How to Promote Your Restaurant: An OPEN Forum Guide

Every restaurant wants more diners. Here's how you can become a promotions expert and get them in the door, fast.
July 21, 2011

You've worked hard to get your restaurant up and running and you deserve to see it prosper. In today's world of tech and social media, the options to promote your restaurant are almost endless. Our OPEN Forum experts share their thoughts on how to promote your restaurant, what to do, what not to do and how to get a grip on social media.

Be social

You know that feeling you get after attending a killer soiree? Hosting a low-cost event for your customers can get them to take notice of your restaurant and leave your place with that same euphoric feeling. Before the cost scares you off, have an honest talk with yourself about how much you can afford to spend—keep in mind, guests at your event are potential diners in the making. If having a party just to have one doesn't make sense for you, consider hosting a charity event or private party.

And don't forget to schmooze—if you're the chef or owner (or both), talk to your guests. Nothing feels better than having the chef who cooked your meal ask you what you think. Finally, as guests exit leave them with a reason to come back, like a 10-percent-off coupon for their next visit.

Be search-friendly

Have a good website. Yes, Facebook is important but a website helps make you searchable. "Think of this as your online signage," writes J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, of Serious Eats. "It acts as your official home on the Web and gives you a URL you can link to in the various social media account profiles." When it comes to website design, keep it simple.

The must-haves: Address, hours, contact info and links to your social media sites. (Yes, you should have more than one.) To complement your Facebook page and website, think about setting up a Twitter account. If you're not one for words, a tweet is a great way to interact with customers and you only have to write 140 characters.

Be likeable

Get your act together and get on Facebook—having just a website doesn't cut it anymore, according to Serious Eats' Adam Kuban. "Maintaining this basic presence on Facebook can help you capitalize on any publicity and goodwill among customers and help you monitor for any discontent that may be happening below the radar," he writes.

So, how do you get started? First, claim your restaurant on "Places." Next, pick your interest. And finally, stay active. Facebook is a way to enchant your customers, not just send them updates.

Be polite

If you decide to start tweeting, know the etiquette. Serious Eats' Adam Kuban compiled a list of don’ts for tweeting. Think of Twitter as a first date—don't auto-reply, don't name drop, don't do too much too fast, don't ignore the social clues and don't repeat yourself over and over again.

Your followers can click "Unfollow" just as quickly as your blind date can remember she has to go wash her hair.

Be creative

Try location-based marketing with services such as Foursquare and SCVNGR. The programs are free and give restaurateurs the "opportunity both to draw in new customers and forge deeper connections with existing ones," Mashable's Todd Wasserman writes. He uses an Atlanta BBQ joint as an example: Customers who check in on Foursquare can receive free or discounted food.

Other restaurants are using the services to advertise deals and grow their community presence. And food truck drivers take note—location-based services are a great and free way for hungry crowds to find you.

Be noticeable

Consider using a daily deal site to increase your restaurant's exposure. In this msnbc video, Rafi Mohammed, author of The 1% Percent Windfall and founder of Culture of Profit, discusses the pros and cons of deciding whether or not to move forward with a daily deal.