What Are the Different Types of Restaurant Marketing Ideas?

Sheri Cyprus

The different types of restaurant marketing ideas include tasteful looking image advertising, flier delivery, radio station promotions, time limited discount offers and free food samples. Many restaurants use a combination of these marketing approaches. Their goal is usually to get more customers into their restaurant or create media interest and recognition as a desirable dining establishment, or both.

Signature dishes prepared by chefs are often part of a restaurant's marketing strategy.
Signature dishes prepared by chefs are often part of a restaurant's marketing strategy.

Placing an ad in a newspaper's or chamber of commerce's advertising supplement is a marketing idea that many restaurant owners use. They may include photographs of delicious looking meals in their ads as well as a special discount offer. Visual marketing images and price incentive offers are two different types of restaurant marketing ideas that are often combined effectively. People thinking of trying a new restaurant not only typically want to save money, but also want to have an idea of what they'll be getting for their money.

Restaurants may market themselves by featuring different dishes in a food magazine.
Restaurants may market themselves by featuring different dishes in a food magazine.

Food photographers can take pictures of restaurant food that tempts potential customers who see the ad to want to try the product. For instance, a classic type of restaurant photograph for a hamburger chain shows the slice of tomato in a juicy red color with water drops on it to make the whole sandwich look fresh and inviting. Including a discount coupon or offer in an ad can motivate a person who would usually go to another restaurant to try that new one to save money while experiencing a new place and food.

Newer restaurants may have staff members attend community events to offer the public free samples of their dishes. Typically, take out menus, discount offers or other materials are handed out to people who try the free samples in these types of restaurant marketing promotions. In combination with free samples, restaurant owners who want to bring a lot of public attention to their establishment may choose to have a radio promotion. This is one of the types of restaurant marketing ideas that typically includes on-air ads for the company while the radio personalities run their show from outside the restaurant. A "buzz" is typically created which may include colorful balloons and/or tents to attract attention as well as t-shirt giveaways as well as the personalities repeating messages for people to come to the location to join the festivities.

One of the most popular types of restaurant marketing ideas is holding a contest. This may include a prize drawing for free meals or other merchandise. A contest may be held in a restaurant as a separate marketing idea or be combined with other promotional ideas. Where it is permitted by law, entrants' names, phone numbers, addresses or email information may be used on a list in which to send other marketing communications. This often generates sales leads, so this kind of marketing is referred to as lead generation.

Restaurants may use text messages to market new dishes or discounts to customers.
Restaurants may use text messages to market new dishes or discounts to customers.

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Discussion Comments


@MrsPramm - You can't just sit back and hope that someone will review your restaurant favorably though. When you're just starting out you need to be able to get people in through the doors so that they'll be able to share their impressions with their friends.

Internet marketing can be very handy if you're aiming for a younger demographic but that isn't always the target customer. I would look at what other restaurants in the area do and see what works, as well as implementing creative marketing ideas on a small scale to see what helps and what doesn't do much.

Think everything through before you do it, though, especially if you're hoping to do something silly and "go viral". There is a restaurant in my town that is always pulling stunts in the hopes of getting on the news and I don't think it really helps their image at all. But maybe they are aiming it at a different kind of clientele.


@irontoenail - These days I think the absolute best marketing you can do for a restaurant is to just be consistently good about your customer service. People love to talk about the places they've gone to eat on review sites and if you make a bad impression it can be all over local social media very quickly.

Likewise, if you make a good impression, the same thing can happen.


Think your promotions through very carefully before you enact them. You don't want to accidentally make them too appealing to customers. There's a reason that there are always conditions on coupons, for example, limiting them to two per customer or only to be used with purchase. If you don't add that kind of fine print to the advertising, then you could end up legally bound to provide unlimited specials to anyone who gets hold of your coupons.

If you realize after the fact that you can't honor your promises, then you'll end up with bad feeling in the community and that can drive a person out of business.

Your restaurant marketing plan has to take those sorts of things into account if it's going to be successful.

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