Restaurant marketing: 10 ideas for how to promote your restaurant business

In the increasingly crowded restaurant industry you need to know how to stand out. Below, we break down the best marketing strategies for small restaurants.

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The massive impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry is barely behind us – with industry data showing a tenth of the UK’s restaurants failed to survive the pandemic. And now, the restaurant sector is bracing itself for a bruising period ahead, with the current recession, spiralling electricity prices, and supply chains in chaos – not to mention a post-Brexit struggle to source staff.

The headlines may sound atrocious, but opportunity still exists for savvy restaurateurs and it's never been more vital than now to plan your restaurant's marketing and promotion strategy effectively.

It's tempting in a recession to cut back on marketing spend, but the smartest move is to invest it tactically. Marketing – particularly social media marketing – will remain integral to both customer communication and to keeping those reservations and takeaway orders coming in. You just need to find a way to fit this investment into the budget (yes, easier said than done).

Our top tip would be to use our custom-built price comparison tool to compare bespoke quotes from reliable restaurant marketing professionals that are tailored to your specific needs and budget. It takes two minutes to use and, again, is 100% free.

Or, read on. This guide will take you through the top tricks and tips for marketing your restaurant to help you carve out your niche and take an extra large slice of success.

Everything you need to create a website for your restaurant

There's a lot of planning that needs to go into launching a successful restaurant. Thankfully, one area which needn't cause undue stress is creating a website to promote your business. Thanks to modern templates like the one below, you can create one of your own in under an hour.

restaurant website template

At, we test and rate website builder tools, and we've identified Wix as one of the best you can choose for creating a restaurant site. Wix even has a selection of custom website templates designed specifically for restaurants – you simply drop your own restaurant's information, wording, menu and preferred imagery into your chosen template. It can even create an online booking system for you. Better still, it's completely free to try for yourself.

10 ways to market your restaurant successfully

Why should someone choose to eat at your restaurant rather than the one next door? Or indeed, why should someone choose to order online from your restaurant, as opposed to the hundreds of other restaurants that have online ordering platforms?

Good word of mouth has a part to play. But it’s not enough to simply serve amazing food and have top notch customer service – you need to shout about it.

So, from restaurant marketing basics to more elaborate methods of advertising, let's take a look at 10 of the best ways to promote your restaurant and get those orders rolling in!

1. Define the scope and targeting of your restaurant marketing

Taking the time to craft a strong brand identity, as well as identify your target market, is an essential first step when putting together a marketing plan. That way, you can create a highly-tailored strategy that has every chance of succeeding. You should define the following:

  • Who are you targeting
  • What’s your budget?
  • Which tools and tactics will provide the best results?
  • How much will they cost?
  • How will you monitor and evaluate results?

It is also important to be aware of the latest digital marketing trends, to ensure you have the highest chance of success when implementing your marketing strategy.

Or, if you want to save yourself tons of time and effort strategising, you can always hire a digital marketing agency to support you. Compare some of the UK's best agencies via our free, easy to use digital marketing services comparison tool for more information.

2. Have a stunning website with an easy-to-use restaurant reservation tool

Research conducted by booking platform OpenTable has revealed how diner behaviour post Covid-19 has changed. In pre-pandemic days walk-ins were hugely popular, however since the pandemic online reservations have become the norm – with many restaurant goers booking on average two or three days in advance.

Whether you choose a website builder with table reservation functionality, or integrate an order and pay platform into your website, a sleek, intuitive user-experience is essential in order to encourage online reservations.

The last thing you want is to build a clunky online reservation tool, that lacks the simplicity and useability demanded by users. Wix is an example of an affordable website builder, with an effective online reservation feature.

You may also want to consider the tools on offer by your payment provider. For example, Square's all-in-one POS and payments system has a feature that enables businesses to get operating online for free.  Your website would be fairly basic, but it would enable customers to browse your menu, order and pay, and even select delivery or click and collect.

Squarespace (pictured above) is one of the restaurant industry's most popular website builders because of its stylish, restaurant-specific templates.

A smooth user journey should apply to the rest of your website as well. In this highly competitive space, you need to make the essential info (i.e. address, opening hours, menu) as accessible as possible.

Learn more about great restaurant website designs here

3. Make the most of Google and restaurant review platforms

google review screenshot

As long as you’re providing customers with the best possible experience, you have nothing to fear from restaurant review platforms and Google reviews.

However, don't underestimate their importance. Particularly as TripAdvisor found that 87% of consumers in the UK choose a restaurant based on online reviews. Making these reviews available on your website is a good trust signal to both visitors and Google.

It will also help you to feature on the all-important Google local pack, which is the top results that show on the map localised to you.

Josh Wood, of marketing agency Bloc, advises restaurant owners “to ensure their restaurant has incredible SEO to rank on the map and reach people searching for a restaurant to dine in.”

And as for the main indicators Google looks for when choosing which restaurants to rank, Wood has this insight:

The main indicators Google bear in mind when choosing which restaurants to rank are (and not limited to), the number of reviews and Google rating, the keywords used on the website, and the number of backlinks the website has from other sources.

Don’t forget to play your own part in the conversation! According to TripAdvisor, 88% of UK respondents read management responses, with the majority feeling encouraged to try a restaurant regardless of whether the initial review was positive or negative

So, take the time to respond to both good and bad reviews by showing gratitude to those who take the time to share a good experience, and trying to placate those who’ve had a bad one.

4. Master your social media marketing

farang london social media example

As well as being a great platform for promotion, social media allows you to engage with your clientele, build loyalty, and attract new customers. Even better, because many online ordering platforms integrate with social media platforms or enable you to link from your social media accounts, it's an essential source of custom.

That’s why authenticity is paramount. Don’t try and copy the approach of a brand you admire – instead, use your market research to cultivate a voice and image that will resonate with your audience.

Mark Smith, Director of social media marketing agency Double Up Social,  also advises restaurant owners don't sell a dish, but sell its story across their social media channels.

“Rather than marketing solo dishes, think about the wider story around it, as this is what gives it its value. Think about the sourcing of the ingredients. Are they sourced locally in the UK? Think about the recipes – what inspired them? Share the story of how that dish came to be and it will give people more context and add value to your meals.”

Above all, Smith says restaurants should avoid using the same photos they've taken for delivery partners (such as Uber and Deliveroo) for their wider marketing. As they do not “give people any context or story to your dish”.

If you are struggling to manage your social media marketing successfully, it may be worth hiring an agency to help you. To find out more about the best social media marketing agencies in the UK, be sure to visit our dedicated review.

5. Restaurant email marketing campaigns

One perk of online bookings is that you can start to build up an extremely valuable database of previous diners. Who better to turn into loyal regulars than people who’ve already given you a try? POS providers like Square make it easy for you to collect customer emails and create email marketing campaigns based on individual customer spending trends.

However, you must abide by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if you’re going to store email addresses and use them for promotion. In order to be compliant, you need to tell all customers exactly why their data is being stored, and give them the option to opt-out.

Remember, this isn’t an opportunity to pester them with emails begging for another visit. Craft an email campaign that builds familiarity and trust.

Here are our golden rules for an effective restaurant email marketing campaign:

  • Invite everyone to leave a review of their dining experience as an inaugural email
  • Offer decent promotions that customers will actually respond to – remember we are currently in a cost-of-living crisis!
  • Segment your database by engaged users – don't send follow-up emails to people who don't open them
  • Instead, send frequently to those who do open…
  • …and personalise your emails as much as possible

There are plenty of great email marketing software platforms that can help you streamline your campaigns effectively. Many ecommerce platforms also offer email marketing support, to find out more visit our review of the top ecommerce platforms for small businesses.

6. Loyalty programmes, promotions, and discounts

It’s easier than ever to run a loyalty programme for your restaurant. Apps have made them more convenient for both businesses and consumers – they give you the tools to track, analyse, and tailor campaigns to increase their effectiveness, and remove the need for them to carry around stamp cards everywhere.

There’s clearly an appetite for loyalty schemes, so why do only 25% of UK restaurants offer them? With the introduction of order and pay apps, it's so easy for restaurants to introduce loyalty schemes. You can even use the order and pay app to send customer reward promotions when they order.

As for discounts, recent data from leading analytics company GlobalData revealed that nearly a fifth (19.7%) of people in the UK find that discounts are the most appealing way to reward diners.

You could even take a leaf out of Tesco's book and offer diners an exclusive diner card that rewards them discounts at your restaurants every time they visit. Although Tesco is retail, it is the most popular loyalty scheme in the UK among shoppers at 67.1%.

restaurant dining

7. Local SEO

Depending on how niche your restaurant is in your area, there’s going to be tough competition for those pole positions in the SERPS.

For example, searching ‘best chinese restaurant in Manchester’ brings up 24.3 million results (mostly top 10 lists), while ‘best chinese restaurant in Altrincham’ (a suburb of Manchester) brings up 412,000 results.

You can vastly increase your chances of ranking high in searches using local SEO – and, best of all, you can do most of it for free.

Many of the other marketing ideas we’ve highlighted actually feed into good SEO, as you’ll see below:

  • A simple way to optimise your website is to keep all your essential info (contact details, address, opening hours etc.) up to date, and make it easily navigable and accessible
  • Add your target location and keywords to the meta title (i.e. what users see in search results): e.g. vegetarian restaurant | Camden
  • Include keywords and compelling info in the meta description (i.e the snippet under the meta title in the search results)
  • Make it as easy as possible for customers to leave reviews – Google considers reviews (especially ones you respond to) to be a good indicator that your restaurant is legitimate and worth directing people to
  • Local citations are another good trust signal for Google – make sure you feature in directories, local news sites and blogs, and local social media pages

8. Work with a PR

Hiring a PR firm can be very effective, but also very expensive. Whether or not it’s suitable for your business will depend on your resources and ambitions.

An experienced restaurant PR can implement the kind of powerful multi-channel strategy that would be difficult to run on your own.

Restaurant PRs are most suitable for businesses operating in large, highly competitive markets. They can also be effective at organising headline-grabbing launch campaigns for new restaurants.

Benefits of PR for restaurants include:

  • Can complement and expand the reach of your existing marketing efforts
  • Good for building and managing long-term relationships with media, other restaurant and food & drink businesses, and influencers for mutual benefit (an established restaurant PR will already have a database of hugely valuable contacts that it might be difficult for a new restaurant to engage with independently)
  • Allows you to harness the knowledge of experts to tell powerful and engaging stories about your brand
  • Peace of mind around reputation and crisis management

9. Make the most of informal video and user-generated content (UGC)

honest burger example

Whether you’re engaged with your customers or not, they’re producing a wealth of UGC anyway – so why not make the most of it?

At a basic level, this can be retweeting photos that your customers share on Twitter, or commenting on their Insta photos – “Glad you enjoyed your meal, come back soon!” – to show you value them and to drive engagement.

But some brands have turned UGC into a competition. For example, you could challenge your users to post their best photo of a meal at your restaurant, or get them to recreate their favourite dish. The winner could receive a free meal, or some other discount or voucher.

Mark Smith reiterates this point, arguing that “customers want authenticity and transparency when it comes to restaurants, so for a lot of brands, informality is key. ”

Smith's top tip, is to “pick up your phone and capture the behind-the-scenes: the cooking of the dishes, short interviews with chefs etc, and show people what your dishes actually look like.”

Pick up your phone and capture the behind-the-scenes: the cooking of the dishes, short interviews with chefs etc, and show people what your dishes actually look like.

10. Get on a delivery platform, or invest in order and pay technology

These delivery platforms might claim a significant portion of your takings, but they also allow you to reach a customer base who might otherwise never have found you. Delivery platforms including Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat take the biggest chunks, but with 45,000 people a day using Deliveroo, you could be missing out on valuable custom.

Order and pay technology can be integrated into your website and social media accounts. It's become essential during the Covid-19 pandemic, as it allows customers to order their takeaway directly through you for a much smaller percentage of the sale.

Promote your new restaurant with a launch party

Launch night. Exciting, isn’t it?!

One of the most important marketing strategies for small restaurants, this is your chance to show off your new restaurant in all its glory. But you need to get digitally savvy with your opening party.

So how do you do that? Well, it's all in the build up. Make sure you're super-active on all of your social media channels. Get people discussing – stir up the hype by pushing an opening promotion – and make sure you've taken photos of all of your menu items to show them off in all their glory.

Make sure your customers are aware of how they can order. Can they just order in-house? Are you going live on a delivery platform? Can they order on your social media account, or on your website, or do you have a third party order and pay app that they can order from?

Opening a restaurant is an exercise in PR. On the opening night guests will be expecting free food and drink, which – provided it achieves what it’s meant to – will more than pay for itself in the long run. Budget for this in the financials section of your business plan.

Invite influential locals, and encourage attendees to share as much as they can on their socials to really build a buzz around your restaurant.

Marketing for restaurants: 5 top tips

You don’t have to use all of the marketing strategies discussed above – you’ll run the risk of spreading your resources too thin. Pick a few complementary ones, and invest in those to start with. To ensure you maximise return on investment (ROI), bear the following five tips in mind:

  1. Don’t forget to collect diners’ contact details, so that you can keep in touch and send further promotions in the future
  2. Tailor marketing to your target audience – advertising is not a one size fits all solution
  3. Measure results and constantly refine your approach
  4. Don’t try and imitate the approach of a brand you admire – instead, establish a unique and authentic voice for your marketing
  5. Outsource your marketing to a digital marketing agency – it will save you a lot of time and effort

Marketing for restaurants: what to avoid

  1. Mark Smith says “don't use the same content across all channels. For example, don't use the same images you use for Deliveroo on your Instagram”
  2. Josh Wood advises “avoid putting an ad on Facebook or Instagram without tracking whether it's working. Use a trackable promotion in the ad that is exclusive to the campaign, so you can fully track the success of its reach”
  3. Promote and build awareness of your brand and its story – not just the food and drink you are selling

Restaurant marketing: Further support

Marketing your restaurant is all about a tailored, targeted approach. Taking the time to identify your target market and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the competition will give you solid foundations for a successful marketing campaign.

If you’re hungry for extra support and outsourcing opportunities for your restaurant, be sure to use our 100% free digital marketing cost comparison tool to compare quotes from top digital marketing suppliers in a matter of minutes.

It was designed specifically to help small business owners get on the right track with finding the support that suits them, without spending hours trawling through company reviews and researching the best options. is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.
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