Restaurants attract a wide demographic of consumers, creating a highly competitive marketplace. Setting a restaurant apart through promotion requires creativity and a willingness to try new approaches to attract customers and maintain a strong repeat business. Pay close attention to your competition to form an opinion of what promotional strategies you do and don’t like and create your own promotional agenda accordingly.

Market to Current Customers

Keep your current customers coming back and bringing their friends by offering loyalty reward programs. Offer diners a free appetizer on their next visit, or a discounted drink menu when they bring in a large group. Give little perks like preferred seating, priority reservations or off-menu specialties. This will make customers feel special and will encourage them to spread the word about your restaurant through powerful, positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Give Aways

Fire up a grill outside your restaurant right before dinner hour and give away small samples and take-away menus. Local traffic might encourage patrons to stop for a meal, order take-out, have a drink or take the menu for future reference. Consider discounted pricing during this time to encourage customers to step inside and place an order.

Host Special Events

Invite local bands or performers into your restaurant during the week and promote the dual attraction of dinner and a show. If you do this on a regular basis, you will develop a reputation for specialty food and entertainment. You can also promote your restaurant to your performer’s audience by asking to be promoted on the entertainer’s website and publicity forums.


Offer to cater a local charity event or donate food to a nonprofit program. This approach spreads the word about your restaurant’s good food and generous nature. Many organizations will acknowledge your participation in their own promotional vehicles, which is a form of free advertising.

Target Office Complexes

Distribute menus and discount coupons to local office complexes in your area. If you have the ability, offer to bring in a daily sandwich cart or catering truck, or create group-friendly menus suitable for feeding employees during company meetings or training sessions. This approach promotes your restaurant to the company, as well as to individuals who may opt to return on their own time.

Connect with Tourists

Ask hotels, motels and camp grounds to place your menu in their offices. If your city has a large tourist base, explore advertising opportunities in specialty publications, visitor guides and convention magazines. You might also create a promotional exchange system with local attractions in which you agree to display their brochures in your restaurant if they display your menu in their venues.

Use Social and Online Media

Create social media accounts and connect them to your web page. Online forums are easy to update quickly and are usually low in cost. You can host contests, give-aways and limited offer specials to attract customers. You can also use these forums to post pictures or video clips of favorite dishes, group events and interior shots that show the appeal of your restaurant.

Use Target Advertising

Take out ads in food publications, local magazines and newspapers. If your budget permits, consider billboard and broadcast advertising. Track your advertising investment so you can determine which media work best at pulling in new and repeat business.