It’s no secret that the food service industry is a highly competitive one, especially when it comes to thinking about how to increase foot traffic in a restaurant. Thanks to the marvels of digital technology, customers can easily pick and choose where they wish to dine or establishments that offer home delivery right from the palm of their hands.

Despite such challenges and pressures placed on the restaurant industry, it’s still possible to attract customers and increase foot traffic in restaurants. The following 12 strategies are smart ways for restaurant managers and owners to achieve those goals.

1. Get To Know Your Customers

It’s easy for owners of restaurants to assume there isn’t an effective way of understanding their customers. After all, they mostly just call or book online to reserve a table, and aside from taking their orders and serving their meals, you have no further interactions with them.

You might not realize it, but there are a few ways to learn more about your customers and their experiences at your restaurant. Check out these two examples of what you could do:

Use POS (Point-Of-Sale) Software

Firstly, POS software can give you insights into the dining habits of your customers, such as what dishes are most popular and who dines with you the most.

Show Interest in Their Dining Experiences

Take the opportunity to inquire about their day and their favorite meals. Showing interest makes them feel valued and more likely to dine in again in the future.

2. Build a Social Media Following

Most of your restaurant customers will have social media accounts on one or more platforms like Facebook and Twitter. One proven way you can increase foot traffic at your restaurant is by building and growing a social media following.

First of all, you should create social media accounts on all the major platforms if you haven’t already done so. Instagram, for example, is an excellent social network for showcasing photographs of your restaurant and the dishes you serve.

Secondly, you’ll need to dedicate some time to keeping those profiles active with fresh content. You’re more likely to create foot traffic if you have an active social media presence rather than a sporadic one.

What you’re looking to do is build engaging online communities of customers and fans on social networks where they will comment, like, react to, and share your content with their relatives and friends.

3. Consider Targeted Online Advertising

Your restaurant will undoubtedly have an online presence with active social media profiles and, of course, its own website. But, what efforts are you making to drive traffic to your online properties?

It’s no secret that online advertising is a proven and effective way to boost website and social media profile visitors. Targeted online advertising also bolsters the efforts you make with organic advertising efforts.

The following are some ways you can embrace targeted online advertising for your restaurant:

  • Demographic Targeting
  • Geographic Targeting
  • Search Keyword Targeting
  • Behavior and Interest Targeting
  • Device and Placement Targeting

You can use such targeted online advertising on various ad platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Twitter Ads.

It makes sense to research which platforms your customers will likely use. Google Ads is arguably a leading option because you can attract people via search engine results pages and searches on Google Maps.

4. Offer a Customer Loyalty Program

While it’s great that you’re attracting people to dine at your restaurant and spend their money with you, it’s a good idea to consider ways of having those people return in the future. One of the most effective ways to achieve that goal is with a customer loyalty program.

How would a customer loyalty program work for your restaurant? Firstly, you would capture the details of your customers, such as their names, addresses, email addresses, and contact numbers.

In return, you can provide them with deals that other customers won’t get, such as discounted meals, free items like drinkers or starters, and access to exclusive events such as wine tasting evenings or even a meal cooked by a celebrity chef.

Your customer loyalty program could even provide discounts to people they refer to your program. In essence, your customers are doing your offline marketing for you.

5. Host Special Events

Some owners of restaurants wrongly assume their establishments should only be for people that want to dine out and nothing more. The truth is, you can use your premises as a base to host events where you, of course, provide the catering.

For example, you could organize comedy club nights, karaoke performances, or even guest events by local celebrities. When you host special events at your restaurant, you are doing two things:

  1. First of all, you guarantee a minimum number of guests at your establishment who will buy food and beverages. Secondly, you can use it as an excellent reason to promote your restaurant locally and online through various mediums.
  2. When you host special events, you aren’t just ensuring that some of your regulars will attend. You’re also opening up your restaurant to potential new customers that would not have otherwise dined at your establishment.

If you’ve never hosted special events before, now is the time to start!

6. Advertise Specials

You probably have a menu that you often change to keep the food and drinks you offer more enticing to your customers. But, are you also advertising special offers regularly?

Promoting specials to new and existing customers is an age-old marketing technique used by restaurants for increasing foot traffic, especially at certain times of the year. For example, restaurants offer Christmas dinner menus during the festive season to entice families.

Of course, specials aren’t just for the festive period. Your restaurant can have specials at any time of the year, although it makes sense to align some of them with annual events and ones specific to your area.

Restaurants also offer specials like “Happy Hour” during times when sales of food and beverages are low. Some Happy Hour strategies you could offer include:

  • Two for one deals on beers and snacks
  • Complimentary nachos or some other light snacks with every main meal ordered

7. Take Advantage of Creative Signage

You’ll notice some of your customers become so because they spotted your signage or peered in through your windows from outdoors. It’s a well-known fact that people generally love to “window shop” and the same applies to restaurants.

With that in mind, you need to up your game when it comes to restaurant signage. Here are a few strategies you could try:

Use Digital Signage

You can use digital signage like software linked to flat screen TVs by your windows to promote your restaurant. Advertising examples include menu specials and eye-catching messages.

Work With the Space You’ve Got

There’s no denying that bigger is better when creating signage outside your restaurant. But, if you haven’t got lots of space, work with what you have. For instance, you could use colorful markers on your windows or painted awnings to grab people’s attention.

Advertise Day and Night

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the middle of the day or you’ve just closed your restaurant for the evening. You should use signage, such as neon lights, to advertise your restaurant to passers-by at all times.

8. Keep in Touch With Email Marketing and Social Media Posts

Did you know that email marketing and posting on your social media profiles are two of the top techniques for keeping in touch with your customers? Here’s why:

Email Marketing

One of the most common tactics restaurants employ when marketing themselves is maintaining regular contact with their customers via email. The great thing about email is you can personalize each message and tailor it to each customer’s dining preferences.

For example, you could present a birthday gift voucher to customers if they’ve supplied you with their date of birth.

Social Media Posts

When it comes to addressing a more general audience instead of individuals, social media posts are undeniably the way forward. But did you know that it’s also possible for restaurant managers and owners to address customers directly via social media?

If they opt-in for marketing communications, you could message each customer directly and give them a way of communicating with you privately. For example, they could reply to your message to arrange table bookings.

9. Don’t Look at Vanity Metrics

The trouble with vanity metrics is they make your restaurant look attractive to other people, but they don’t help you understand your restaurant’s performance.

For example, your Facebook page might have 10,000 likes. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got 10,000 engaged and active followers of your social media content. Instead, you more likely have around 1,000 or even 500 people that are your true “fans.”

That’s why it’s important not to look at vanity metrics when seeking ways to increase foot traffic to your restaurant. Instead, look at actionable metrics that give you data with substance to help you make good decisions.

Vanity metrics don’t help your restaurant much apart from boosting your ego. You need contextual and measurable information, like the number of customers you have each night, week, or month and the numbers of each menu item that you sell.

10. Take Ownership and Respond to Online Reviews

When customers love (or hate) your restaurant, one thing they’re likely to do is to leave an online review of your service and the food and beverages you served to them. That’s because they want to share their experience at your restaurant with the world.

The harsh reality of managing or owning a restaurant is that online reviews can make or break your establishment. These days, most people look at a restaurant’s online reviews before deciding whether to dine there or not.

As you can appreciate, restaurants that take the time to respond to online reviews are more likely to get noticed by new customers than ones that don’t. So, whether you get positive or negative reviews, always take the time to thank those people for their feedback.

If you have negative reviews, use the opportunity to discover what went wrong and show (publicly) the steps you’re taking to address them. Reputation management is crucial for restaurants to have a competitive edge.

11. Promote Limited-Time Specials

Earlier on this page, you learned how important it is to promote specials. You discovered that you could offer special offers during the festive period or other notable annual events in the calendar.

On a similar note, another marketing tactic often employed by restaurants is promoting limited-time specials. These are generally one-off specials that may not get repeated in the future, such as celebrating a restaurant’s 25-year milestone.

However, limited-time specials can also be the perfect way to learn whether customers are open to certain ideas, such as different types of meals or combination meal deals. You can then use sales information to determine whether they should remain permanent fixtures.

You can promote limited-time specials in much the same ways that you would promote anything else at your restaurant. For example, your restaurant signage can advertise special offers, and you can put “featured” posts on your social media profiles.

12. Hire a Lead Generation Expert

Last but not least, it’s worth hiring a lead generation expert to help your restaurant increase foot traffic.

Many people might associate lead generation with corporate entities like commercial businesses with offices or industrial ones with factories manufacturing products. You may not realize it, but you can hire lead generation experts for restaurants too.

There are many ways that a lead generation expert can draw more foot traffic into your restaurant.

One way is by creating optimized content with Google My Business and paid ads that appeals to your restaurant’s target audience.

When such content attracts potential new leads, their information can get captured and used to promote your restaurant and the delicious dishes it serves. Those relationships get fostered and built, and those leads can turn into customers and repeat customers.

Examples of how a lead generation expert can attract new customers to your restaurant include SEO (search engine optimization), social media marketing, PPC advertising, and online listing sites.

An advantage of using a lead generation expert is they do all the hard work for you, which means you can concentrate on your daily restaurant operations.

Reach out to Invicta Local now to see how expert service can increase your return on ad spend and Google My Business presence through proven strategy. Schedule a demo now and we’ll show you what we can do for you.