What is the most effective marketing/advertising strategy that an independent can do with a low budget? We are a polished casual steakhouse that has been around since 1968. With so much competition (especially chains), it’s been very challenging for our family restaurant to stay in business. We advertised in The Weekender (Fridays) newspaper often, Civic Center digital board for the past year which is located on a major intersection about 3 miles away, a local wedding magazine and send emails/Facebook posts out about once a week. We also donate food or dinner for two to charity events. Thanks for your advice.
– Peter, Owner, Angus Seafood Steaks Spirits, Pensacola, FL
Traditional media can be very effective in raising awareness for your restaurant. A new restaurant can be well served by a billboard. For example, letting people know where you are and that you are open for business, but not much more than that. The problem with much of the traditional media is that you do not seem to have an awareness problem. You have been established for 45 years, are extensively reviewed online and are a known venue.
Looking a bit at your online reputation, it seems your efforts need to focus on two strategies, which should happen concurrently:
Like other restaurants whose owners have written in, your guests may be getting bored with your décor, menu items and concept. Can you make improvements to the product that may draw people in? A new menu item, visiting chef, promotion, or enhancement to the atmosphere?
At the same time these improvements are made, they need to be communicated to a discriminating public with many choices. This is where your long-established reputation and customer base can assist. One of the points you mentioned in your question is troubling: a social media strategy needs to be implemented throughout the day every day; not once per week, and not just on one site. Let guests know about these changes as they happen by posting substantive things like enticing food, happy guests and promotions frequently, and reward your guests for doing the same.
Emily Callaghan, communications manager at Synergy Restaurant Consultants says, “All restaurants, big or small, should take advantage of social media. Are they monitoring their Yelp page? Posting photos on Instagram? Posting daily offerings on Facebook? This is something an in-house manager can do that only needs to take a few minutes of daily maintenance once some thought is put into who will take care of it and how.
For this case in particular, since it's easier to retain customers than acquire new ones, focus efforts on keeping regulars happy and wowing new diners with stellar service and the same great product you're already serving. If they're featuring a special dinner entree, for example, social media platforms are a great way to promote that. A photo and blurb describing what the dish is and how long it will be offered for is a great way to keep Angus at the top of customers’ minds.”
The days of opening your doors and ushering in waiting guests is over. Finally, use your goodwill in the community to get press to cover your renaissance—advertising is paid but press is free.