It probably seems like there are a million things that need to happen for a successful restaurant launch. And that’s fairly true. In fact, I attended a panel discussion today called “Eat, Drink & Be Funded” for Dallas Startup Week, because one of those things is to ensure proper funding. Led by Cary Broussard (owner of Broussard Global Communications) as the facilitator, the panelists each spoke about the challenges of gaining funding as they planned to start up a new restaurant. Aaron Gross ended up buying an existing restaurant, Momo Italian Kitchen, while Veronica and Craig Bradley, owners of Vector Brewing, and Cynthia Nevels, owner of Soulgood food truck, both created their concepts from scratch. Regardless, proper funding heavily contributes to a successful launch from getting the right location to equipping and decorating the space to developing your brand identity.
To make it even more daunting, the National Restaurant Association says that 60% of restaurants will fail within the first three years in operation. One of the key factors in that success or failure will be effective and consistent marketing, and that starts with the marketing you do for your launch. Cynthia Nevels spoke eloquently about the importance of your story and being able to describe your ‘why’, which is at the heart of effective marketing. So, here we offer five key marketing tactics that will improve your odds for a successful launch:
1) Develop a target persona.
You need to carefully consider and define who the target audience is for your restaurant. Developing a ‘persona’ and full description of them will help you better understand who they are, their mindset and motivations as well as how they like to engage with the restaurant community. Are they reading blogs? What magazines and newspapers do they read and trust? What social media do they rely on for information? This will help inform your marketing plan and which marketing channels are likely to be the most effective for your restaurant.
2) Build a brand identity.
Your restaurant needs to have a strong reason for being. What makes you different and compelling to your target audience? Are you hoping to be the neighborhood gathering place? Or are all of your dishes made from locally sourced ingredients? Take your point of difference, whatever it is, and bring it to life with your restaurant name. You’ll then need a strong visual brand that aligns with the name and concept of your restaurant to be reflected in the logo, menu design, the restaurant décor and even the server uniforms.
3) Be social.
It’s important that you claim your social media handles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as soon as you have your restaurant name. You can also begin building excitement and interest by sharing content on these handles as soon as possible. From your construction, to menu testing and staff training, give your audience a peek into the backstory of what you are creating. You’re giving your future guests the chance to come on the journey with you, which will build ownership and familiarity before you’ve even opened.
4) Be a good neighbor.
As any good retail store manager will tell you, you need to follow the ‘golden rule.’ You must ‘own’ the one-mile radius around your location. You want your neighbors to have familiarity and preference for your restaurant. If you can earn the trust and support of your neighbors, you’ll likely have long-term loyal patrons. So, get out there and introduce yourself, distribute flyers, and ask them to share your social posts. You can even host a special neighborhood social hour event to introduce them to your restaurant before it opens to build their interest and loyalty upfront.
5) Host an intimate media sneak peek.
You’ve already identified the blogs, magazines and newspapers to which your target audience pays attention. Take the opportunity to host a small gathering to give these constituents and press a first look at the wonderful things you have to offer. If you can host it a few weeks in advance of your opening, it should allow enough time to generate some buzz for your opening. And you’ll have also built goodwill among some key influencers that will hopefully continue to cover your restaurant for years to come.
By utilizing these tactics, you’ll be setting your restaurant up for success and gaining your opening the attention that it needs. From there, it’s up to you to continue that success through your consistent and effective marketing efforts.