Marketing a restaurant

26 April 2005
Marketing a restaurant

A fully operational restaurant with trained staff in both the kitchen and front-of-house, and a menu backed up by a full larder and wine cellar, is ready to welcome customers. However, customers do not magically appear out of nowhere; they need to be informed about the establishment, persuaded to make a visit and then encouraged to return.

A restaurant needs to actively market or promote itself in order to enlighten potential customers about the quality and style of food and service offered, the prices charged and something about the image of the establishment.

Once customers are through the door and seated at a table, the marketing does not end as every element of the menu and wine list needs to be promoted to ensure maximum spend per head and to encourage the customers to come back in the future.

There are several methods of marketing a restaurant: • personal selling
• advertising
• merchandising
• public relations
• websites
• sales promotion

Personal selling Personal selling of a restaurant is most usually done by the restaurant staff talking directly to customers, and is an on-going process. All staff should be made aware of the importance of boosting business by selling the restaurant as a whole, as well as individual menu items.

To successfully do this, staff should receive training to ensure they have good knowledge of all food and drinks offered. For instance, they should know the taste and providence of every cheese on the cheese board.

Good selling requires staff with good social skills with the ability to communicate clearly and empathically with customers.

Adverstising Depending on budget and target audience, advertising can be done via posters outside the restaurant and further afield, in magazines and newspapers, on radio and television and by direct mail. Ideally, sales should increase as soon as any advertisement appears.

Advertising should create greater public awareness of the existence and location of a restaurant and focus on benefits of visiting the establishment and the difference it offers, compared with competitors.

Direct mail is particularly useful as it allows the restaurant to target potential customers who are most likely to visit the establishment, whether it is by geographical location, socio-economic groups or specific interests.


Tent cards can be used to highlight certain dishes. Having food and drink on display may help increase sales - whether it be a display of exotic fruit and vegetables, having a cheese trolley, or by preparing a dish in front of customers.

Menus and wines lists are very important merchandising tools and therefore should be compiled with the aim of enticing the customer to spend. The language used needs to be both accurate and appealing. Useful information regarding the source of the food and wine will also engage customers' interest.

Consider combined presentations, such as port with Stilton or dessert wine with a pudding.

Public relations
Public relations can be achieved by employing an outside agency to work on your behalf or designating the role to a specific member of staff.

In using public relations, the idea is usually to create a positive image of the restaurant in the public's mind and this can be achieved at the opening of a restaurant with a launch party, on an on-going basis, or to promote a particular event. The principle aim will be to achieve editorial coverage in the print media, as well as radio and television. Consumers often react more favourably to an editorial article rather than an advertisement.

However, public relations can be costly and a set budget needs to be set aside for it. It is vital, therefore, to evaluate its effectiveness.

Websites A website can be a versatile promotional tool for restaurants as it allows a business to list new offers and events are any time. While it is possible for anyone to set up a website, if you do not have the technical skills to do so it is better to contract the setting up and maintenance of a website to a specialist company.

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