5 Affordable Marketing Ideas for Restaurants


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Successful marketing is all about the size of the returns you receive on your investments, which sounds easy enough until you realize that your business can never be 100% sure how much to invest in order to ensure maximum results with minimal spend. Expensive professional marketing campaigns can often go south, and especially for restaurants, the road back to financial stability is long. In order to cut down on the probability they’ll lose money, restaurants in 2018 are seeking new and inventive ways to market themselves without spending the big bucks that could put them under. Although they’re not entirely free, these five affordable marketing tips for restaurants might as well be. Once put into practice, each of these tips will help you regain control of your personal branding and successfully publicize yourself to an audience who was tailor-made for your restaurant, without breaking the bank.


#5. Maintain a Strong Online Presence.

Chubby’s Restaurant Website Design

In this case, by “online presence”, we don’t mean only social media. Having a strong online presence encompasses more than just the popularity of your profiles; in order to be popular, you have to be seen. Having a desktop-friendly and a mobile-friendly website for your restaurant is essential to making sure your website’s pages are viewed, and frequently. According to Brian Nagele of Restaurant Clicks, in his article “2018 Digital Marketing To-Do List For Restaurants”, restaurants with non mobile- friendly websites dropped far down the list of top returned search results on almost all popular engines. Because their websites weren’t compatible with mobile devices, a fact Google screens in its Search Engine Optimization criteria, they were unable to be as visible as they could have been, and lost out as a result. Not only does having a mobile website affect your overall visibility, but having a cohesive and well-designed mobile website will also affect the visibility of your social media sites (here are 10 great restaurant website designs). With both your desktop website and mobile website functioning at their optimal levels, your restaurant receives a publicity double-whammy.  Here comes our plug… 3, 2, 1: Sociavore lets you build a restaurant website that’s mobile and desktop friendly and packed with a ton of other best-practices for restaurants to get found online. Learn more here.

#4. Take Advantage of Your Physical Space.

Because such a large sector of modern marketing takes place on online platforms, restaurants tend to forget that, first and foremost, their entire product is offline, and that product isn’t exclusively food. Making use of your restaurant’s physical characteristics can be a huge boost in personal marketing, as long as you do it well. Investing in necessary renovations should seem like a given, but going above and beyond to spruce up your decor, change your umbrellas with the seasons, or create an eye-catching bar sign are all lucrative ways of investing money into your own business, that also bring capital back. In warmer seasons, buy bar signs and paint them carefully with funny phrases and daily specials. In colder months, spruce up your indoors with candles and themed drink tastings. Any investment that you make into your actual location is practically free. The time, money, and effort you put into perfecting your restaurant from the inside out means that you are your own walking advertisement, and nothing brings back patrons like a fantastic first experience.

#3. Hire a Professional Photographer.

Photo: Jakub Kapusnak, Foodiesfeed

Almost every aspect of the online world is grounded in appearance, for a very good reason – the only way to tell if something online is as good in-person is by looking at the picture. With so much information online, your restaurant has to make sure that every still, video, and advertisement looks it’s very best, because everyone else’s will. The most efficient way to tackle this tip is to get set up on a typically slow day, starting first thing in the morning and working through your entire menu with one or two of your kitchen staff and one or two of your employees. Make sure to take pictures of cocktails, appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, desserts, and any specialty items. Have your closing staff the evening before make sure everything is clean, and come prepared with one spray bottle of water and one spray bottle of olive oil in case your meals need a glow for their close-up. Though one entire day with a photographer who also offers edits (which you want; ideally, you’ll hire a photographer because you like their edited aesthetic) can get pricey, as long as you combine everything into one day and work quickly, you’ll come away with hundreds of shots you can use for months and years to come.

#2. Cultivate Partnerships with Influencers and Brands.

There’s no getting around that customer-generated marketing (publicity your restaurant receives as a result of your customers including you in their social media profiles) is an incredibly effective way to promote your restaurant. However, it can be difficult to determine which individuals visiting your restaurant will have the most lucrative social media audiences. Instead, familiarize yourself with the Instagram influencers in your local community, be they lifestyle bloggers, models, Silicon Valley experts, or part-time students who dabble in photography. Most of the time, these individuals charge a relatively low fee for the amount of publicity they can give you, and the work you’ll have to put in is only slightly more than usual. Paying a social media influencer to dine at your restaurant and post about you may seem trivial, but some individuals’ posts reach millions of viewers, and can significantly impact how much of the younger crowd is exposed to your restaurant.

Find a local influencer on Instagram. Instagram story by @thebirdspapaya

That being said, brand partnerships are also an effective way to market yourself affordably. Say you’re a bar and grill with 115 taps. You form a partnership with one brewery who gets to run a “tap takeover” for one week. Although the takeover requires 20 of your 115 taps, and could lose you revenue because of exclusivity, the event most likely produces enough of a feeling of novelty and excitement that the funds you invest can double by the time your kegs run dry. Both you and the brewery make money, and you’ve publicized yourself to both the supporters of the brewery and the individuals you’ve enticed with your event. Brand partnerships are a great way to either break even on, or make more than, the capital you invest. Regardless of whether your tables are filled with YouTube stars or die-hard Scotch fans, these types of partnerships reach audiences that never would have known about you if you hadn’t taken the time to form an invested partnership.

#1. Use Social Media for Businesses.

Beertown Public House Waterloo on Facebook

Social media can take many forms – private accounts, public accounts, verified and celebrity accounts, and social media accounts for businesses. Ideally, your restaurant’s social media profiles are consistently maintained, with professional photographs that are posted and organized according to a consistent theme and editing style. Fantastic. Now, the best way to make sure that that perfectly manicured page gets seen is to engage with social media for businesses and purchase ads.  We’ll have an article around that shortly. Ads on social media come in a range of packages, from basic, cheaper arrangements based on clicks per day to more expensive packages that track your personal analytics in-depth and make projection-based adjustments. There are benefits to both, but whichever you decide works well within your budget will offer you back what you invest. Facebook and Instagram ads perform the best for restaurants. Each site comes with its own benefits and ad-types, along with various different ways in which you can advertise on each platform. No matter which you choose, your restaurant will reap the benefits of purchasing ads on social media, and though it might be the most expensive tip on this list, it is the single best cost-effective way to affordably market your restaurant.

Each of these five tricks keeps in mind your tight budget, maintains or adds to your overall brand, and turns limited capital into large returns through cheap publicity. Not all investments have to be gambles, and with these five tips for affordable marketing for your restaurant, none of yours will have to be.

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