Spending money on marketing may be the last thing on your mind right now, especially if your restaurant is new, sales have been slow, and you're biggest concern is paying your staff.
However, the hard times are when it's most important to keep your restaurant's name in front of local customers. It's right now that you need their business the most.
The good news is, you don't have to spend a lot of money to promote your business. With some creativity, a little time, and maybe a drop or two of elbow grease, you can reach hundreds of potential customers and spend very little--if any--money. Below are just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Offer a sandwich of the day, pasta of the day, or soup of the day and announce it each day on social media. This will get stomachs rumbling and orders flowing in when customers see what you have on special.
2. Visit local businesses and drop off food along with some of your menus and a letter or flyer outlining your offers for catering. You'd be surprised how many people will remember you for bringing them food!
3. Run a contest online and in-store to create--and name--the next specialty item on your menu. Make the contest at least a month-long and get the local media involved to spread the word.
4. Team up with a local charitable organization and organize an event that raises money for a good cause. The organization and local media will help to spread the word, and you'll be doing something good in the process. Organizations such as GroupRaise make finding a charity near you easy.
5. Sponsor a local school sports team and feed them before or after the game. This will show your support in the community and give you new customers for years.
6. Claim your location on Google Your Business and help your restaurant move to the top of the listings in local searches. This is free and should save you time when trying to figure out how to boost your rankings on Google.
7. Become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and host a business networking event, catered by you, of course! Members of the Chamber are typically movers and shakers in the community who can spread the word about your business and become customers who later order for office lunches and parties.
8. Feed your local first responders and/or teachers and get the satisfaction that comes along with thanking those who do so much for the community. You may pick up a few new fans in the process, too.
9. Create a food challenge and a wall of fame. Word spreads fast when people are trying to win something. Challenging foods could be extra-spicy wings, a huge burger, a big sundae, etc.
10. Enter one of your "famous" menu items into a contest. The publicity you can garner from just entering a contest is phenomenal. Imagine if you won!
11. Host a hotel concierge night and invite hotel management, concierges, and front-desk staff to taste your menu. They'll be more likely to refer guests to the restaurant if they've eaten there themselves.
12. Offer a taxi driver discount if you're located in an area with a high number of taxis. If you become the preferred restaurant for taxi drivers, guess which pizzeria they'll recommend when asked by their passengers.
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