5 Great Ways to Market a Small-Town Restaurant

Running a successful restaurant in a small town certainly presents unique challenges (and opportunities), particularly compared to your big-city counterparts, but take a look at these great marketing ideas to promote your distinct local food and service.

Like any business, large or small, brick-and-mortar or strictly online, marketing is still all about spreading the word about your product and services – whether it’s word of mouth, online or print promotions.

Much of what you’re doing to market your restaurant – beyond consistently serving quality food – is identifying and reaching potential customers in their space with an appealing and engaging message that will prompt them to come to your space.  (Or to encourage current customers to keep coming!) 

Try out any of these ideas to effectively market your small-town restaurant and increase business.

Get your restaurant listed on search engines 

It’s a must-have marketing tool for any type of business – your listing in search engine business pages and mapping services. Fill out a Google My Business page to steer people to your door, people searching for a restaurant in your area or someone specifically searching for your restaurant. Your Google business profile also connects your would-be customers via Google Maps.

It’s free to set up a Google My Business listing – being listed correctly can make a difference in search engine traffic.  And you can also use your Google profile to feature new menu items, promotions or updated hours.

“The best part about these searches is they’re already looking for what you offer – a great restaurant experience – so it doesn’t take much convincing to get them to choose you,” writes Adam Guild, a serial tech entrepreneur and CEO of restaurant marketing agency Placepull, in an article on Forbes’ Community Council website.

Share images of your delicious food 

Social media is an excellent way to reach potential new customers and a photo is the surest way to entice them to come in. Whether it’s of your specialty dish or your everyday fare, share photos of your delicious food. Make it part of your marketing effort to post (edited) photos at prime times of day, when people are most likely hungry for what you’re serving – breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This quote from a modernresaurant.com article explains it best: “An image of a tasty dish is registered by the brain faster than any words, and it triggers all of the pleasure centers in the brain.”

Speaking of social media . . . if you don’t already have a profile page and accounts set up for your restaurant on key social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), make it so. Ask your friends and family members help you build a following – by liking your page and, even further, encourage them to “check in” while they’re at your restaurant and ask them to share your posts with their friends and followers.

Get out in the community

Look for opportunities to get your restaurant name and menu out in the community. It can be tricky to get away to network (owning a restaurant business takes a lot of time!) but find venues that suit your schedule and spread the word in person – a Main Street event in your town or a Chamber of Commerce gathering in a nearby town. 

Other ways to reach out to the community you’re in include running an ad in the local school program or creating and posting flyers with your menu (include a photo!) and your hours at well-traveled spots in town, such as the laundromat or a community or sports center.

Appreciate customers

As a small town restaurant owner, you might know many of your regular customers, especially if you’ve been in business for a while. Show them your appreciation by stopping at their table to say hello when you can – it goes a long way toward keeping them as repeat customers. Also, make it a point to visit a table of customers you’ve never seen before; they may be new to town or just passing through. Your simple gesture could give them another reason – besides the delicious food and great service – to tell the folks in their hometown about your restaurant.

Run coupons or special occasion specials

Make a coupon part of your ad in the town’s newspaper or school program or put it in a flyer and post it at the local library or any location where there’s a public bulletin board. The coupon can be as simple as a free drink with lunch or dinner. You can also create more incentives and “occasions” for customers to come to your restaurant by promoting a special menu items or price for a particular day or month.

It’s a popular technique used in city-located restaurants – create promotional opportunities around designated days of the month or use the entire month to celebrate someone or something. For example, Mother’s Day in May. There’s basically a day or month for every food or person – find what appeals to your customers, i.e., Siblings Day, National Military Spouse Day, or to your menu, such as National Pi Day. Research a designated day or month that best suits your restaurant specialty, whether it’s fried chicken or salsa.

Find the marketing ideas that help your restaurant build a loyal following, because when it comes to restaurant marketing repeat business is the key.

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