5 Examples of Effective Restaurant Marketing Strategies

Learn how other restaurants in the industry have adopted the digital age to boost their brands' awareness, increase sales, and maintain customer loyalty.
Kamryn Elliott

Guests come back to your restaurant for the experience. Your menu, staff, hospitality, and online presence all play a role in that experience. Add special offers, loyalty programs, and notifications to keep guests engaged, and they’ll be more than happy to make repeat visits.

It can be helpful to see how other restaurants in the industry have adopted the digital age to boost their brands' awareness, increase sales, and maintain customer loyalty. Knowing how other brands successfully utilize restaurant marketing strategies can help you create and execute ideas that can work for your brand! While you don’t need to spend a large budget to match big brands, it’s always great to get started in marketing strategy channels that your brand can continue to build. 

1) Chick-fil-A's Loyalty Program

Acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer. Yup, you read that right. So what’s the best way to keep guests coming back? Creating a loyalty program.

With over 2,800 locations nationwide, Chick-fil-A extends its friendly hospitality by providing an extensive loyalty program through its mobile app that keeps guests engaged. Guests can easily earn points for every purchase by scanning their barcode in the app, ordering through the app, or entering the receipt data into the app. The brand has four loyalty tiers that guests can be a part of based on their spending. Guests can earn 10 points for every $1 spent in the first tier. The following tiers add an extra point for every dollar spent. The program allows guests to collect points to redeem free items off the menu by spending those points. The brand also surprises loyalty members with free rewards for their local location and gives birthday rewards.


A screenshot of Chick-Fil-A's loyalty program


2) Cash in on User-Generated Content Like Hard Rock Cafe

According to Upserve’s State of the Restaurant Industry Report, 90% of guests research a restaurant online before dining—more than any other business type. What you do and how you present your brand online matters. Guests like authenticity when they see your restaurant on social media. They don’t like being advertised to. So turn to User-Generated Content (UGC)!

Re-post guests' social media content rather than posting posed and staged images of your food. Seriously! Guests like seeing what other people are eating and doing at your restaurant, especially if they’re happy. You’ll probably see more engagement, such as likes and comments because it’s showcasing something real that guests can relate to. Remember to ask the guest for permission to share their photo on your page and give them photo credit by tagging them!

3) Dr. Smood Optimizes Their Website for a Quick and Easy Experience

Make sure your website speed is up to par and looks appealing! Dr Smood, a New York and Miami-based organic food company, developed its website with elegant and straightforward neutral-clean colors and an easy navigation bar. The website also has a quick load time, allowing guests to view the site instantly. Forty percent of people leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. Optimize your website to ensure guests can see what you offer rather than exit the site before they get the chance!


Dr. Smood Website


4) Starbucks' Eye-Catching Instagram Theme

Starbucks has a large following on Instagram–17.7 million, to be exact. How do they have so many followers? Other than the fact that it’s a very well-known brand, the business posts bright, fun, and eye-catching images of its product, engages with followers, and shares user-generated content. That’s a win for social media marketing! Starbucks uses its signature green and white colors for posts and sticks to a nice background (think city, trees, or water) to show their coffee and tea products. Visually appealing images encourage guests to try your restaurant! Use your brand’s colors or a cool background as a backdrop for menu items or re-share guests’ posts! You can also try a modern and slick theme or bright and cheerful; choose whatever works for your brand.

5) Give Back to the Local Community!

Support your local community, and they’ll support you! Everyone loves seeing businesses get involved in their community. Whether through fundraisers, charity events, or giving proceeds to a foundation, brands can attract new customers and turn them into loyal guests. Chipotle launched its “Chipotle Cultivate Foundation” in 2011 to extend its commitment to making real food accessible for all. The foundation has contributed more than $5 million to like-minded organizations committed to cultivating a better world through food. Your brand doesn’t have to be at a large scale to give back! You can use special promotions like $1 items during a specific time and have all the proceeds go to a special cause in your community or larger foundation.


The best part about these restaurant marketing strategies is that they’re free! You can choose to use all, some, or one of these channels for your brand. Diving into at least one of these strategies, especially a loyalty program, will boost your brand’s awareness and increase sales!