Restaurant Marketing Secrets

Restaurant Marketing Secrets: How to create a marketing campaign (that actually improves profits)

“I’ve been in the hospitality industry for 15 years and I’ve never heard of this, literally game-changing”

These are the exact words a client said to one of my colleagues not that long ago, and I’ll be honest, I was thinking the same thing myself.

Being an entrepreneur for over 12 years, I thought I knew “everything” about marketing.

  • Facebook Ads
  • Content Marketing
  • You name it…

I’ve done it all, getting “okay” results every time , but if there’s one thing I’ve learned since:

Great marketing always has an “invisible” edge

What I mean by this, is the tactical side of things is pretty straightforward.

Anybody can create a Facebook Ad that says:

“New spaghetti restaurant open, come try today”…

But there’s a reason why some marketers are able to produce 10x better results than others.

Never has to do with:

  • Budget
  • Design
  • Copywriting…

Or anything like that either, but instead, it all comes down to:

Direct-Response Pathways

If you’re not familiar with this, don’t worry, most aren’t.

Few ways I could explain this as well, but if anything, you never want to waste your money on brand awareness ads.

This is the type of advertising I mentioned earlier, where you put a generic “we’re open” ad in front of everybody, hoping they’ll come in after that.

Definitely gets some people in the door, but it never helps you stay profitable either.

IF you did get them to visit your location, the chances of them coming back are very slim.

Not because they didn’t like your restaurant either, but because we’re creatures of habit.

One time is great, but there’s a good chance they’ll still forget about it.

I mean, how many times have you been to a great restaurant, but then forgot to visit again in the next 6 months?

Few times? Exactly, that’s how everybody is.

Seeing how “backend revenue” is where all the money is at, we don’t want this conundrum happening to you, and that’s why you’ll want a system that:

Brings them back 4 times (on autopilot)

Going back to my story from earlier, this was one of the first times I’ve connected with a marketing consultant.

Followed him for a while, doing a little bit of communication along the way, but after connecting with a restaurant…

He reached out to me, seeing if I could provide some input.

Being a software developer, he knew a portion of the process was in my “zone of genius”, so I started consulting with him from there.

At first, I was happy to have the contract, but a lot more came out than that.

Instead, I had a front row seat to the learning experience of my life, one that built an automated system for this restaurant owner…

Bringing customers back 4 times in 6 weeks because of it, creating lifelong fans along the way, and that’s:

Exactly what I’d like to show you today

Long story short, for the rest of this article, I’m going to go through and show you how to take advantage of this system yourself.

Pretty straightforward setup, and one that you may not have heard about before, but it’ll make a lot of sense once you do.

After that, if you’re interested, I might even offer to do it for you as well.

Don’t worry about that “ruining” the integrity of this article either, I’m still going to show you everything, just wanted to mention this upfront.

I know a lot of people don’t want to do everything themselves, rather have someone do it for them, but that’s up to you.

For now, my job is to help you understand all this, so let’s jump into the good parts – starting with:

Step #1 – The initial loss leader

Alright, so if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about most business owners, it’s how they try and go for “everything” right away.

Differs by industry, but to give you a quick example of this, the other day I saw an ad for “exogenous ketones”.

If you’re not familiar with exogenous ketones, they’re an alternative source of fuel for the body, supposed to make your brain sharper.

Fair enough, and something I’m certainly willing to try, but the ad really wasn’t that “enticing” either.

I mean, they just said:

“We have exogenous ketones, BUY TODAY!!!”

And left it at that.

No trial offer, no discounted pack, etc…

All things that are scary to most business owners, but when done correctly, they’re the smartest thing you can do for your business.


Because at the initial stages of an offer, you simply want to get people’s contact information.

That’ll allow you to “upsell” your next steps, doing so for free.

Said differently, it’s much better to spend $5 on advertising, getting their contact information with a “breakeven” offer…

As opposed to spending $10 on advertising, and making $2 bucks on it (without the contact information).

If anything, contact information is easily worth $1K, well….

When done correctly, so in the beginning stages of your marketing campaign, you want to give them something that’ll entice action right away.

Of course, the key here is to do it in a sophisticated way, as everybody could say “free meal”…

But for my colleague, he was a fan of “birthday marketing”.

If you’re not familiar with this restaurant marketing, Facebook allows you to target people who have birthdays coming up this month.

Works great for a few reasons, but if anything, they’re more apt to eat out.

Everybody likes going out for their birthday, so if you put up an ad that says:

“Birthday BOGO. Bring a friend, we’ll give you your meal for free”…

Then put it in front of people who have a birthday coming up, you’ll get them to take action right away.

Doing this allows you to breakeven AT WORST, but when structured properly, you’ll make money off it as well.

For example, maybe your Birthday BOGO just includes entree and side.

Fair enough, but since they’re getting a free entree and side, that means they’re probably going to order dessert and drinks.

From there, their friend will also be ordering dessert and drinks, on top of the meal…

So you’re probably already making profit, and if they have a family (i.e. kids), you’re guaranteed to be profitable overall.

Sure, it won’t be QUITE as much as if you charged full price for everything, but there’s a good chance you wouldn’t get them to come in either.

Remember, the initial goal of this offer is getting them in the door, that way you can get their contact information.

This is something you’ll do with your initial Facebook Ad, having them enter their info in exchange for a “BOGO coupon”, and that takes us to:

Step #2 – The second visit

Alright, so with our first visit, the goal was to get their contact information…

But at the same time, it was the start of the process as well.

Few ways I could explain this, but if anything, you want to have 4 different reasons for them to come in.

Remember, the goal here is just getting 4 visits within 6 weeks, because if you do this…

There’s a VERY good chance they’ll become lifelong customers after that, and the easiest way to do this is with different types of upsells.

If you follow John Taffert, you’ll know he does this via “napkins”, meaning if somebody is coming in for the first time…

The server will put a specific color of napkin down, that way they’ll know what to say at the end.

Works, but there’s a lot of potential for error as well.

This napkin system can get confusing, especially when servers have to manually advise things, so I generally recommend a software that does this for you.

In this case, when the contact information is first created in your system (i.e. after customer downloads coupon), then the system marks them as an “initial visit”.

This will prompt the system to analyze what they order, creating recommendations after that.

For example, if they order:

  • Steak
  • Mashed potatoes, and
  • A Bud Light…

Then the system will prompt them with a “next visit” coupon, one that has them try 2 free “House beers” (i.e. ones you make) with the steak.

Of course, they have to come back within a week, but that’s about it.

Seeing this, the system will print a coupon when your server hits “checkout”, having her give it to them with their check.

Assuming everything went well, they’d absolutely come back within a week, taking us to:

Step #3 – The third visit

Now that we’ve got them in a second time, things are going great.

They’re familiar with the restaurant, maybe even starting to recognize the server’s faces, and even though it doesn’t sound like a big deal now…

It’s a huge deal overall.

People like going to places they’re comfortable with, especially when people recognize them, so after having them present their “2 free beer” coupon to the hostess…

They’ll automatically scan it, and the system will take care of everything after that.

Assuming their previous server was there again tonight, make sure they get seated in her section.

That’ll create a friendly feeling right away, and make sure the server knows about it.

This is their second time back, so say:

“Hey guys, long time no see, welcome back! If I remember correctly, I gave you a coupon for free craft beer – right?

Perfect, what type of beer would you like? Etc…”

That way they feel important, and enjoy their experience because of it.

From there, they’ll order everything as normal, and as I’m sure you can guess…

The system will analyze everything again, making a “final recommendation” after that.

This will make more sense at the end, but for now, let’s say you want them to try a different dessert.

They’ve gotten your cheesecake twice, but your “hot cookie” is the main winner, so you’ll have the system offer a free coupon for this…

And heck, maybe even offer a free beer that compliments it. 

No need to get stingy now, we’ll really start making money on the next trip, so we just need them to come back one more time.

Doesn’t matter how you do it, but a relevant dessert/beer would absolutely work, especially if they’ve gotten dessert and beer every time before this…

So your server will give them the final coupon now, and that’ll take us to:

Step #4 – The final offer

Alright, at this point, the first few steps are the same.

They’ll come back within 2 weeks, present their coupon to the hostess, and have everything prompt after that.

If the same server is there, put them in her section, if not…

Make sure the other server knows, and says “hi” for the first one.

That’ll create a sense of relationship, then from there, make sure they acknowledge the free dessert.

It’s always awkward for people to ask this, so you want the server to take initial steps, meaning they’ll say something along the lines of:

“Alright, I already have your dessert and Raspberry Kolsch in the works, but let’s eat some dinner first. Do you guys want to try something different this time?”

Etc, going through the rest of the process after that, but once they ask to “tab out”…

Here’s where the real fun starts.

Something few restaurants marketing do, but when done correctly, it creates dramatic results.

In the simplest terms, when you go to checkout the final time, you want the system to offer some kind of “membership”.

This can differ by restaurant marketing , but you want it to revolve around their tastes.

If they ordered beer everytime they came in, have your system prompt some sort of “beer membership”.

Don’t have to make a lot of money off this membership, but you want them to come back as much as possible.

If somebody is paying $100/month to be in the “$2 craft club”, then you best believe they’ll pick your restaurant over everything else.

This will allow you to make a lot of money after that, especially if they order a steak every time, and even if they don’t come back that month…

Guess what?

You still get $100.

Pretty straightforward stuff, but just remember to make this a “limited time offer” as well.

Everybody likes to wait until last minute, you generally want to catch people when they’re in “reciprocity mode”.

Since you just gave them a free drink and dessert, they’re 100x more likely to accept the membership.

Almost feel bad if they didn’t, and if you make this membership 6 months (minimum), then you’re guaranteed to make money after that.

Worst case scenario, it’s $600 profit, best case scenario…

It’s a lot more than that, especially if membership requires them to buy entree with each visit (or something like that anyway).

Needless to say, that’s really the gist of it, which takes us to:

The recap

Long story short, if there’s one major problem I see with restaurant marketing today, it’s not understanding the “invisible” side of things.

Everybody simply looks at the surface logic, gets nowhere because of it.

Anybody can put up an ad that says “we’re open” or even “discount pricing”…

Very few understand how to turn this into a lot of profits afterwards, but if you follow the steps I’ve outlined, you’ll be on your way to success after that.


P.S. And if you’d like to see if I can do this for you, then please sign-up for a call here.


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