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The Essential Guide For Your Restaurant Marketing Plan

Developing a restaurant marketing plan doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be fun, informative, and help you maximize profits.


Yogi Berra, the famous baseball player and manager–and a surprisingly famous connoisseur of restaurants–said it best: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to know it when you get there.”

We are speaking, in this case, about the marketing plan for your restaurant. An effective marketing plan should have goals and measurements to determine whether you are successful. It shouldn’t be a hit-or-miss type of thing, or something you do when you get the time. To be successful, marketing needs to be ongoing, consistent and focused on a plan with measurable objectives. When you have successes, you want to be able to look at the marketing plan and clearly see what worked, and what can be improved. You want to know when you got there, and the roadmap that allowed you to arrive successfully.

Your marketing plan should be based on your particular situation – your menu, the brand of your restaurant, your customer demographics, and a number of other factors.

SWOT Analysis

Let’s start with your situation. The first step is a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Start with your staff, both the wait staff and the kitchen staff, as a great place to begin this process. Preferably, you can get them all together at one time and promote the team atmosphere. Announce the purpose of the meeting ahead of time and ask people to think about it and have answers when they come.

It’s important to tap into the knowledge base of those who are on the front lines and with their ears to the ground every day. Often they’ll come up with some of the best ideas!

Here are some examples of things you might find in your restaurant’s SWOT analysis:

  1. Location
  2. Food Quality
  3. Staff
  4. Chef
  1. Staff Turnover
  2. Limited Menu
  3. No Entertainment
  4. Outdated Décor
  1. Population Growth
  2. Traffic Patterns
  3. Online Marketing and Ordering
  1. Changing Demographics
  2. Health Trends Cause Decreased Interest in our Menu
  3. Vendor Costs Increasing

A word of advice: look at each category and determine if they, in fact, really belong in that category – or try to look at it from another perspective.

A lesson from another retail sector:

A local home and garden center, that has been around for several decades, learned that a Wal-Mart was going in across the street. That certainly falls into the threats category and could mean the demise of the little guy. Instead, the hometown nursery talked about it with customers, launched a newsletter, and when Wal-Mart opened, went over and introduced themselves to the people working in the gardening section. The hometown store invited guest speakers, put on events, and drew lots of people. They also made sure the Wal-Mart gardening folks knew that if they couldn’t answer a customer’s question, or didn’t have something in stock, they might have what they needed across the street.

Five years later, the owner of the local home and garden center said Wal-Mart has been the best thing that ever happened to his business. His bottom line has never been better.

Moral of the story: Not everything is as it seems. Threats can be opportunities. Weaknesses can be strengths. It depends on how you approach it.

SWOT Wrap-Up

Armed with the information you get from your staff, talk to some of your business partners: suppliers, vendors, etc. Ask them the same questions – about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then get out of your comfort zone and talk to some trusted customers. Sit down with them, spring for a free meal perhaps, and ask them their perceptions on the same issues.

From there, determine a brand and a marketing strategy. Who is your restaurant? Are you a hangout for young people? Are you a family restaurant? Is your bread and butter the office lunch crowd, or the dinner crowd?

Developing A Situational Statement

Once you know your position, you can determine a marketing budget and the tactics that will support your growth. This budget is not limited to traditional advertising – it can include special events, sponsorships, etc. The trick is to make sure that everything you do supports the strategy.

Examples of situational statements that can guide you:

Situational Statement #1: Our sandwich shop, located just off a busy intersection and within easy walking distance of several large office buildings and businesses, caters to the lunch crowd that wants quick service and the ability to dine-in or take out. Our price point averages slightly higher than our competition because we offer good food and excellent service.

Situational Statement #2: Our restaurant, located in a college town, caters to students, faculty and parents visiting from out of town, as well as the local business community. Our competition includes several restaurants with higher price points and more ambiance, so our goal is to be the affordable alternative, with a relaxed atmosphere.

Reflecting on your situational statement:

If you own the sandwich shop in strategy #1, advertising in a local newspaper might not make sense, especially if the labor base commutes from someplace else. Investing in signage and distributing windshield flyers in nearby parking lots does make sense.

If you own the restaurant in strategy #2, fliers under the windshields don’t make sense. What might make more sense is sponsoring a college event. Or, given your market for people that are tuned into social media, launch promotions on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A Word About Budgets

When developing your restaurant marketing plan, you should set up your budget on a monthly spreadsheet. Then, spend that money as if it were a bill you paid each month. Make sure that seasonal events and expenditures are reflected. Refer to it frequently. See what’s coming up several months in advance. Some events require preparation.

What is nice is that when an advertising or marketing opportunity presents itself, you can refer to your strategy. Does the opportunity support your strategy? If not, even the most affordable ad will be money down the drain.

As you assemble your budget, try to set aside extra money each month for opportunities that you can’t anticipate. Your surplus budget can cover the expenses of promotional flyers that may need to be produced at the last minute. If you don’t use your surplus budget one month, roll it into the next month.

Take the time to track promotions and the amount of business they bring in to your business. Train your staff to greet new customers at the counter with a casual inquiry as to where they found out about you. Record that information and compare it against the promotions you are running.

Track your sales throughout the day. If you see a surge of business in the afternoon, then you know your email offer with a 20% discount on appetizers between 3:00 and 5:00 is working.

Tips on maintaining a strategy:

  • Write it down. Write down your research, keep all your notes, and most of all, write down your strategic plan and the tactics you have developed to support that strategy.
  • Go back often and read through it. You’ll forget things.
  • Appoint a marketing committee to work with you – your assistant manager, your head cook. Conduct weekly meetings. Hold each other accountable.
  • Not everything you do will be wildly successful. There will be some clear flops. Those things happen. Analyze why they didn’t work.
  • Measure everything as best you can.

You should re-evaluate your strategy on a regular basis. Once a year is recommended. Did something change that will affect your strategy? Is a new restaurant coming into town? Are your competitors doing something different that seems to be working? Are the demographics of your customer base changing?

In Conclusion

Marketing should be seen as an investment, not just an expense. If done correctly, the rewards will be more business, the growth of your restaurant, and more profit. Having a marketing strategy is one of the key ingredients to help you get there.

About NetWaiter

NetWaiter is a restaurant marketing platform and network, connecting restaurants with more local customers. The NetWaiter Network allows visitors to view local restaurant info, find locations that deliver, order online, and get updates from their favorite places.  For more information about NetWaiter, visit


Author Jared

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