Running a business is no easy task, and restaurants rank pretty high as one of the most daunting. Why? Because restaurants have an alarmingly high failure rate. According to a study by the Ohio State University, 60 percent of restaurants don’t survive their first year, and 80 percent don’t make it to a fifth anniversary.
This seems bizarre for the obvious reason: restaurants provide a cornerstone service in society. We all need to eat, and they provide us with food. And yet the stats remain. So how do restaurants increase their odds with better marketing and PR? Here are five recommendations.
1. Become an Instagram Foodie
Instagram is where the foodies go to get our virtual fix. Even when we can’t eat it, and even when we aren’t hungry, we love looking at food. Make an Instagram account and start posting the best pictures you can of your meals.
You’re sure to grab the attention of not just locals, but an international market. They might not be able to buy your food, but even likes and comments translate into great branding and free press for you.
2. Provide Incentives for Free Press
Foodies also love taking pictures of our food and sharing them online, so take advantage of that. Encourage customers to upload the pictures to your Facebook page. If they post them on Instagram, ask them to turn their location on, or give your restaurant a shout-out via a hashtag or mention.
The more customers do this, the more free recommendations and referrals you get online in the local community. To encourage this, you can offer discounts or free goodies, even if it’s in the form of an extra dessert, or a free drink on the house. Your customers will appreciate it.
3. Add More Pictures to the Menu
While we’re still on the topic of pictures, another great way to put photography to use is to add more pictures to the menu, especially if your restaurants serve ethnic foods, or menu items with unusual names.
This might not seem like a PR concern at a first glance, but the menu is a part of a restaurant’s image, and image is one of the biggest components of branding.
Adding pictures helps customers to make more informed choices about what they’re ordering. Even if you train waiters to explain what the orders are, many of us pick restaurants from lists online. And if we can’t figure out what’s really on the menu, we probably won’t show up.
4. Get Out More
Especially for restaurants with humble beginnings as food trucks and food stands, a brick and mortar building is a huge accomplishment. Even so, don’t be too quick to dismiss the value of a mobile presence in a convenient location.
If there are big events that take place in your neck of the woods, then make sure you have a stand there. This is a great way to pick up customers who might not have otherwise tried your food.
Be sure to brand your stand as best as possible – the stand itself, a banner, napkins, plates, cups, and however else you can. Some of the best events for this include festivals, sporting events, and outside of big concerts.
5. Go to College
No, we don’t mean go back to get a college degree. We mean you should make your food easily accessible to college students. Virtually no one eats out as much as students and recent graduates, so finding a spot on campus is a great way to attract new customers and build repeat business.
If a physical presence on a college campus near you isn’t possible, then deliver. You can do this by allowing students to order online or by phone, and then have the food delivered by bike or car to their dorm or apartment.
Another way is to partner with businesses that do have a physical presence on campus, so they sell your packaged meals for you.
Owning a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. Still, social media, big events, and college students provide great opportunities to build a strong image and attract new customers.
Like many other lifestyle businesses, however, restaurants need to remember that image matters. This should reflect in the restaurant building, the menu, the employees, and your social media presence.
Never underestimate a customer’s ability to judge you based on appearance alone.
Disclaimer: We do not own or claim to own any of the copyrights, brands, or copyrighted images included in the photos above. They are purely incidental to the pictures and serve no commercial value. Neither are we affiliated with their owners.
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.