The 7 Best Restaurant Marketing Strategies To Drive More Customers

Written by:

Adam Guild

Last Updated

October 18, 2023

I get it, there are so many restaurant marketing strategies that are permanently in the too-hard basket. And talking to marketing a pro only makes it more confusing with all the mumbo jumbo. Well I’ve hand-picked the 7 best restaurant marketing strategies and laid them out step by step so that you can finally do them yourself for maximum customer growth. Dig in!

I get it, there are so many restaurant marketing strategies that are permanently in the too-hard basket. And talking to marketing a pro only makes it more confusing with all the mumbo jumbo. Well I’ve hand-picked the 7 best restaurant marketing strategies and laid them out step by step so that you can finally do them yourself for maximum customer growth. Dig in!

1. Retargeting on Facebook

What Is It?

This restaurant marketing strategy is absolutely genius, and it’s one of the reasons Facebook makes more money than the entire country of Serbia - they are very, very good at targeting your perfect customer.

Have you ever seen an ad on Facebook and that was so relevant to what you were thinking about, that you started to question your own sanity?

To the average person, it may seem like it’s time to update their tinfoil hat collection, but in the digital marketing world, it’s completely normal.

And very profitable.

The general idea of Facebook retargeting is this:

Say you get a visitor to your restaurant’s website, but they don’t order anything. A lost opportunity right?

Well maybe not, because with a little bit of tinkering, you can follow them around by showing relevant ads for your restaurant when they browse Facebook.

So if they were looking at the pecan pie on your website, well, Facebook can show them ads (on Facebook) for a discount on your dessert menu.

It’s a deliciously clever way to re-engage with people who visited your website long after they’ve stopped browsing your site.

Restaurant marketing

Got It, so How Does It Work?

So the way it works is that you add a small bit of code to your website called a “pixel”. This little bit of code will leave a “cookie” on the computer of your website’s visitor.

This visitor then leaves your website and eventually visits Facebook. And we know they are very likely to, because 7 out of 10 Americans are Facebook users.

Facebook then sees that cookie on that visitor’s computer and can show them targeted ads about your restaurant.

You can show them a general ad, but you’re better to show them a custom ad that relates to what they were looking for. You see Facebook can tell if they were visiting your page about corporate events, so then you can show them an ad about that with a special price.

And if you don’t get them the first time, you can ensure that they see that ad as often as you’d like.

On top of this, you can choose to show them an ad ASAP to strike while the iron is hot. Or, maybe you could even show them an ad the same time next week, because that might be the day of the week they dine out.

It really is a genius restaurant marketing strategy.

Okay, How Do I Do It?

I’m going to assume you have a Facebook Business Account. If you don’t, head here and get started.

Alright, what I’m about to write might seem a bit technical, but I assure you it’s a pretty simple step by step process. You can absolutely do this yourself.

If in doubt, Facebook has their own guides on how to get your audience, and how to retarget them.

Here though, I’m going to give you the 5 basics steps to get going with Facebook retargeting.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies

1. Log in to Facebook Ads Manager

Go to Facebook Ads Manager, and after you’ve logged in, click on the top left menu that says “Ads Manager”. From there, under “Assets”, click “Audiences”.

Facebook ads screenshot to create your audience

2. Create Your Audience

At the top left of your screen, there will be a blue “Create Audience” button. Click on that, and then “Custom Audience”. From here you’ll be able to set up a campaign for people that have visited your website.

Facebook ads for restaurant marketing

3. Select Website Traffic

Okay, now click the first option, which is “Website Traffic”.

A screen will come up with boxes to name your “Pixel”, Your pixel is the tiny bit of code that you’ll put in your website. It’s called a pixel because it puts the code into an invisible pixel that sits on your screen.

Then enter your website domain name, and then click on “Create”.

So far so good!

4. Select Your Target Audience

Here you can pick:

  • “All website visitors”
  • “People who visited specific web pages”
  • “Visitors by time spent”
  • Or a combination
Restaurant promotion

Then name your audience, and click “Create Audience”.  

After that Facebook will find your target audience, and you can choose to make a custom ad for that audience.

5. Place Your Pixel Code

Here’s where the magic starts! Assuming you’ve gone through the other 4 steps, go into the “Audiences” Section of Ads Manager where you’ll find your new targeted campaign. To the right of the screen, you’ll see your “Pixel ID”.

Click on that Pixel ID, and you’ll be sent to the “Events Manager”.

Click on “Manually install pixel code yourself”. All you have to do now is go to your website’s editor, and edit in HTML mode. Sounds hard, but it’s not - Facebook will talk you through exactly how to do this.

Done! You’ve now created an ultra-targeted audience that you can follow for as long as you like, using whatever budget you like. You can probably go tell your friends you know how to code now, too.

2. Browser Push Notifications

What Are Browser Push Notifications?

Ughh, pop up ads are sooo 2009.

They were, and still are, intrusive, annoying, and highly likely to turn a visitor away from your website.

But…they kinda worked as a restaurant marketing strategy.

While they were irritating and a bit spammy, they effectively got website visitors’ attention and got your chosen message to the front and center of the page.

At the end of the day though, the negatives outweigh the positives, because pop up ads are just too interruptive for the visitor. Worst of all, it made the visitor feel like they were visiting some dishonest spam site, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Enter browser push notifications.

Like pop up ads, they get the visitor’s attention and get your message across very clearly.

Basically, they’re like mini pop up ads, but your website visitors will actually be okay with them.

Got It, so How Do Browser Push Notifications Work?

Unlike pop up ads, they’re reasonably subtle and not at all spammy. They even give the visitor the choice if they want to see them or not.

First, your website’s visitor gets a small message like this:

Screenshot of a push notification request

push notification Restaurant Marketing Strategies

They can choose to ‘block’, and if so, no harm, no foul.

Or they can allow, because hey, no big deal right, it’s not that intrusive, and your website is relevant to their interests of eating good food.

Then, the visitor will get small notifications with whatever you want to tell them, when you want to tell them. They look like this:

Restaurant promotion ideas

And if they do click ‘allow’, the results are impressive. When compared to email marketing, push notifications get clicked up to 500% more.

My 17 years in marketing tells me this it works so well because push notifications are immediately engaging and relevant while the user is actively browsing.

That means it’s not an email they can ignore because they’re busy; but something relevant to their interests that’s shown to them while they’re online and in their own comfort zone - browsing on their computer.

Less intrusive and more effective, I think we’re on to a winning restaurant marketing strategy here.

Okay, so What Do I Do?

Okay, we know what they are and how they work, so let’s take a look at how you should use them.

There are several companies out there like SendPulse and PushEngage that make the set up very easy, with basically no technical knowledge required.

With that part being kinda easy, let’s have a look at the best practices for actually implementing browser push notifications.

The Message

  • Generally, you’ll only have 40-120 characters to play with here, so make it short, sweet, and compelling.
  • Make the content worthy of the attention and above all give a call to action. This means telling the visitor to do something, like “click here for a free kid’s pizza with your next purchase”.
  • Create FOMO (fear of missing out) - put a time limit on your offer, e.g. “until 8pm tonight only”.
  • Use a small graphic or your logo. Some people are more into images than text so it will help get their attention, as well as build brand awareness.

When to Send Your Push Notifications

Unlike an email, you’re looking for an instant response, so make sure you send your message at the right time of day.

You’ll most likely want to message them before midday or about 3pm, a few hours before they finish work. This way you can get the lunch crowd as well as the dinner crowd with the promise of a great meal they don’t have to cook.

Restaurant marketing strategies

How often to send your Push Notifications

Again, this is a pretty new restaurant marketing strategy, so there are no real stats out there for this.

I would keep it to a maximum of 3-4 notifications per week so that you don’t flood them with pop-ups.

If you start to see people opting out of the notifications after you send for example, 10 a week, you’re sending too many.

Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on your click rate - that is, how many people click on your message vs. how many you send.

If people are just ignoring them, your message is not compelling enough, or your offer is not strong enough.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to restaurant marketing, so play around with what works to get the best return on investment you can.

As a marketing nerd, trust me on this one - this a really exciting, new way to engage with customers and get them to pull the trigger on the spot. That means more instant purchases from people that normally may not have even been thinking about you.

3. Text Message Marketing

What Is it?

Okay, this is probably one of the simpler answers in this article, so it doesn’t need too much explanation.

But believe me when I say this one works so well it’ll really surprise you.

Text message marketing is the use of short message services (SMS) to send compelling marketing messages to your audience through their mobile phones.

Maybe once upon a time, it was thought of as something just for tech-savvy audiences, but with 81% of Americans now using SMS, that’s definitely no longer the case.

SMS is used by a lot of people, and it has a very special quality that nothing else can match.

Think of it this way. People “check” things like email and their letterbox. But they “get” SMS messages. They’re personal, and therefore far more likely to be opened.

Have a think about your own experience - whether you clicked on your last text message notification vs. an email notification.

The difference is that when you get an email, it could be from anyone. When you get a text, it must be someone you know or want to hear from - after all, they have your number. You don’t give that out all the time.

How big a difference? Well, while only around 20% of emails are opened, people open text messages at a rate of a whopping 98%.

So with the right message, you’ll find that 29% of people will then click through on the link you send.

Okay, How Do I Do It?

Firstly, find a company that specializes in text message marketing - there are heaps of them, like EZ Texting or SlickText.

They’ll do all the heavy lifting for you, but here are the basics of how to do it when it comes to your restaurant marketing strategy.

Getting Your Audience and Keeping Them

Much like browser push notifications, text message marketing is opt-in only - that’s to say the user has to choose that they want to receive your text messages.

So how do you get a hungry and willing audience of text message recipients?

The easiest way is to ask them!

More specifically, the text messaging company you’re working with will give you a number for people to message to opt-in to your text messaging marketing.

Then you want to write an opt-in message that will look something like, “TEXT South Side to 31996 to join our text rewards program and get 1 FREE appetizer”.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies

Put this message everywhere, like everywhere. On your menus, website, flyers, newspaper ads, even your bathroom stall doors. You gotta be sure, right?

Now you want to make this opt-in message compelling - after all, you want to give them a good reason to sign up to your text messages. Don’t bother with telling them they’ll keep up to date with general news and info, make it an offer they can’t refuse.

60% of people opt-in to text message marketing so they can receive coupons, with only 14.6% opting in to just receive info. Give the people what they want!

Restaurant promotion

Every message you send from there on should be a great offer! No 5% off or anything weak like that. Make it something that will get them off their phones and into your restaurant.

One other note would be to make them feel special, like they’re part of a club that’s getting deals no one else can get.

Here are a few examples:

  • Coupon: “Present this message at South Side Grill for a free smoothie or juice with any purchase - your friends at South Side Grill”.
  • Only for retirees: “We’re bringing back the taste of yesteryear with our actual family recipes from the 1960s. Dine with us between 4-6pm and get 20% off - your friends at South Side Grill.”
  • Limited time only: “Only until 7pm tonight. Buy two dishes and receive one free! Only at South Side Grill, and only until 7pm tonight!”

When to Send Your Text Messages

Much like my advice for browser push notifications, send your text messages around the time people are thinking of eating.

I can tell you that the most popular time to text for restaurants is 5pm-6pm on a weekday.

Remember though, you have your own restaurant with your own audience. Play around with what works for you, your customers, and your own restaurant marketing strategies.

How Often to Send Your Text Messages

Again, follow my recommendations from the browser push notification section, and stick to 3-4 messages per week. Remember you want to reach them enough that they notice, but not enough that they opt out of the service.

Graph showing unsubscribes from too many SMS notifications

Put all of that together and you have a restaurant marketing strategy that with an open rate of 98%, really will fill up your tables.  

4. Loyalty Program

What Is it?

It’s the tried, it’s the true, and it’s one of the original restaurant marketing strategies for a reason - customers in loyalty programs return 200% more often.

But it’s not as old fashioned as you might think - things have come a long way since you punched a card to get your 10th coffee for free.

There’s now a host of digital options that bring so much more to the game, especially for restaurants.

Of course, the fundamentals are still the same, which is to keep more of your customers loyal. After all, keeping just 5% of your customer base will increase your profitability by 75%.

So the name of the game is to have a long term strategy to provide incentives for your repeat customers who show loyal buying behavior.

Let take a look at how restaurant loyalty programs have adapted to the 21st century to create spectacular results in return customer numbers and turnover.

Got It, so How Does It Work?

Today, it’s no longer about the punch cards in your wallet, but about the ones and zeros in your phone.

Screenshot of Whataburger's mobile loyalty app

Loyalty programs have been digitized for customer convenience, as well as for collecting data to improve your business. And there are many software companies that specialize in this sort of thing, given that 30% of restaurants use loyalty programs.

So instead of the customer taking a punch card, they actually give you information - information about what they like to buy, when they like to buy it and how often.

That’s because every time they make a purchase with you, every detail of that transaction can be recorded and used by you to get them back in again and again.

For example, if a regular customer hasn’t been in this month, they could get an automated message to their phone encouraging them to come back in for a great deal.  

Times that by hundreds and hundreds of customers, and that my friends, is a gold mine for consistent, repeat purchases in your restaurant.

The best part is, depending on what customer loyalty software you pick, it can be simply set and forget, or as customizable as you want.

Okay, How Do I Do It?

Go by Your POS System

Assuming that you’ll pick from one of the main loyalty programs (Preferred Patron, ReUp, AppInstitute, etc), you want to choose one that works with your current POS (Point Of Sale) system.

This ensures a seamless transition for both your customers and staff, and it doesn’t require any new hardware. You might in fact already have some loyalty software available for your POS system, so check with your POS Account Manager first.

If you don’t have a modern POS system, or just want to run your loyalty program independently, there are other third-party options like

Figure out What Kind of Rewards to Offer

So after you’ve sorted how/if you want it to work with your POS, you’ll want to figure out how you want it to be structured. There are plenty of options:

  • Earning points for dollars spent.
  • Straight discounts.
  • Earning points for their number of visits.
  • Points for buying certain items/dishes.
  • Or a combination.

Think about your target market and what they might like - if in doubt - ask them! Either ask them in person or hop on your social media account and run a poll.

Loyalty Program Rewards restaurant marketing
Millennial's Preferred Loyalty Program Rewards.

You might even find it doesn’t have to reward the customer at all - you could in fact consider donating to a charity (such as meals for needy families) on their behalf. For example, 90% of American Millennials will switch from one business to another if it supports a charitable cause.

Watch Your Margins

Now while you do want to make sure the rewards you offer are compelling, keep it profitable. With typical restaurant margins being under 5%, you definitely wouldn’t want to do cash rewards, for example.

Keep the rewards to your high-profit items that have a lot of wiggle room, such as drinks and desserts.

Like any restaurant marketing strategy, it’s important that your loyalty program has a good return on your investment, so keep an eye on what it’s costing you versus what you get back. Luckily, most of the loyalty program software can do this for you automatically.

Make Sure It’s Mobile

It’s fair to say that mobile devices are king when it comes to restaurant loyalty programs – most people want a mobile app as opposed to loyalty cards, according to Software Advice.

I should mention though, don’t go with the highest tech possible just for the sake of it. For example, I wouldn’t recommend developing your own app - it’s too expensive and would take years to make your money back.

And of course you should read your market - if you have a slightly older target market, for example, you probably want to issue cards/keyrings to your customers as well as digital solutions.  

Once you’ve got all of these components in place, keep an eye on the numbers and see what works and what doesn’t. Talk to your customers for their opinions and feedback, and you’ll have a seamless loyalty experience that keeps your registers chiming.

Returning customers spend 300% more, so your goal is busier tables filled with familiar faces.

5. Search Engine Optimization

Oh boy… okay I’m going to do my very best to break this one down for you, as simply as possible.

You see, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of those marketing terms that can make your eyes roll due to the sheer scope of everything there is to know.

And some marketing-types will even try to convince you it’s some sort of black magic so they can charge you more money for their wisdom.

But I’m not about to do that.

I’ll tell you simply what it is, how it works, and the things you need to do.

Alright, What Is SEO?

So... this is what SEO is really all about when you boil it down:

Increasing the quantity and quality of visitors to your website, by appearing high up on search results, without having to pay the search engine.

Simpler still, it’s getting high up on search results without having to pay the search engine for ads.

Getting high up in the search results is super important - when someone searches for something on Google, the first five results receive 67.6% of clicks, while the remaining five just receive 3.73%.

Restaurant marketing strategies

Make sense so far? Awesome.

By the way, there are many search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo (and more), but for simplicity here, we’ll just use the term Google.

Okay, now let's explain the concept a little further. We’re basically looking for three things in our SEO:

  1. Quantity of traffic: Getting more traffic (visitors) to your website based on what shows up on the search engine results pages (SERPS).
  2. Quality of traffic: Getting visitors that are actually looking for what your website is offering.
  3. That the traffic is organic: Getting visitors without having to pay Google for ads etc.

Still with me?


Got It, so How Does SEO Actually Work?

So imagine you’re a hungry foodie, walking down Main Street, looking for a particular restaurant.

You might not know what it’s called, but you kinda know that you want something like Asian-fusion, and it needs to be on Main Street, because that’s where you’re walking, right?

And so you’re walking down Main Street, scanning all the signs and menus, looking for something that looks like Asian-fusion.

That’s basically what Google is doing, but on the internet. A foodie is searching Google for “Asian fusion Main Street”, and Google is searching the internet for websites that will be useful to that foodie.

Then Google goes through every website on the internet to find the most relevant and helpful websites for that person searching.

After that, Google ranks those pages based on how popular it’s been with other, similar searches.

Now, none of this is done manually or by a little man inside your computer - it’s using a mathematical equation called an algorithm (use that in conversation to sound smart).

restaurant marketing

This algorithm is a bit of a mystery since it’s always changing to make sure it’s getting the best results. However, we do have a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.

Which leads us to...

Okay, so What Do I Do?

Alright, so we could get into a lot of detail here, but again, let’s keep it simple - otherwise I promise you, you’ll be screaming in frustration if you ever read the term ‘SEO’ again.

As we’ve already talked about, we want to make sure Google sees your website as helpful and relevant to the search terms used.

There are 3 basic ways to do this on your website - Technical Optimization, Keyword Optimization, and Inbound Marketing Optimization.

Right, so let’s have a look at how to do all 3 in detail:

1. Technical Optimization

This is all about making sure the nerdy stuff is taken care of that people searching probably won’t see, but the search engines will.

Warning: I’m about to use some real fancy words here, but stay with me - I won’t go into full nerd territory, but I’ll outline the basics for you so you get the general idea.

Technical optimization is things like making sure robots.txt and alt texts are in place, and that all the links and redirects work.

I know that sounds tricky, but don’t be too worried, as just about every Content Management System (CMS - the software you write and publish your website with) like WordPress makes that stuff relatively easy.

And there are even websites like this one that’ll check your website for you, and tell you if it found anything needing fixing.  

With that in mind, here are the main things you want to make sure are set up, in layman terms:

  • Make sure there are no broken links - when Google sees these they will assume you‘re a poor source of information.
  • Check that you don’t have any duplicate pages.
  • Get your site optimized for mobile users.
  • Have all your titles, subtitles and tables etc. formatted properly so Google can scan your content for relevant keywords in those areas.
  • Put alt text in your content - this is giving your pictures context with descriptions - Google reads these when it scans your pages.
  • Have a relevant, simple domain name, and making sure any other spellings of your domain are redirected to your main domain name.
  • Make sure each page’s URL is named so it’s optimized - e.g. this page is Drive-More-Customers.
Placepull URL Slug
  • Give Google clear instructions of what pages it can crawl on your site, by optimizing your robots.txt file in the root directory of your website. In the majority of cases, you shouldn’t have too much here.
  • Set up a silo structure for your site’s navigation - this basically means every page on your site is interconnected and can be reached from any other page.

At the end of the day, these are the small, but important tricks that Google is looking for on a technical level to decide if your website is going to be helpful to the searcher.

Simply, it should be at the core of your restaurant marketing strategy.

If I want one thing to stick with you though, it’s that while it may seem complicated, it really can be done by anyone if you put the time into it.

The rabbit hole for SEO technical optimization can be a winding one, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a deeper dive here.  

2. Keyword Optimization

This is all about the words that people search for. If someone who lives in Rochester, New York, is looking for a Thai restaurant, well, they’re gonna Google “Thai Restaurant Rochester”.

So then Google is looking for websites in Rochester, New York, that have the words “Thai restaurant” and “Rochester”.

And of course, if you’re a Thai restaurant in Rochester, New York, well, you want to make sure those words are throughout your website.

restaurant promotion strategies

I know what you’re thinking now.

You’re thinking, okay, no problem, I’ll just copy and paste “Thai restaurant” and “Rochester” 1,300 times in my website, and I’ll be the most restraunty of the Thai restaurants in Rochester.

And then Google will shoot me to the top of the search results, and I’ll be riiiich!

Nope, sorry, that’s called keyword stuffing and Google will think you’re just spam.

If it reads like a robot wrote it, Google will think a robot wrote it.

Google’s search algorithms are very smart and know if you’re just trying to cheat. What Google is actually looking for is genuinely relevant information that other searchers have found useful.

So the lesson here is… wait for it... be genuinely helpful!

Provide all of the information you think your potential customers will be looking for, while using the right keywords in a natural way.

Of course you can use your intuition, but we’re not about guesswork here. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to help you decide what keywords you should use. 

Restaurant marketing strategies

3. Inbound Marketing Optimization

It’s all about the links, links, links.

Let me explain.

Have a look at the links we’ve put in this very article.

Every single one of them is useful to you, and is a reputable source of information. That’s why we linked to them.

And that’s why if you searched for, well, anything on Google, the top results will have had hundreds or even thousands of other websites link to them for being relevant and helpful for those searched keywords.

So basically, you want other people to link to your page, so that Google sees you as reputable and informative.

The first way to do this is to again, just have helpful content, so other websites link to you.

For example, if you had a page about how to make a risotto using only ingredients grown in your area, you’ll probably get local foodies linking to that, because it was a helpful resource to them.

The second, and most effective way of getting links is to approach your local chamber of commerce, business groups, local online directories, and even schools to put your website as a link in their websites.

Those groups will already have a good reputation with Google, so that good standing will be taken into consideration when Google sees your link on their websites.

It’s called the world wide web for a reason, so create that web of links to your site, and you’ll have all the visitors you can handle.

I know, I know, that’s a lot of info to digest all at once, but just break it down into those bits and it should make sense. There is a heap more to this SEO stuff, but I hope I’ve helped you get your brain around the general idea of what it is and how it works.

6. Facebook Ads

What Is it?

I talked earlier about a small slice of Facebook advertising with the retargeting strategy. But let’s go back a step and give you an idea of Facebook advertising as a whole, and why it’s worth your time.

Now I know that Facebook might seem like this massive thing that’s either too big to get your head around, or something that just wouldn’t work for your business.

But I’m here to tell you it does work (like, stupidly well), you just need to know what you’re doing.

There’s a reason that Facebook ads make up an astonishing 51% of the total advertising spend in the United States - and that’s because it works!

And happily, I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it so that it works for you.

Step by step.

In essence though, Facebook advertising is paying to place ads and restaurant promotions on Facebook to reach a specific audience.

Restaurant advertising

Simple enough right?

So Why Should I Care About It?

Okay, fair enough, now let’s talk about why it’s so good and how it can benefit you as a restaurant owner.

They’re so Targeted

Okay, so you’ve no doubt seen ads on Facebook, and they’re often eerily well targeted towards you. This is because Facebook knows quite a bit about you and I - our demographics, politics, and even taste in food.

All of those posts we like and comment on, our birthdays, where we live, what clubs we belong to - we give this information willingly to Facebook in exchange for using the platform for free. It makes our user experience better and more suited to our individual needs.

So Facebook takes that data, and is then able to target the right ads to the right people.

And that’s a recipe for great marketing - 78% of Americans have discovered products just through Facebook.

So let’s set up an example here. Let say you own an upmarket Italian restaurant in Garland, Texas:

  • You have an exceptional wine list.
  • You play live Jazz twice a week.
  • Your target market is wealthy retirees.
  • Your target market lives within 10 miles of your community, and most are local residents.
  • Your community is environmentally conscious and electric cars are common.

Now each and every one of those points is a specific thing you can target in your advertising. Or you can mix and match. For example, you could have campaigns that:

  • Target men between the ages of 55 and 75 to treat their wives to a fine wine from your collection.
  • Target women between the ages of 55 and 75 who enjoy Italian food and Jazz music.
  • Target men and women who drive electric vehicles, as you have free car charging stations.
  • Target men and women between the ages of 55 and 75 who like Italian food and wine.
  • Or you could go left field, and target men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 who support local artists, by telling them to come and check out your Jazz music.

As you can see, the scope here is basically endless, where you can target 5 people or 5 million. It all depends on how specific (or broad) you want to be.

It really is a restaurant marketer’s dream.

It’s Seamless

So if you’re watching TV, when the ads come on you’ll probably go make a cup of coffee, go do the washing up, or y’know, just generally ignore the TV for a few minutes.

Even if you’re watching a YouTube video, you’ll have to watch an ad every 3 or 4 videos. If you get the choice to skip them, you’re probably going to, because well, you can.

But eventually, you’ll have to watch a full 30-second ad. And it’s infuuuuriating!

You almost hate whoever is doing the advertising because it’s getting in the way of what you wanted to watch.

But with Facebook Ads, you barely even notice them for a few reasons.

Firstly, because if you want to, you can just scroll right past it, and it does not affect your experience at all.

Secondly, because it’s so targeted, it’s relevant to your interests, which means you’ll probably actually want to read it!

Facebook advertisement for local bars

That means it doesn’t feel like an ad, it feels like part of the content you were browsing. That’s a crucial factor in its effectiveness.

We’ll get to the cost of it later, but know that you can start from as little as $5 if you really wanted to, so it’s extremely flexible and accessible to everyone.

That’s why you’ll see Facebook ads from both small businesses and large companies.

Right, now let’s get to the good stuff!

Okay, How Do I Do It?

So earlier I promised to take you through the process of Facebook advertising step by step. Well I’m a man of my word, so here are 7 steps to getting on the Facebook gravy train.

1. What Are Your Goals?

Okay, before we get too carried away here, I want you to take a moment (or 30) to figure out what it is you want to achieve.

By setting some goals, you know what to aim for, and you can then directly measure your results afterwards. There’s zero point putting up Facebook ads to “see what happens”, because “seeing what happens” doesn’t keep the lights on and the staff paid.

Let’s continue to use our example of the upmarket Italian restaurant in Garland, Texas.

There are a range of goals you might be looking for:

  • Getting more visitors to your website
  • Increasing the number of people at your Jazz evenings
  • Selling more meal packages that are matched with wine
  • Generating leads for more wealthy retirees
  • Boosting the number of people in your community liking your Facebook page

All of those goals are specific, and you can measure them directly.

Got your goal? Good, let’s keep going.

2. Get Familiar with Facebook Ads Manager

So if you don’t already have your Facebook Ads account set up, go here and get it sorted.

Click on “Create an Ad” which should be right in the middle of the screen, and this will take you to the Ads Manager tool.

Creating a restaurant ad on Facebook

3. Choose Your Advertising Objective

Here you’ll see 11 options, falling under either Awareness, Consideration, Or Conversion.

how to do Facebook ads for restaurants

This is the top of the “sales funnel”, where we’re trying to generate interest in your restaurant.

It’s all about promoting your page, reaching people near your business, increasing brand awareness, or giving your posts a bit more attention.

In general, it’s just to get people starting to think about your restaurant.

If you’re on a small budget, this is the one I’d recommend to start with - it will allow you to grow your audience to engage with in the future when we use the following parts of the sales funnel.


Heading towards the middle of the funnel, this is where users can engage with you, ask them questions to evaluate your restaurant, and generally discover more information about you.

You’ve already captured their attention, now you are in the process of winning them over.

So for our Italian restaurant, we might talk about what makes us special, the wine, the jazz, the free car charging, etc.


This is where our Italian restaurant starts turning Facebook ads into customers at tables.

Here we’re offering deals, offers, promoting the jazz evening, things that people can click to actively take you up on an offer or decide to visit our Italian restaurant.

Now under those three categories are more targeted, specific objectives. There are quite a few, so for simplicity, we’ll leave that out for now. If however you’d like to know the details, here is a good guide on what each one means.

For our example, I’m going to choose to start by increasing brand awareness.

Restaurant marketing strategies

Once you’ve chosen your objective, you’ll be asked to name the campaign, if you want to create a split test, and if you want campaign budget optimization.

The split test will help you experiment later on to see what works best for you, and the campaign budget optimization lets Facebook help you spread your budget a bit further. I’m going to skip these so we can get straight to sorting out our audience and budget.

4. Finding Your Audience and Setting Your Budget

Alright, now we’re into the meat and potatoes of our Facebook marketing.

First, you can choose your audience based on:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Languages
  • Detailed targeting (interests e.g. Italian Food, wine, Jazz)
  • Connections (what their relationship is to your Facebook page)

You can also exclude people who use certain apps or like certain pages etc., if you’re feeling mean.

Here’s the audience I picked for our Italian restaurant:

SEO for restaurants

Here I’ve reached 90,000 people - if I had wanted to I could have gone even more specific to really narrow things down.

Then just pick your budget. This is entirely up to you, but I’d start off small until you find out what works.

Here I’ve also chosen to run the campaign for a month - that should give us a good idea of how effective the ads are.

facebook advertising objectives

5. Create Your Ad

Now it’s time to get creative and have a bit of fun.

Take your time and go through all of the options and templates and see what suits your brand and your needs.

Seo for restaurant marketing

If you are using your own photos or videos, do make sure that they are of the quality Facebook needs. They’ll tell you what’s required when you upload your photos or videos.

6. Choose Where to Place Your Ads

This is where you decide where on the page your Facebook ads will go.

You can choose from the news feed, on mobile or desktop, right column, etc.

You can let Facebook recommend what the default placements are here to get the best bang for your buck.

7. Confirm Your Ad Order

You did it!

There’ll be a short wait while Facebook checks your ad and your campaign, and you’ll get an email when it’s ready to go.

Give it a quick check to make sure everything looks right.

Now don’t obsess over it too much - let Facebook do its thing and leave it alone for a week before you come back to it.

Congratulations, you just created your first Facebook advertising campaign.

7. Building Your Instagram

What Is it?


345,762,791 posts of that particular hashtag at the time of me writing this.

Screenshot of #food hashtag on Instagram

That’s nearly 350 million people who took a picture of something delicious, and wanted to share it with the world so much, that they tagged it with “#food”, for you to find.  

Put simply, Instagram was made for restaurant marketing - it’s just such a good match.

Now of course, Instagram wasn’t literally made for restaurant marketing - it’s for anything. People post pictures of whatever they like and often tag it for other people to find.

You tag something by simply putting a hashtag in front of the words:

  • #DiningOut
  • #Dessert
  • #Pizza
  • #Imgoingtohavetorollhome

Instagram is social media’s answer to our desire for pretty images to suit our short attention spans. Personally, I’ve found myself scrolling through Instagram, almost in a trance, for longer than I care to admit.  

And that just translates to restaurant marketing so, so well.

Look, for whatever reason, it seems people these days enjoy taking photos of their food even more than eating it. They want other people to see how lucky they are to be enjoying such a delicious meal, and comment accordingly. It’s validation through interaction.

And there is plenty of validation and interaction to be had with 1 billion (with a B!) Instagram users.

Add the fact that pictures of food trigger powerful reward centers in the brain, and you’ve got a delicious recipe for attracting new customers, as well as getting more revenue out of your existing customers.

Let’s go step by step to get you started, and then I’ll give you some general tips and tricks to really generate some revenue for your restaurant.

Okay, How Do I Do It?

Signing Up

So when you go to Instagram to create an account, make sure you register with your business email, so you don’t attach the account to your personal details.

Where it says “Full Name”, enter your business name, not your own name.

Your User Name

And under “Username”, put in the name of your restaurant.

The big guys got it right by keeping it simple, with the likes of @burgerking and @mcdonalds.

Restaurant marketing strategies

If your restaurant name is already taken, try and add “restaurant” to your name.

This will now be your Instagram name. If someone wants to mention you, they will type @yourrestaurantname.

Oh, and if you have multiple locations, don't make an account for each one! This will dilute your message and will make interacting with your audience way too hard.

The name of the game here is to have one big audience that you can engage with naturally. The benefits of your multiple locations will happen by itself after that.

Profile Picture

For your profile picture, resist the temptation to use your logo. I know that sounds weird, but remember, we’re selling food here.

So make the profile picture a photo of the best looking dish you have. Make mouths water from the second they come across your profile.

I know this is the way to go because we did our own internal study. Across 5 different restaurants, profiles with delectable dishes as their profile picture (instead of a logo), got 28% more profile visits.

Screenshot of Instagram profile for a food influencer

Write Your Instagram Biography

Now you get to write a little biography to draw people into your delicious world.

Notice I called it a “little biography”.

That’s because you’re probably tempted to write as much as you can here, and let people know everything about you. Please don’t!

You really want to make this as short and sweet as possible. Have a look at the big restaurant chains, they are all very simple.

restaurant promotion on Instagram

Here Domino’s has told you straight away that they are the world leader in pizza delivery. It doesn't get any more simple and to the point than that. They’ve told you the strength they’re known for straight away.

So follow suit here and tell your audience what your are most well known for. What is unique to you? Are you Garland’s best Italian restaurant? Are you the only Italian restaurant in Garland that has live Jazz?

Tell them!

Keep it short, keep it sweet, and reel them in.

Make It a Business Account

Okay, the last thing you have to do is to make sure your Instagram account is a business account, so that you’re able to measure the success of your posts.

Just go into your settings, then account, and click on “Switch to Business Profile”.

Hey, look at that, you’re on Instagram, and you’re looking gooood!

Great, I’m on Instagram - Now What?


So you want to be posting 1 to 2 times a day. 38% of people check Instagram several times a day, so we want to be able to catch them.

You might be thinking “What on earth can I post twice a day?”. Don’t worry, we’ll give you a hand with that in a minute.


You’re a restaurant. That sells food. So post when people are hungry!

Maybe do your first post just before lunch, and your second post just before dinner. If you do weekend brunch, maybe you could post on weekend mornings.

You can actually use apps that will post content automatically once you set it up. SproutSocial and Instaschedule are two really good examples.

Just plan ahead with your content and let the apps do the rest.


So again, hashtags are what people type in the search bar to find things they like.

For restaurants, we’ve found these are the most popular hashtags:

  • #restaurant
  • #food
  • #foodie
  • #foodporn
  • #instafood

In addition, you should include these hashtag types that are specific to your location…

  • Your city, e.g. #Garland
  • Your city variations e.g. #GTown
  • Your street e.g. #MainStreet
  • Your restaurant name

The only other thing I’d recommend would be to not put your hashtags in your caption, as it clutters things up and makes it look ugly. Instead, post your hashtags as a single comment.


Now this bit is crucial. In my pocket I have a newish mobile phone that takes incredible pictures. I have a big fancy digital SLR camera that I hardly use anymore, because mobile phone cameras are just so darned good these days.

And I’m willing to bet your customers have a good phone camera too. And even if they don’t, they are absolutely, positively, used to seeing professional grade photos of products, especially food.

Remember we said that pictures of food fire off powerful reward centers in the brain? Well let’s get inside their brains and really get their mouths watering.

Have a look at this photo to see what I’m talking about.

restaurant marketing strategies for instagram

Which one would you rather eat?

Yup, thought so. Photography is crucial here. I can’t stress that enough.

However, you don’t need a big fancy camera, I promise. With the right methods, a modern cell phone should be just fine.

And it’s your lucky day, because I’m going to give you a step by step guide to getting your Instagram food photos juuuust right.

It’s actually pretty simple and you don’t need any photoshop skills at all. Just follow these steps below.

  1. Download the Snapseed app for iPhone or Android.
  2. Crop by following the “rule of thirds” and using a square aspect ratio (available in Snapseed) to emphasize the best part of the photograph.
  3. If it’s a single dish photograph, crop in tight on almost entirely the food.
  4. If it’s a multiple dish arrangement, crop to highlight the food of multiple dishes.
  5. If it’s an ambiance shot, use your best judgment.
  6. Apply the following Snapseed settings.
  7. Brightness +10
  8. Contrast +13
  9. Saturation +18
  10. Ambiance +10
  11. Warmth +7
  12. Save each photo to your camera roll by tapping EXPORT, SAVE A COPY.
  13. Taa daa! Your masterpiece is complete. Upload to Instagram with the right hashtags and interact with your fellow Instagrammers.


Okay, you’re almost there!

The last bit to talk about is the content itself. Now of course posting photos of great food is the priority, but here’s a quick list of other content ideas:

  • Ask engaging questions, e.g. “Pineapple on Pizza, Yay or Nay? Make your case!”
  • Announce new meals, promotions or events.
  • Show photos from behind the scenes in the kitchen, people love knowing what goes on back there.
  • Draw attention to goings-on in your local area. Let people know you support your community!
  • Repost pictures from your customers, they’ll love the attention.
  • Sometimes you don’t even need to post, you can comment on a follower’s post or comment to get attention that way.
Instagram post of sushi with caption asking followers to tag their friends

My numero uno piece of advice though?

Be nice.

It’s super simple. The people on Instagram are just that, people, so treat them as such. Behind every picture and comment is a human being that craves positive interaction.

Talk to them, answer every single question they ask. Compliment them on their photography and fine taste in food.

That’s the true key to Instagram success - making connections with people who can become loyal customers, and even advocates for your restaurant.

Share your love of delicious food, and all the sights, smells and sensations that go along with it. Follow that simple recipe and you’ll create a very special following.


And there you have it, 7 of the most influential and effective restaurant marketing strategies you can use for your restaurant.

And everything has been laid out for you step by step.

What was once in the too hard basket, should now be in your “DO IT NOW” tray.

Get started with just one of these restaurant marketing strategies, and make it your priority to earn more customers, and more revenue.

You deserve it, what are you waiting for?

If you’ve got any questions at all about what you’ve just read, comment below and we’ll be glad to help.


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About the author

Adam Guild

Adam Guild is the CEO of Owner, a restaurant marketing platform that gives restaurant owners online superpowers. See Adam’s best restaurant marketing tips here.

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