Despite how specialised it might seem, marketing is something we all do almost all of the time. We market ourselves to employers and potential significant others, we market our politics and philosophies to our family and friends, and we market our lifestyles to our followers on social media.

Marketing is nothing more than deciding what the best version of something is and selling the hell out of it. So why are restaurant owners so often flummoxed by restaurant marketing?

My guess is that without the help of marketing specialists – which not every restaurant can afford – many restaurant owners are bound to make a few mistakes while trying to do it all themselves. While there’s no shame in this, it can be costly. Below are five common mistakes I’ve come across too frequently and that you can avoid with basic marketing principles.

1. No brand identity

A brand identity is your restaurant’s unique sense of character. It spills over from the name of your establishment to the cuisine, the ambience and, most importantly, your marketing messaging. Your brand identity is the thing that people will automatically associate with your restaurant, so it’s crucial to fine-tune it as much as possible. Consistency is key in this regard. If you’re a casual restaurant, you’re always casual and if your brand identity is cheeky or irreverent, you have to commit to it or it might come over as false and contrived.

2. A poorly designed website

You won’t believe the number of restaurants that have a Facebook page in place of a website. Facebook is a valuable digital marketing channel but it cannot fulfil the purposes of a website. And not just any website will do. You need a well-designed website that communicates your restaurant’s brand identity clearly (remember that?) and one that grabs the visitor’s attention. Crucially, your website needs to be user-friendly, search-optimised and designed to drive action. A website is one thing you should not hesitate to shell out funds for – it’s money that will be well spent.

3. An improvised strategy

Unfortunately, you can’t wing restaurant marketing. You need a proper strategy that is goal-driven and measurable. Are you trying to create awareness about your restaurant, drive more foot traffic to your eatery or grow your social media following? Each of these requires unique marketing tactics so it’s essential to establish what you need to achieve and structure your strategy with that goal in mind. You also need to assess the effectiveness of your strategy regularly so you can adjust it accordingly.

4. Continuous discounting

Promotions that involve discounts are one of the easiest ways to encourage sales. But if you just have discounts for the sake of having them and they never end, you’re losing more money than you’re making. Discounts should always run for a limited time and have a catch that supports your marketing objectives. For example, you can give 30% off your patrons’ next meal if they sign up for your restaurant’s newsletter or you can offer them a complimentary glass of house wine when they order more than four tapas. It all goes back to your strategy and what you stand to gain from the discount.

5. Misspent patron data

You can never know too much about your patrons. And yet so many restaurants don’t gather any information about their patrons or if they do, they don’t use it. Leveraging customer data is an effective way to improve your service and deliver more personalised experiences to your patrons.

If you run a loyalty programme, ensure that you use all the information it collects to your advantage. If your restaurant has an app, pay attention to the buying patterns that arise from mobile payments and mobile orders. No piece of information is too small when you’re building a 360-degree view of your patrons.

For more restaurant tips that will take your restaurant marketing to new levels of success, download our guide to Secret Ingredients for a Successful Restaurant.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst