How to create a restaurant marketing plan
Any successful marketing for restaurants has to start with a good plan. A plan that analyses, defines and structures the steps to follow, and contains all the strategies to build up the business. Like a treasure map, the plan shows the way to your goals.
This is a restaurant marketing plan. Have you ever done one?
At TheFork, we find them essential, especially at this time of huge competition in the restaurant industry. This is why we're tackling the subject today to show you how to create a marketing plan and get the most from your restaurant.
First of all, let's answer a question:
What advantages does a marketing plan have for restaurants?
- A plan enables you to get to know your business's strengths and weaknesses in more detail. This means you can make decisions based on reality, the limits and potential of the environment and all the elements that interact with the restaurant.
- It also helps you visualise what you want and set some achievable goals.
- Finally, it gives you a roadmap with tangible actions so you can achieve these goals over time.
To make the process easier to understand, we'll be going through the marketing plan for a restaurant we'll call Ocean. The restaurant is on the promenade in a coastal city of around 200,000 people, serves Mediterranean dishes, and can seat 80 guests.
Step 1 - Analyse the market
Every marketing plan should start with a comprehensive analysis of the business involved. This is key for working out what you can use and what you can't. It's a bit like doing an inventory of everything that makes up and affects the restaurant currently, both internally and externally.
In marketing, a tool is often used for this analysis. It's known as SWOT Analysis, and covers:
STRENGTHS (internal aspect): Elements that make the restaurant stand out. Advantages over the competition.
OPPORTUNITIES (external aspect): Market niches that are expanding. Positive trends. Consumer behaviour and lifestyles that drive sales.
WEAKNESSES (internal aspect): Disadvantages for the business vs the competition. Limits and areas to improve.
THREATS (external aspect): Negative changes in the environment. Is the competition fierce? Is it hard to find the right positioning in the area?
Applying all this to our restaurant, Ocean, we can set out all the internal and external factors that make it up:
- Has an excellent local octopus supplier.
- Good location on a key local corner near the tourist zone as well as offices.
- More corporate buildings are being constructed.
- More companies are holding after-work social events in the area, and more executives are attending.
- The Mediterranean cuisine includes seafood and fish, but nothing to make it stand out from the competition.
- Not many customers come on Wednesday lunchtimes or Thursday evenings.
- The brand image and restaurant ambiance are outdated.
- The location is near the beach and popular with tourists but lots of new restaurants open serving Mediterranean dishes and seafood.
Another important step in this SWOT Analysis is to look at the restaurant's competition closely, paying special attention to:
- Offerings and prices.
- Types of customers who visit.
- Weaknesses: are they ever empty? Do they offer the same thing as other local restaurants?
Comparing these characteristics with the same ones for our restaurant, we can maximise the benefits.
For Ocean, there is pretty strong competition as it's in a tourist area where the main gastronomic pull is seafood. However, practically all the local restaurants have the same business model, serving more or less the same kinds of produce and focusing exclusively on tourists.
So, there is an opportunity here for specialisation. Ocean could make itself into a restaurant specialising in an exclusive gourmet local ingredient like octopus, for example, given the excellent supply it has available.
The potential customer
Customers are restaurants' raison d'être. So, it's important to now work out the kind of customer we want to attract and retain.
There are various tools to do this. Social networks like Facebook show you quite detailed information about users and online clients, like demographic data, preferences, and consumer behaviour. This is ideal for helping you decide on your potential customer profile.
Currently, Ocean's customers are mostly tourists passing by, making it harder to retain them and stand out from the competition. However, there is also an opportunity as there are increasing numbers of tech companies and executives in the area. This market niche will need nearby places to eat.
So, we could start to focus the Ocean marketing plan on this profile:
- Men and women aged 30 to 55. Executives and business owners with medium-to-high purchasing power and who love seafood.
Step 2 - Decide on your goals
Using the information gathered so far, we can decide on some achievable goals for the business. Ideally, you have an overall goal plus some more specific targets to help achieve it.
For Ocean, we have a general main goal, which is likely to take some time, and some specific targets with different timelines:
- Position the restaurant as a specialist in octopus for local executive customers.
- Specialise in octopus.
- Make the restaurant image more sophisticated to adapt it to the potential customer.
- Gain new customers for all services.
- Increase bookings for the Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night services.
- Increase online bookings throughout the week.
Step 3 - The restaurant marketing plan
With clear goals in place, it's time to structure the tangible actions that will help us achieve them step by step.
For example, the main actions in the Ocean marketing plan could be:
- Change the logo, business colours and visual concept of the restaurant to make it look more elegant and modern to win over potential customers.
- Adjust the ambiance to suit this new image.
- Take photos of the new restaurant offering and image, print new advertising and update all digital channels.
- Create new storytelling based on the preferences of the new potential customer.
Changes to dishes
- Include new recipes with octopus as the main ingredient in order to specialise.
- Update classic recipes that are always requested to stand out from the competition.
- Include worthwhile sides that go perfectly with the star ingredient.
- Include a special menu of drinks, cocktails, and liquors that go with the main ingredient and will also attract local executives.
- Create a new menu with the new dishes and drinks.
Digital marketing activities
- Use and develop social media: Twitter (most used by executives) and Facebook.
- Create an online blog to generate and share content about the interests of these potential customers and their lifestyle.
- Develop an advertising strategy using competitions on social media to stimulate interest in the quiet services on Wednesdays and Thursdays, like quizzes, trivia, etc. that potential Ocean customers think are attractive.
- Optimise the restaurant's profiles on specialist portals like TheFork and TripAdvisor with local and global visibility to attract new customers.
- Add TheFork to your work tools to increase bookings across all services and record guests' preferences, treat them as individuals, and boost sales.
Create the document
All the strategy and content developed for our marketing plan should be reflected in the document that guides us.
The plan will have goals with different timelines. So, the most practical thing to do is create a template where you can see actions by week, month, and year.
We have made the following template so you can easily see how our example marketing plan for Ocean would look:
As you can see, it's a simple template with the different restaurant areas, the goals for each, the tangible actions over time, and the people responsible. The idea is to fill it with different strategies over the months until the year is complete.
If you want to start setting out a consolidated marketing plan like the one in our Ocean example and use this template, click here to download it free.
And remember, although any plan can change depending on your restaurant's needs and characteristics, the steps we've explained and this template model are a good foundation for starting to plan for any restaurant business and achieve your goals.
Ready to begin the adventure? Start with Step 1 today!