Whether your restaurant has an actual mobile restaurant marketing app or just a mobile-friendly, search-friendly website, the right digital marketing can be a revenue generator by giving new visitors reasons to visit and loyal customers reasons to come back.

5 Restaurant Digital Marketing Darlings Boost Customer Attraction and Retention

Like it or not, the battle for the hearts and minds of restaurant patrons might be won online as well as in the kitchen. Here are five ways to engage local consumers using digital restaurant marketing tools so you can grow your restaurant faster.

Once a ‘set it and forget it’ type of placeholder for many restaurants with a job of doing nothing more than displaying contact information, directions and a menu, today, restaurant websites and restaurant apps must be constantly updated and be designed to attract and engage local customers.

The more your restaurant’s website (or restaurant app) is optimized to attract local consumers via online search, intrigue them upon arrival and give them reasons to subscribe to updates and visit again, the more likely they are to become first time, then repeat and then long-time loyal restaurant customers.

When it comes to improving your website, including how it displays on mobile devices (which are all important in the restaurant industry, where consumers often take action within minutes after searching for a restaurant online) it’s all about two things:

1. What does the site visitor want to do? and
2. What do you want the site visitor to do next?

Making it easy for restaurant website visitors to do what they want to do is paramount if you want to bring more of them in the door. But landing a new customer is not the end-game, it’s the beginning. Once you have them on site and they got the information they were looking for, what’s next?

Your answers to the first question will get them in the door. Your answers to the second question will determine whether they become repeat customers, leave reviews, subscribe or follow your restaurant’s social pages, recommend your restaurant to their networks, develop loyalty and so much more.

If your restaurant’s website is still in placeholder mode or your restaurant app doesn’t seem to be helping you attract new customers, now could be the ideal time to improve your digital marketing game with these five restaurant marketing ideas.

Attract and Retain Customers with these 5 Restaurant Digital Marketing Ideas

Use Your Vibe to Entice

Google My Business and most restaurant ordering apps give you the ability to post photos (and sometimes even videos) that give customers a peek at the action going on in a given restaurant in real-time. You might not want to post a live stream of your restaurant online (but you could if you wanted to), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t post real-life photos on your restaurant app or website showing happy restaurant customers to entice website visitors to become real-time visitors themselves.

Allow for Online Check-In and On-the-Way Notifications

Allowing regular customers (customers who are members of your loyalty program) to check in online or notify you they will be arriving soon could be a great perk for customers who patronize your restaurant frequently. During busy hours this could help push your most loyal patrons to the front of the line, reinforcing the relationship and affinity they have with your brand. You can also make updates to your website or restaurant app in real time showing any wait time.

Reward Social Payments

Every time a happy restaurant customer posts a photo of their favorite entrée or to-die-for cocktail online, they are paying you with a social signal. Use your restaurant marketing app to generate more social shares and check-ins by rewarding customers for these online endorsements, such as entering each into a prize drawing, sending them exclusive offers or upping their loyalty rewards. One great way to track these activities is to promote use of a unique hashtag that applies to your restaurant. Tie rewards for social payments to your loyalty program as another way to reward your biggest brand advocates.

Trending Menu Items

While some restaurant goers like to stick with one or two favorites, many would probably come out more often if they were looking forward to trying something new each time. One way to highlight things on your restaurant menu customers might not have tried yet would be to show a trending menu items page or app on your website and social networks showing which appetizers, salads, cocktails, entrees or desserts are popular in your restaurant right now. Besides helping to suggest something new, it also essentially provides social endorsement.

Test Market an Item of the Week

If you are introducing new menu items or tweaking old favorites, promote awareness of these changes on your website, social networks, and in email and text marketing with a test marketing program. Allow customers to ‘opt in’ and give them the option of trying the new item with a special offer or a free tasting with their meal.

 

Americans have embraced food trucks and other mobile businesses nationwide, but is your point of sale marketing turning mobile business lovers into loyal customers?

Why Point of Sale Marketing is a Necessity for Food Trucks and Other Mobile Business Models

It’s a growing and competitive market. To win in this type of environment, food trucks must do more than serve great food. Food truck industry stats speak for themselves:

  • It’s a $2B a year industry – according to Food Truck Nation, the food truck industry grew 300 percent from 2014 to 2017
  • It’s super-competitive – according to Food Truck Operator, food truck growth is outpacing other food service, including restaurants, by 5.4% to 4.3% for the industry overall
  • Low cost of entry – startup costs can be as low as $50K (Food Truck Nation)
  • Excellent revenue to startup costs – a food truck that drives revenues of $250-500K annually can be started for less than $100K (Food Truck Operator)

When the 90 percent who rated the food truck experience as “excellent” or “good” were asked why, more than 8 in 10 used words like fun, exciting, new, different and unique (Mobile Cuisine). Worth noting here, once someone has visited a food truck once or twice, words like new, different and unique may no longer apply.

Startup costs for a food truck or another type of mobile business are generally far less than their brick and mortar counterparts and the startup process is very different. However, to generate repeat business – which is far less expensive than acquiring new customers – food truck POS marketing (point of sale marketing) must adopt many of the same loyalty marketing activities their brick-and-mortar competitors do.

7 Food Truck Point of Sale Marketing Ideas

1. Capture Contact Information

It’s pretty much impossible to do post-sale marketing when you don’t have the ability to email or text the customer. Food truck POS marketing starts with capturing the customer’s email address and/or mobile phone number along with permission to send them information after the sale. This can be done in many cases by simply giving the customer the option of receiving a receipt by email or text, but can also be encouraged using:

  • Giveaways – such as a free lunch next month
  • Surveys and feedback – how was your experience and/or what would you like to see next
  • Notifications of locations – where the food truck will be next or when it will return
  • Online ordering or order-ahead options
  • “Remembering” customer orders and customizations to save time in the future

2. Use Video and Selfies to Turn Customers Into Foodies

You can use video and selfies to turn customers into foodies at the point of sale by asking what they loved and why for a quick video testimonial or inviting them to pose in front of your food truck for a selfie and hashtag your food truck and location on social media.

There are foodies with large followings in virtually every urban and even many suburban areas of the U.S. Discover which foodies are influencing your target audience on Instagram, Snapchat or other platforms and engage them (generally done by paying them to try and then to review your food online) to generate social influencer marketing on social platforms, including a video or selfie done in front of your food truck. Lather, rinse, repeat as you seasonally change your menu or introduce new items to cater to those who used those three magic words: New, unique and different.

3. Adopt a Neighborhood Cause

Show your love for the ‘hood! Adopt a neighborhood cause for a benefit events or proceeds donation (such as, “$1 for every specific item sold this month will be donated to…”) And again, you can cater to that crowd looking for new, unique and different by changing causes monthly, seasonally, with the release of new menu items, etc.

Invite local dignitaries and media to press-worthy events to give proceeds and/or monies or items raised to the charity or cause to receive public relations for your efforts. Make the event even bigger by teaming up with (or issuing a competitive challenge) to a local brick-and-mortar restaurant to increase exposure and make this even more interesting to local residents.

4. Upsells and Add-ons

Like any other restaurant, food truck employees should be asking customers “do you want fries with that?” where “fries” is interchangeable with any type of appropriate add on or a beverage or an upgrade (supersize!)

5. Samples

Give food truck patrons a chance to weigh in on upcoming menu items or create demand for new items before they are released by sampling bite-size items to customers while they wait for their orders. This is also a great way to gather testimonials to use in marketing when you launch the new menu items.

6. Video Display

Use videos at the point of sale to stimulate customer interest in other menu items, reinforce their buying decision through happy customer visuals and videos, notify customers of future appearances, events or promotions, and so on. Customers should be able to take this in while they are waiting for their order.

7. Point of Sale Loyalty Marketing

When asked about loyalty marketing, 73 percent said loyalty programs should be a way for the business to show loyalty to the customer – not the other way around (kitewheel.com). Make sure your loyalty program gives customers rewards they actually want, and stimulates action on a frequent basis.

Marry your restaurant’s point of sale card processing solution to your loyalty marketing strategies. Following up with new customers with automated and personalized email marketing could turn that first timer into a long time fan. Reach out to us to find out how it works:

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Most restaurants evolve over time and changing a restaurant menu will often be part of the process. Here are seven things you’ll want to do if it’s time to make big changes to your restaurant’s menu.

7 Things to do Before Changing a Restaurant Menu

We recently read an entrepreneurial success story about the restaurant industry on app.com where a restaurant owner said that if there was one thing they would do differently, it would have been to have designed their kitchen differently, because their menu has grown and changed so much in the decade since the restaurant opened.

This is probably true for a lot of restaurant owners. The menu items that inspired your restaurant concept to begin with have probably evolved since you opened, and you’ve probably tested and added many other new food and beverage options over time. Some of these were probably easy to do given your current setup; others, not so much. And there may have even been some things you wanted to try but couldn’t due to facility limitations.

It got us to thinking about what it would take for a restaurant owner who wanted to make major changes to the menu or even – essentially – launch a whole new restaurant concept including a complete change of menu within the confines of their current location and space. From changes to the competitive marketplace, regional consumer demographics, or rules and regulations governing the food service industry, there are many reasons why you might be thinking about changing a restaurant menu. Here are seven things you can do to help ensure the success and growth of your business as you make these changes.

7 Things to Consider When Changing a Restaurant Menu

Facility

Whether you are opening your first restaurant, making tweaks to your menu or changing a restaurant menu completely, there’s no question that your facility’s layout, equipment, kitchen, storage, etc. has the ability to limit your options or even put the kibosh on your plan.

Financing

Whether proposed changes mean you need to make updates and buy equipment in order to add new menu items or your entire facility will need to be remodeled in order to accommodate a complete overhaul of your overall restaurant concept, it’s highly likely that you may need some time of restaurant equipment financing to complete the project.

Our restaurant cash advance financing might be an ideal option for you. It can be used for a wide variety of purposes, even including covering payroll and expenses if your restaurant renovation means that your doors will be closed for a short period of time. Since a restaurant cash advance financing can provide funding in a matter of days (not weeks), you can even consider this restaurant financing tool mid-renovation if need be. It’s a great financing alternative for businesses that expect to add new revenue, as might occur when changing a restaurant menu to add new menu items or renovating in order to attract more people in the local area.

Existing Customer Base

Obviously you don’t want to change your restaurant’s menu only to find that you have lost loyal customers as a result. If retaining people from your existing customer base is important, then it’s also important for you to consult them along the way as you consider making major changes to your menu or facility. Use surveys, hold focus groups and invite some of your most loyal customers to be part of the brainstorming and planning process.

Regional Demographics

If the demographics of consumers in your local area is evolving then it’s going to be important for you to change your restaurant over time as well. Staying on top of census information, trends, and information such as an influx of new residents or major employers entering or leaving your region can all point to areas of opportunity for your restaurant.

Major Players

If you are making major changes to your restaurant menu or completely changing your restaurant’s concept, it would be wise to touch base with influencers who can help to make sure that these changes bring in new customers. Major area employers, city leaders, civic influencers (such as Rotarians, Chamber of Commerce, Clergy, Educators, etc.) and internal VIPs such as board members, investors, vendors, and suppliers could all potentially go on to this list.

Available Talent

One really important thing to consider when changing a restaurant menu is sustainability; in other words, is there enough available food service talent in your local area to staff and run your restaurant under it’s new concept. If your concept is innovative, requires special skills or knowledge, or is unfamiliar to current and/or prospective staff, plan for a longer learning curve and a formal training program.

While the downside might be a more expensive orientation and training program, it’s important to remember that the customer experience is key. The more you invest in ensuring a unique, intriguing, buzz-worthy restaurant experience, the more likely you are to generate public interest, word of mouth referrals and repeat patronage.

Build Up Buzz Marketing

Sometimes how you launch is every bit as important as what you launch. Whether you are just announcing a few new restaurant menu items or you have done a complete restaurant renovation, the direct and email marketing, social media, restaurant website updates and public relations you put to work to let people know about what you are about to do (and/or what you’ve just done) have the power to put customers in seats. This is important not only in terms of validating your decisions (especially if board members or investors have doubts) but is also important for creating buzz, generating referrals, paying off any debt incurred in the process – and of course for the sustainability and success of your business in the future.

You might also likePrep for Growth – 9 Ideas for Growing a Restaurant

Short of biting back, how can you respond in order to make sure that your reputation isn’t hurt by a bad restaurant review?

A Menu of Options for Responding to a Bad Restaurant Review

Did someone post a bad restaurant review about your business? Find out how to repair the damage, salvage customer relationships and recover after someone posts a negative review about your restaurant online.

It’s no fun to discover that a consumer has posted a negative review about your restaurant on social networks or a public review site. Few in the restaurant industry missed the social media storm that hit “Kitchen Nightmares” restaurant reality show featuring the owners of Scottsdale, AZ’s Amy’s Baking Company. Not only did the show’s host, Gordon Ramsay, actually give up on his attempt to help the company, things seemed only to go from bad to worse, including an onslaught of scathing social media posts on the company page and across the internet.

While it’s unlikely that your restaurant would ever find itself in a media meltdown, it points to the importance of having a plan for how you will deal with a bad restaurant review, customer complaints and social media slights that could damage the reputation of your restaurant and impact profitability. Your plan should also ensure PR training for employees, who could find themselves in the position of a spokesman needing to defend the reputation of your restaurant.

Who, What, When, Where and Why – Tips for Responding to a Bad Restaurant Review

Who Should Respond to a Bad Restaurant Review

While the first choice for “who” should be the one to respond to a negative review, social media post or customer complaint might be the restaurant owner or a designated marketing or public relations officer, it’s also important that a back-up be identified in the case that an individual is traveling, ill or unable to respond in a timely manner for some other reason.

What Will Merit a Response

Remember that it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. Few (if any) restaurants receive 5-star ratings from every patron. A few negative comments here and there are not likely to damage the reputation of your restaurant or deter patronage provided there are several positive reviews and good ratings to offset them.

Every negative comment will not merit a response. Your media policy should include a general outline of the type of bad reviews or negative social media updates that will (or may not) require a response. In general, you only need to respond to bad reviews or negative ratings you feel have real potential to hurt your business in some way.

When to Respond to a Bad Restaurant Review

Depending on the topic of a bad review, you may want to delay your response until you have a chance to take other actions; such as:

  • investigating the complaint
  • contacting the individual personally
  • deciding what type of amends you want to offer
  • exploring the options available to you depending on the policies of the platform where the review was left (Yelp, CitySearch, Facebook, Google+, etc.)

When you do respond, make every effort to keep the conversation positive. Focus on the merits of your restaurant, staff, menu and other positives. Offer amends that can lead to a positive outcome for all parties. Avoid making comments that could be construed as personal insults or insinuations.

Keeping to the high road when you respond could be enough to protect the reputation of your restaurant from potential damage. Likewise, it can even bring in new business and motivate loyal customers to come back more often, not only offsetting any potential lost profits but actually increasing them.

Where to Respond

Ideally, you would be able to leave a response directly at the source. For instance, if the poor review came in the form of a social status update, the best place to respond might be as a direct reply or private message. If it’s not possible to leave a direct reply, you may need to post an open response on your own social media pages, blog, website or even include a response in your email newsletter.

Why a Bad Restaurant Review Can Be a Good Thing

Bad reviews can produce positive outcomes and these could come in many different forms, such as:

  • Discovering inadequacies in the customer experience
  • Identifying the need for staff training in general, or in specific areas
  • Fixing sub-par menu items or recipes
  • Providing opportunities to make amends with an unhappy customer
  • Giving you a chance to garner the attention of local press and build brand awareness
  • Laying the groundwork for better online marketing and reputation management

With the industry revenues projected to increase, restaurateurs will have many opportunities for growing a restaurant if properly prepped for growth. 

Growing a restaurant a real possibility, as half say restaurant sales will rise over the next 6 months.

52 percent of restaurateurs reported an increase in sales in January, down from 60 percent who said the same in December. Despite the drop in numbers, half of the respondents said they believe sales will rise over the next six months. However, not all restaurants are in the best position to grow. Here are nine key ways you can position and equip your restaurant to grow this year.

9 Tips for Growing a Restaurant Faster than Your Competitors

  •  Reassess Standards

From standards of service to the style and ambiance you want for your restaurant, now is a great time to reassess in order to identify areas where your restaurant can improve.

  •  Put the Right People in Place and Equip them for Success

Reassessing standards may reveal areas where staff lack in skills or fall short when it comes to the mindset and attitude you want to characterize in your organizational culture. To position your restaurant for growth, you will need everyone pulling together; this may involve reorganizing your staffing structure, providing training or re-training in needed skills, team building or strategic hires and layoffs.

  •  Identify New Target Markets

If your customer base is not large enough or your target market is a fairly small portion of local demographics, you need to identify new target markets and determine how you will reach out to them. Likewise, if in your reassessment you made significant changes to what your restaurant will be like in the future, you will need to plan how you will help to transition your current customers into the new format and/or how you will reach out to the buyer types most likely to respond favorably to the organizational changes you’ve made.

  •  Line Up Financing

Making repairs, renovating, redecorating – whether planning to make major or only minor changes, you still may need to line up financing in order to be prepared to capitalize on growth during your busiest months, seasons or holidays.

A restaurant cash advance could provide your restaurant with a quick infusion of working capital, based on its own sales trends, which can be used to make repairs, replace equipment, for remodeling or redecorating or even expansion. Since a restaurant cash advance is not a loan, approval doesn’t come down to a credit score or collateral, and it doesn’t affect personal or business credit.

  •  Build or Revise Your Website

Today, growing a restaurant requires an online presence. Without a restaurant website optimized for local search, chances are your restaurant is already losing out when it comes to attracting new customers. Studies show that restaurants are the most-searched-for industry on mobile. What’s more, when people do search for a restaurant, 64 percent convert immediately or within 1 hour.

  •  Add Mobile Apps and Compatibility

A significant portion of all web traffic now occurs on mobile devices; and for restaurants, even more. Often a local consumer is using their Smartphone or tablet while in the car, out shopping, after attending an event or on the road for some other reason to find nearby dining options.

If you don’t have a website with responsive design, chances are your website doesn’t provide a good user experience (if it gets found in online search at all). However, there are mobile apps which can instantly create a mobile version of your existing website. You should be able to customize the app to match your brand for just a few dollars each month and mobile restaurant apps abound to help you attract and convert new customers online. Even better? Ditch that lackluster obsolete website for a bright shiny new WordPress website, instead. Choose a template that features responsive design and gives you the ability to customize the site to align with your restaurant’s brand. There are thousands of free and inexpensive WordPress themes and plugins available, giving you the ability to put forward a professional digital brand image in a website that generates foot traffic, as well as web traffic.

  •  Review Your Layout

Growing a restaurant may require that you add more square feet or rework your restaurant’s design. Expanding to a new location or adding more square feet to your restaurant is one way to increase your restaurant capacity; however, it’s not the only way. You may be able to increase capacity by redesigning your restaurant’s physical layout. You may already have ideas on how this can be done, or it may be well-worth hiring an efficiency expert to assist. If cash reserves are standing in your way, restaurant equipment financing can provide the working capital needed for repairs or replacing aging equipment.

  •  Remodel and Redecorate

Over the years, colors, artwork, furnishings, tableware and other décor that was once en vogue may now be out of style. Likewise, the years take their toll in wear and tear. Now could be a great time to redecorate your restaurant in order to reflect the ambiance you want it to have, the attitude you want to project or the target markets you want to attract.

  •  Master Social Skills

Mastering social skills today means something different than it did before. Today, mastering social skills requires that you identify, acquire and adapt your restaurant’s social presence online, on the social networks where your target markets are most likely to find you. While most social networks are free to use, you may also consider some strategically paid placements or boosted posts in order to keep your brand in front of local consumers, grow your networks and attract customers.

While Supplies Last!  6 Reasons to Offer LTO Restaurant Promotions Create Customer Cravings and Get Them In the Door of your Restaurant, Bar or Coffee Shop

LTO Restaurant Promotions Spark Demand by Limiting Supply

Restaurant chains are on a spending spree when it comes to advertising. In fact, as the economy began to recover from The Great Recession, spending on restaurant advertising rose as much as 5x faster than total U.S. ad spending. In part, this was an effort by chain restaurants to steal market share from competitors using limited-time-only offers. You probably can’t outspend your competitors, but LTO promotions (limited time offers) could help you spark demand among local patrons.

Why do big restaurant chains and coffee shops offer customer favorites like rib-filled sandwiches and pumpkin spice lattes only for a few months every year?  Because it works!

And if LTO restaurant promotions work for big restaurants and coffee chains, it can work for your restaurant too. We came up with six ways to create customer cravings that can only be satisfied in your restaurant.

How LTO Restaurant Promotions and Time-Limited Offers Work to Increase Revenue

1.  Signature* menu items create new fans and build customer loyalty. 

Creating signature menu items – in and of itself – provide you with unique opportunities to promote your restaurant to new market segments.  When someone becomes a fan of something they can only get at your restaurant, coffee house or bar, they have to come back to get it.

*Just what is a signature menu item?  Just like a person’s handwritten signature, signature restaurant menu items should be unique to your restaurant and outside of the norm of what is available from competitors in your area.  It should be something that your establishment can become known for (and none of your competitors can offer, or match).

2.  LTO (limited time only) signature menu items create demand. 

When your unique menu items are offered only for a limited time, it gives you the ability to boost demand among your loyal customer base as well as individuals who are fans of that signature menu item with a sense of urgency, because that menu item will be going away in the near future. In fact, seasonal menu items may well bring in customers more often than they normally return, and even create a subconscious habit of returning more often to your restaurant, bar or coffee shop in the process.

3.  LTO restaurant promotions with signature menu items ignite consumer interest.

  • Customers will be looking for – and reading – your digital and offline communications with greater interest as they hope to see that their favorite signature menu item is coming back (or which one is coming next)
  • “Foodies” in your area are always on the lookout for something new to try, time-limited menu options help to satisfy their cravings and give your own customers a reason to try something new
  • Word of mouth and buzz marketing occurs as customers spread the word to family, friends, co-workers and social networks that they simply “must try” your LTO before it goes away again
  • LTOs have many of the characteristics of a “publicity stunt,” all on their own, providing you with many opportunities for PR, events and other press-worthy activities

4.  LTO signature menu items can help you steal market share. 

The word of mouth, publicity and intrigue that accompany your time-limited menu options can bring in new customers – not just regulars – and give you an opportunity to expand the ranks of your repeat customer base by providing them with an exceptional experience.

5.  LTO signature menu items can help you make up ground during slow seasons.

We help many restaurants maintain cash flow during slow months or seasonal lulls with restaurant cash advance financing.  Offering signature menu items during your slower months or slow season can boost demand and build restaurant traffic, helping to offset periods when you historically experience a slowdown in traffic and lower profits and revenues.

6.  LTO restaurant promotions help you guide customer demand and become more profitable.

Guiding customer demand with time-limited options may improve your ability to forecast demand overall, allowing you to better control costs and even save money at the same time you are increasing revenues – making your restaurant more profitable.

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We offer restaurant business loans, advances and equipment financing solutions. Find out more how to use our restaurant cash flow and working capital financing tools to grow your business by requesting a free, no-obligation quote.

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Find out why contests work and learn how to use restaurant contests to intrigue local customers and get them to visit your restaurant, and come back more often.

Get High Returns on Low Cost Restaurant Contests

When it comes to promoting a restaurant, well-executed restaurant contests can generate new customer traffic, boost the average ticket, fill seats during slower hours, bring patrons back more often and expand your contact database – if you do it right. Find out how to maximize your chances of getting high returns using low-cost contests to promote your restaurant.

Franchise restaurants and independent restaurants looking for new ways to promote a restaurant in their area may consider running a one-time contest or on-going restaurant contests in order to attract new customers or turn occasional customers into loyal, repeat patrons. As you brainstorm the details and customize a contest to highlight the strengths of your restaurant, here are some things to keep in mind.

An antavo.com article provided some great tips for restaurants who want to use contests to promote their business, including two important psychological factors: “Your fans… evaluate their odds of winning by looking at the incentives provided and effort needed.”  In other words, they have to believe they can win, and they have to want whatever they get when they do.

5 Prize-Wise Tips for Attracting New Customers with Restaurant Contests

1. Prize-Wise, Bigger is Not Always Better

If you haven’t tried using restaurant contests to attract customers because you didn’t have a lot of money to spend on prizes or give-aways, it should encourage you to learn that bigger is not always better when it comes to contest prizes.

In fact, the bigger the prize value, the less likely people believe they are to win. Smaller prizes or running contests or drawings where more than one person will win will lead more people to believe they can win, which means more people will participate in order to try to win.

2. Make it Easy or Hard to Win, Depending on Prize-Size

People expect to have to do something that takes real effort or sacrifice in order to win something big. By contrast, it should be easy to enter or participate in order to win low-cost prizes.

Therefore, if you want lots of people to enter (whether entry occurs via restaurant visits or signing up to follow your restaurant via email or social networks, you should increase the (perceived) probability of winning by offering more prizes.

3. What Your Prize-Implies: Contest Type Impacts Perceived Ability to Win

Contests (where winners are chosen through some kind of subjective evaluation) may also be perceived to be more difficult to win. Be sure that you clearly lay out contest guidelines including how entries will be judged, measured or evaluated, and who will conduct the evaluation, in order to determine who wins. The more equal people perceive their chance of winning to be, the more likely they are to enter.

On the other hand, subjectively-evaluated and awarded contests that require more effort may result in fewer entries. If you are conducting a contest and want to boost its effectiveness, publicize the limited number of entries, so that you incentivize participation by implying better odds of winning among a relatively small pool.

Customers may feel they have a more equal opportunity to win when prizes are awarded via drawing, especially in drawings where any one participant only has one chance to win. Conversely, you can incentivize customer behaviors by providing them with more entries based on how often they visit your restaurant, how much they spend, visiting on slower days of the week or during slower hours, buying certain menu items or engaging in other desired customer behaviors.

4. Prize-Vies: You Win When Contestants Battle It Out

A contest where people enter by voting on line (such as voting for their favorite menu item, the menu item they would most like to see added to your menu, best looking dish or some other preference) can help you swell the number of names in your email and mobile marketing contact lists as well as the numbers of local patrons following your restaurant on social networks.

To maximize short and long term gains with a vote-based contest, set your contest up with an internet gateway which allows you to collect contact information or requires that someone “likes” your Facebook page in order to enter or vote.

5. Don’t Forget to Prize-Publicize

No one wants to run a contest that flops; whatever contests or drawing you ultimately decide to run to promote your restaurant, publicizing your contest in advance, during and afterward is critical for getting the highest return on your investment of time and resources.

If you let people vote in your contest or enter online, be sure that there’s an automatic share or an option for them to share out their participation status on social networks. This is a great way for people to let other local friends, family and co-workers know about the contest or drawing so they can enter (or vote for a specific entry).

When the contest is over, make sure you plan for a photo op and get a quote from the winner/s to use on social networks, in press releases and on your website.

You might also like: 5 Positive Restaurant First Impressions that Will Bring First-Timers Back

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Did you know? You can marry your restaurant’s credit card processing POS solution to your loyalty marketing strategies. Following up with new customers with automated and personalized email marketing could turn that first timer into a long time fan. Reach out to us to find out how it works:

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Want customers to try the newest items on your restaurant menu? Here are five ways to promote new menu items without cutting profits.

Is it time to add new menu items or introduce a whole new line up?

No matter how delicious, getting people to try new restaurant menu items can be challenging. Many restaurant patrons would like to try something new but fear straying from the familiar. Here are five restaurant marketing ideas that will help you create demand for new restaurant menu items without discounting.

Restaurant marketing poses many inherent challenges, from turning occasional diners into loyal customers to attracting more members of their target audience to creating demand for items newly added to a restaurant’s menu.

There are many reasons why a restaurant may need to add or drop items from its menu, even items regularly ordered by diners. For instance, your restaurant menu may need to have items added (or dropped) when:

  • Demand simply doesn’t match minimum levels of demand needed for profitability
  • Ingredients become more costly or scarce
  • Some type of nutritional regulation or another type of ordinance renders it necessary
  • Your restaurant is evolving into a more targeted model or re-branding itself

But let’s face it: some people don’t like change, and that may include members of your staff as well as some of your restaurant customers. One of the reasons that some restaurant patrons will routinely order only one or two things from your menu is that they found one or two things they like, and they don’t want to risk trying other menu items they may not like as well.

If it’s time to change your restaurant menu and add new items, here are five ways to create demand for your new restaurant options without discounting.

Promoting New Menu Items – 5 Ways to Create Demand without Destroying Profits

•   Hold a free tasting for your wait staff, and pay them for attending.

Who has more ability to do some suggestive selling to undecided restaurant patrons than their server? Since your staff will be routinely asked “what’s good,” or what they would choose, why wouldn’t you ensure they have firsthand knowledge about new (if not all) your restaurant’s menu items?

By the way, this is also a good way test new menu items, get feedback, and make any changes or improvements needed prior to launch in your restaurant!

•   Provide a free mini version or sample to restaurant patrons.

This could be a great value-add to happy hours or a way to thank restaurant patrons in an unexpected way. Create miniature or tasting-size versions of new menu items and provide an offer or incentive for restaurant customers that order full-size versions at a future visit, provided that it occurs within a set period of time.

By the way, these types of offers can also be an inducement that brings customers in more frequently – base your offer expiration dates on the average time between customer visits.

•   Incentivize suggestive selling.

Provide incentives for staff who up-sell customers on trying the new menu items during your launch period.

•   Publicize the launch and popularity of new menu items using reviews.

All of the people who try your new restaurant menu items during their introductory period (including your employees) should be asked to complete a short satisfaction survey about the new item that includes how many stars they would award the item (up to 5) and an open-ended question that lets them describe the new item. Use your ratings and reviews to publicize during the launch period on your website and in your email, social media, SMS text message and other marketing.

•   Hold an exclusive open house or tasting event for influencers or your best customers.

People like to feel important and special. Close the doors of your restaurant or close a room off from the general public and invite community influencers (such as the people in your business networking groups, civic or city organizations, etc.) or a collection of your most loyal customers to a V.I.P. tasting event featuring your new restaurant menu items.

Get their feedback including restaurant menu reviews and comments and use them to market the new items on your restaurant’s menu on your website, email newsletter, social media updates and text message marketing. Create tent cards for your tables or inserts for your menu which include early feedback, 5-star reviews and comments from those who loved the new menu item.

You might also like: 3 Ways to Get Restaurant Word of Mouth Marketing

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Revamping your restaurant point of sale with a custom restaurant credit card processing solution could be another way to improve the customer experience and your restaurant’s efficiency. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free assessment of your current restaurant card processor – we’ll be happy to make recommendations and let you know whether you could be saving money with lower credit card processing rates or better equipment.

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Getting good restaurant word of mouth remains an essential part of any restaurant marketing plan regardless of marketing channel. Here are three restaurant marketing strategies that can get people talking about your business.

Capitalizing on Restaurant Trends Could Be the Key to Word of Mouth

Thanks to the current economy, the outlook for the restaurant industry is better now than it has been for several years. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry revenues were $825 billion last year. For restaurant owners looking for growth, conditions are very promising; the trick is getting those customers through the door. Whether it happens online or off, generating restaurant word of mouth through personal recommendations and rave reviews remains one of the most powerful referral tactics for restaurant marketing.

Restaurants with positive word of mouth often grow more quickly and become more profitable; perhaps more so than nearly any other type of business. Since eating out is often a social event, and many people like to try new restaurants as well as visit their favorites on a regular basis, an effective word of mouth restaurant marketing strategy could be the key to growing or expanding your business.

3 Ideas to Fuel a Restaurant Word of Mouth Marketing Plan

Give them Something to Talk About

Thanks to popular food shows like Man vs. Food that feature famous local restaurants with eating contests from most fiery to max quantities, today’s foodies are often on the prowl for local independent eateries to visit in their home towns or on road trips. Once they have conquered your restaurant’s food challenge, they are more than happy to share their experience with their closest friends and loved ones as well as the thousands of complete strangers their posts reach on review sites and social networks. Jump on this trend by creating a one-of-a-kind restaurant menu specialty item, giving patrons a food challenge, or sponsoring an eating contest of some kind.

Give Love to the Locals

Sourcing local ingredients has been among the top restaurant industry trends for the past few years, making it a trend that is not likely to fade away soon. In fact, as more and more consumers express curiosity and concern for what goes into the food they consume, this restaurant trend will only increase in importance. To take advantage of this trend, make sure that you are actually telling your customers about local ingredients you source and the local vendors, markets and suppliers you do business with.

Sourcing local ingredients is only one component of “local” that your customers may care about. For instance, local customers may be happy to find out how their support of your restaurant translates into economic benefits for the local economy including job creation and livable wages. They may be gratified to business with you when they know about the give-back programs and projects that your restaurant supports in the local community. You can even solicit their ideas and feedback relative to local causes they would want to help support or vendors and suppliers that might be of interest to your restaurant. The more engaged patrons feel with your brand and its values, the more likely they are to identify with your brand online and in person through word of mouth marketing and referrals.

Give the Nod to a Niche Market

Today’s consumers are in the habit of expressing themselves online and identifying with causes and businesses that reflect their lifestyles, values and worldviews. The more that people in your community that fall within your ideal customer types or general target markets see their own interests and preferences reflected in your restaurant’s menu, approach to service and brand values, the more likely they are to visit and refer like-minded friends, co-workers or loved ones your way.

This concept also extends to your restaurant’s décor. In particular, if you are considering renovating a restaurant or building out a new restaurant location, the ambiance that you create can – in and of itself – provide fodder for word of mouth marketing. Analyze the news feed on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other popular social networks and you will quickly find that the selfie generation is more than willing to tag themselves on your restaurant’s WiFi and take photos of your restaurant’s interior and entrees to share with everyone they know online.

You might also like: 4 Ways to Improve Restaurant Cash Flow – even busy restaurants can have cash flow challenges. Here are four ways to improve restaurant cash flow – without raising restaurant menu prices – so that you can become more profitable or grow your business faster.

Before adopting restaurant self-service POS payment options, you should understand the pros and cons and make sure that you don’t damage the customer experience in the process.

Do Diners Really Want Restaurant Self-Service POS?

More and more restaurants are moving toward not only restaurant self-service POS but digital ordering options as a way to increase efficiency and match capabilities to the consumer’s ever-increasing love of all things tech. It may be inevitable that most – if not all – restaurants eventually offer customers the ability to process their own payments in the course of their dining experience.

Inevitable or not, it’s important for restaurant owners to understand how implementing a self-service POS could impact their customer’s experience for better and for worse, so they can make sure they don’t unwittingly damage the customer experience in the process. Data from a Panasonic white paper called ‘Self Service POS: Do Diners Really Want It’ published on QSRWeb.com earlier this year provides information that restaurant industry entrepreneurs might want to consider before they take the plunge.

Pros and Cons of Restaurant Self-Service POS

Pros and Cons of Restaurant Self-Service POS

Pro: Diners want the option – nine out of ten diners say they would prefer using a self-service option at the table (but not at a kiosk).

Con: Diners face a learning curve – navigating a menu (especially one they are not familiar with) and learning a new software environment takes time and doesn’t come easily to everyone. Wait staff who might have processed the payment in less than a minute might have to spend more time helping diners successfully use the platform, or fix the problems when they don’t.

Pro: Self-service options enable customization – 47% say they would use self-service options to customize their orders and tailor them to their preferences.

Pro: Self-service POS makes it easier to split the bill – 39% say they would want to use self-service POS to split the bill.

Con: Restaurants may incur higher merchant card processing fees when multiple payments are processed.

Pro: Millennials prefer it seven to one and Gen Y and Xers lean toward it (57%).

Cons: Polar opposites, 65% of Baby Boomers would rather not order for themselves and 40% of Gen Y and Gen X diners aren’t interested.

Cons: It’s a no-go with fine diners who are paying more (in part) for high-touch, hands on service, plus 13% of fast foodies aren’t interested either, since they’re worried about holding up the line behind them. Quick-service restaurants have the process down to a science; so much so that self-service ordering and payment POS systems are often slower than working with a live server.

Cons: The more self-service in the customer-experience, the less control and opportunities a brand has to exceed expectations and leave a lasting impression.

Restaurant Marketing: 3 Ways to Provide a Full-Service Experience in a Self-Service World

Repurpose the human element, don’t eliminate it.

Many people perceive implementation of kiosk and POS tech as an attempt to reduce payroll; however, the real goal should be to free up a restaurant’s employees to become true brand ambassadors whose role is to improve the customer experience, not automate it.

Make it an option, not a requirement.

A self-service POS is by no means a slam dunk with Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. As you introduce technology to enable digital ordering and self-service restaurant bill payment, you should view it as an option that can enhance the experience for some but detract from others. It should not replace the diners option of ordering from and having their payment processed by a real person, but be introduced as an option for those who are interested.

Use tech to boost up-sells and keep diners in your restaurant longer, instead of viewing it as a way to speed customers in and out the door.

Increasing the average order of diners can make a restaurant much more profitable. Instead of viewing restaurant self-service POS as a way to increase efficiency and move diners through more quickly, use its technology to make suggestions to diners about side dishes, beverages and special offers that can boost your bottom line revenues.

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We may be able to help you reduce your restaurant merchant services fees and we also offer free service and setup for restaurant point of sale solutions:

Interested? Contact us at 888-580-2234 or complete the form below for a free, no-hassle quote on any of our salon business solutions.

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