SCORE Small Business Blog

How to Drive Traffic to Your Restaurant

I’ve been working in the small business community for more than 30 years, and in all that time, one thing has remained constant: Opening a restaurant is always one of the most popular businesses new entrepreneurs dream of starting. Succeeding with a restaurant has never been easy, and in today’s economy, restaurateurs face some tough challenges. The National Restaurant Association recently released a study on what type of marketing works best for restaurant entrepreneurs. Here’s what they found:

Online marketing can boost a restaurant’s brand and attract new customers.

  • Restaurants that use online marketing tools such as emails, daily deals or websites tend to be viewed by consumers as “modern” (67 percent emails, 59 percent daily deals, 65 percent websites) and “popular” (63 percent, 59 percent, 63 percent).
  • Restaurant owners say the most effective ways of attracting new customers are websites (90 percent), TV ads (87 percent), social media (84 percent), restaurant emails (82 percent) and daily deals (77 percent).

Customized marketing messages tailored to the customer’s preferences lead to more sales.

  • Some 87 percent of consumers would visit or order from a restaurant if they got a savings offer; 95 percent of restaurant owners believe savings offers are effective marketing tools.
  • Consumers would go to or order from a restaurant if they received customized marketing messages that: referenced past visits (68 percent), allowed them to make reservations (66 percent), and identified them by name (64 percent).

Restaurant owners know what marketing tools work; they just need to implement them.

  • 84 percent of restaurant owners think restaurant-specific marketing emails help increase revenue, and 78 percent of consumers say an email from a restaurant motivates them to visit that restaurant. Some 63 percent of restaurateurs say they plan to use such emails in the next year.
  • 78 percent of restaurant owners say daily deals boost revenue for their restaurants, and 69 percent of consumers say getting a daily deal email motivates them to visit the featured restaurant. Forty percent of restaurant owners plan to use daily deals in the next year.

Online advertising and social media were less effective.

  • I was surprised by this response, but consumers say the least effective ways to get them to visit a restaurant are online advertisements (58 percent), social media (56 percent) and radio ads (56 percent). Apparently, these methods still aren’t perceived as personalized or targeted enough.

Do you use these tactics in your restaurant? If you need help implementing a marketing plan for your restaurant, consider contacting a SCORE mentor for advice. Visit SCORE’s website to get matched with a mentor and receive free business advice 24/7.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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Discussion (3) Comment

  1. RichVisitor

    Disagree with that last comment. Tripadviser is the # 1.(no seriously,bad joke) Word of mouth trumps over any type of media including social and the main reason so many restaurants do very little marketing. Times are changing and we need to understand modern marketing but no business relies on word of mouth more than restaurants. Its also another part of the business to learn as most owners can’t afford to pay for web, graphics and now social marketing on a weekly or monthly basis. We have cut out all printed media this year and has allowed us the cash to get the right tools to do so

  2. chrisVisitor

    I think overall this is a relatively solid opinion…however…

    1. Discounts are not nearly effective as loyalty cards. Discounts attract the wrong kind of customers (i.e. stop the discounts and the ‘herd will move on’) and it makes a restaurant look cheap.

    Loyalty cards on the other hand, tend to attract repeat customers and attract new ones. There are also a number of ways you can tweak loyalty cards to make them much more effective.

    2. You forgot to mention the all-time-best-marketing-tool-ever for a restaurant: word of mouth.


    3. Surveys are not very good at getting accurate results. People tend to provide answers that they think you want to hear.

    I mean, only 12% of people admit to searching for ‘adult content’ on the internet, but Google knows it’s the 3rd most searched term…

    Just some thoughts (but still a solid article).


    (restaurant marketing gurus.)


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