8 Creative Restaurant Marketing Ideas to Combat Flat Restaurant Sales

8 Creative Restaurant Marketing Ideas to Combat Flat Restaurant Sales

One third of U.S. adults are eating out less now than they were last year. Deploying creative restaurant marketing ideas can help re-engage lapsed customers, attract new ones and boost sales-per-visit.

Spark Local Interest with Creative Restaurant Marketing Tactics

A new Reuters/Ipsos survey reports that cost is the primary factor for the one-third of U.S. adults who are eating at home instead of dining out. In fact, the gap between grocery food prices and restaurant prices is now at an historic high, as restaurants respond to increased operating costs and increases in the minimum wage occurring both nationally and locally. In January, the cost of food away from home was up 2.4 percent compared to the same period last year, while the cost for food prepared at home dropped 1.9 percent year over year.

Noting that increased input costs alone aren’t solely responsible for the challenge now faced by restaurant owner who have seen the number of customers coming in as well as sales-per-visit revenues flat-lining or falling, Bob Goldin, partner and co-founder of food industry strategy firm Pentallect Inc. notes that the market (for both restaurants and grocers) is also more crowded. “There’s more splintering of the food dollar, and the pie isn’t growing”, he said.

Related Articles: How to Market Restaurant Happy Hours

Implementing creative restaurant marketing ideas could be the answer to a slow-down in restaurant sales. Even if your restaurant is doing well right now, innovating could help you grow faster and help you gain market share against competitors.

Attract Customers and Boost Revenues with These 8 Creative Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Drive Return Frequency

How often do your regular customers typically wait before coming back? Use special offers and time-limited promotions to bring them back more often or ensure they come back at the frequency you expect.

Leverage Loyalty Rewards

When customers return, how much do they usually spend? Enhance loyalty rewards for patrons who come back more frequently or when they spend more per person than average.


When was the last time you made changes based on customer feedback? Pitch menu items against one another in a contest or give patrons a chance to vote up or down on new or existing menu items via mobile device, requiring registration. Based on votes, introduce new menu items and extend a special offer to everyone who voted. Change your poll or survey regularly and send marketing emails and texts letting patrons know they should come back to vote up or down on the next selection.

LTO Takeaways

Even the smallest of mementos – like branded matchbooks, a to-go bag of popcorn, playing cards, mint tins, bottle openers, etc. – given away as a gift with purchase create an instant brand-sticking point. By changing up your takeaways on a seasonal basis, you also give patrons a chance to come back again so they can walk away with something new.

3rd Space Your Slow Hours

Restaurants and bars are finding that their environment is ideal for co-working space, and they’re even renting out spaces to entrepreneurs who need an office or meeting space with Wi-Fi. Not only has the co-working industry spawned a variety of spaces, companies like Spacious give entrepreneurs a way to find and rent co-working spaces in their city by the month or the day. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce, business associations and professionals with hours and spaces you could make available for their use.

Find Your Meat Spot

Arby’s rejuvenated public interest when word of mouth got out that there was an off-menu item called the “Meat Mountain” that could be ordered by meat lovers. Many of the restaurants featured in “best of” lists and TV shows find their way there because they have developed a unique menu item worthy of buzz that drives word of mouth and restaurant visits from near and far.

Go All-In

As Mae West once said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”  Whatever it is that your restaurant does differently or does best, don’t just dabble; go all in to create a one-of-a-kind experience.

Chance Encounter

Restaurants like Las Vegas Nevada’s Diablos Cantina bring customers into the act, giving them a chance to spin a wheel to determine what the special of the day or happy hour will be.  In a 2016 EasyPromos survey, in the top spot, 25 percent of respondents said the thing they valued most in a prize was having the opportunity to share it with others. Diablos’ wheel of chance provides just that – the opportunity to share a special offer with everyone in the restaurant, creating an instant sense of belonging and camaraderie.


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