If your restaurant business hasn’t revamped its marketing strategy recently, it may be time to think about innovative ideas for the high-volume holiday season ahead. Yes, it is still summer time and the holidays seem a long way off, but as the adage says, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Marketing techniques continue to shift rapidly with the rise of social media and an increasingly mobile-first mentality, so it is important to take inventory and plan carefully for your restaurant’s success.

According to a recent survey, 41 percent of restaurants increased their marketing budget in 2017 and 88 percent of restaurants engage in paid marketing, advertising and promotions. But, are most of these businesses utilizing their marketing dollars on effective marketing solutions or are they hanging on to more traditional methods to get the word out? Research indicates that newer digital marketing techniques are now favored over older marketing methods (i.e. TV, magazines direct mail), with social media ads expected to be the top marketing method used by restaurants this year.

So, while some restaurant chains are right on target with their marketing strategy, others may not be quite as prepared. No matter where your marketing currently stands, all is not lost. The slower summer months are an ideal time to research and plan a savvy digital marketing campaign that will boost sales into the holidays and beyond. Here are some tips to consider as you begin to formulate a plan.

Examine the past to predict the future. Look at data points, often provided by your online ordering or POS vendor, from last year’s sales to determine what menu items were popular, when they were ordered, as well as sales volumes. These numbers can help determine promotional marketing tactics.

Develop a loyal consumer base. According to a 2017 HT Restaurant Technology Study, improving efficiency has been unseated by consumer engagement as a top strategic goal for the industry. Restaurants should be working to build a database of customers through loyalty programs, alluring social media content, email promotional offerings and by providing access to an online forum where feedback is welcome. Savvy digital marketing companies also offer access to databases of look-alike consumers that closely match your current customers. In the long-run, this data can build your loyalty base and assist you to reach smaller, targeted audiences with specific promotions.

Offer catering and promote it. As the holidays approach, office parties and large family gatherings ramp up. Catering is big-business and if marketed well, this can increase profits exponentially. Make sure to target granular local audiences such as local businesses through social media ads, eye-catching e-mails promoting the new catering holiday menu and enticing and well-timed promotional offers.

Explore what’s new in the digital marketing realm. Consider newer digital marketing techniques that are gaining traction, like geo-fencing.  Restaurateurs can target audiences within proximity to their restaurant and serve them ads on social media or promotional offers to entice them to dine-in or order online. This is also a wonderful way to reach new potential customers to add to your growing database of loyal patrons.

Invest in great photography and quality content. With social media advertising being the most popular way for restaurants to get the word out about their offerings, make sure that your photography and content create a delicious experience that attracts a new generation of customers. Digital marketing gurus can help create savvy ads and one-of-a-kind content that will reach target audiences in an enticing way.

Tap a digital marketing vendor for support. Select a digital marketing vendor that has access to a double opt-in database of potential consumers and make sure that they offer more than just email marketing and list building. They will be able to educate and help expand your marketing plan into a cutting-edge tool that will produce substantial returns.  

Don’t set it and forget it. Schedule an annual review of what worked this season and plan better for next year. Remember that one well-planned initiative is better than several ill-planned ones. So, if certain aspects of your restaurant business aren’t up to speed, focus on those that are.

The slow summer months are an opportune time to put a seasonal or annual digital marketing plan into action. The secret to success is understanding what makes your customers tick and connecting with them accordingly.  Savvy digital marketing companies that are in-tune with today’s newest technologies can help to bridge that gap.

Alex Radetich is one of two managing partners and founders of Take 5 Media Group, a leader in e-mail and omni-channel marketing and a nationally recognized compiler of double opt-in consumer participation. Radetich is responsible for managing the company’s day-to-day operations across South Florida, New York and Atlanta and for growing Take 5’s strategic expansion into new data products and services. Radetich brings more than 25 years of experience in direct marketing, database management and audience segmentation to Take 5 Media Group. He can be reached at alex@take5mg.com.
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