5 Fail-Safe Ways to Increase Foot Traffic to Your Restaurant

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Workers taking orders at the Chick-fil-A drive thru.
Traffic Jam Getting more people through the front door is a restaurant’s number one goal for increasing store-level sales. But, what’s the best way to go about it? And, where do you even begin? The answer is simple: be where the people are. Restaurateurs need to have a presence where people seek out information about restaurants. According to a 2011 study from the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of adults turn to the Internet, 31 percent to newspapers, 23 percent to word of mouth and 8 percent to local TV. Here are five ways to make both your digital and tangible presence stand out among the crowd and, most importantly, drive traffic to your front of house. Click the arrows above in the photo or slide through to view the tips.
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Female hands holding an aubergine.
Do more targeted local promotions Create promotions targeted towards specific groups of customers in your immediate geographic area. Look at a map and draw a 5, 10 and 15-mile radius around your restaurant. These are the people who are going to be your most frequent visitors. Create specific marketing promotions for each grouping. The college crowd. If a college is within a 15 mile radius of your location, you could offer a student discount or contact Student Services and offer a food donation for their next event. New construction. If there is a new apartment building being built, contact the building manager and offer a discount to new tenants. Find your local VIPs. If there are prominent figures or influential community members who live in the area, try offering your restaurant as a spot for meetings, events or celebrations. Give back. Local restaurants succeed best when they’re seamlessly integrated into the local community. Become an advocate for local causes and have a community page on your website explaining that your restaurant is available to support fundraising campaigns and charitable donations. Keep an eye on the city website. The city website is an invaluable resource when coming up with local promotion ideas. Monitor it for little leagues, social clubs and church events your restaurant could take part in or host.
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flickr: jakerome
Don’t forget about direct mail Even in the era of social media, direct mail remains one of the best way to increase walk-ins to your restaurant. A tangible flyer that’s directly delivered to your customers’ mailbox may catch more attention than a social media post. Here are the best strategies for a successful direct mail campaign: Segment, segment, segment. Your list is the most important component of a successful direct mail campaign. Understand your main demographic so you can purchase better targeted lists. If you know your main demographic includes females ages 25-35, you can save money and increase your ROI by only targeting that group. Buy mixed lists. Buy a direct mail list with both residential and commercial contacts. This allows you to target your campaigns for different purposes. For example, if you want to promote your new catering program, you’d want to target a commercial audience. Know the sweet spot for quantities. A common question is how many direct mail pieces to send for maximum ROI. When taking into account the lowest postage cost for pre-sort standard mailings and hitting the maximum number of mailboxes, the sweet spot tends to fall between 5,000-10,000 mailings. Give them an offer they have to come in to redeem. Yes, coupons still work in direct mail. Include a coupon in your messaging that they have to come in to redeem. Coupons can be particularly useful for frequent buyer programs.
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flickr: Dave Schumaker
Get control of your online listings According to Pew Research data, the web is the go-to place for people looking for information about restaurants. It’s no surprise that many online services have built a web presence to gather these listings. Restaurants should be sure they have a web presence on the following online listing sites: 1. Google (Here’s the official guide by Google to add or edit business information on Maps: https://support.google.com/business/answer/6174435?hl=en) 2. Facebook 3. Bing 4. TripAdvisor 5. Foursquare 6. Allmenus 7. Yelp 8. Zomato 9. OpenTable 10. Postmates 11. Delivery.com 12. AllergyEats Yext has just released a new product geared toward the restaurant industry called Yext for Food which will take care of a lot of these online listings for you. The great thing about Yext is they have direct API integration into many of these sources, so you are able to make real-time updates to your information and maintain control of your listing. Check out more about Yext
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Two people working together on a computer.
Become a social media pro Your digital presence can potentially reach a broader audience than a paper-based marketing campaign, with the significant advantage of being less expensive. Start with building your restaurant’s website, Facebook page and Instagram account. Use videos on Facebook. On Facebook, share news stories about your restaurant and incentivize comments. Remember: Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the social media will prioritize videos (especially live videos) and “meaningful interactions” among users. This means that the more your content gets “likes” and comments, the more often it will show up on people’s feeds. Oath Pizza’s recent video, which shows how its pizza is made, or sweetgreen’s professionally shot salad pics, are great examples to follow. Do your hashtag research. Practice real-time marketing and stay apprised of trending hashtags. Create shareable content and use popular hashtags in your posts, but be careful to understand the full context behind a hashtag before you participate in it. And always have a social media emergency response plan in case things go awry. Remember #McDStories? Take better pictures of your food. The most valuable asset for your restaurant are pictures of your food. Invest in professional photography to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and share your best dishes on Facebook and Instagram. Incentivize people to take and post their own pictures of your food as well.
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The exterior of a Checkers fast-food restaurant.
Update your outdoor signage Your outdoor signage system must accomplish these four main goals: Let customers know where you are. Give them information. Look nice. Spark a conversation. The more eye-catching your entrance looks good, the more passers-by will stop in. Pinterest has a great collection of restaurants signs with different fonts, designs and content and can be a great starting place for restaurateurs to brainstorm. Depending on the real estate available on your storefront, it’s recommended restaurants have a main, fixed sign that prominently displays the restaurant’s name and another sign (most often an a-frame sign) that you can rotate seasonally and write info on upcoming events, promotions and fun messages or jokes. Outdoor signage can also mean window graphics and decals. Windows provide a lot of real estate to advertise your latest promotion and draw in foot traffic, so be sure to capitalize on all your available space. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to test different messaging to see what works best for you. Marketing your restaurant doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Simply lay the foundation with these five strategies and soon enough, your restaurant will see an uptick in foot traffic, sales and customer retention.
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Close up of fast food snacks and drink on table.
Conclusion Marketing your restaurant doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Simply lay the foundation with these five strategies and soon enough, your restaurant will see an uptick in foot traffic, sales and customer retention. Ben Nicholson is the Director of Business Development at Dot It Restaurant Fulfillment, a specialized restaurant distributor headquartered in Arlington, Texas. Dot It provides a turn-key fulfillment solution for custom print and restaurant supplies to businesses in the foodservice industry. Follow Ben on Facebook. Read more about the company here