local media insider

Big ideas for restaurant advertisers

Alisa Cromer

A typical city weekly carries 20 to 60 restuarants a week, and hundreds for a dining guide and a couple of thousand a year. And these are all migrating to digital services. With digital advertising, however, the every campaign needs to have a great concept first, then focus on distribution through a variety of platforms. 

High end
Higher end restaurants have the advantage that there is usually a pent-up demand; people want to go there but can't afford it. But for most high end restaurants coupons are not an option. Here are some easy ways to market these restaurants while preserving an upscale image: 

Fix-price menus. Can the chef can put together a three course menu that would have cost between $60 to $100 per person, for, say, $29? The restaurant creates the perception that the offer is a steal, but it still can be marketed with an elegant menu or pictures of food on the landing page. The unfree drinks make the ROI work better.

Wine tasting. This is a great way to promote a restaurant with a good wine selection and bring people in. For a free tasting, the crowd will usually stick around to order more wine and some will stay for dinner. Encourage the restaurant to include some free food samples. Since is this an event that is not easy to “sign up for” make sure to include a notification for future events box on the landing page and on cards at the event.

Enter to win a dinner for two. This is a proven data capture device that works better the more expensive the restaurant. 

• Happy hours. If the establishment has a full bar, a happy hour is an easy way to bring in people, especially if food is served.

•Themed nights. To pack a restaurant bar on an off-night, a theme can help. Salsa night with a special martini, or Midnight Madness for the late night crowd. 

• A recipe contest.  Ask people to help create a signature martini or a special dish can go viral and be used to collect facebook fans. Here's an example. 

 For restaurants that use Open Table reservations include a button on the landing page.


• Free Birthday dinner. Limit the offer to parties with a minimum of four people. This is a great way to get large groups. Even one a week will typically pay for the campaign on a weekly basis, and increase the customer base exponentially. Great for restaurants wtih Benihana style-seatting. 

• Happy hours. Happy hours work well for mid-range restaurants, too.  The landing page should give information about the happy hour and include a sign up for notifications.  Food is important! 

• Two for one dinner. The higher the value the better the result. The offer can exclude the most expensive items on the menu.

• Tastings. Don’t forget that tasting don’t have to be wine. Whatever is popular in the local, including local breweries, scotch and food items such as can all make great events. We've seen a bourbon tasting pack the house.

What about a “Pick our next menu item?” inviting the town to  taste the offering and post their responses on the Facebook page.

Low end

 • Two for one.  For low end always use dollars off, not percentages, but the easiest way to get real response and data collection is 2for1.

Free coffee, or free coffee with bagel. We don’t know what it is about free coffee that people love. For data capture purpose, send them to a Fan page to become a fan in order to get the coupon, or at least an email capture page. Need to make money? Attach a small purchase. 

• Free bagel, or free bagel with coffee. See above. Einstein’s free bagel (or sometimes free with a $2 coffee) promotion created lines out the door and built a fan base from 4700 to 336,000 nationwide. 

• $3 Breakfast (or lower). Location is important for breakfast places, so this doesn’t work everywhere. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

restaurants, creative


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