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When you run a local restaurant, it’s easy to assume everyone in your area is aware of it. Even if you operate in a small community, however, marketing and advertising are essential — without them, you could be missing out on valuable business. It doesn’t take a fancy restaurant marketing strategy and a big budget to garner more local attention; all you need is a bit of extra time and effort.

Ready to learn how to drive more local business and boost brand awareness for your establishment? Start with easy, affordable local store marketing ideas for restaurants.

The importance of marketing your local restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you have a long list of tasks that need your attention. Restaurant marketing is a worthwhile addition to that list. Done effectively, it has significant benefits for your local restaurant:

  • Increased brand awareness. Communities are always in flux; people move in and out all the time. With the right restaurant marketing strategies, you can boost brand awareness among new residents, tourists, and people who are passing through.
  • More foot traffic. Chances are, people in your town have a variety of restaurant options. Marketing keeps your restaurant at the top of customers’ minds so they’re more likely to think of you when they’re planning a meal.
  • Higher customer lifetime value. Just like any partnership, it takes work to maintain customer relationships. A restaurant marketing strategy can help you keep those valuable connections alive — it’s a way to expose loyal customers to new dishes, promote specials, and provide exclusive perks.
  • Easier hiring. Staff members are a big part of your establishment’s success. Implementing local restaurant marketing ideas helps establish a rock-solid brand and raise your profile in the community, which helps you attract the most talented employees.
  • Builds partnership opportunities. Restaurant marketing isn’t just for customers — it also helps other local businesses get to know your restaurant. That way, they’re more likely to be receptive to partnership opportunities. A local bakery might offer to provide freshly baked bread, for example, or you could work with a farmer to add seasonal produce to the menu.

Marketing is valuable for all local restaurants, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for decades. The trick? Finding the tone, tactics, and channels that work best for your brand and your target audience.

Local marketing ideas for restaurants

Local restaurant marketing is unique. Because most of your potential customers live within driving distance of the restaurant business, you have the opportunity to connect with them online, in print, and in person.

As you use different local marketing ideas and tactics, keep your branding consistent; use the same colors, fonts, logos, and language across every platform and advertisement. This strategy builds familiarity and helps customers recognize your brand instantly.

Online presence

An online presence is a critical component of every restaurant marketing strategy. Even if they’ve been to your restaurant many times, customers will often look you up online to check when you’re open, look at menu items, or find out about the latest specials.

Most local restaurants can benefit from two primary online marketing ideas:

  • Build a website. At a minimum, your restaurant’s website should include your menu, address, and opening hours. If you offer delivery and takeout, add an online ordering page to capture business from people who’d rather eat at home. You can also connect your social media profiles to encourage additional interaction.
  • Fill out your Google Business Profile. Google Business Profiles show up in search results, giving local customers a quick overview of your restaurant at a glance. They also include negative and positive reviews and a star rating. Include as much information as possible, and make sure to keep your operating hours up to date.

Local SEO

Once you build a website, implement search engine optimization (SEO) marketing strategies that help it show up in search results. Local SEO is all about keywords — use phrases that describe your restaurant and your location, such as “pizza restaurant in Canton, Ohio” or “best burgers in Nashville, Tennessee.”

Another way to improve local SEO is to add your restaurant’s location to your website and Google Business Profile. Include your complete address and phone number on your social media profiles, too.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is one of the best marketing strategies for local restaurants. It’s free, so you don’t need to worry about a big budget. Plus, since most social media platforms are image-centric, it’s a breeze to show off your most beautiful entrées and cocktails.

Consistency is key on social media. The more you post, the more chances you have to show up in new customers’ feeds. If time is tight, use a scheduling tool to plan posts in advance.

Aim for a mix of topics and marketing ideas, including:

  • Photos and videos of specific dishes
  • Daily specials and restaurant promotions
  • Behind-the-scenes posts
  • Food and wine (or cocktail) pairings
  • Special events

Your Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok profiles are also great places to try out new customer appreciation ideas. Offer a special discount code for social media followers, for example, or create referral bonuses for everyone who shares a post. To amp up your local marketing campaign, consider running an Instagram or Facebook ad.

Social media marketing has two big advantages for businesses in the restaurant industry. The first is the power of suggestion — all it takes is one stunning sushi photo to make someone crave a spicy tuna roll. The second is social proof; every follower, like, and comment is essentially a vote of confidence. Given that 48% of customers use social media to decide where to eat and drink, these factors can make a big difference to your bottom line.

Community engagement

Get out of the kitchen and into the community — engaging with your customer base outside your restaurant is a great way to build relationships and market your brand.

Start by establishing a presence at events that naturally attract a crowd. You could sell snacks at a local farmers market, for example, or set up a dessert booth at the county fair. Don’t underestimate the power of a big smile and a friendly conversation; it can create a lasting personal connection that helps increase customer engagement and revitalize your restaurant brand.

Alternatively, you can establish goodwill with creative restaurant marketing ideas, including:

  • Sponsoring community organizations
  • Volunteering with employees at charity events
  • Bringing extra food to a local shelter
  • Providing snacks for an after-school program

When customers see you’re dedicated to building a better community, they may be more likely to choose your restaurant. You’ll also create strong ties with local organizations, which can lead to more corporate business and catering opportunities in the future.

Customer loyalty programs

Encourage people to continue coming back to your restaurant business by setting up a customer loyalty program. Award points for every order; once a customer reaches a specific point level, offer them a prize, a discount, or a free item. Use a digital loyalty program to capture participants’ email addresses, or stick with a classic punch-card system.

Email marketing

Email is one of the most powerful restaurant marketing tools. You don’t need to worry about whether an algorithm will show your content to the right people — simply send a message and it automatically reaches everyone on your list.

The keys to great email marketing are timing and relevance. If you cater to families, for example, you might send an email with the latest kids’ menu around 4 p.m., when parents are starting to think about dinner. Do you serve professionals on their lunch breaks? Send out the daily specials in the morning.

Offline marketing

In a world where digital marketing is the norm, offline marketing ideas can seem outdated. When you’re trying to reach people in a specific geographic area, however, it can be incredibly effective. About 10% of adults in the United States still read local newspapers on a daily basis, and 82% of Americans who are 12 or older listen to AM and FM radio each week. Print and radio marketing can help you reach new customers.

The best part? These ads require minimal maintenance. Design a graphic or record an advertisement once and you can run it for months at a time. To reinforce the message, give people a way to connect with your restaurant business in person or on social media.

Using Grubhub tips and tools

When you think strategically and use affordable tactics, local restaurant marketing can be fun and effective. If you’re looking for additional ways to get in front of new customers, consider working with Grubhub. When your restaurant is listed on the Grubhub marketplace, it’s automatically more visible to hungry people in your area. Plus, you’ll also gain access to promotional tools and helpful local restaurant marketing ideas. To see how your business can benefit, try Grubhub free for 30 days.