Since the restaurant business typically targets end-consumers as customers, it is critical to create a “PULL” for customers to try out your restaurant. So from a marketing perspective, you will need to think like a FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods)/Consumer services company. The trouble is that implementing a good Marketing plan costs a lot of money (when you look at absolute amounts required). Like in most businesses, you will want to allocate a portion of your revenues as marketing expenses – say 5-10%. For a FMCG company like ITC, their revenues for each of their products run into several hundred Crores – so 5-10% of such a large amount is substantial and lets them do some great things with their marketing budget. For a Restaurant business your annual revenues will typically be 1-2 Crores per annum per unit. So, unless you have a large number of units (like say Dominos Pizza), your marketing budget will be very small in absolute terms. So realistically, you cannot use some of the same marketing options that the larger players and other FMCG/Consumer services companies use, but will need to efficiently reach out to your target customers and create the “PULL” factor.
The biggest and the best marketing investment a restaurant business can make is by picking a great location that has very high levels of visibility. We have already beaten to death and even more the topic around the “importance of location”. This is just another nail in the same coffin.
The second best marketing for your business will come from “Word of Mouth”. You need a lot of your customers to talk about/recommend your restaurant to their friends. If you have read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you need a lot of connectors and mavens to visit your restaurant, like your restaurant and then spread the word as much as possible.
As a restaurant customer, if you look at the number of new restaurants you have made a decision to try out – i.e. it does not include new places you go to because you are invited there by someone else, I can bet, without doing any kind of research or surveys, that over 50% would be because of its location –
1) You are in the area, the place looks like something you want to try out, or
2) You keep seeing the place so often (it is in your neighbourhood or in an area that you frequent) that you almost feel bad not to check it out.
The remaining 20-30% would be because a friend (someone you trust or someone in your circle who is considered a foodie) recommended a certain place.
So that leaves the other 20% or so new restaurants, which you have visited, to other marketing initiatives that have caught your attention – maybe an ad or a flyer or a review you saw.
If you get the drift of what I am getting at, 80% of your marketing impact will come from your location and “Word-of-mouth” referrals from customers who have visited you. So if you don’t get these two right, whatever else you try will make absolutely no sense and the results will leave you disappointed.
So in reality the remaining marketing options we are talking about are like the cherry on top the cake – they can help improve the number of customers visiting your place by a bit, but will probably not turnaround your business by opening the floodgates.
One caveat to the above theories: When you are launching a new restaurant, a number of these marketing options mentioned below may help drive the initial traffic to your restaurant and may be quite effective.
The secondary marketing options that are available to you and those that restaurants typically tend to use.
- Advertising in Newspapers – Paid Ads
- Advertorials in Newspapers – Paid articles written about your restaurant in a newspaper
- Just Dial and similar Directory Services
- Bill Boards
- Restaurant Review websites such as Burrp.com, eveningflavours.com
- Online Menu and Order enabling services such as Justeat.in/Hungryzone.com
- Flyers in the Newspaper
- Deal Websites such as Taggle, Snapdeal, Koovs, DealsandYou, Dealivore etc.
- SMS marketing providers such as mGinger.
- Google Adwords