The Restaurant Marketing Plan

Where do you start your marketing efforts? Consider what makes sense today –  not five years ago! Your restaurant marketing plan should be re-written every year to include new goals and strategies.

Marketing strategies and channels change every year, so you will need to stay up to date on the latest trends.

We have worked with hundreds of restaurants and analyzed hundreds more.  Our experience has shown us where to spend your precious time and dollars when it comes to restaurant marketing.
Check out our step-by-step marketing plan template to help guide you in the right direction.

What Will You Find in our Restaurant Marketing Plan?

  1. How To Set Up A Successful Marketing Strategy
    A step-by-step guide to setting up a successful marketing strategy for your restaurant business and the action items to delegate to your team.
  2. Proper Budgeting
    Once you set goals, you can create a budget with them in mind. This will avoid wasted spending.
  3. Return on Investment (ROI) Tracking
    How do you know if your marketing and advertising investments are working? Track them! Learn what KPIs you should track and how.
  4. Social Media Marketing Tips
    Figure out where to spend your time and money on social media. Learn how to post, how often, and how to get ROI from it. Which social media platforms are best for you?
  5. Private Party Lead Generation
    Generate more leads to book private parties, group dining requests, and special events. Increase private dining revenue with a few helpful strategies!
  6. SEO and Adwords for Restaurants
    Everyone uses Google search to find restaurants. We give you the details on how to focus your website for SEO and Adwords campaigns.
  7. Google Maps Optimization
    Learn how to rank your business in the Google maps results. Make it easier for customers to find your business!
  8. Outsourcing vs. In-House Marketing Advice
    Learn what you should outsource and what you should keep in-house for marketing. No time for marketing? We can help.
  9. Website Design
    Most people pay way too much for their website. Learn how much to pay and how to use your website to improve your business.
  10. Promotional Strategies
    Learn how to leverage online marketing to boost promos and drive people into your restaurant.
  11. PR
    Learn how to get the most out of PR – don’t waste money on a service that lacks results!
  12. Email Marketing
    We’ll show you how to generate thousands of email subscribers and market to them properly.
  13. Facebook Ads
    Learn the secrets to targeting the right customers, and how to retarget them later when you need it.
  14. Direct Mail
    Crush the local area with your brand and target the neighborhoods of your choosing (for really low cost).
  15. Blog Content
    Content can grow your website and improve overall marketing. You are probably missing a huge opportunity here!

Setting Goals

What vision do you have for your restaurant?  Where do you want to be a month, a year, or 5 years from now?

The main goal for your restaurant business is sales, but it should not be your only focus.  A quality marketing strategy starts with setting various goals – all of which will help sales in the long run.

Set goals for:

      1. Revenue
      2. Email Subscribers
      3. Social Media Followers and Engagement
      4. Private Dining, Events, or Catering Leads
      5. Google Search & Maps Results and Rankings
      6. Website Traffic
      7. Direct Mail Redemptions

Take note of where you are now and where you want to be for all the goal categories. There are probably other categories you might want to set for goals – we are only listing the goals we know you can directly track through marketing.

Revenue is the top goal, but first, you need to identify the channels which drive the most revenue. Make those channels your priority this year.

Actions to Meet Your Goals

Revenue Goals

Set your revenue goals for the year, then break them down by month, week, and even day.

How do you set an achievable goal for revenue? Without an expansion in space or some sort of big change in your location, your increase year over year will need to be a conservative and realistic goal.

New restaurants 1-3 years old might be able to experience higher growth rates of 20 to 50%. More established restaurants will see 5-15% increases.

If you’ve never done any marketing for your restaurant before, you may see even larger increases regardless of how long you’ve been open.

Let’s shoot for a 20% increase in sales this coming year as part of our example plan goals. If your restaurant made $1,000,000 last year, then a  20% increase this year brings you to $1,200,000.

Now we will breakdown the $200,000 increase. Most restaurants operate their forecasts in weeks, some on a 13-period calendar with 4 weeks per period.

$1 million per year is roughly $20,000 per week in sales. The $200,000 increase annually translates to a $4,000 per week average increase.  So, your new goal would be $24,000 per week.

Breaking down your revenue goals into weekly chunks will make it more realistic and carve a path for what you can actually do to increase profits.

Now that you know your weekly revenue goals, you can take action to hit those numbers each week. You can also track each week’s revenue and see what works and what doesn’t, week by week.

Email Subscriber Goals

Still to this day, email is one of the best converting marketing channels available to us. Most restaurants completely drop the ball on this channel and miss huge opportunities to stay on customers’ minds.

We have seen clients do a great job of collecting emails, but fail to put them on subscriber lists through MailChimp or Constant Contact. Follow-through is key! Develop and commit to processes to make the most of customer emails.

What if I told you every email was worth an extra $50 in revenue per year? Your $200,000 goal from above would be solved with the collection of 4000 new emails. You would only need to collect AND enter 75 emails per week into your database.

Do you collect emails from Open Table or whichever reservation service you use? The information is available, but most restaurants never import them into their email service provider.

Do you run contests on Facebook or Instagram? Offer the chance to “Win a free happy hour” and have people sign up on your website by entering their name and email for a chance to win.  We have clients collecting hundreds of emails each week with this tactic. We’ll show you the exact method in our training courses.

BONUS: Collect their birthday at the same time and set up automated birthday promo emails! Email the subscriber 14 days before their birthday with a promo or incentive to book a party or table.

Congrats, you just made an extra $1000 per week on this tactic alone!

Many restaurants sell out their Valentines and New Years’ Eve with email alone. Imagine what you could do with a constantly growing list of subscribers.

Set The Goal – How many new subscribers do you want each week?

Task your staff with methods on how to achieve this goal and then use reports from your email service provider. Hold someone accountable for the results.

Tactics to collect customer email addresses:

  • Reservation System Downloads
  • In-Person Collection
  • Online Contests
  • Website Sign Up Form

WARNING!  Don’t buy lists of free email addresses. Email marketing works best when permission is given by your subscribers. You can kill your deliverability rates if people mark you as spam. Buying lists will cause more harm than good.

Social Media Goals

I’ll make this one brief because it is easy to understand. Make a note in the spreadsheet tracker we provided of each social media channel. The important thing is not to stop with only Facebook and Instagram, you need a few more…






Your reach and revenue potential significantly increases as you grow your social audience and engage with them.

What is the point of spending time and resources posting to Facebook and Instagram if you have less than 5,000-10,000 followers?

Social media can be great, but if you don’t use it right, it’s a waste of your time.

There are also ways to automate the process of posting and sending out to all channels at once, saving time.  Check out our courses to learn how!

Set your goals in terms of how many followers you want to grow each week for each channel.  Hold yourself or someone accountable to hit those goals.

Private Dining & Catering Leads

The average group booking for a private or non-private party is around $1500.  This covers all kinds of occasions like baby showers, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, and more.

This strategy alone will increase your revenue by 20% if properly executed.  Book only four of these per month and you are seeing $6000 in incremental revenue – that’s  $72,000 per year.

To book private events, you need to generate leads. Generally, we see a 10-20% closing rate on incoming leads for restaurants that respond quickly and follow up with organized food and beverage options. That means for every 10 incoming leads, you should be able to book 1 or 2 with an average of $1500.

Make a note of your current incoming leads through both phone calls and website requests.

If you don’t have a dedicated page on your website for private parties, groups, or catering lead captures, you need to make one NOW!  Even if you don’t have a “private” space, you will still get requests from groups looking for a place to book dinner, drinks, etc.

The goal is to increase the inbound volume of these leads. We cover a whole series on how to do this in our video courses, but the basics are picking the right channels and optimizing your conversions.

Use the following for best results:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Everyone uses Google to find restaurants for groups or private dining.  Are they finding your place as an option or your competition? Get on the first page and watch the leads pour in.

Google Adwords Pay Per Click – If you can’t rank on the first page for the Google searches, pay for them. The typical cost per click is $1 to $2 per click. Send the ads to your lead capture page, NOT your home page. You can waste a bunch of money here if you are inexperienced. It’s best to get some training or hire a pro to set this up.  Done right, it pays back big time!

Google Search & Maps Rank

I hinted at the benefits of Google search optimization above with the group leads. If ranking on the first page of Google search for your restaurant is not on your priority list, you are missing a big revenue source.

Ranking on the first page and at the top for searches about “restaurants in [your area]” or “happy hour spots in [your area]” or “brunch restaurants in [your area]” could make a huge difference, from a slow day to a packed restaurant.

This channel is primarily focused on generating new customers.  People who are looking for a place to go or something to do in your area.  They don’t know of your business, but they are looking for what you provide.

There are 4 ads, 3 map spots, and 10 regular slots or “organic” spots on the first page of Google results.  You are in competition with your neighboring restaurants for those coveted spots.

If you aren’t on the first page of results, your website might as well be invisible.

The goal is to rank on the first page for both the maps and organic results when people search for restaurants, happy hour, brunch, your cuisine, or anything related to your business.

If you are not in the maps and the results under the maps, you are missing tons of potential customers and need help. Use our marketing course to learn how to dominate the search rankings.

Website Traffic

Having worked with hundreds of different restaurants, there is one thing common among the successful and the failures. Website traffic or lack thereof.

We have yet to see a successful restaurant with little to no website traffic.

The difference comes down to paid traffic vs earned.

There are a few ways traffic ends up on your website. These are the metrics you can see in Google analytics under acquisition channels

      1. Direct – This is when people type your domain name/website address directly into the address bar of their browser. They know your website address and just go directly to it, no need to search.
      2. Organic – As you can guess, this traffic comes from Google, Yahoo, or Bing search engines mostly. People might type in your restaurant name to search, or search for restaurants in your town, or your cuisine, etc. and end up finding your website in the search results. They click the link and it counts as traffic from search
      3. Paid Search – This is typically Google’s Adwords pay-per-click service.
      4. Referral – This is traffic that enters your website from a link on another website.  If your restaurant is named in a blog post on a local magazine’s website with a link to your site, that is a referral. Sponsorships, blog posts, forums, etc all are referrals
      5. Social – Almost the same as referrals above, but analytics tracks traffic coming in from social post links to your website. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
      6. Email – If you send out emails (and you absolutely should) most sending services add analytics tracking to each email you blast out.  If so, it will show up in this tracking.  If there is no tracking in your emails, it will count as direct traffic above, so make sure your emails are tracked.
      7. Display – These are banner ads you might be running on other websites with images or video people click and end up on your website.

Some restaurants have tons of free traffic and others have to pay thousands to get the same amount. Depending on your website and your goals, there are free and paid methods to improve your traffic and bring more customers to your site.

Beyond Digital

Direct Mail

We are dedicated to digital marketing mostly because it works so well and you can track 100% of the success or failure from your efforts. BUT if there was one service outside digital which we would recommend, it is direct mail through the good old post office.

They have a service called EDDM, Every Day Direct Mail. USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM®) is an affordable targeted advertising technique that lets you map your marketing mail audience by age, income, or household size. You can use the EDDM mapping tool to choose the ZIP Code and carrier route that will target your best possible customers—current and future. The EDDM mapping tool is easy to use and discounts are available even for small businesses.

Check out their full info page here

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

Follow him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Quora, Google Guide and Facebook.