4 Tips on Local and Community-led Marketing for Restaurants

With the emergence of social media and smartphone usage, the greater part of marketing efforts are nowadays focused online. Although online marketing can be extremely efficient when done right, it’s easy to get distracted with chasing likes and follows and overlook your core customer group — people who live and work in the vicinity of your restaurant.

Only a select few businesses are considered destination restaurants, and as such, the majority of small-to-medium-sized restaurants need to turn their focus locally and engage with their community. Whether called local-store or neighborhood marketing, the people and businesses roughly within a 5-10 mile radius of your restaurant are the fundamental part of your customer base.

Local marketing doesn’t need to be expensive, as many of the tactics applied within are based on building relationships and forming partnerships with the people and businesses that make up your community. Aside from being cost-effective the, benefits are plentiful: exposure for your business and increased awareness, community recognition, brand trust, increase in customer loyalty, and more frequent purchases.

The first step to a local marketing campaign is to analyze your area and community to identify any prospective opportunities, as well as setting a clear goal to target your efforts going forward. Below you’ll find four strategies that can be used to increase your restaurant’s sales on a local level.

1. Physical Marketing

Although present trends favor the digital space, it’s important not to forget about marketing in “real life.” Marketing to your local community is best done in the physical world and can be done in a variety of ways to achieve a wide range of desirable goals.

A classic example is that of direct mail. A targeted message to locals and businesses in the area is a cost-effective and easily tracked tactic to deploy as part of your local marketing strategy for increased brand awareness.

Local marketing often starts with existing customers. The use of well-executed four walls marketing is another way of getting your message out there. Use the space within and the exterior of your restaurant to promote your products and services.

Running a loyalty program aimed at locals is also a great way of engaging with your community. Whether it be through exclusive offers for patrons who live in your catchment area or deals for local businesses, this tactic is well-suited for increasing visit frequency.

Putting on events in your restaurant is a great way of initiating partnerships (more on this below) and interacting with your customers and potential customers. Your options here are endless, from cooking classes to offering your space to support local organizations.

2. Partnerships

There are plenty of opportunities to create partnerships within your community. Building partnerships is the perfect tactic for building trust and establishing relationships with surrounding businesses. Any business or organization in your area that interact with your target customers are a potential match, and if you’re willing to offer value through partnership, they’ll be sure to see the benefit of this win-win relationship.

Local schools, sports teams, and nonprofits all make for great partners and sponsored organizations, with the benefit of good-will and being seen as a supportive part of the community. This can be done through supporting fundraising campaigns, volunteering staff for events, and providing catering services for special occasions.

Integrating your partnerships into your restaurant’s supply chain is made even easier with the resurgence of community gardens and local farmers markets. The farm-to-table model and the increased desire for locally sourced and grown produce makes this a great way of utilizing partnerships and strengthen your pursuit of social responsibility.

You could also take the route of referral programs by building relationships with local theaters, cinemas, hotels, and other entertainment businesses offering their customers discounts or other perks at your restaurant.

3. Face-to-Face Marketing

When it comes down to it, the only way you’re really going to be successful with building relationships with local people and businesses is if they know and trust you. This is best done by applying a personal touch to your local marketing strategy.

Pay a visit in-person to local businesses, events, and other community gatherings. Introducing yourself and your restaurant by interacting with potential customers will go a long way in building trust. Hand out marketing material such as sample menus and business cards in-person. Engage in conversations. This is great for building help stronger and more meaningful relationships with the people and restaurants in your community.

4. Public Relations

Another way of getting exposure in your community is through local media. Oftentimes, this can be done without any financial investment and has many benefits in terms of increasing awareness of your restaurant.

Networking and getting to know your local journalists and press is important. This can be done directly by hosting a networking event or indirectly by inviting them down to cover an event you’re part of.

Offering your expertise on local stories or providing a local angle on a national story is great for getting publicity and something journalists are always on the lookout for. If you think you have valuable insights into newsworthy issues or happenings, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local media outlets to offer a quote.

Take advantage of PR opportunities like business anniversaries, partner or sponsorship events, or fundraising activities by sending out press releases to local media in order to gain coverage. These types of stories are much more attractive to local audiences than sales pitches, but still provide valuable exposure, thus making them an enticing opportunity for journalists.

You can also team up with your local newspaper or radio station to run competitions. Tied in with special occasions like new menu launches, national holidays, or other celebrations this is a great way to engage with the community.

All in all, local marketing can be an extremely powerful strategy for elevating many aspects of your business, as well as making your restaurant an integral part of your community. The intimate way in which restaurants interact with their customers makes this a perfect marketing tool for building long-lasting, meaningful, and profitable relationships.