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Restaurants start in the kitchen, but if you want to grow the business, increase sales and reach new customers it can’t stop there. 

70% of people surveyed said they check the restaurant’s online menu before they go. And 27% said restaurant review sites were the most important place to look when choosing a restaurant. (Source

Add to this that people favour booking via a website compared to over the phone and you’ve got the start of a very persuasive argument for the importance of having a strong online presence.

As a bare minimum these days you need to claim and update your listings, engage with customers on social media, and respond to online reviews. However, just doing the bare minimum doesn’t make a business stand out. If you want to expand, to develop online sales, and increase average order value (AOV) both in-store and online then you will have to do a lot more. 

In this article, we take a look at 7 creative ideas that can be implemented as part of your overall growth strategy to help you get ahead of the competition.

Read: How to successfully use social media to market your restaurant

cafe restaurant marketing


Partnerships are a great way to get in front of new people. Additionally, done well these partnerships can go some way to actually working as endorsements. Here are a couple of suggestions for potential partnership opportunities:


If you go and stay at a hotel you will be eating out, and so you are actively looking for good restaurants. As such many hotels offer their guests a list of local restaurant suggestions. The hotel’s list is one of the first places a guest is likely to look for restaurant recommendations. 

Local businesses

There are plenty of ways that this could work, but as an example, if you offer healthy food you might partner with a local gym. This would allow you to get your brand and food in front of a health conscious audience that live nearby. You could have some in-store flyers for their customers to pick up, create a special meal option, or even give anyone who has a membership an incentive such as a small discount.

Apartment buildings, landlords, and property managers

Building a relationship with local residents is a great way to develop loyal customers who will come back time and time again. 

Many landlords like to promote positive relationships with their tenants and being able to give something such as a restaurant voucher to their tenants will go a long way to ensuring the landlord-tenant relationship remains good.

You can find landlords and property managers in groups online such as landlord Facebook groups or through local landlord associations.

When exploring partnership opportunities, try and think of ways to make the partnership mutually beneficial. For example, if you do approach local businesses can you promote their business in return in some way?

Sign up to delivery services

Delivery services offer an effective way to reach new customers. It allows you to get in front of people for the very first time. However, partnering with a service like Uber Eats does come with downsides such as large commissions. This is why we suggest pairing this idea with the following point.

delivery services

Branded packaging and smart marketing materials

Your packaging is an opportunity to get your brand in front of your customers. Whether this is a branded pizza box or the paper bag the food is in. 

Additionally, should you use third-party delivery apps to improve your restaurants reach, make sure you slip in an advertisement or card with the order promoting your internal online ordering system with a discount for their next order.

Run an ad in the local paper

The internet is busy. Everyone and their dog has a social media profile, every restaurant has a website. Turning your attention to a reasonably inexpensive local ad in the paper could be a strategy to help you stand out from the competition.

If you do decide to try this marketing strategy it’s important that you are able to track whether or not the advertisement worked. It’s all very well getting your restaurants brand in front of a few thousand people, but if that doesn’t convert into footfall it is a waste of money. 

One method you can implement to determine if your creative paper ad worked is by offering a discount code and then counting how many times this code or codes is used. The additional benefit of brand exposure which may have longer lasting effects is just a bonus.

User-generated content

creative restaurant marketing

Restaurant managers are busy. Creating the time to develop and build new and exciting marketing strategies is time-consuming. User-generated content, however, is when you encourage your customers to create content online featuring your restaurant or food. Promoting user-generated content is a great way to create a lot of online noise around your restaurant and brand without having to personally invest a massive amount of time.

An example might be to host a photo contest where customers are asked to post a picture of their favourite meal tagging your restaurant. At the end of the month, you select the 3 best photos for a predetermined prize such as a discount.

This strategy has the added bonus of building rapport, improving customer experience, and encouraging repeat eaters.

Start a blog

For those that can set aside a bit more time for marketing activities developing a blog can be a really effective way to create organic online reach, build online brand awareness and ultimately increase online orders.

Creating a blog is easy and cheap with website builders like WordPress. Having high-quality content will help your restaurant rank in Google ahead of the competition. The downside of this strategy is that it is time-consuming, especially to do right. It also requires some working knowledge of current Google best practices and SEO.

If you do decide to go down this route, you don’t have to post a lot, but you do have to post regularly, even if it’s only once a month. You can blog about your successes and failures, recipes, new dishes, your drinks lists and cocktails or even simply entertaining stories featuring staff.

Food bloggers & influencers

Food bloggers and influencers have already done all the hard work of building an online presence and following. If you can successfully tap into their following by getting them to promote your restaurant on their channels you can reach a whole new selection of potential customers.

Again it’s a good idea to pair this strategy with a trackable promotional code to determine whether or not the strategy is generating money or just costing you money.

Final words

There are numerous creative strategies that can be employed to build brand presence, promote online orders and increase footfall. We’ve merely scratched the surface. 

It’s worth mentioning though, that for any of these ideas to work, you need to first ensure that you have done all the basics right. For example, you should have an SEO optimised website with an internal online ordering system. You should have up to date and accurate information online in places like Trip Advisor and Yelp. You need to have an accurate Google+ profile as well as an active social media presence. And of course, your day to day in-store operations need to be slick and customer-centric supported by the great food you produce.