Restaurant Marketing Means Going Beyond the Menu

menu.jpgFood is not the only thing that restaurants should be focusing on to make their establishment successful.

Typically, a restaurant concept revolves around a type of food that the creator thinks is innovative and missing from the plethora of dining options we have available today.  While food is, clearly, a key ingredient in the success of a restaurant, it is not the only thing that restauranteurs should be focused on.

Enticing guests to get their butts in your seats requires more than a stellar menu, you have to understand what drives that visit and what your strategy and focus will be in terms of differentiating yourself in the market.  And while you can’t be all things to all taste buds, you should consider each of these categories and then prioritize the top three that you want to focus on and really strive to stand out in those key areas.

Food & Beverage

Does your food taste good? (hopefully you think so)  Assuming yes, do you have a signature food and/or cocktail item?  If not, you should consider creating one.  I can’t tell you how many times I ‘crave’ a food item and will actually go out of my way to visit a restaurant just to scratch that itch.  That item should have some ‘secret sauce’ ingredient or process that is not easily replicated so that guests know that they can only come to you if they want it.

Not only does this approach differentiate you in the market, but it also drives that repeat purchase which is so critical to lasting success in this industry.


This refers to both the guests that you attract as well as the staff you have on site.

Part of your guests experience is who they are sharing tables with.  If you are going for the ever-popular millennial crowd then you need to seed your restaurant with things that attract that audience – outside of the food.

Part of this is the staff that you hire in, their friends will visit them while they are working, and they will then bring their friends with.  The staff are who set the tone for your valuable repeat visitors as well, so creating the employee culture that spills in to customer service is an invaluable strategy.


Related to the above category, the type of ambience that you create at your location will drive the types of guests that you attract.  If you are interested in the sports crowd, then ensure that you have the channels and screens that you know sports fans like.  Conversely, if you know that you want to go after the families with children, then perhaps restricting or removing screens from your restaurant is the better option.

Also, consider commissioning local artists for your wall art – this gives a local flair to your location as well as ties you closer to the community, encouraging trial from guests that you might not normally be able to reach depending on your location or food style.


If you’re new to the block, that’s a pretty easy sell for folks to want to check you out.  But remember, first impressions are critical – this is the point where you could be gaining a lifetime guest, so don’t mess it up.  Because this is a vital time period in a restaurant’s life, be strategic with your approach.  Do soft openings, give out VIP passes – make a splash in your new hood so that the novelty effect lasts as long as possible.


Location, location, location – not much to say here that you don’t already know.  But when you are picking where to put your restaurant roots down, consider traffic patterns and what types of guests are likely to find your location convenient.  Additionally, if you’re in an urban area with limited space – parking is a true consideration for those that want to eat out.  I have definitely moved away from a location because our party was too big and we did not want to ‘deal’ with parking – that’s money lost.


Finally, put your economist hat on and review the price and value of your food offerings.  If there are fun and different ways to surprise and delight by adding value for your guests (free bread, bottomless soda, free chips and queso), then do it!  But buyers beware, if you don’t want to only be a price/promotion-driven restaurant, then this should probably not be your primary focus as there is always someone out there with a cheaper and faster way to do, what you do.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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