How to Create a Marketing Plan for Your Restaurant

Launching a new restaurant? Want to figure out how to get more customers busting down your door for the lunchtime rush?

That's where a marketing plan for your restaurant comes in.

But when you're menu planning, cooking, scheduling employees, and working with suppliers, it's impossible to find time and resources to devote to a well-thought out plan.

That's why we made it simple for you: answer a couple of questions and build a team around developing and implementing revenue-generating ideas.

Grab a pen and paper! It starts with five different questions - each building on the last one:

1. What are Your Goals?

Think goals are for restaurant newbies? Think again. Many restaurant veterans have goals for their restaurants - and they're specific. Example goals could be “200 customers for lunch on Friday” to “$1mil in revenue by the end of 2013.” Goals give you something to strive for. And they help you devise a plan to achieve them.

2. Who are Your Customers?

A plan is useless if you don’t know who your plan is trying to attract. If you’re a new restaurant, who is your ideal customer? Who do you picture stopping in from dinner on a Thursday? If you’re an established restaurant, who comes in for happy hour? What about Sunday brunch? Knowing your customers is crucial to creating a successful marketing plan. If you market in the wrong places, you’re throwing money down the drain.

3. How Your Customers Consume Media

Knowing your customers flows right into finding your customers. Where do they shop? Where else do the eat? What newspapers do they read? Do they read the newspaper? Any favorite websites? What do they do on the weekends? To get this information, ask your customers - they’ll let you know. What’s the benefit? Your marketing dollars are better spent in areas more likely to see a return on your investment.

4.  What Marketing Channels are You Going to Use?

What methods of marketing are you going to use? How about social media? What about your website? And print advertising in the local paper? Or maybe movie theatre advertising? Write down a couple of strategies you’d like to explore and the cost associated with them. With more consumers searching online, I’d personally look into online marketing like showing up better on Google and getting more involved in Facebook and Twitter. Obviously, you can’t do everything, which leads us nicely into the next step.

5. How Do You Measure Results?

You probably want to know if you’re making more money than you’re spending, right? (You should be nodding your head yes in agreement) With tools like your POS system and Google Analytics, measure any marketing you do, whether it’s contests on Facebook or coupons in the local paper. If something does well, do it again!

Your marketing plan doesn’t have to be long. In fact, make it short. You may not have much time to write it, but it’s good to have something written down. Why?

It’s too costly to “try things” and “see if they work”.

A proven (and profitable) marketing plan is a smart investment for your restaurant. It’s a guiding principle for you and your employees about what your restaurant is trying to achieve and how you’re going to get there.

How do you get there?

If it was as easy as scribbling on a napkin and calling it a day, every restaurant owner would have a marketing plan. But, to do it right, you need a team and a little bit of guidance. Here’s a couple pointers:

1. Select a Diverse Team

It's not too wise to make a decision by yourself. Make sure there's at least three people in the group. You want them to challenge your assumptions and build a better plan. Think about including your general manager, chef, and one of your servers into the intial brainstorms to get everyone’s perspective.

2. Every Idea is a Good Idea

Before you shoot down someone's idea, give it some time. Think about why they're offering it up, if it works for your restaurant, and how you could implement. There's no such thing as a bad idea. It may spark someone else's mind to think of the next best thing. Be open to listening, don’t automatically reject ideas, and build on what’s being discussed. You end up with great ideas - and a motivated staff.

3. Limit Your Time

When faced with a limited amount of time, your group members will be under pressure to think of great ideas. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it's more productive. But, don't be surprised if, out the time constraints, a member of your staff comes up with the ticket to get your restaurant more customers. Often times, it's by random chance you land on a success.

Take a couple days to let your plan sink in. Once you’ve got the best ideas to drive traffic to your restaurant, get started!

After all, you've got to do something to keep customers coming through the door, right? And a plan that collects dust isn't going to grow your restaurant.

Start with easy marketing

Pick off the easy tasks on your marketing plan. Examples could be social media, creating a better customer experience, capitalizing on holiday restaurant ideas, or building a better website for your restaurant.

Work your way up to bigger initiatives

Once smaller initiatives are completed, look at the initiatives that may take a little longer to launch like email marketing, catering events, and scheduling live entertainment. These may require a larger team and more time - but, they’re definitely worth it in the end.

So, what does all of this come down to?

The underlying message is no one launched a successful restaurant in a couple of days. It took time, dedication, and a lot of hard work to get more customers in your booths. Be patient, focus on customer experience and build an amazing team.

Grow Your Restaurant in Just 7 Days!

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