In order to reach your target audience, you need to be fluent in generating content tailored to a variety of different digital mediums and social media platforms—and you have a significant amount of competition to outperform. While restaurant marketing of the past focused on print material, today’s best restaurant marketing strategies must account for the powerful draw of social media content, expanded reach through delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash, and consumers who are inundated with options.

It’s vital as a restaurant owner to catch the attention of your ideal customers and entice them into your business. Fortunately, there is no shortage of data you can use to strengthen your marketing strategies and quickly see real impact. Read on to learn the best restaurant marketing strategies you should use in 2024.

What are restaurant marketing strategies—and why are they so important?

Consumers get advertised to in more places than ever before, and there are more options to choose from in every industry. In the food space alone, you see Instagram influencers promoting the best new restaurants in town, delivery services that bring your favorite comfort food to your door, meal kit delivery services that make it fast and easy to prepare a home-cooked meal, and viral Tik Tok recipes you may want to try your hand at. How do you cut through the noise and reach your ideal customers?

Rather than getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of approaches you could take to market your business, or weakening your impact by spreading yourself too thin across them all, a smart restaurant marketing strategy helps you determine how to most effectively communicate to your target audience. By using free and paid marketing tools like social media, search engine optimization, and email in conjunction with more traditional print marketing materials, you can devise a plan that will guide your efforts and better ensure you are successful.

Finding restaurant marketing strategies that work for you

Not every business has success with the same marketing strategies. Depending on where you are located, the demographic of the population in that area, and the demographic of customers most drawn to the aesthetic and cuisine of your restaurant, you may succeed with a marketing strategy that wouldn’t work at all for another restaurant in your area. More than anything, it’s important that your strategy be authentic to your brand and that it resonates with your customers.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a handful of restaurant marketing strategies that have proven to be quite successful. While some will pull from your budget, others are completely free to use. Experiment with these five top marketing strategies and track how they influence business in order to determine which ones work best for your restaurant.

1. Improve your overall online presence

For restaurants that have been in business for years, their online presence was established on platforms and in accordance with web standards that have since become outdated. If your website was designed more than five years ago, it’s likely time to refresh your design to ensure you’re matching the standards of today’s web. You can hire a designer to breathe new life into your site, or choose a platform like Squarespace that makes it easy to design a beautiful, easy-to-navigate website for relatively little money.

You also want to make sure you have a business profile on Google Business that is accurate and up to date. While platforms like Yelp were the place to get noticed in the food industry a decade ago, Google Business has taken over as the top dog in this space. Make sure you have an account for your restaurant, that the location and contact information are up to date, and that you’ve uploaded images of your space and food. This will increase both awareness of and engagement with your business.

2. Improve SEO on your website

Spend some time strengthening your website’s search engine optimization. Use a free SEO analyzer online, identify your site’s strengths and weaknesses, then dedicate time to improving your shortcomings to boost your search engine ranking. It’s possible that people are struggling to find you online, and this is an easy, free way to help resolve that problem.

3. Build your social media engagement

Using platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you can easily generate free marketing materials that could have a dramatic impact on your overall business. Post attractive pictures of your food, events taking place in your restaurant, and upcoming deals or specials that may draw people in. Engage with your clients and other businesses in the area to strengthen your following and engagement, and consider bringing local influencers into your restaurant to share it with their followers.

There are a million ways you could use social media to your advantage, and you don’t need to spend money to see it grow your business.

4. Use intentional email marketing tactics

Send targeted content to your customers based on how often they visit, rather than sending the same message to everyone. Generating different messages for regular, occasional, and less frequent customers is more likely to pique their interest and actually bring them into your restaurant—especially if you incentivize them with discounts or rewards.

Using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool designed for restaurants, like EatApp, Toast, or OpenTable, can help you tailor your customer engagement and increase traffic.

5. Send birthday emails

While this is an old-school strategy, it remains relevant and effective. Everyone loves personalized communication and discounts—and by sending a small freebie offer to celebrate your customer’s birthday, you’re hitting on both points. If you have a newsletter or a loyalty program, you likely already have this data. It’s just a matter of putting it to use.

If you don’t have a loyalty program or newsletter but want to get in on this particular customer relationship-building tactic, consider running a survey to collect customer feedback and include this as a data point. Even if you don’t want to do email marketing, you could send cards or coupons by mail or even through text—whatever feels most authentic for your brand.

Start marketing your restaurant today

Marketing has changed a lot in the last decade, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive or over the top to be effective. Take careful stock of your restaurant’s brand, your customers, and your online presence, then slowly begin working through these tips and strategies to see how they work for you. You want to be authentic, but you also want to be engaging, findable, and competitive within your industry.

As you implement new restaurant marketing strategies, track how they impact your visit statistics. For example, does improving your web design and SEO increase web traffic? Does increased web traffic bring more customers into your business? It’s possible that not every tactic will work for you, but when you begin to see results, you’ll know you’ve got an effective addition to your strategy.

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