The greater population was not prepared for the issues that were coming in 2020. The pandemic has upended much of our daily lives, but experts are predicting that the end may be in sight.

As the world continues to reopen, many businesses and industry professionals will be looking for ways to rebuild what they once had. One industry that will need to do some extra work to return to its pre-pandemic state is the foodservice industry. Many diners are still wary of going out amongst other issues.

Without further ado, here are six ways to ensure that your marketing efforts bring customers back into your restaurant!

1. Expand the Department

For many businesses, budgets, unnecessary expenses, and overhead costs were all slashed and kept to a minimum last year. In fact, experts state that at least 43% of marketing budgets were cut due to the pandemic. Once the recession started, it was apparent that business owners had to shore up expenses if they wanted to remain in business.

While these industry-wide budget cuts were necessary to stay open in the interim, they can be damaging to a company’s long-term success. As the world returns to a semblance of normalcy, so too should your restaurant’s operational makeup. It is time to reinvest in the marketing department if budget cuts were made. Even if your restaurant did not need to cut the marketing department, it is still a good time to expand the department and dedicate some resources to its growth.

Expanding a marketing department can be done in a few different ways. You can invest in the people who make up the department, or you can invest in the tools that the department uses every day. Let’s walk through what this may look like for your restaurant.


Hiring more marketing professionals can be a great way to expand on the current capabilities of the department. Marketing today is so fragmented that having at least a digital specialist and a traditional marketing specialist is a must. Much more than that can be overkill for a restaurant. To speed up the hiring process, it may be worth looking into a human resources platform. HR software allows you to automate many tasks associated with hiring, onboarding, and even offboarding employees.

Splitting the marketing work into two separate categories will help lighten the workload each member of the marketing team has. This lightened workload will allow your marketers to focus on the tasks that they feel most comfortable with. Having more than one specialist will also lead to more collaboration and diverse ideas that pull in both traditional and digital marketing strategies.


Besides hiring additional help, you can also expand the department by purchasing new equipment and gear for the team. Post-pandemic, your marketing content needs to look and feel like it’s professionally shot. You will not be the only restaurant trying to bring customers back in the door. If your marketing content looks stale or dated, it will be hard to stand out in the newly crowded market. To best combat this, your marketing team should have brand new gear and software to create the best content possible.

Some marketing equipment to consider investing in is; a new camera, a new laptop, the Adobe Creative suite, social media schedulers, other photography materials (props, greenscreen, etc.). Each of these items will help your team put out robust content that will grab the customers attention. Remember, your team’s gear will only take them so far. Having a dedicated marketing plan will help amplify your new efforts.

As the world begins to grow more crowded, so too will the business space. Getting out in front of the demand for new content will only help your restaurant get back on track!

2. Ditch the Third-Party Support

One of the silver linings of the past year is, the pandemic forced people to try new things. You could not achieve a task the same way that you would before, so new methods were being tested everyday to achieve goals. With so many people trying new things, this could also be the case for your marketing department.

As you begin to think about how you are going to bring customers back in the door, maybe you don’t have to. Amidst the pandemic, restaurant owners started to diversify how their business operated. This led to the massive adoption of restaurant delivery services across the country.

For most restaurant owners, this means working with third-party applications, such as GrubHub or Uber. These third-party apps often have predatory terms and contracts that can negatively impact the restaurant’s bottom-line. Due to these growing concerns, 70% of consumers actually prefer to order from a restaurant that offers their own delivery service, according to a recent survey. This is a huge number, as 60% of consumers now order takeout or delivery at least once a week.

To combat this, your restaurant should offer a delivery service that is completely built for in-house use and managed by your marketing team. The front-end costs of paying an app-developer to build your application will be costly, but the money you save in the long run from avoiding third-party fees will be worth it.

The estimated cost of building your own delivery app can range from $15,000-$30,000, but it will be dependent on the features you want to include. Obviously there is some sticker shock associated with this number. It may be wise to use funds from a small business loan to ensure that you have the money necessary to build a powerful app, while not taking away from other areas of your business.

After building your app, remember that you will need to market your new offering across all platforms. Meet with the marketing team to discuss how you want to feature this new addition to your business. Also, keep in mind that you will need to staff and maintain the costs of offering delivery after the initial investment.

3. Continue to Invest in Digital Trends

Up to this point, most of our advice has been centered around digital marketing trends in the food service sphere, and for good reason. More consumers are looking online at recommendations and reviews than ever before when choosing a restaurant. Something as small as a one-star difference on a company’s Yelp account can shift profits by as much as 9%.

Restaurant owners have seen how impactful the online community can be when determining which restaurants in an area are good or bad. Investing further in your digital presence will only help you take advantage of this opportunity.

For restaurants, there are a few elements of digital marketing that are a must if you want to make an impression on your target market. Here are some areas of digital marketing that you should be focusing on if you are not already.

Local Search Engine Optimization

As mentioned, the local community can play a huge role in determining your restaurant’s success. With more locals turning to Google and other search engines to find nearby restaurants, having a presence on these search engines will be increasingly important. SEO is growing at a pace that has never been seen before. Many companies want to do SEO, but do not know how to due to the technical intricacies of this form of marketing. To best leverage SEO for your business, check out some of the ways that we can assist you!

Email Marketing

The connection between email marketing and restaurants may not be apparent right away, but if you think about it, most of the bigger restaurants conduct email marketing, just in a non-traditional way. These larger restaurants often have customer loyalty programs that automatically send a newsletter to each and every subscriber. These newsletters serve as a form of email marketing as they effectively inform a consumer about something new at your restaurant. The logistics of gathering leads, sending emails, and everything in between can be rather time-consuming. That is where we can help! Contact us today to see how we can help you get your email marketing campaign off the ground.

Web Design

The continued shift to online shopping has flooded the foodservice industry as a whole. Restaurants need to have well-designed online sites that are both user-friendly and nice to look at. Consumers want to have the option to order, cash out and have their food delivered all from an online storefront. Even if delivery isn’t offered, some consumers prefer to order online. Web design can be a fickle beast to take on alone. Bringing in an experienced web developer can help assist with any website design services you may require. 

Digital marketing is an ever-changing, ever-growing industry. The trends can be difficult to keep up with, but if you do, the results you field may exceed your expectations. Make a concerted effort to continue investing in digital marketing trends this year and after the pandemic is officially over!

4. Showcase Your Changes

Over the past year, your restaurant has likely undergone major changes, There may have been a period of time where you were closed. Perhaps you had to rearrange your decor. Whatever it may have been, now is the time to broadcast these changes to the world.

The age-old mantra, “people hate change” is sometimes true. Other times, change can be the driving force to get people interested in an established brand. This is why you need to showcase how much change your restaurant has undergone.

If you market your evolution correctly, it should drum up excitement amongst two groups. First, old customers may have felt like they had seen everything your business has to offer. The hope is that the changes you made spark the initial interest that they had in your business. The second group of customers you are hoping to capture is the crowd who was never interested in your business in the first place. Your new changes could be a catalyst to get them in the door, but you need to advertise these changes first.

A well-produced social media campaign is the best way to display the updates you have made. In fact, social media is where many foodies and locals go to get their local business news. The major platforms, Facebook and Instagram, are great for video spots, which is the perfect way to show customers what to expect when coming back to your business. The advertisement doesn’t need to be over the top, just a quick 2-3 minute video that shows any changes you may have made. A voice-over would be wise to include, as would a walkthrough of out-of-store changes, such as website updates, or delivery options.

Don’t let this one video be your only exploration of video-based content either! Breaking up the monotony of pictures will be refreshing for followers of your page.

5. Start a Loyalty Program

While the pandemic outlook is starting to appear promising, the negative impacts will be felt by many for a long time. The stress and financial burden that the pandemic caused did reignite a hometown support feeling in many communities. As a restaurant owner, you need to harness this support and convert these new customers into loyal lifelong customers.

One way that you can take these current customers and turn them into lifelong customers is by creating a loyalty program. Loyalty programs are nothing new, but with the heightened desire for closeness, customers are primed to be marketed to using emotional tactics. A loyalty program makes the customer buy into the idea that your restaurant is somewhere that they see themselves coming too often. There needs to be an enticement to get customers to that level of loyalty though.

Standard loyalty programs usually include some sort of visitor bonus. This means that when customers return to your store, they receive some sort of mark to signify how many times they have been in. Eventually, when they reach a certain number the customer will get a discount of some sort. These programs are easy to maintain, but may not be enough to convert a large number of customers.

Other loyalty programs to try would be either a referral program or a social media program for members. The referral program would be simple; customers can refer a friend using an app or your new website and when they hit a certain number, they get a discount.

The social media program is a bit more creative and difficult to track. This would be the most challenging, but could have a really cool payoff! Essentially, you establish a check-in process where customers snap a photo of themselves enjoying a meal at your restaurant. They need to post the photo on a major social media account and tag your business. If they do, they receive a discount or free item. These programs are great because if they work well, they can serve as a mini-marketing campaign that was completely organic!

6. Engage with the Local Community

As mentioned above, customers are craving a sense of community right now. Emotions are high as people get back into the world and normal events begin to return. Right now is the time to strike if you want to insert yourself into the community. Integral members of any community always work with other businesses and organizations in the local area. Your marketing team needs to get together and think about possible local partnerships that could cement your business as a key member of the community.

The first thing you need to identify is the type of partnership your business will fit with. If you are a local pizza shop, then sponsoring some high-brow event is probably not something that will benefit you or the event. Think within your target market; the pizza shop should try to get in with any and every local sporting event, outdoor festival, concert venue and more.

If people begin to see your brand at every city event, it will just increase brand traction and recognition. People will also know that your brand is putting money back into the community, as you have to pay to be the sponsor of major events.

Getting into the community will not be as easy as just asking. You should have a business pitch prepared for each and every community or event coordinator you meet with. Other businesses in the community will be vying for the same sponsorship opportunities as you and spots will be limited.

Once you do land some partnerships, the marketing efforts will not be over. Your team will need to create some promotional materials to use at these events. Everything from pamphlets to facade wraps will need to be created so that your business looks legit. If you need some assistance with any print projects, we can help you. Our team can handle print projects large and small for businesses of any size. Contact us today to see where we can help your business!

Well there you have it! 6 actionable steps to take to get your business back on track. Marketing will be the lifeblood of your business as the world reopens. Strike while the iron is hot! People are wanting to get out and live again, and restaurants are often high on people’s lists of things to do.

With the summer looking more and more like it will be somewhat relaxed, hopefully, your restaurant will regain the success you once had pre-pandemic!

Contact us with any digital questions you may have!

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