12 Effective Restaurant Marketing Tactics Recommended by Experts

by | Mar 20, 2024 | Marketing

In the bustling world of restaurant marketing, standing out is key to capturing the appetites and attention of diners. We’ve gathered insights from founders and Marketing Heads to bring you the twelve most effective tactics they recommend. From integrating immersive digital installations to attracting customers with loss leaders, discover how to boost your restaurant’s engagement and keep patrons coming back for more.

Integrate Immersive Digital Installations

Having spearheaded marketing strategies at NOW Media, I’ve seen the impact of integrating digital creativity with traditional dining experiences. One particularly effective tactic that stands out is the use of immersive digital installations within the restaurant space. These installations not only grab diners’ attention but also encourage social sharing, amplifying the restaurant’s exposure in the digital realm. 

For instance, we designed a customized digital installation for a client that featured an interactive dining table. The table surface was equipped with sensors and projectors, displaying various thematic visuals and interactive games tailored to the restaurant’s branding. This installation not only enhanced the dining experience by making it more engaging and memorable but also became a focal point for social media shares. Diners were eager to capture and share their unique experience, leading to increased online visibility and engagement for the restaurant. 

The power of such an approach lies in its ability to create a unique brand story that diners can directly interact with and become a part of. By crafting digital experiences that are customized to reflect the restaurant’s theme and values, we tap into the diners’ desire for new experiences. This not only sets the restaurant apart in a crowded market but also fosters a deeper emotional connection with the brand, encouraging repeat visits and word-of-mouth referrals. The key is to seamlessly integrate these digital experiences within the dining environment, ensuring they enhance rather than distract from the overall ambiance and quality of service.

Nithin Koshy, Co-Founder, Now Media

Photo of Nithin Koshy

Host Engaging Themed Events

When I’m looking for something to do on a weekend or weekday evening, I often look to see what promotions or events my local restaurants are hosting. Themed events, such as wine tastings, live music nights, board game nights, holiday celebrations, or chefs’ table dinners, really help to attract diners and create memorable experiences. These limited offers are great for getting people in the door and are an easy way to get people engaged. And if you have these events often, consumers will follow you via social media to know when the next events occur.

It also helps to offer limited-time promotions, discounts, or prix-fixe menus to incentivize visits and drive sales during slower periods. It’s important to always advertise these promotions to keep people informed.

Thanh Dang, Influencer & Founder, Food Senpai

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Implement Instagram Mini-Challenges

Implementing a mini-challenge on Instagram is a highly effective restaurant marketing tactic that not only grabs diners’ attention but also boosts engagement in several ways.

With a mini-challenge, you can encourage diners to actively participate in a fun and interactive activity during their visit to your restaurant. This engagement fosters a sense of excitement and involvement, enhancing their overall dining experience.

Moreover, when diners post about the challenge on Instagram, they effectively promote your restaurant to their followers, extending the reach of your marketing efforts to a wider audience. User-generated content serves as authentic social proof, influencing others to visit your restaurant based on the positive experiences shared by fellow diners.

Offering a special discount or incentive to participants further incentivizes engagement and encourages repeat visits. It acknowledges and rewards their participation, fostering loyalty and building a stronger connection between diners and your restaurant.

Damar W, Writer, Explainerd

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Leverage Influencer Marketing

One restaurant marketing tactic I highly recommend is influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers, especially those in the food and lifestyle niche, can be a game-changer. Their authentic content has the potential to spread like wildfire, especially on social media platforms like TikTok. 

Plus, influencers can bring a personal touch to your restaurant, creating engaging content that resonates with their followers. The visual appeal of delicious dishes, paired with a genuine endorsement from someone they trust, can significantly boost engagement and draw new diners to your establishment. As the owner of a video editing and marketing agency, this is a modern and effective way to showcase your restaurant and create a buzz in the digital space.

Daniel Willmott, Founder,

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Utilize Scent Marketing

Here’s a tip no digital marketing guru will tell you: scent marketing. This strategy taps into the power of smell to create a memorable brand experience. It engages customers beyond visuals and sounds. Scent marketing involves using specific aromas in a restaurant setting to enhance the dining experience and connect with customers on an emotional level. Common scents include freshly baked bread, brewing coffee, or sizzling bacon, evoking feelings of warmth and comfort.

To select a signature aroma for your restaurant, consider scents that align with your culinary offerings and embody the essence of your brand. In my journey of launching over ten restaurants, I’ve integrated scent marketing in several venues. Those restaurants show higher retention rates and average checks; this is why we are going to scale this method.

Vadim Rachok, Culinary Instructor and Chef, Recipe From Chef

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Run Social Media Contests

Running social media contests is a great way to grab diners’ attention and boost engagement. These contests can range from simple giveaways to more creative and interactive campaigns. The key is to make the contest relevant to your restaurant and audience, and offer enticing prizes that will motivate people to participate. 

For example, you can host a photo contest where customers are encouraged to take a picture of their food or dining experience at your restaurant and post it on social media with a specific hashtag. This not only creates user-generated content for your brand but also increases visibility and engagement on social media.

Alex Taylor, Head of Marketing, CrownTV

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Showcase Offers with Real Videos and Photos

Showcasing the latest offers and special offerings on social media with real videos and photos of the restaurant’s ambiance and cuisine will definitely grab diners’ attention. Collaborating with social media food influencers in your area to showcase the above will absolutely boost your engagement rate. Finally, always think like a diner to attract more diners.

Manav Mathur, Editor, Favouritetable

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Offer Irresistible Regular Deals

One effective restaurant marketing tactic is to offer regular deals that feel like a total no-brainer. Personally, I end up ordering takeout from the same few places that consistently offer “2-for-1” or “buy one, get one” deals on my favorite meals. This strategy gets me hooked, and even when the deals aren’t running, those restaurants stay top-of-mind because I’ve already had positive experiences.

Building a loyal customer base is a smart way for restaurants to stand out from the competition. It’s a long-term play, but those returning customers become a reliable source of revenue.

Juliet Dreamhunter, Founder & AI Strategist, Juliety

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Amplify With User-Generated Content

Based on my experience in digital marketing, using user-generated content (UGC) is an effective restaurant marketing strategy that attracts customers and increases engagement. The exposure and appeal of your restaurant can be greatly increased by encouraging patrons to identify the establishment, use specific hashtags, and discuss their eating experiences on social media. 

Incorporating user-generated content (UGC) into your plan serves multiple purposes in terms of digital marketing. First, it generates genuine social proof—actual customers using your products and services—which has the potential to persuade audiences more than traditional advertising. Second, it creates a community around your business that promotes engagement and loyalty. As an illustration, you may hold a competition where patrons upload pictures of their favorite dishes in the hopes of winning a complimentary meal or coupon. 

This strategy also improves your online presence. Customers who tag your restaurant and use your hashtags expand the audience for your content and help elevate your brand’s presence in search results through social signals. Including user-generated content (UGC) in your marketing materials or on your website can also improve the relevancy and diversity of your content, which can enhance search engine rankings. 

User-generated content keeps your current customer base interested and helps you attract new ones by showcasing their actual experiences and satisfaction. This approach fosters a sense of community and belonging that today’s consumers seek by fusing engagement with authenticity.

Seve Paulo Linis, Digital Process Innovation Head, SAFC

Photo of Seve Paulo Linis

Reward Loyalty and Patronage

As somebody who has worked in marketing for most of my career, the one thing that I always see work above all else is the promise of a reward. When people are deciding to spend their money with you in a way that doesn’t feel necessary, they want to feel appreciated. If they are choosing to spend when they could actually save, of course, there is simply more expectancy. 

Offering some form of loyalty reward, where continued patronage gets a deal, a freebie, or a reward, is a really straightforward way to show that you care for the consumer and show that you are grateful for their continued custom. 

Another way to do this is to run regular competitions through your social media, where people share and tag, and can win some form of voucher or reward the next time they visit. This works because it is not only showing love for your current audience but also introducing a new one through the tags and shares. 

The more your audience feels appreciated, the more they will share the good word about how much they enjoy their experience with you.

Brett Downes, Founder, Haro Helpers

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Leverage User-Generated Content

In my experience as the founder of MBC Group, one restaurant marketing tactic that consistently grabs diners’ attention and boosts engagement is creating shareable content that leverages user-generated content (UGC). This strategy taps into the natural inclination of diners to share their dining experiences with their network. By encouraging your customers to post their meals, experiences, or special moments at your restaurant to their social media channels, you can significantly increase your restaurant’s visibility and engagement at a relatively low cost.

For example, a tactic we’ve successfully implemented involves hosting photo contests where customers are encouraged to post their best photos while dining in our restaurant, using a specific hashtag. We’ve seen a particular boost in engagement when we offered incentives like a free dessert or a discount on their next visit for participating. This not only encourages participation but also turns our customers into brand ambassadors. The key here is to actively engage with these posts—liking, commenting, and sharing them on your restaurant’s official social media channels. This demonstrates appreciation for your customers and further amplifies the reach of their posts.

Moreover, leveraging UGC creates a sense of authenticity and trust among prospective customers. People are more likely to trust peer recommendations over traditional advertising, so when they see real experiences shared by other diners, it significantly impacts their dining decisions. To integrate this approach effectively, it’s crucial to maintain an active social media presence, monitor the tagged posts closely, and curate the content that aligns with your brand’s image. The goal is not just to increase visibility but to create a community around your brand, enhancing customer loyalty and engagement in the long run.

Matthew Montez, Founder, The MBC Group

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Attract Diners with Loss Leaders

Getting people through the door is a perennial challenge for restaurants, but one effective tactic that can make a big difference is the strategic use of loss leaders. A loss leader is essentially an item offered at a price not profitable to the restaurant on its own, but it is intended to attract customers who will likely spend more on other items. This approach isn’t just about cutting prices or offering discounts; it’s about creating value that draws diners in, encouraging them to explore more of what you have to offer.

For instance, a restaurant might offer a special price on a popular appetizer during slower business hours. This appetizer serves as the loss leader, enticing people with a deal that’s hard to pass up. Once customers are in the door, they’re likely to order additional items at regular prices, such as drinks, main courses, and desserts, increasing the overall ticket size.

Beyond just bringing people in, loss leaders can also enhance customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing. When customers feel like they’re getting a great deal, they’re not only more likely to return; they’re also more likely to tell their friends about their experience. This can be especially effective when paired with social media promotion or email marketing, where you can highlight your special offers to a wider audience, encouraging them to come in and experience your restaurant for themselves.

Another angle to consider is using loss leaders in conjunction with events or themed nights, such as trivia, live music, or a tasting menu from a guest chef. These events provide a unique experience that, when combined with a compelling offer, can significantly boost foot traffic and engagement.

The key to success with loss leaders is careful planning and analysis. It’s important to choose items that are popular and appealing, but also to ensure that the cost is balanced by the potential for additional sales. Moreover, tracking the performance of your loss leader promotions can provide valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior, helping you to refine your strategy over time.

Matt Goren, Head of Marketing, Tom’s Key Company

Photo of Matt Goren

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