls in addition to a photo zone will do.
Advertising your place through social media is a worthy low-cost investment. Still, we want you to concentrate on the third strategic approach which clearly demonstrates how fast food restaurants attract customers. And the results of this approach are more promising.
#3 Digital restaurant marketing strategies
When you’re looking for how to promote your restaurant business, both offline and social media marketing strategies are productive. Still, labor costs can reverse your gains. This is why digital marketing strategies should be added.
Adopt self-service systems
Self-service systems are included in the best restaurant marketing campaigns. These systems enable effective, profitable, convenient, and meaningful interactions between a restaurant and its customers. On average, self-service systems reduce labor costs, as they take orders without cashiers. Self-service systems also increase order sizes by 15% and lift the restaurant brand.
a) Self-service ordering kiosks
With kiosks at a restaurant, you can serve more guests, increase the average check size, streamline restaurant operations, reduce human error, increase order accuracy, and save on labor expenses.
Kiosks never get lazy or tired. They don’t fail to offer an upsell item. During the time that two cashiers can serve two customers, two self-service kiosks can serve four customers.
Today, quick service restaurants supplement traditional cashier service with self-service kiosks. By the end of 2019, the Taco Bell fast-food chain will have self-ordering kiosks installed in all 6,000 restaurant locations across the United States.
“We know the No. 1 pain point in America is the ordering point,” Mike Grams, Taco Bell’s chief operating officer, told Business Insider. “How do you relieve congestion, how do you make it pain-free as much as you can? The airlines told us they were driven to that decision on kiosks by what happened on September 11. They were forced to do things very differently, and they were forced to do it whether they were ready or not. Customers didn’t know how to adapt at first. Now, people are generally more used to using kiosks. We hope to create that same experience.”
At Steelkiwi, we know how to develop a restaurant self-ordering kiosk. If you’re attracted to the idea of providing customers with the freedom to place orders themselves using this technology, contact us and we’ll show you various options.
In the meantime, feel free to check out what self-ordering kiosks our team has developed for the CanTho restaurant and how these kiosks are used by customers.
b) Table ordering system
It doesn’t matter where the table is positioned in a restaurant – the average customer can never find the waiter when they want the check. How can you keep customers coming back to your restaurant and improve the dining experience aside from offering kiosks for self-ordering?
A tablet waiter is an option. As with self-ordering kiosks, with a tablet waiter, customers don’t have to wait for a waiter to approach. They can just place orders and view the bill with a tap. No paper menus are needed, and there’s no more waiting for a check to arrive. With a tablet waiter, customers can:
- Send orders to the kitchen along with allergy notes
- Cancel orders
- Pay using different payment methods
- Call a waiter
- Send comments to the restaurant owner
- See order status
Tablet waiters eliminate order mistakes and reduce waiting time, increase table turnover, and free up waiters so they can provide better customer service. These features make tablet apps a perfect addition to your marketing strategy for a restaurant business. To learn how tablets are taking over restaurants and why they’re one of the best restaurant ideas, check out this overview of tablet ordering.
a) Branded/standalone apps
Standalone mobile apps copy the functionality of an official restaurant website while adding options for placing online orders. A delivery option is great in case there aren’t enough tables.
Standalone apps are the most common type of restaurant apps. Take the Panera Bread App as an example. It lets users search for nearby locations, customize orders, place orders, and track delivery.
While delivery is a common feature for most restaurant applications, Domino’s is recognized for going beyond delivery. The company’s owners have announced a partnership with robotics company Nuro to automate delivery. Customers in Houston, Texas, who place online orders will have a chance to use Nuro’s autonomous delivery — the very first unmanned delivery service.
“Through all our prior rounds of testing, we have learned that many customers are receptive to the idea of a self-driving vehicle delivering their pizza,” Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s executive vice president and chief information officer, says. “Some customers even said they would prefer a self-driving vehicle to delivery with a driver — we know it’s not for everybody, but there are customers who are interested in this type of delivery.”
b) Loyalty apps
There are two reasons why a restaurant should build a loyalty app: to gather information about customers and use this information to provide a personalized customer experience. Functionality, engagement, and incentives are three qualities of a loyalty app that increase customer retention and build loyalty. You can reward your customers for:
- Every dollar spent
- Ordering ahead
- Sharing your content
- Referring friends
- Giving feedback
After downloading the Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards App, users instantly receive a coupon for a free burrito. The coupon expires 7 days after downloading the app and can’t be redeemed at a drive-thru or via online ordering.
With the Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards App, users earn points toward free dining credits: 10 points for every dollar spent at a restaurant and 50 points after joining through Facebook. They receive a $10 credit after earning 1,000 points.
c) Booking apps
If you’re wondering how to make your restaurant better, consider launching reservation/booking software.
With booking software, customers can book a table online at any time to avoid waiting in line, while restaurateurs can reduce the time spent accepting reservations by phone or email. Plus, booking software increases the base of potential returning customers. Take the following features as an example of what booking software should include to make the process convenient on the customer’s side:
- User-friendly table planner
- Interactive restaurant map
- Possibility to add special requests (for example, for flowers or a particular table setting)
- Automatic allocation of free tables
- SMS confirmation bookings
- Reminders before the reservation
- Possibility to reorganize tables to accommodate large groups
- Multi-language support
On the other hand, through booking software, a manager or waiter can see daily bookings per table, check reservations by date via a drop-down calendar, and verify reservation details.
d) On-the-go apps
On-the-go mobile applications are what attract customers to a restaurant. Such applications allow customers to escape the queue, preorder and prepay, select a pickup location, and save orders as favorites to speed up future orders. With on-the-go mobile apps, restaurant owners increase the number of customers.
KFC is one of the food chains that has launched on-to-go mobile ordering. The app allows customers to order literally anywhere and pick up their orders via the drive-thru or in-restaurant.
With the Dunkin’ Donuts Mobile App, users can make orders 24 hours in advance. Those with preorders can speed past the line and pick up their food. For more details, check out how to place an on-the-go order with the Dunkin’ Donuts App.
Say you’re interested in all four types of loyalty apps mentioned above. Does that mean that you need to launch four different apps? The answer is no. The division into types is rough: one app can do all four things. With a 4-in-1 application, users can:
- Book a table beforehand (2 months before a birthday party, for example)
- Book a table for the evening
- Preorder and pay for food to reduce the waiting time
- Get bonuses, earn points, and use discounts
- Get food delivered to the doorstep
- Pay for food without waiting for a waiter
Cost of app/kiosk development vs labor costs
According to ZipRecruiter, as of August 2019, the average hourly pay for a waiter in the USA was $17. In local restaurants, hourly wages are as low as $5.29 and as high as $29.09. Below is an example of the average income of waiters across the country, according to numbers provided by ZipRecruiter.
The average annual income of a waiter is $36,267. Even the smallest restaurant has at least 2 to 3 waiters, which means annual salary expenses of between $72,534 and $108,801. Add to that the annual management labor cost ($49,212). So your yearly labor costs might be around $121,746 to $158,013.
Say you decide to implement a self-service kiosk in your restaurant. The cost of the kiosk will depend on the level of customization you need and may vary from $1,500 to $15,000, plus a license fee for each location that runs the software. Even if you decide on four kiosks with maximum customization per location, the total cost (around $60,000) will still be lower than the labor cost.
For an app with management solutions (booking tables, preordering food, loyalty programs, delivery options), the cost will range from $20,000 to $100,000. That still will be lower than the total labor costs per year.
At Steelkiwi, we know everything about digital restaurant marketing strategies. We’re here to help you develop software for self-ordering kiosks and all types of restaurant applications. Let us know what your digital needs are and we’ll become your guide on the route to success.