Restaurant Marketing’s Perfect Storm

Double Date DiningGet ready. If you are responsible for delivering butts in seats for a large national chain, things are about to get a lot harder.

There is a perfect storm on the horizon, and it’s already starting to sprinkle just a little bit.

There are five factors that are going to affect you in 2017:

  1. Increased minimum wage in 16 states
  2. Increased food costs due to free trade revisions
  3. Increased consumer healthcare costs
  4. Increased consumer energy costs
  5. Rising interest rates

In a nutshell, that means it is going to cost more to serve fewer customers.

That sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it certainly does. But, there is a silver lining here. And if your brand is willing to take the risk, now is the time to hit the gas. Here’s why:

In the very near future, these realities are going to hit the big brands hard. They have been trained to cut budgets or raise prices (or both) to make up for lost sales and maintain revenues and profits. However, that is the exact opposite of what should be done.

You must take the long view in these types of scenarios. Cutting advertising means you are absent from consideration in those fewer occasions that your customer is thinking of dining out. Then, if you raise prices for the same quality of food and your customer has less money to spend, guess what? You’ve guaranteed you won’t see that consumer again for a while, as you’ve firmly established your brand as missing the mark on value for the long term.

As advertisers and brands, we must remember that we (should) exist for decades, not for the next quarterly earnings statement. If you are reading this and you have a little bit of grey in your hair, you’ve lived through at least one recession in your lifetime. Are the brands you frequent now different? Probably, but maybe not. Likely you stuck with the brands who continued to give you value, even when you didn’t have as much discretionary spending options as before.

So, if your brand can look beyond the next quarter, you will have many potential customers who have been abandoned by your competitors. Media will open up because demand will go down. And just like stock and real estate speculators, brands with fortitude can realize a market prominence they may not have achieved otherwise.

About Gina Lee De Freitas 

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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Four Ways to Use Your Restaurant Marketing to Create Grand Opening “Buzz”

news word written by ketchup on a plateHere are four cost-effective tips to drive interest in your restaurant’s most important day. 

As a restaurateur, you know all too well just how much time and effort you have put into hiring the right staff, creating an interesting menu, developing on-premise collateral, and selecting a location that is sure to drive butts in seats. Your team has countless hours invested.  Don’t allow your hard work to fall flat by missing the last crucial step: telling guests you exist! 

 1. “Build” excitement

Just like your operations, your restaurant marketing must start long before your grand opening.  Whether breaking ground on a new location or retro-fitting a building that already exists, make certain to post signage that your restaurant is coming soon.  This can be in windows or on chain-link fences surrounding the construction site.  Anytime a business closes or construction equipment makes an appearance, the community is curious.  Use that curiosity to your advantage by sharing information. 

 2. Be a good neighbor

Your real estate team spent a lot of time and effort putting your restaurants in thriving neighborhoods and schools or on a street with easy access to a busy office park.  Now take advantage of all their hard work. Attend events in your community, and go armed with information on your restaurant, opening dates and coupons that encourage trial. 

 3. Get social

Start creating a following on social media long before the opening.  Set aside a modest spend for paid social to geo-target the area.  Hint: 10.2 miles is the ideal proximity for restaurant marketing. Encourage people to LIKE/FOLLOW your pages and handles.  Then, provide regular updates on the progress.  And, depending on budgets, consider hosting a pre-opening event for social fans.   This is a great way to engage fans, as well as a soft opening for your staff to identify any necessary operational adjustments. 

 4. Alert the influencers       

Historically, the food and restaurant sections are among the most read in print and online versions of local papers.  Given this, it’s smart to make friends with those reporters. 

Invite these reporters and editors into your restaurant before you open,  for a “VIP” experience. Treat them to a free meal or and the opportunity to check out your new space and take photos. Invite everyone personally, send an invitation and follow up with phone calls.  If your restaurant has access to a local chef, offer a cooking segment on a local TV morning show to highlight the cuisine offered at your restaurant.  

These small but effective tips will ensure that you’ve created the proper buzz necessary to drive interest before, during and after your opening. 

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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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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