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How to Market a New Restaurant Opening

From the website and social media to building buzz with a PR agency, a well-constructed marketing strategy is crucial to a new restaurant’s success.

Restaurant staff celebrating a new restaurant opening

Restaurants are back and in full swing. With this exciting news, would-be restaurant owners who’ve refrained from opening over the last year have the green light to open their doors and invite guests in. Equally, with the demand for takeout and on-premise dining growing, it’s the perfect time for future restaurateurs to begin the process of opening a new restaurant. 

There are many aspects to opening a new restaurant such as acquiring capital, signing a lease, applying for licenses and hiring staff. But it’s a well-constructed marketing strategy that’s critical to a restaurant’s success. In this article, we uncover the ins and outs of marketing a new restaurant opening. 

The Website Is a Restaurant’s Digital Storefront

The website for Misi.

The website for Misi

In today’s world, a restaurant’s website is its digital storefront. It’s where diners go to find information about a restaurant, view menus, make reservations or inquire about private events. More importantly, restaurant websites are revenue drivers. Whether a restaurant sells merchandise, event tickets, catering or delivery, the website is a one-stop-shop for diners. 

The website isn’t a priority during the early stages of opening a restaurant (seeking capital, signing a lease, etc.), but it’s vital for when you've secured a location, built out your team, and started drafting your marketing plan. It’s important for a new restaurant to have a website that reflects its brand and converts visitors into actual paying customers. Below are some important aspects of a restaurant website:

  • The website is mobile-friendly and responsive to all devices

  • Crucial information like contact info, hours and location are front and center

  • Easy-to-update menus that are text-based (not PDFs or images)

  • Contact forms for catering and private event inquiries

  • Reservation and online ordering buttons are visible on every page

  • Gift cards, merchandise, event tickets or catering can be purchased directly on the website

  • The website is simple to navigate, manage and update

  • Beautiful, relevant photography that is optimized for the web

  • The platform is certified to WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards

Checking off all of these boxes can be overwhelming for a new restaurant owner who is focused on just opening their doors. That’s why it’s best to rely on experts. A restaurant website design company, like BentoBox, is a trusted and true hospitality partner that uses industry best practices and cutting-edge technology to set a new restaurant up for success. You can learn more about how to choose a restaurant website design company here.

The Website is Also a Powerful Marketing Tool

A website isn’t just a restaurant’s digital storefront; it’s also its most powerful marketing tool. As mentioned above, diners are visiting the website to learn more about a restaurant before dining. This is the chance to win them over: an avenue to tell the restaurant’s story, highlight its many accolades and portray the brand in a way that entices visitors to dine at the restaurant or order takeout. 

All roads lead back to the website. Whether through an email to subscribers or a promoted special on Instagram, the call-to-action (CTA) should take diners directly back to the site to perform an action.

For example, Sebastian’s Southern Crab uses a homepage alert to let visitors know they’re opening soon. The CTA is to subscribe to their email database so that the restaurant can keep in touch about the opening, special menus, promotions and more. They also use this tool to drive awareness that the restaurant is hiring certain positions, directing the visitor to the “Career Page” to submit a resume. 

This is one way a new restaurant can use the website as a marketing tool.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Sebastian’s Southern Crab uses homepage alerts to drive visitors to perform an action

Use Your Website to Collect Contacts, Then Email Subscribers with Opening Information

When the restaurant is close to opening and in the midst of getting the word out, building an audience is an important next step. The website is a good tool for gathering email subscribers. 

Subscribers are already interested in the restaurant, making them the first audience to engage. Restaurants can send a marketing email highlighting the grand opening, including how on-premise dining will operate, opening-day menus and hours of operation. Again, it’s important to note that the CTA should lead a visitor back to the website to perform an action such as viewing the menu or booking a reservation.

If a restaurant plans on offering takeout in its first days, it’s equally important to link to online ordering. Recent data suggests that even as life returns to normal after the pandemic, 80% of diners will continue to order delivery at their current frequency. To drive more online orders, incentivize diners with opening-day promotions and ensure that each email has a clear CTA that drives them to the website. 

As business ramps up, operators will be busy managing on-premise operations and staff. This is where automated marketing solutions can help streamline operations. Automated Campaigns, part of Bento Ordering, is a free tool that sends marketing emails to previous takeout or on-premise guests to drive reorders. It’s a simple way to increase sales, save time and focus on managerial items.

Automated Campaigns customer journey graphic

It’s also not too early for operators to consider a customer loyalty program. Having these programs in place at the onset of a restaurant’s opening is an essential first step to fostering diner loyalty, building brand affinity and driving word-of-mouth marketing. Programs like Repeat Rewards, included with Bento Ordering, incentivizes customers to reach milestones and receive promo codes or free items — all with the goal of driving more repeat orders.

Create a Google My Business Listing

Google is an important part of a diner’s lifecycle. For newly opened or soon-to-be-opened restaurants, creating a Google My Business (GMB) page is an essential first step online. 

GMB is a powerful marketing tool that provides key information to diners. When a potential diner uses Google to search for a restaurant, GMB provides the restaurant's address, phone number, website, hours of operation and more. Restaurants can also add links to their reservations page, online ordering and merchandise store.

The Two Birds Taphouse Google My Business Page

The Two Birds Taphouse Google My Business Page

Updating information across the restaurant’s channels is a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem. With LocalSync from BentoBox, updating core information across various platforms is easier than ever. When restaurants update information such as menus, hours of operation, addresses and phone numbers, LocalSync automatically updates the restaurant’s Google My Business and Facebook pages — saving the restaurants time and ensuring cohesive information across all channels. Read about more ways restaurants can optimize Google My Business.

Build Brand Awareness with Social Media

Social media is essential to building a brand. Managing a handle on Facebook, Instagram and various other channels allows new restaurants to establish themselves in the community, increase visibility and build an audience. 

Madeline Grenadier, Founder and CEO of Digital Society LLC, attests, “If you would like to build your audience and get the word out about your restaurant, advertising and engaging on social media is the best way to go about it. Even if you can only invest a small budget or amount of time commenting or liking posts in your community, you will see your followers grow.

On where to start, Grenadier adds, “I highly recommend that a new restaurant establishes a presence on every platform - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Google My Business, and all review platforms. I find it extremely productive to have content everywhere because there are different audiences and demographics on each one. For example, our clients have had success posting about business lunches, lunch specials, and events for companies through LinkedIn.”

A well-constructed restaurant marketing strategy will include the plan for handling social media. Grenadier adds, “It’s important to have a social media strategy in place ahead of time so that you can have a clear vision as to how you want to grow and scale your restaurant. You have to identify your customers and consider what they want to see in order to appeal to them. With any business, there are a lot of ideas that people want to execute or discuss and never complete, so having a plan of attack with launch dates will hold everyone accountable and ensure your social media marketing does remain a top priority.”

When it comes to content itself, restaurants should promote their brand, establish a voice and use photography to preview tantalizing menu items. Here are some content suggestions for new restaurants to feature on their channels: 

  • Spotlight the dining experience — Have an awesome patio? Beautiful sidewalk seating? What’s the bar look like? Highlight the experience diners will enjoy in your new space.

  • Menu item spotlightsHighlight opening day menu items with beautiful photos and descriptions of food and drinks. Have a top-notch wine cellar? Be sure to take followers on a visual journey of their dining experience to the point where they can almost taste it. 

  • Feature back and front of house staff — Celebrate staff with images of the team in the act of cooking, plating a dish or shaking a drink. This builds an emotional connection with diners, increasing engagement and loyalty. Have an award-winning chef? Use their story and accomplishments to help build buzz and give your restaurant a “face.”

  • Partner with influencers — Grenadier suggests that every new restaurant should partner with social media influencers. “Influencers have a huge impact on business growth and can really help spread the word about your restaurant and everything that you have to offer.”

  • Add the human element — “Don’t forget to establish a human connection and communicate with your customers and audience,” says Grenadier. “It’s important to prioritize efforts to ensure a positive customer experience such as replying to comments and messages and establishing a relationship with followers so that they will want to support the restaurant. 

Once you’ve started creating social media content, add links to your website that drive to your handles, making it easy for users to engage more deeply with your brand. It’s a simple way to earn more followers and convert them into loyal customers.

Opening a Restaurant?

Download the free restaurant marketing plan template from BentoBox.

Work with a PR Agency to Build Hype

Every restaurant has a unique story to tell, and a solid public relations strategy will help that story get told. If it's in your budget, working with a PR company goes a long way in generating media buzz and building awareness for your launch.

Haymaker, a PR agency in New York City, says that “working with the right PR team can both help a restaurant reach journalists and shape their story into something that they’re interested in. That means new customers and more sales.”

How a restaurant chooses to tell its story is key. Haymaker believes that a good story is rooted in authenticity. “When telling your story in the press, be sure to stay true to your core values as a restaurant so that your public image matches the experience diners get when they come in.” Read more about how public relations can benefit restaurants.

Consider Traditional Marketing Channels like Direct Mail, TV and Radio

While modern marketing channels like social media are key to generating buzz in today’s world, restaurants can also drive an impact with more traditional methods. 

For example, Gan Shan West used direct mail to drive awareness of their takeout operations in the days after COVID-19 shutdowns. Working alongside a local design company, the restaurant created printed mailers that showcased their takeout menu with a CTA to order on their website. In doing so, Gan Shan West grew brand awareness in the community and increased online orders. And by using Bento Ordering, they were able to capture diners’ email addresses, increasing their subscriber list by more than 2,000 entries. 

This now allows the restaurant to send marketing emails to first-time diners, driving repeat orders. It’s a great example of how combining traditional marketing tactics with modern digital marketing tools can boost a restaurant’s bottom line. 

calendarGan Shan West worked with a local design company to send direct mail to its Asheville, NC neighbors

Gan Shan West worked with a local design company to send direct mail to its Asheville, NC neighbors

Another traditional marketing strategy involves TV, radio and podcasts (which are essentially the modern form of radio). Running ads on TV can be extremely expensive for a small business, but radio and podcast advertisements are more budget-friendly. Restaurants should consider partnering with a local radio station to advertise a new opening or collaborate with a popular local podcast to do the same. There is no right or wrong way to build awareness, so long as it’s affordable and executed with the goal of driving acquiring new diners, both on and off-premise.

Prep for Opening Day!

When opening day arrives, the restaurant’s marketing efforts will pay off in a full restaurant, strong online sales and happy guests. However, the process of marketing a restaurant doesn’t end when the doors swing open. Restaurants should always explore new ways to connect with their audience and reach new customers. Continuing to build brand awareness across social media and driving diner engagement through marketing emails, customer loyalty programs and the website will help grow the business and clear a path to success.

For more information on how to market a new restaurant, visit the BentoBox New Restaurant Openings page. Interested in getting started with a restaurant website or online ordering? Get in touch with a BentoBox specialist today.

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