Restaurants are the types of businesses that need to leverage word of mouth marketing almost with every customer interaction. When customers dine out, they tend to look at things like friendly service, food quality, and an atmosphere they love.

Now more than ever, the restaurant industry is suffering from the lack of sales and the ability to operate at full capacity, so being able to think creatively and attract customers in your local area is the key to survive this winter season.

In New York City, the competition is fierce, and the conditions to grow a restaurant business sustainably are not the best ones. There are a few ways you can increase foot traffic and gain more exposure through local marketing. The type of marketing that has as target market your local community, your neighbors, and local businesses around your restaurant.

Here are seven ways you can implement to start leveraging local marketing.

  • Social media 

It still surprises me how many restaurants and other local businesses don’t have a social media presence to keep their customers up to date on their latest menu additions, contests, and discounts. By posting at least once a week on a social media platform your customers will be active on, you’ll be able to stay on top of their mind.

Social media can be a great way of attracting new customers using word of mouth. You can incentivize your current customers to tag your business in a story or post next time they visit you!

  • Merch with your branding

Loyal customers that visit your businesses will like these and most certainly pay extra for these items. It will not only help you increase your brand awareness but also bring you revenue. Knowing what your ideal customers like will help you identify what kind of merch to make. For example, if your local neighborhood has young millennial families, you might want to make eco-friendly tote bags or insulated mugs for warm beverages.

Here are some examples of restaurants that are leveraging merch to gin-up their revenue in 2020. 

  • Email newsletters

Use email newsletters to keep in touch with customers that love coming to your restaurant. Next time your loyal customers visit your location, ask them to sign up for your newsletter or add a CTA in their checkout process. 

Some types of content perfect for newsletters are special holiday promotions, social media contests, webinars and online events (like a cooking class, a cocktail party, live stream from your kitchen), and gift cards. You can also create a custom gift basket that you can sell for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.

  • Stellar customer reviews 

Having great reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google will increase your foot traffic and popularity. If you’re starting, or you haven’t been active on those platforms, now is the time to gain those stellar reviews.

One way you can incentivize your customers leave a review is by incorporating a CTA in your checkout process: if they’re dining in, ask your wait staff to mention that if they enjoyed their experience, to leave a review; if they ordered in, add a flyer when packing up the order with a discount that will incentivize them to leave a review.

  • Food influencer partnerships

A lot of online brands leverage influencer marketing, but not enough local businesses. Find out local food influencers in the area, and invite them to try out your food – it can be dined in or delivered to their home. To save up more money, you can use micro-influencers (have around 1-100K followers) that will be willing to do it in exchange for a warm meal. Using influencers will make you appeal to a younger audience that trusts word of mouth over an ad in the paper.

  • Local SEO

You have a website, but not a lot of traffic in there? Most local restaurants don’t put a lot of thought into making that website visible and searchable on the web. When most people decide to eat out, they use search engines to find a restaurant near them, so it becomes essential to have local keywords that will rank your restaurant on the first page of the search results. 

When researching keywords that you’d incorporate into your website, think of the search queries a customer will type in when wanting to eat in the local area. For example, if you’re a Thai restaurant in East Village, one keyword you’d include in your website is ‘the best Thai food in East Village’, or ‘Thai restaurant in NYC’.

  • btwn for business

Last but not least, our app – btwn – a new mobile app that helps local businesses increase sales through customer referrals! How it works is you ask your customers to refer your restaurant to their friends, and whenever their friends go, you reward them with cash rewards (10% of their friend’s purchase).

Our app makes it easy for small local businesses to leverage word of mouth, with an automated technology that can track referrals between customers. It is also FREE to join – the only cost is the referral fee you pay if a customer comes in from a referral!

Some of these tips require little to no additional resources and, it brings your business a clear ROI that will help you grow sustainably and maintain your loyal customer base. By incorporating techniques like word of mouth marketing, you’ll also be able to increase your loyal customer base because friends and family that hear about your business from a friend will most likely visit you. 

Have you tried some of these ways before? Comment below!

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