40 restaurant marketing ideas that attract customers

You’ve crafted a strong menu, hired the right staff to execute your vision as a restaurateur, and you’ve slowly grown a local following of regulars that can’t get enough of your food. Things are going great, but there’s a whole world of folks who need to know about your restaurant. The right restaurant marketing ideas can help get your menu, food pics, and reviews from happy customers in front of newcomers who may just become regulars. 

These 40 restaurant marketing ideas can drum up excitement — and more business

Every business can benefit from a strong marketing and web content strategy, and your restaurant is no different. While most entrepreneurs can simply offer a discount or throw out some ads, restaurants have a particularly difficult time bringing in new customers. Explore these ideas below:

Ideas to reach everyday customers

  • Ideas that are perfect for holiday marketing
  • Digital marketing ideas that leverage the power of the web
  • Web-based marketing ideas that build your brand online
  • Out-of-the-box ideas that can help boost your profile
cozy restaurant
Photo by shawnanggg on Unsplash

Ideas to reach everyday customers

Some fundamental elements can help market your restaurant to everyday folks who simply want to enjoy a great plate of food. Try these ideas to help win over new patrons and bring them back time and time again.

1.Collaborate on your marketing content. Whether you know it or not, there are sure to be plenty of talented individuals living in your restaurant’s service area. If that’s the case, why not leverage their talents to benefit your brand? Partnering with local artists can ensure your marketing materials are eye-catching and show you care about the local community by working with one of “our” own.

2. Create a loyalty program. Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of something. A customer loyalty program is a great way to build relationships based on that tried-and-true marketing tactic. Reward customers for continually coming back to your restaurant by offering special perks like a free dessert or appetizer after so many return visits. Not only does this make your customer feel good, but it encourages them to return and keep reaping the rewards.

3. Develop a brand identity. There’s a reason everyone can identify a McDonald’s logo simply by its colors and the “golden arches.” One of the best ways to stand out from your competitors is to establish a unique brand identity. Comprising both visual and non-visual components, your restaurant’s brand identity makes you immediately recognizable to would-be patrons who have seen you around but haven’t checked you out yet. That brand identity can then inform and shape any future marketing efforts you may want to try out down the line. These restaurant logo ideas can help you get inspired as you develop your own brand identity.

4. Send a direct mailing campaign. Most customers would drive up to 30 minutes to try out a restaurant. A direct mailing campaign can be a great way to incentivize those folks to visit. You can either send a standalone postcard to likely customers within the ZIP codes in that driving distance, or you can include a discount offer in a coupon mailer book with other local businesses.

5. Engage the customer directly. Marketing doesn’t have to be all about long-distance efforts to get people into your restaurant. One of the more personal ways you can reach your customers is to talk with them while they’re in the restaurant. Chat about their meal and check in with them about their experience. Not only does that friendly touch add a positive element to the overall customer experience, but you can get valuable feedback that you can use to improve your offerings.

6. Get involved locally. There are plenty of opportunities to make your restaurant a local household name, but one method that immediately puts your brand out there is sponsorship. Chances are there’s a local youth baseball team that needs new equipment or an upcoming event that could use some catered food. If you can swing the cost, you can not only help out a local group, but you can get your restaurant’s name and logo prominently featured in promotional materials seen by would-be patrons.

7. Host a fundraiser or charity event. If a local organization is looking for a venue to host their charity event or fundraiser, why not offer your restaurant as a prime location? This special event can bring in new customers who haven’t tried your food before. Not only does this drive sales, but it cements your restaurant as a fixture in the community.

8. Offer social media specials. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are excellent ways to get the word out about your restaurant, but it can be hard to break through the clutter. Offer incentives to your customers in exchange for tags, ratings, or “check-ins” at your restaurant. They get free food or drink, and you get much-needed user-generated content to help drum up excitement online. 

9. Use eye-catching outdoor signage. We’ve all seen the photos of bars and restaurants using a blackboard sign to highlight a lunch special, often with a quick quip or pun. An eye-catching or witty outdoor sign promoting your business can be a great way to draw attention to your restaurant.

Ideas perfect for holiday marketing

More Americans than ever are dining out for the holidays, which makes every holiday a great time to draw in new customers. Give them a reason to choose your restaurant!

delicious meat food
Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

10. Discount your gift cards. Gift cards make a great stocking stuffer, so why not encourage your customers to buy some for their loved ones? You could easily sell gift cards at a discounted rate or offer a second gift card with the purchase of a first, higher valued gift card. You get the cash up-front, and you could win a new customer out of the deal.

11. Send out holiday greetings with a menu. Whether you resort to email marketing or go the direct mail route, a little holiday cheer can go a long way. Feature a delicious holiday favorite that showcases your restaurant’s specialties to entice new and returning customers to come out for a meal.

12. Offer themed dinner events. Tap into the holiday spirit, whether that’s Valentine’s Day hearts, Mother’s Day roses, or red, white, and blue desserts for the Fourth of July. In one instance, Daniel Carter, a debt advisor at IVA Advice, said a local restaurant near him began running a "Dickens of a Christmas" promotion, which featured a buffet of various holiday goodies and staff members dressed in period clothing.

13. Plan a specially priced meal. An easy holiday marketing solution is simply to offer a special price to match the special occasion. For instance, you may want to offer a multi-course dinner for two on Valentine’s Day for a good price or run a special that continues all the way up to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

14. Sell take-out meal kits. The holidays are all about being home and spending time with loved ones — which is great for families, but bad for businesses. One way you can get involved in the at-home festivities is by offering perfectly portioned take-out meal kits that families can incorporate into their holiday feasts. These kits, like take-and-bake pizza, took flight during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’ve been so successful for some restaurants that they’ve kept them around as a permanent fixture. That way, you make their time in the kitchen a little shorter and your food will remind them how much they like visiting your restaurant.

Web-based marketing ideas that build your brand online

Establishing a strong online presence is a significant first step to take for positive results year-round. Try these web-based marketing ideas to ensure your customers are getting the information you want them to have about your restaurant.

15. Create a mobile-friendly website. More folks than ever use their smartphones to conduct online searches. Make sure your website looks great and functions properly on all screen sizes. The right website builder ensures that your restaurant’s online home works on every device type.

16. Build your email list online. Building an email list can be tough work, but it pays off. Reaching customers in their inbox is one of the most effective ways to bring them back to your restaurant. Utilize email signup forms on your website and regularly promote email signups in exchange for coupons or special deals on social media.

17. Embrace SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, maximizes the possibility that your website can appear on search results when people look for places to eat nearby or for a certain cuisine or ambiance. SEO is multifaceted and can get a bit complicated, but learning the fundamentals can pay off in the long run with more users naturally finding your eatery.

18. Ensure your menu is viewable online. Arguably, your menu is the main attraction for many folks looking for a new place to eat. Make sure that the most recent iteration of the menu is available in all places online, including third-party services that may have an old menu on file. This ensures a more positive customer experience from the first moment they find your menu online.

19. Keep an eye on your brand online. Want to know when someone is posting a piece of content about your restaurant? Utilize software or a service like Google Alerts to see when someone is talking about you online. This gives you an opportunity to engage with folks who had a positive experience and help rectify any negative experiences customers may have had at your restaurant.

20. Try a mobile app. Dedicated mobile apps are a great way to not only connect with your audience, but also provide important information about your restaurant. A mobile app can take a lot of elbow grease, though, so have a marketing plan for your mobile app in place before you get started on its development.

21. Respond to reviews when possible. Not everything always comes up roses. It’s important to be prepared if a negative review comes across your desk. Get out in front of the review and help try to resolve the issue. This can help other potential patrons see that you and your staff put the work in to ensure all customers have a good experience.

22. Set up Google My Business. Starting and maintaining a Google My Business profile puts essential information about hours, busy times, and contact information front and center for your customers. It’s a simple and free tool that gets pertinent information to your patrons quickly.

23. Showcase your restaurant’s culture. Highlight the people you employ, the vibe you go for, and your restaurant’s “why.” These all help keep the restaurant humming. Not only will that show that you value your employees, but it lets people connect with the restaurant on a more personal level — something that can keep them coming back.

24. Start a blog. You can easily share your restaurant’s character and voice by creating a blog. Use this space to give readers an inside look at your brand, whether that’s explaining how certain recipes are developed or showcasing a new staff member. Namecheap’s website maker can help you build and host your blog as well!

Digital marketing ideas that leverage the power of the web

Digital marketing can feel daunting for the unfamiliar. It’s a big umbrella that encompasses a significant number of initiatives, including email marketing, digital advertising, organic content, and influencers. Try out a few of these strategies and see which brings you the best ROI.

25. Collaborate with influencers and bloggers. Folks with local fame have a lot of clout, especially with a younger audience. If you know of any potential influencers in your area, invite them over to your restaurant for a meal in exchange for their coverage, or consider purchasing advertising packages with these creators. That content will be found by other local “foodies” who are likely to put in the effort to attend and could attract coverage on their social media accounts as well.

26. Get active on social media. Getting your business on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a necessity. That’s because not only can you control the narrative on your page with your own curated content, but it’s an instant way to highlight specials and connect with the people that like your restaurant. As we wrote about earlier, it can also help with user-generated content — after all, potential patrons want to see other happy restaurant-goers as they weigh their decision.

27. Incorporate an online reservation system. While the telephone may be the preferred method of contact for many restaurants, there’s a growing number of customers who prefer the ease and convenience of online booking. No one likes to wait around for a table to become available, since that requires sitting around in the lobby and waiting for their name to be called. Rather than forcing people to suffer that scenario, you can offer an online reservation system. That way, customers can set a reservation ahead of time and know exactly when they need to show up.

28. Partner with food delivery apps. Thanks to the pandemic, many people have changed how they order out. Rather than personally calling in to order, many people now rely on the likes of GrubHub, Slice, and Uber Eats. Though these apps usually come with a fee to join and use the service, you may find better yields as your online ordering process gets easier, and they can serve as another inadvertent advertising platform for hungry eyes.

29. Promote user-generated content. People love taking pictures of their food. By encouraging users to use a specific hashtag, you can later look for great posts that highlight your restaurant’s food and share them on your page. 

30. Solicit reviews online. A recent survey found that a whopping 94 percent of restaurant-goers will select a restaurant based on other online reviews. Incentivize your customers to leave positive messages on places like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. 

31. Try SMS marketing. Tap into the growing power of text message marketing. Seen as a more budget-friendly alternative to other marketing methods, SMS marketing tends to have a high delivery rate and engagement rate, reaching more interested customers right in the palm of their hand.

Out-of-the-box ideas that can help boost your profile

There are all the typical ways to reach customers, but an unusual or unique idea could be a game-changer for your business! These ideas can leverage your existing offerings and showcase them in a whole new light. 

black cat ice late
Photo by Reba Spike on Unsplash

32. Bundle certain offers. If you’re noticing that certain menu items aren’t performing as well as others, you can bundle them with items that do well. This can also work if you’re hoping to sell more of a dish that delivers more revenue for you alongside a dish that’s super popular but not necessarily a moneymaker.

33. Consider getting a food truck. This may be a pie-in-the-sky method of marketing your restaurant, but food trucks are all the rage. Whether you drive them around on days the restaurant is closed or rent it for weddings, sweet 16s, and other events, this can help boost your profile and create an additional revenue stream. It’s not as simple an endeavor as the others on this list, though, so be sure to have a plan ready before making your purchases.

34. Create a video. You don’t need to get too in-depth, but a video showing how the food is made can play on a screen in the waiting area as people prepare to be seated or pointed out your front window to get passersby interested. You can also play the video on social media to help bring a new perspective to the food you bring to the table. 

35. Consider ways to use the restaurant when it’s closed. Whether it’s creating a co-working space, a dance studio with clear floors, or a meeting space for the community, explore ways that the restaurant space can generate revenue for you without firing up the kitchen. 

36. Create a prix-fixe menu. A prix-fixe menu simply means that everything in the meal is already set. Patrons pay a fixed price and get to explore several foods as predetermined by your restaurant. This is a great way to highlight your greatest hits and encourage folks to return when your full menu is available to try other delicious bites.

37. Offer discounts to nearby businesses. Employees can turn to you as a quick lunch spot, or maybe the business wants to hold its annual company party at your place. Either way, offering great deals to this audience is an excellent way to attract more local restaurant-goers.

38. Open a pop-up location during events. Food festivals, large outdoor concerts, and other public events need food vendors to keep attendees well fed. By setting up shop at one of these events with a pared-down menu, you can expand your brand to a whole new audience and make money while doing it.

39. Bring some personalization to your menu. If you have one dish that your restaurant is most known for, make that the star of your marketing effort. Consider giving it a fun name and creating some buzz around it. For example, chicken wings with a signature glaze may turn into a chicken wing eating contest. Let it be the main focus for your restaurant’s online marking to remind your preferred audience that they really, really want that dish.

40. Start a secret menu. Who doesn’t want to be a part of an insider’s secret? Keep your customers “in the know” with some special menu items that only they know about. Letting them in on a little secret like that is exciting since the food they may order is nowhere to be found on the actual menu. Word can then travel fast, with someone coming in just to try it.

When it comes to restaurant marketing ideas, it all starts with a strong foundation

This list of 40 restaurant marketing solutions is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether your customers respond well to direct mailers or they’re eager for email, it all begins with a strong brand identity and online presence. You can create both with ease, thanks to Namecheap Visual Maker. This suite of online tools helps you create a logo, build a website, and design business cards for local networking in minutes at a fraction of the cost when compared to agencies. With these fresh assets in hand, the sky’s truly the limit.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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