It’s notoriously difficult to succeed in the restaurant industry. Speculate on opening a restaurant of your own, and unless you already have a track record akin to David Chang, you’ll be categorically cautioned against it. Even if you get the food, the ambience, and the location right, you still might find yourself with an empty restaurant on Friday night.
However, this is not to say that succeeding in the restaurant business is impossible. Plenty of people are doing it every day. And those undeterred by the risks do everything they can to get an edge on their competitors.
One common method for gaining that edge is promotions and special offers. Restaurants attract customers by offering discounts on meals and drinks, often through third-party websites like Groupon or LivingSocial. This technique has been met with near universal acclaim.
Despite the success they bring to restaurants, daily deal sites aren’t without their drawbacks. For every deal they sell on their site, they take a fee. When you combine the fee and the discount you offer, your margins become quite slim all of a sudden, and in some cases non-existent.
Given their flaws, daily deals alone likely won’t be enough of a marketing strategy for your restaurant, so you’ll need to develop some other tactics.
One of those tactics which promises to be successful is personalized marketing. 68% of consumers say they would go to or order from a restaurant if they received customized marketing messages that referenced a past restaurant visit.
You can use a combination of marketing automation and email marketing to execute both of these strategies and even eliminate third-party deal sites from the equation while doing it. First, we’ll look at how to develop a personalized messaging strategy.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is build your contact list. One of the most effective ways of doing this is using forms on your website. When somebody visits your site, use a form to get them to opt-in to your mailing list. You can also cash in when they’re eating at your restaurant. Give your visitors the opportunity to join your list when you bring them the check. Include with the check a card for them to write their email address, and maybe you even want to offer them a discount on their next visit for doing this.
When somebody signs up for your mailing list, they’re going to expect to receive great content, and if you follow through, some of your contacts will forward your campaigns to friends, helping you grow your network. (Hint: people love pictures of delectable food).
You can also coax people into giving you their email by offering deals. People will be quick to surrender their email address if it means $15 off their next meal at your restaurant. These type of offers are great for social media as you don’t want to rely soley on your own website to grow your list.
Once you’ve built a list, the fun begins. Get creative using automations and dynamic content in emails to create highly personalized and easy to maintain communications.
Here’s an example of a campaign you might send out to all of your contacts when you make a change to your menu:
To personalize your email marketing further, you can configure an automation that tracks when your contacts book a reservation at your restaurant. From there, you can create automated follow up emails asking for a review, and if it’s been a while since they’re last reservation, you can send them a a campaign to keep your restaurant top of mind.
Promotions and Special Offers
Part of the difficulty with introducing promotions and special offers to your marketing strategy is determining when and how frequently to do it. Generally speaking, January, February, July, and August are slow months in the restaurant industry. If this is the case for you, it might be a good idea to send out promotions as you get ready to head into these months.
Once you figure out how often you want to send out offers and how big of a discount you want to offer, you can get to work. ActiveCampaign enables you to send unique coupon codes to each of your contacts by connecting with a third-party application. While this strategy takes more work on the front end, it’ll save you quite a bit of money in fees paid to third-party discount sites. These discounts consistently bring people through the door and can help get you through your slow season.
When you use these to strategies together, you can really boost business at your restaurant. Of course, once you get someone in the door, you need to create an experience that they’ll want to come back for. But, if you can put it all together, you might just be one of the few that manages to run a successful restaurant.