Marketing is an essential element of any business plan. No doubt you have already thought about ways to get your restaurant’s name and brand in front of as many eyes as possible. Whether you are getting ready to open your first restaurant, working on a rebranding strategy or trying to bring new life to an established business, marketing is essential. While you might already have dozens of strategies ready to try, you might be wondering how to go about implementing them. Here are some helpful guidelines for developing a strong marketing plan that can help you get the most bang for your buck while helping your online ordering system at the same time.

Have a Brainstorming Session

The first step in planning your marketing is to hold a brainstorming session that includes all of your stakeholders. Together, decide on questions that need to be answered and consider how to do it. By the end of the brainstorming session, the group should have a fairly good idea of the direction you want to take your establishment, although many of the questions you will bring up during your brainstorming session will be specific to your establishment. Some possible suggestions include:

  • What is the theme of the restaurant?
    Every restaurant has a theme, whether it’s family-friendly, old-fashioned or catering to a high-end clientele. If the restaurant is new, the theme is essential to developing your brand. If the restaurant is already established, revisiting this theme periodically will help to ensure you have stayed focused on your original goals. It is also a good time to see if those goals and the scope of your restaurant expanded or changed.
  • Who is your clientele?
    Knowing your target audience is crucial for the success of your business. This question will both open doors for new marketing strategies while closing doors on the strategies that no longer work. As your clientele changes, you will need to revisit this question, reassess your answer and make any necessary changes.
  • What do similar restaurants do?
    Research your competition. Take note of what they have done and which strategies have worked for them. Also, pay attention to what did not work. Use the experiences of those who came before you to help you fine-tune your own marketing plan.
  • How can these answers be applied digitally?
    There will always be a place for traditional marketing strategies. But, for a restaurant to be successful, marketing efforts need to expand to the digital arena as well. Knowing your theme and understanding your customer base will help you determine how to market online. That information will also help you develop your online presence, as well.

Develop a Timeline

Once you know your restaurant’s focus, including theme, menu, clientele, and marketing strategies, you need to develop a marketing timeline. Since a marketing plan should be revisited annually, you need to develop a 12-month layout of your goals and the implementation of your strategies. Use this timeline to help create a year-long marketing plan that you can implement without running out of energy or money too quickly. As you create your timeline, include these elements:

  • The Calendar
    Since many of your marketing strategies will involve the calendar year, plan those tasks first. Have an idea and a plan in place for each holiday on which you plan to focus. Keep in mind that not every holiday needs a promotion.You should also use the calendar to establish restaurant-specific goals that will help keep your marketing strategy on track. Giving yourself time is important. Setting reasonable time limits for bigger goals like allowing three months to set up your online ordering system, six months to increase your total revenue by a specific amount, or nine months to implement a customer loyalty program will help keep you motivated throughout the year. At the end of the year, it will be easy to look back on the timeline to see which goals were met and which ones were not. Then, you can get to work on planning next year’s timeline!
  • Your Budget
    Set a realistic budget for your marketing efforts. Then, go through your marketing plan, determine when your events will take place and how much they will cost. That way, you will not be in danger of running out of money before you have implemented all of your plans. Be sure to factor in some money for unexpected expenses and unplanned marketing opportunities that may come your way.

Implement Your Strategies

Once your planning is done, it is time to begin your marketing efforts in earnest. Knowing when to implement strategies and who your primary target audience is will help you get the best results. You will see the results of your efforts in the form of increased public awareness, increased revenue, and a stronger online presence.