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Guide: How to create a successful restaurant campaign

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

Because the restaurant industry is the most consumer-centric industry of all, no business can last long without loyal customers. To tap into the secret of success for any long-lasting eatery, you’ll find the same formula:

  • Attract customers.
  • Make customers happy.
  • Customers return, usually with friends.
  • Profit.

The first step of this particular ladder is the toughest to climb. Just how do you attract new customers to your restaurant, especially when the modern consumer is so spoiled by an overabundance of choice?

On paper, the answer is simple. Run a promotional campaign that puts you on the radar of customers, then watch as they come rolling in. But as we all know, business is not done on paper.

Getting your campaign just right is pivotal. A good promotional campaign can create a new, loyal customer base that will grow your business exponentially. A bad campaign, however, can cause damage to your brand that could take years to rectify.

This guide will help you tell these two campaign styles apart and help ensure your own venture falls into the former category!

The Benefits of Running a Successful Restaurant Promotion

The key aim of running a successful promotional campaign is to attract customers to your business. It’s always important to retain a sense of loyalty and ensure people come back. That’s step two of the journey, though. Every return customer was a first-time visitor once. This means gaining initial attention is critical. Once you have attracted a customer to your business, make them satisfied and ensure they return. When they do, they’ll hopefully bring friends. Then those friends will tell their friends and bring them along next time. Rinse and repeat until you either need to turn business away or build an extension to your premises.

What Happens if You Get it Wrong?

A good campaign is a game-changer. You can turn your restaurant into the hottest ticket in town and enjoy a great deal of success. None of this will happen if your target audience lacks familiarity with your business though. That’s why it’s so critical to attract initial attention with a great marketing campaign.

If you get the initial campaign wrong, you risk a domino effect of disaster. You’ could waste your time, effort, and money preparing the campaign in the first place. It’s not like anybody aims to run a bad promotion. Any campaign failure will not be through lack of effort and that can be heartbreaking for a business owner.

In addition, you’ll also have to deal with bad publicity. Snarky comments on social media carry a lot more currency than they used to. If customers are disappointed with your offering, they won’t be shy about letting the world know about it through online reviews. This kind of bad publicity can be toxic for the restaurant business.

You also risk losing existing customers. You may find that regulars stop visiting, possibly upset by your promotional campaign. Peer pressure can also cause customer loss. If one member of a group still maintains that your restaurant is great but five friends disagree, do you really think you’ll be hosting that particular party of six?

Marketing Your Promotions Through Online Channels

A lot of marketing has moved online in recent years, so it’s critical that you remain up-to-date with the latest communication techniques.

Emails should be used sparingly and always have a purpose. You want people to open your messages at the very least and ideally to respond to the contents within. The golden rules of email marketing include:

  • Address each customer by first name – nobody wants to feel like they’re just another statistic in a mail bomb.
  • Test a range of different headings and contents to to see which get better results. Don’t commit to a campaign until you’re sure it will have the impact that you hope for.
  • Remember that most customers use their smartphones to read emails now. Optimize your message for a mobile screen.
  • Tailor any offers and communications within the message to offer what your customers actually want.
  • Have an impactful call-to-action that will drive customers to your restaurant. This could be an offer, a discount code, or an invitation to an event.
  • Link to your social media profiles wherever possible.

 

Then there’s Social media,is the other great online marketing tool of the modern world. Paying for advertising on social media is always an option, but it is not necessarily the best one. Not everybody pays attention to paid advertising on social media. After all, your customers are more interested in what their friends and family have to say. That is why they signed up for an account in the first place.

Paying for advertising is often unnecessary. The whole business model of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is that the user is the product. If you can convince your customers to share your promotional posts, you’re considerably more likely to find a target audience. If you attract loyal customers who are willing to discuss your restaurant, you have a wealth of free advertising at your fingertips.

Naturally, this raises the question of how to convince customers to share posts. In truth, there is no magic formula for going viral online. (Although, the addition of a funny cat video always gives you a fighting chance.) Just create witty, engaging, fun content that generates interaction with your followers. The more people like and share your posts, the higher you will rank in the algorithm of the platform. This in turn means that future posts will make it to feeds.

Common Types of Restaurant Promotions

First thing’s first – you need to know about the many options open to you when it comes to running a restaurant promotion. Options include:

  • Celebrating (food) holidays
  • Voucher and coupon campaigns
  • Discounts, or even free food, on special occasions
  • Competitions
  • Referral rewards and loyalty schemes
  • Merchandise and gifts
  • Marketing through social media influencers

All of these techniques are proven winners. The only thing that matters is ensuring that you follow through with your promises. If you do not honor the promises made in your promotional campaign, you’ll have a lot of negative public relations on your hands. If potential customers walk away from your restaurant without the free coffee or discounted meal they were expecting, they will not be shy about sharing their disappointment. Unfortunately, bad news travels much faster than good news. Before you know it, people will be talking about your business for all the wrong reasons.

Strategies to Run Your Restaurant Promotional Campaigns

We have given you a list of potential promotions to work with, but there is plenty to learn. Running a successful campaign means getting people involved with what you have to offer.

(Food) Holiday Celebrations

Review the Annual Food Holiday calendar and commit it to memory. These days are a promotional marketer’s dream. 

A great example of this is the calendar offered by Snappmeal. Simply click here to download your calendar. It’s completely free and has been updated to reflect all of 2020’s food holidays. This opens up a whole new realm of potential marketing opportunities to your business!

There are many ways you can use the calendar to promote your business.You could offer discounted coffee on National Espresso Day. You could reduce the price of your plant-based food options on World Vegan Day. Or you could offer a free biscuit with every purchase on National Cookie Day. If you can think of a foodstuff, you will likely find that it has its own national holiday!

These promotions are sure to get people talking – and visiting. Be honest. Would you turn down a free cookie? In addition, building promotions around existing food holidays makes for easy marketing. Trending social media hashtags will offer an immediate head start. You can simply join in the conversation and make your presence known.

Free Coffee & Doughnut
National Sushi Day Discount
Mother's Day Special Promotion

Besides food holidays, other holiday celebrations are also great opportunities for restaurants to run deals and other types of promotion. For example, in 2018, 87 million adults planned to dine out on Mother’s Day to celebrate the special occasion. Therefore, running promos during  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day is the best way to attract traffic and new customers to your restaurant. So plan well ahead so you don’t  miss out on these opportunities!

Partnering with a Food App

To run your promos successfully, you should partner with other food apps that have a large user base and can help your promos reach a large crowd of potential customers. At Snappmeal, we have helped several restaurants of different types and sizes reach new customers by acting as a platform that bridges restaurants with customers.  Snappmeal is built to aid you in running promotions. If you are new to the trade or struggling with the art of promotion, partnering is a great way to learn how to market your business impactfully. 

 

Instead of creating numerous social ads and spending quite a lot for ads to reach different audiences, you can use Snappmeal to let potential customers easily find your deals when they want to dine out. You can register for free and upload the information the app needs. This includes mouth-watering images along with your menu and the type of promotion you’d like to run. As soon as you’re published, you can relax and wait for new and existing customers to find you. On the Snappmeal app, hungry users can see all the offers and promotions being offered by their local restaurants and snap to save for later use.

Moreover, partnering with a food delivery app like Deliveroo, Foodora, UberEats or Wolt, to name a few, can help boost your business. In fact, it is expected that within a few years, 25% of all restaurant sales will occur through digital ordering due to convenience. Working in collaboration with a food delivery app can significantly increase your restaurants visibility to potential consumers, as well as reaching hungry clientele who might otherwise be situated beyond your delivery radius.

Text Message Marketing

Marketing through text messages can be hugely impactful. You will be reaching your customers directly and, most of the time, attracting their attention on the spot. Nobody can resist the sound of a beeping cellphone. You essentially have a direct line straight to your customer.

 

You can also carefully target your text message campaigns. Choosing the right time, for example, can maximize the impact of your text message. Offering a discount on your lunch menu, or advertising a new menu item? Send that text at about 11.30 a.m. when people are getting hungry and starting to think about lunch.

 

However, you must be careful with this. If you’re offering a discount on coffee, for example, sending a text at 8:00 p.m. will not gain much attention. But that same message sent at 7:00 a.m. will attract anybody looking to shake off any morning cobwebs. On the other hand, you may upset people by waking them up by texting so early! It’s a real balancing act that must be managed carefully.

 

Don’t use text messages too often. You’ll get a reputation as a pest and your customers will regret giving you their numbers. Once or twice a week is typically more than enough. You can step up the campaign a little during the holidays but try not to overuse the technique. Less is more when it comes to text messaging.

 

You also need to plan your text appropriately. A text message campaign should be designed to attract the attention in the most efficient manner possible. A block of text that takes several minutes to read will bore your customers. Get to the point, then skip straight to a call–to–action that encourages people to visit your restaurant. 


For inspiration, look at these examples from the American casual Mexican grill restaurant Chipotle. As you’ll see, Chipotle takes the one-two approach of grabbing the attention then leading to a website that captures the imagination. Text message marketing can be a great tool, if it’s used appropriately. If not, you’ll just be dismissed as a nuisance. Once trust with your customers has been lost, it can be hard to regain.

eMail Marketing

Some believe that email marketing is the most important tool for any business. Emails are free and enable you to reach a wide and vast audience in one action. You can also tailor email campaigns to particular customers, based on their preferences and purchases within your restaurant.

 

First impressions count when it comes to email marketing. Make sure the first message that you send captures the imagination of a customer and sets the tone for what they can expect from you in future.

 

Your initial email can also be used to harvest information about a customer. Ask them to provide information, such as their location and favored items on your menu. This means that you’ll be able to make particular offers that are more likely to gain a response and you’re promoting engagement. 

 

The more a customer engages with your email, most notably by clicking on a link within or replying, the more attention their email provider will pay. If Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo see somebody engaging with emails from a particular address, future messages are less likely to be banished to the spam folder. You can also email marketing messages frequently. Once a week is considered reasonable within the restaurant trade. Sunday evenings are a good time to send a message. People are winding down at the end of their weekend and more receptive to communication. You will also be reminding people about your business ahead of Monday, which is a less busy trading day for most restaurants.

 

Once you have a customer’s email address and preferences, send a welcome message. This shows that you value the customer. You should also include some kind of offer or promotion within this message. It will encourage engagement and make the customer feel as though they matter to you. It will help that your customer will be expecting this message. It won’t just appear in their inbox along with a dozen other marketing communications.

 

After this, it’s all about the interaction. Ensure the email is interesting and packed with images. A huge block of text will be met with a poor response. An eye-catching picture and a call-to-action, though? That will always gain attention. 

 

What’s more, you can tailor your email campaigns to a particular individual. Always personalize messages and offer discounts based on customer behavior. This is where loyalty cards and schemes come in handy – you can store information on what your users are purchasing from your restaurant. If a customer always orders vegetarian meals, do not email them a discount voucher for a burger. The customer will not feel valued. They may even refuse to visit your business again. Also, if you know your customers’ birthdays, email them birthday messages and special offers, just for them. These small gestures do not go unnoticed.

 

If you notice that engagement in your emails drops sharply, it may be time to mix up your approach. Customers may be bored with your campaigns or they may feel like the messages are not worth opening. Email marketing can be a great way to win back lapsed customers, though. If you notice that somebody has not responded to messages or used their loyalty card in a while, pay attention. Send a message stating something along the lines of, “We Miss You!” and include an irresistible offer. You’ll soon find that customers return. 


There are a lot of options when it comes to email marketing. The key takeaways are to be personal, be interesting, be relevant, and be consistent. Check other best practice guides to craft the right visual and copy for your restaurant email. Remember that food is the soul of your emails.

Vouchers and Coupons

Vouchers and coupons may be the oldest way to drum up business and offer discounts, but they’re still in existence for a reason. People will always use them! Nobody can resist a bargain, so offering a 20% discount on certain menu items will always be a winner.

 

Look into partnering with your local newspaper or another independent business. Print vouchers and coupons on the back of bus and train tickets, or on car park passes. Arrange a print run of circulars yourself and post them through the doors of your catchment area.

 

You could also run an online coupon promotion. Use a QR code that can be scanned on your till. Promote your coupons through email, text message, on social media and through your app, if you have one. 

 

An app can also be a canny way to capture email addresses and phone numbers for future marketing. Ask people for their details in exchange for their coupon. Just use this contact information for good, not evil!

Discounts and Freebies

Everybody loves a bargain. You could consider giving something away for free. That may seem like a counter-productive way to run a business, but think of it as a loss-leader. 

 

If you offer customers who arrive before 7:00 a.m. a free coffee, who is to say they will not stay for breakfast? You will also build brand loyalty and ensure that these customers return to spend money with you at other times of day.

 

You could also piggyback on major events outside of your industry with free offers. Imagine that Beyoncé unexpectedly dropped a new album, for example. Social media will be abuzz with excitement, conversation – and precious, precious hashtags. In Finland, Slush, Lux or Flow Festivals are international festivals that are popular among locals and tourists. Many restaurants offer discounts and vouchers during Slush or Lux (LuxEat Helsinki) to attract new customers and turn them into loyal fans. 

 

Running an online campaign – such as, “to celebrate #Beyoncé’s new album, we’re offering a free coffee to everybody today only! Just show this tweet to our cashier and use the password Queen B” – will bring all kinds of eyes on your business.

Competitions

Tapping into competitive spirit is always a winner. You could hold eating competitions in your restaurant – a free meal to anybody that can finish a particularly daunting meal. 

 

You could also offer free food or drinks as prizes online. This can be invaluable for social media presence. Encourage people to like and follow your page to enter a prize draw. You’ll see those numbers skyrocket in no time!

 

Competitions can also be a fun way to engage with your customers – both new and existing. Everybody loves a quiz or a brain teaser. What’s more, it will encourage your customers to interact with each other. You can join in the conversation and build a relationship with your followers.

Referral Rewards and Loyalty Cards

Want somebody to tell their friends about your business? Well, why not make it worth their while? You could offer a discount to anybody who returns to your restaurant with a friend or family member. This could be done by asking them to use a particular password or phrase. This, in particular, could send an online campaign viral.

 

Loyalty cards are also a surefire way to keep customers returning. It’s a simple way to make a customer feel valued and maintain an equally beneficial relationship. Loyalty is a two-way street, after all. Your customers need a reason to return, especially with so many other businesses vying for their attention.

 

If you’re seeking an example of a successful loyalty scheme from a major brand, look no further than Starbucks. With over 22,000 branches worldwide, Starbucks is the world’s biggest coffee chain. My Starbucks is also the world’s most successful loyalty program. My Starbucks provides customers with the opportunity to order their coffee remotely and collect points that lead to free and discounted coffee.

 

My Starbucks has 12 million users in the United States alone, which makes it hugely successful. While this provides inspiration to any business, it’s also a cautionary tale. The success of My Starbucks causes issues in certain branches, which are ill-equipped to cope with the customer demand that it generates. As the My Starbucks program now accounts for over a third of all the chain’s sales, that can pose a problem.

 

Take encouragement from the popularity of My Starbucks, while learning from the problems generated by the program. Stop and think about the implications of running a loyalty program, ensuring you can do so without disrupting your day-to-day business. If you do this properly, the benefits will quickly outweigh the problems.

Merchandise and Gifts

Everything is merchandised these days, including restaurants. There is little to lose by arranging the sale of t-shirts bearing the name of your business. You may be surprised at how many you sell. You could also look into branded coffee cups and lunchboxes. It’s all free advertising if people wear them in public.

Social Media Influencers

Never underestimate the power of social media. Invite local Instagram influencers for a free meal and give them the VIP treatment. Once they have been wined and dined appropriately, politely ask for a review to be posted on their social media profile. A thumbs up from these people can lead to a huge spike in interest.

 

If you build an ongoing relationship with an influencer, so much the better. Regular engagement with somebody with thousands of followers means thousands of eyes potentially migrating over to your online presence.

 

A great example of a restaurant business that uses influencers to their advantages is Nandos. This is a British chicken restaurant that established itself as an integral part of British culture. If you visit the United Kingdom, you will no doubt hear many people suggesting, “going for a cheeky Nandos.” It’s a brand-centric catchphrase on par with, “Netflix and chill.”

 

Nandos also offer particular customers a black card. The Nandos black card is the stuff of legend in Britain, offering anybody who holds it unlimited free chicken. How people can gain this card is a closely guarded trade secret, but several celebrities and influencers have let slip in interviews that they have been provided with one.

 

Nandos have turned this to their advantage by approaching a number of young celebrities, recording them enjoying a meal, and discussing a range of subjects. Nandos is a casual dining business with a reasonable price point, aimed at young customers. This means that the conversations are kept light where possible – though the series, entitled Booth Truths.

 

These videos serve two primary purposes. They drive traffic to the online presence of Nandos, ensuring that the restaurant is never far from the hearts and minds of their target audience. What’s more, they also attracts customers to the nearest Nandos. Customers will hope to capture a glimpse of their favorite celebrity. Even if they don’t, the presence of such influencers raises the image of the brand in the eyes of customers. After all, if the restaurant is good enough for their hero, it’s good enough for them.

General Tips to Make Your Campaigns Effective

That was a deep dive into promotional campaigns. Oftentimes, however, it’s the small details that make all the difference. While the big picture is always important, it’s also critical that you don’t lose track of the small things.

 

Here are four areas you should pay particular attention to when running a promotional campaign for your restaurant.

Be a Picture Snob!

A popular statement within the restaurant trade is that, “the first bite is with the eye.” In today’s world, where potential customers are only ever one social media post away, this has never been more apt. You must ensure your images are of an exemplary standard. 

 

Before hiring photographers, define the mood for your food images first. Use Instagram and Pinterest boards to get the right style for your food images that you want to go with. Creating a mood board for your visual direction is one of the best tips to ensure you’re getting the right look and feel for your restaurant’s brand.If somebody is glancing at their phone, you only have a second or two to grab their attention. The perfect picture is worth a thousand words – and can turn a passive onlooker into an active customer. Check out our blog post on the top tips to take photos for your restaurant’s social media

 

The use of a professional photographer will cost you money in the short-term. You should make sure you hire somebody with the experience and ability to produce great images. Such an individual will obviously charge you for their time. Over a period of time, great images will attract many new customers to your business. This means that you will be repaid for your investment and everything on top of this is profit. As the old saying goes, you sometimes need to speculate to accumulate.


Even on a tight budget and without having access to a professional photographer or a camera, you can always use your mobile phone to take pictures for your restaurant’s social media game. The main goal is always simply to have attractive pictures that act as valuable content for your customers. Click here for useful tips and tricks for mobile phone food photography.

Know Your Customers

Understanding what customers know and love about your business is at the heart of any great promotional campaign. Ultimately, you should always be looking to give people more of what they want. Once you have got them through the door, you can start thinking about upselling and diversifying.

 

If you have a reputation as the best coffee house in town, turn that to your advantage. Build your offerings around your coffee. People will always come back for something they cherish, especially if it’s on offer. If your customers tend to go wild for more specialist fare, such as world cuisine, focus on that instead.

 

What we’re saying is that people always love to feel valued. If you know what your customers want, they will feel like you are pitching your offering directly to them. This, in turn, will encourage them to turn up in droves. Start with your target customers first and do research to better understand what your customers think and feel about food, and how they consume food.

run successful campaign

Get Customers Involved in Your Social Media

Social media is arguably the ultimate modern marketing tool and, as we’ve explained, you really don’t need to pay to make the most of it. Instead, let your customers do your marketing for you by getting them involved.

 

A good restaurant can create a bustling community feel, and the same goes for a great social media presence. Encourage your customers to take photos while eating with you, and to share them to their feeds. Ask questions that encourage interaction between your social media facilitators and your customers. Run regular polls, surveying customers about their views of your menu and facilities, as their feedback and reviews are crucial for your restaurant’s success and growth

 

A great example of a restaurant that uses social media to its full potential is Sketch, located in Central London. Sketch is found in Soho, which is the heart of London’s theater district, home to many media companies, and just a stone’s throw from the city’s finest shopping. This means that rent prices are phenomenally high, and there are literally hundreds of restaurants battling for the attention of locals and tourists alike. Many of these competitors are international chains too, which means they enjoy the advantage of brand recognition. If Sketch is to stay in business, people know what makes this restaurant special and worth visiting.

 

A standard advertising campaign is unlikely to be effective. There is too much competition for that. With this in mind, Sketch has curated a fascinating and interactive social media presence. 

 

Firstly, the restaurant is divided into a wide range of different themed rooms. Each of these rooms has been meticulously decorated and designed to look as picturesque as possible. Each room will be redecorated during the holiday season too, ensuring that the images created are on-point.

run successful campaign

This encourages people to take and share snapshots – especially tourists. Customers will always be keen to show their friends what a fabulous time they are having on holiday! Perhaps most importantly, Sketch do not neglect the details. The most-photographed room in the entire restaurant is the bathroom, which is designed to resemble a space-age discotheque. 

 

Ordinarily, nobody would encourage sharing selfies taken in the bathroom. Some things are meant to be private. Tens of thousands of people share photos of the Sketch restroom every year, though. That’s fantastic – and free – advertising for the business. After all, how many restaurants can you think of that have turned using the restroom into a tourist attraction?

run successful campaign

We’re not saying that you should post photographs of your own bathroom to Instagram and sit back, expecting an avalanche of customers. You don’t even need to focus a great deal of attention on that area! Just ensure that your customers have a reason to take photographs and share them. 

 

Get involved with your customers, inviting them to capture a snapshot with your team. Have a statue or a similar landmark in the restaurant that will draw the attention. Ensure that you decorate to reflect the changing seasons and time of year, helping people feel festive. Your aim is to boost engagement. If you can do this, your customers will talk about you their social media feeds – and you’ll barely need to pay for advertising again!

Engage and Communicate Regularly

Last but not least – do not let people forget you! Stay in regular contact with your customers so that you’re always at the forefront of their thinking.

 

Now, this is something of a balancing act. If you communicate too infrequently, you’ll be ignored. People will have moved onto the next shiny object to grab their attention – which may be one of your competitors. Bombarding clients with messages is equally dangerous, though. You’ll be dismissed as an email pest. Once you’re banished to the junk mail folder, there’s no way back for you.

 

Find a strategy that works and stick to it. More importantly, ensure that your messages are worth reading. Always include some kind of promotion, alongside engaging copy and eye-catching images and an email headline that’s too tempting to ignore. 

 

There is no shortage of brands and businesses vying for the attention of your customers. You need to ensure that your messages bring a little sunshine to their day.

Key Takeaways

We hope that you have found this eBook helpful. Bear this advice in mind while planning your next campaign and you’ll bring down the house!

If we ask you to learn anything from what you have read, it’s these key messages.

  • Generate engagement with your customers, off- and online.
  • Personalize your offering to what your customers really want.
  • Never underestimate the power of a discount.
  • Always encourage word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer marketing.
  • Look after your loyal customers.
  • Use social media to gain attention. 
  • Piggyback on existing hashtags and marketing campaigns.
  • Maintain a professional image.
  • Communicate – but don’t spam!

 

Now, go ahead and create the amazing promotional campaign that we know you’re capable of!

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Snappmeal Blog
Snappmeal Blog

By The Snappmeal Team

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Free Guide on creating successful restaurant campaigns

  • Types of restaurant campaigns to run
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restaurant campaign guide