Nothing scares a restaurateur more than an empty table. In fact, one empty table can often create the fear of a sea of empty tables and spur on many consecutive worries about a declining business. Often this causes the restaurant owner to come up with quick fixes where customers are bombarded by promotions and value-adds which flood the customer base in an effort to do a quick-fix. The problem is, that these efforts often don’t have the desired effect and there are far better ways to increase the turning of tables. So how can a restauranteur create a comprehensive strategy to grow their business from the inside out in meaningful ways rather than manic ones?

Fitting in promotions with your marketing strategy

Instead of chasing customers with discounts and promotions (which can distract the business owner and confuse the customer), it is a far more robust option to develop unique selling points and focus on brand building. This approach builds on the business's strengths, as opposed to over compensating for its weaknesses. By focussing on what you do best and then building that up, perfecting it and creating a loyal market for that offering, you are ensuring excellence. And no matter the circumstance, there is always a market for excellence. 

Focus on the crowds

Restaurant marketing is similar to movie theatre marketing in that both markets should direct their efforts at crowds, rather than at niche markets. Movie theatre marketing varies with different advertising activities in the week versus the weekend or holidays. Similarly, restaurant activity varies greatly from day, to night, to weekend. This proves that customer behaviour is quite rigid, and rather than trying to control and overpower it, it’s best to work with and harness these tides.

While both restaurants and movie theatres offer week-day discounts, they also understand that certain days (Friday - Sunday) will offer better traffic and higher prices because people will pay more for what they need, on a day that best suits them. In other words, there is a fine line between understanding your customer, and trying to create a demand when it does not exist. Restaurateurs can harness this by catering to their regulars who can make their establishment flourish all year round. This is because their routines are predictable so instead of changing their schedules, rather focus your efforts on converting newer customers into becoming regulars. 

Understand where to invest your marketing 

The growth of a restaurant can sometimes feel counter-intuitive. A restauranteur should initially focus efforts on filling up their tables on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You ideally want to be at absolute capacity over this period and be turning customers away. Often restaurateurs think they should be acquiring new customers and focussing marketing efforts on this. Rather, you should be focussing on turning new diners into regulars. This has a much higher return. In fact, the experience should be so exceptional that the customer wants to return without an incentive. With this in mind a restauranteur should focus on brand based marketing initially like a great website and upgrading the menu from items to design. Once you create a steady flow of repeat customers, you will free up your marketing budget to focus on new customer acquisition. 

How can you increase restaurant sales?

Target guests strategically

Consider automated marketing software to target return customers. A friendly “We miss you” message can serve as a gentle reminder to customers that you would love to see them again.

Cross-promotion internally can drive sales

Consider cross-selling delivery to your in-person customers and suggest booking an in-store table to your delivery customers. Suggest to your in-person diners that with a special promo-code they can receive a discount on their first at-home delivery. Motivate your delivery customers to pick up in person with a free drink on collection, which will remind them of your in-house ambience which may in turn encourage them to come in-person the next time around. 

Loyalty programs work

Successful restaurants have loyalty programs in place where regulars can accumulate points for their orders, and redeem them for a free meal, exclusive in-person experience or more. 

Think out the box

Customers love out-of-the-box experiences so up the ante by incorporating special guest experiences like chef’s tables, kitchen tours, live music and premium packages. 

The bottom line

Quick-fire promotions are not necessarily the way to turn more tables in a restaurant. Rather, thinking out-the-box and building the brand from the inside out, makes for a more profitable business long-term. While these changes often include pricey activities like purchasing software upgrades and automated marketing tools, investing in website upgrades and menu adjustments, it is well worth investing in these important spaces. Remember that Merchant Capital has a unique funding solution tailored to restaurateurs where repayments work directly in line with turnover. Meaning that any loan used for growth-enhancing activities (like building your restaurant’s marketing strategy, for example) will be manageable and profitable long term. So contact Merchant Capital today and see how you can fund your restaurant’s marketing strategy within 48 hours.

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