4 Marketing Mistakes Restaurant Operators Should Avoid

With a changing landscape, it is more vital than ever to help your potential customers see great value in your business.

  • A mobile strategy is crucial for restaurant owners trying to compete in a challenging economy, while offering customer incentives can boost orders and attract new customers.
  • With all the various platforms and resources available to restaurant marketers, it’s important to keep it simple.

Related: Start getting your pizzeria ready for outdoor dining now

After an especially difficult year, many small restaurant businesses are scrambling to recover. With a changing landscape, it is more vital than ever to help your potential customers see great value in your business. As restaurant owners learn to adapt, here are four of the most critical marketing mistakes to avoid.

1. Forgetting About Mobile Users
Many business owners spend a lot of time perfecting their desktop site, but consumers are now using their phones for everything, from finding brands on social media to online shopping. And when a company forgets about mobile users, it affects business. A Think With Google study showed that even if they like the business, an amazing 50% of people will use that business less if the website is difficult to navigate on their phone.

So don’t forget a mobile strategy for your restaurant—you don’t want to deter potential customers over a simple implementation. With consumers emphasizing convenience, it’s crucial that they’re able to reach your business and order your food on-the-go.

2. Not Offering Customer Incentives
Everyone loves a good deal. Have you ever gotten something discounted and it made your day? You’re not the only one. Dr. Paul J. Zak, a professor of neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, found that oxytocin, or the “love hormone” directly related to happiness, can spike by 38% when people get a coupon. He says, “Getting a coupon — as hard as it is to believe — is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift,” along with decreased levels of stress and anxiety.

Coupons can make your restaurant more welcoming, accessible or convenient. They’re also a great way to snag new customers—using apps that offer irresistible deals for first-time users can help businesses get new customers fast. A RetailMeNot survey found that 67% of consumers have made a purchase they initially weren’t planning on solely because they found a coupon or discount. Try new platforms and innovative ways to use coupons and really stand out.

Related: Marketing your pizza restaurant in a digital world

3. Not Keeping It Simple Enough
With so many platforms and resources available to market your business, it gets overwhelming. Don’t make the mistake of deluging customers with all these tactics at once. Harvard Business Review studied what makes consumers “sticky,” meaning likely to follow through on a purchase, continue to buy the product over time, and recommend it to their friends and family. They looked at more than 40 possible variables, and surprisingly, the biggest driver was decision simplicity, defined as “the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.”

Trust in this context is all about the consumer trusting the information they’ve received on the brand, rather than the brand itself. Avoid the mistake of focusing solely on your product in your restaurant marketing strategy. Consumers need more. Why should they choose you? How do you compare with your competitors? How will you improve their lives?

4. Underestimating or Overlooking Gen Z
Older generations often criticize Gen Z’s attachment to screens, overlooking the benefits of being technologically savvy at a young age. But their online presence is a good thing for your marketing. A Snap study showed they have better ad recall compared to older age groups, even though they spend less time watching skippable content. In fact, 55% of Gen Zers who watched a skippable ad for less than two seconds remembered it correctly, compared to 26% for Gen Xers and baby boomers.

Translation? Gen Z processes information faster than they’re given credit for, and brands who want to engage with them must get their message out as early as possible. Take the time to get to know this demographic (after all, they have an estimated yearly spending power of $1.2 trillion) and how your restaurant can appeal to them.

Take a look at recent successes of companies and see if there’s anything you can learn from them. Have they adapted with the times? How did they grow when many were struggling? What new technologies have they been using? Chances are, they’ve avoided these four marketing mistakes and have paved a new way—their own way—during unprecedented times.

For example, a new fast-food restaurant opened up in Southern California during the pandemic. The previous location near them had former management issues, in addition to struggling to get more people in the door. And, despite all the odds stacked against them, the new location has been doing well. The key was their willingness to try new things to advertise their opening, especially with different types of technology. By putting deals and offers on a variety of platforms, they were able to reach a range of untapped customers. Their use of resources helped expand their reach, so keep this—and the four mistakes—in mind to help guide you and make 2021 your most successful year yet!

Loren Dalton is a graduate of Harvard Business School and has more than 25 years of experience helping small businesses thrive. He is the cofounder and CEO of WhutsFree.