4 Ideas to Promote Your Restaurant Without Discounting


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Discounts can be a double-edged sword for your restaurant if you aren’t careful. It can be hard to tell if your restaurant is breaking even, in the black, or even in the red, which is often the fault of the discount.

 We’ve compiled a list of 4 easy ideas to promote your restaurant without discounting so that you can rid your restaurant of money-draining marketing and grow the customer base you’ve always wanted.

#4. Join the Eco-community

Sustainability and ecological reform is one of the hottest trends in independent restaurants, and more recently, in larger-scale corporate restaurants. Recycling, composting, thoughtfully sourcing your ingredients, and repurposing materials are all wonderful habits for today’s modern restaurants. Whether you serve coffee whose used grounds can be added to fertilizers or donate your composted materials to a local community garden, there are outreach groups, recycling companies, and national awards for this type of work giving back to the Earth. Not only can you use recycling and composting as a way to save money on materials and expensive disposal methods, but many outreach and nature-centered groups consist of people from all walks of life, in all different fields, who may provide positive word-of-mouth for the work that your restaurant is doing. Offering what you can to help and advance such a wonderful movement will only publicize your restaurant in the most positive possible light. Plus, you help the planet in the process!

#3. Be engaged locally

Be visible in your community.  As a restaurant, you have physical space that can be used to support local community events and non-profits.  Offering up your patio space for snacks and happy hour after the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 10K costs you little, but makes an entire subsection of the community happy. Tack on the work you’ve already done to make your restaurant as accommodating as possible, the positive word-of-mouth generated from community events can easily bring in as much revenue as promotional deals with discounts.

Photo: Howard Lake, Flickr

#2. Promote “scarcity” 

There’s the adage, “we want what we can’t have”.  Scarcity sells.  A limited supply of a product, available to a limited number of consumers or a limited amount of time. We’ve seen this used for decades on television shopping networks (although to the absolute cheesy extreme). Within you restaurant, there are a few ways you can accomplish this using the reach and instantaneous nature of social media.  For example, on a busy night, snap and share a photo of a hostess’ book filled to the edges with reservations. 

It will bring customers sniffing who wouldn’t have given your restaurant a second thought if it wasn’t for the perceived exclusivity. By making it feel like a benefit to even have a table at your restaurant,  your guests will be predisposed to enjoy their experience because they already feel like they secured something scarce.  

#1. Manufacture demand

Restaurants tend to forget that even though some aspects of economics are determined by psychology and math, capitalism and the free market were created by people.  So it can be manipulated by people to produce a certain outcome. The entire point of promoting a restaurant without offering discounts is to save money. However, 50% of a “promotion” consists of one party gifting another something they really need, something that has value. So how do you and your restaurant offer something to your guests that will be of value to them without losing that value yourself? You have to look at the market from a different angle. An example: your new menu debuts and nobody seems to enjoy the fried pickles. Here is a golden opportunity to manufacture demand that will help you with your supply problem. 86 the fried pickles, take the remaining jar of 50 and create pickleback shots – 1 oz. of whiskey with a pickle in the rim chased with homemade pickle brine in-house. Not only is this new item mysterious and interesting, it is limited, and as we now know, scarcity itself can drive people to make the purchase. The first 50 people through the door on Friday night for happy hour can get a pickleback shot for $2.50, but there are only 50. Advertise the deal starting a few days in advance on all your social media sites, and that exclusive environment you’ve been working to cultivate will handle the rest. Once you’ve created your own demand for a product that doesn’t cost you anything to give away, you have successfully promoted your restaurant without offering discounts, and have made a substantial sum of extra capital in the process. Win-win!

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