How to Outsmart Your Competition on Marketing

Do you feel that? There is an undeniable anxiety permeating the industry as more and more restaurants open each year. You might have seen it in your sales numbers, or perhaps in the disappearance of staff. Then the familiar faces in your dining room become less familiar. 

What can a restaurant do? Take a stand, fight back, and stand out.

Many see more competition as a sign of the restaurant apocalypse and it doesn’t need to be. With a simple shift in mindset, you could instead see this as your opportunity to rise above the average and truly stand out in your market. 

The question boils down to this: are you the person who throws in the towel when things get rough or are you one of the few that rage against the dying of the light?

If you’re a quitter, you might as well stop reading here.

Are you still here? Great! Let’s talk about some ways you can outsmart your competition to elevate your marketing.

1. Stop Playing Small

In today’s smartphone-driven world, you have the greatest invention in the last 10 years in the palm of your hand. Your phone is not only a way to like that cute cat video on Facebook. It is a mobile content producing machine that keeps your brand talked about if (and it’s a big if) you use it properly.

It starts by turning off the camera and turning on the video. Please don’t say that you don’t look good on video so you don’t want to use it. The truth is that if you tell your story in compelling and one cares what you look like on video. It's all about the message and not the messenger.

Video gets attention fast. Video connects your guests with the human side of your brand. Video is required to play the modern social media marketing game.

2. Be Everywhere

You want to be on as many social media channels as you can. Now that statement might scare you a little as you wrestle with the issue of time. 

Most say that they don’t have enough time to keep up with the marketing efforts they have to now. Let’s drop the excuses about time. You never own time. You use time by prioritizing what is important. You leverage time by using apps that help you achieve more. For marketing, that means using social media management apps like: Everypost, Hootsuite, and Buffer. These tools allow you to appear to be a big brand.

Perception is everything in marketing. If you are constantly in the newsfeed on social media people tend to forget about you. Now, will some people see your constant posts as a nuisance? Maybe. However, when it comes to marketing efforts it’s far better to burn out, than fade away!

restaurant employees

Replace many of those food and beverage posts you are so keen on posting and throw in more pictures of people. Your guests and team should make up the majority of your posts. Most food and drinks look similar on social media. You stand out on social media when you have something that grabs their attention. Mix up your posts to tap into human emotions.

Marketing (and sales) is basically a transfer of emotions. The majority of marketing plays the hunger emotion too often. It’s overplayed and overused. 

How about trying out some other emotions like:

Community / Local (pride)
Family (connection/ tribe)
Education (learning)
Nostalgia (memories)
Funny (humor)
Trivia (challenge)
Values (rapport)
Guests (vanity)
Charity (compassion)
Convenience (time)
Testimonials (social proof)
Happiness (joy/bliss)

That should give you some new material to start standing out in your marketing. Tapping into a wider range of emotions will give your brand more depth. Shallow brands don’t last long in a competitive market.

3. Focus on Hospitality 

When you look at the word hospitality compared the word service, how do you feel? That’s the real truth behind’s the human connection. 

Here’s an even clearer definition:

Service fills a need, hospitality fulfills people. Service meets expectations, hospitality exceeds them. Hospitality is an emotional gift you give to the guest. 

Think about the power of that last statement. Hospitality is an emotional gift. 

When you and your team truly take that in and when it is delivered to the guest from the heart, you stop competing. Getting there is not as hard as you think. You just have one little thing you must have to believe first! Your team and your guests can spot a fraud. You know that negative person who phones in the phony sincerity or that person who is nice to your face and throws you under the bus as soon as you turn your back– they have no business working in your business.

If you can’t spot the negative person on your team, then it’s one of two reasons: Congratulations! You actually have an amazing team and culture. 
Or it’s you and you need to admit it.

Yes, the truth does hurt. The truth is also very liberating. Connect back with the reasons why you loved the restaurant business in the first place. The longer you work in this industry, the more you risk becoming a little jaded by the drama that can come to roost in your restaurant. Here’s the secret: What you put up with is what you end up with.

Do not tolerate negativity on your team and especially yourself. You are the power source for culture in your restaurant, so act like it. Step up and be the leader your team wants to follow. Be the leader who defines the vision and guides them along the path to reach it!

If you really want to outsmart your competition do the one thing they are not doing: creating an outstanding culture. 

All the restaurants right now in your market have access to the same products and the same labor pool. So, what separates the average from the outstanding? It’s that secret sauce called culture. You have complete control over it. Culture is a living thing that is feed by your energy and actions as the leader. Never forget that. If your culture is awesome, you created that. If your culture is like the Wild West, you created that too!

Train your team constantly and consistently so they are always ready for whatever comes their way. Train and cultivate your culture so you have immunity against the rising market and shrinking labor pool. 

The industry is becoming like a season of the reality TV series, Survivor. You can win the game if you out market, out train, and out lead the others. Ready? Then go!