A Simple Restaurant Marketing Plan for 2021 & Beyond

There are new challenges every year. A lot of people think about what they did wrong in the last year and how to do better this year. But don’t worry, with a fresh start comes new opportunities that can change everything for your success! We want to help you make sure you’re set up for success in 2021 so come on over and let us know if you need any help with your marketing plan or anything else related to the restaurant industry.

We’re committed to giving you the information and tools you need for success. To that end, we’ve created a menu of marketing options and strategies, ranging from paid advertising to organic social media campaigns.

The word "marketing" can make people feel like they're being sold something. But marketing is really an investment in the future of your restaurant. When you invest wisely, you'll be able to grow and maintain success for years to come. Read on to see what a well-rounded marketing strategy looks like--and if it's right for your business.

You may think you don’t need a marketing plan, and have never created one in the past—so why start now?

The power of word-of-mouth is the marketing tool that can't be beat. And the local favorite around the corner has it in spades, with a customer base who will not only come back for more but also spread the news to all their friends and family. But what about those out-of-towners or new people constantly moving into the area? To them, they're just another restaurant with shabby décor.

Word of mouth is fantastic, but it can only take you so far. When your restaurant needs a little boost from the outside world, rely on more than just the possibility of a customer loving your food and telling their friends about it. Marketing plans are essential for scaling up or reopening after months of closure.

Prepare for success by crafting a perfectly imperfect marketing plan.(Done is better than perfect 8 days a week) Your year-long guide will help you in finding opportunities and events that are culturally relevant. It will also provide you with insight on customer behavior and trends, which can lead to better planning. A well planned strategy is the secret sauce to achieving your financial target- it's all about having a game plan before the game begins!

So, where do you start?

Before you get any ideas of a cheesy radio spot, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. See where your restaurant is currently at, and where it needs to go.

Walk inside a restaurant you love to go to and ask yourself "What makes this place special?" You'll probably be able to see why it is your favorite. A successful restaurant has a cohesive brand that includes everything from logo design, menu, and ambiance. To start building your own success story, work on your brand strategy first!

You want your first-time customers to feel comfortable in your restaurant. Make sure that the interior of your restaurant matches up with what you are trying to present.

You might not be planning on advertising or using social media, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid making a restaurant marketing plan. Some of your competitors who have followed this strategy are still running successful businesses after decades.

Have a mission statement:

A mission statement is the backbone of any restaurant. It encapsulates your "why." Why do you create food like this? Why does your service stand out? Why should people come to eat at your restaurant and be a part of this story? Without a strong mission, it will be difficult for everyone in the organization to work together effectively.

The problem with most mission statements is that they're filled with cliches and buzzwords. Instead, keep your mission statement short and sweet by boiling it down to what customers can expect when walking into your restaurant.

Identify Your Audience:

To get to know your customers, you should know what they want. If you want people coming in for lunch at your financial district hotspot or takeout by bars and venues late night, then you need to know their preferences. The more targeted your marketing is, the better chance of getting them in the door.

Researching your audience will give you an idea of what they want. Why not take a look at who walks through the door? What are they ordering, what are they wearing, and where do they go after leaving your building? This information can lead to knowing more about what each person is looking for. As this knowledge builds up over time, it becomes easier to know which customers you should focus on giving attention.

When you're trying to find your footing in the competitive restaurant industry, it's important that you don't blindly guess what kind of food or service might be best for your customers. Roger Fields, a former Certified Public Accountant turned restaurateur and best-selling author, knows that effective market research is essential.

At its heart, market research can help you identify who'll be attracted to your business before determining if there's a demand for the type of food you want to serve them. You can also use this information as guidance when choosing which marketing channels and campaigns will work best for your business. Market research also helps predict realistic average check amounts so that you know how much profit margin is available from each customer visit. Once this data has been gathered you can move forward with clarity on how using the right methods to market your restaurant will return a profit on your investment.

Find out what’s happening with your competitors:

You have 3 types of competitors:

Direct: Direct means those restaurants providing the same products as you, or in your neighborhood

Occasional: Occasional refers to restaurants with similar menus located in nearby locations who may be considered competition on occasion. And while it is possible they're not direct competition for most of the year--they could serve as inspiration too!

External: External opponents are restaurants with different menus and locations which could provide some competition but they should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis depending on their business model and how close they are to your area.

Your competitor analysis should also include how they are branding themselves on the internet and across social media. You can see what kind of promotions they're running by looking at their posts throughout the week, which will give you a great idea for your own business. If they have a lunch special on Wednesdays, that's invaluable information to know- and it could help inform your decision-making process!

What makes your place unique? And why is that important?

The first thing people will be eager to come back for when they stop in your restaurant is the food. Maybe it's the way you cook or serve them. It could also be that you take a bold approach like Dick's Last Resort, where the servers are intentionally rude and obnoxious!

With a customer base that is always looking for something new and exciting, it’s important to make sure your marketing offers something unique. Something like a first-time experience will attract an already loyal customer again and again.

Digital marketing: What to do

Your restaurant can't survive without a strong digital presence. But it's not just about having a website or social media channels- you need to be proactive and make sure your online presence is inviting and builds excitement. It's the perfect way for potential customers to get an inside look at what you have to offer, and see if it's right for them before they step out the door.


Creating a sleek website doesn't have to be difficult. With dozens of drag-and-drop templates and tools, you can create the perfect site for your restaurant or business with ease. Your website is an extension of your brand so it should be search engine optimized! The right SEO will help get customers in through the door by making sure Google and other search engines can find your site.

Let’s say you own a burger restaurant in Los Angeles, or more specifically, in Redondo Beach. When potential customers get a craving for burgers, they can search ‘burger takeout near me.’ They will receive the most relevant results thanks to Google collecting all the nearby restaurants and their websites and cross referencing it with their location.

Your SEO score is like a number that represents your restaurant. The higher the ranking, the more likely you are to appear at the top of Google searches and have people come and visit or place an online order for what you have to offer.

So, how do you boost your SEO?

Your restaurant's success relies on the information you provide. This includes your full address to help localize searches, page titles and meta descriptions that show customers what they can expect when they visit your location, and all of this is crucial for a successful Google search.

Do you want to improve your SEO score? You need a good keyword in your meta description, as well as the location of your business. Here is an example:

-Burger joint on East Houston & 1st Avenue, serving up the biggest burgers in the Lower East Side since 1999.

If you want to increase traffic on your website, but don't have time or the skills necessary to do it in-house, then you should consider hiring a marketing agency or freelancer to boost your online presence.

Social Media

Social media is arguably one of the best things to happen to small and independent businesses in recent years. It can put your restaurant in front of thousands of potential customers, but how you navigate the different channels and build an engaged audience is easier said than done. Likes, comments, and shares don't always equal customers in the door…


Facebook is the King when it comes to connecting with your local community since people are now spending more time on social networks than they do browsing through web pages or reading emails.

Not only can you find thousands of people who would be interested in your food on Facebook, but you can track how many people are seeing your posts and show them other things like videos, special offers, and events happening at your restaurant.

Think of Facebook as the key to building a long term relationship with your community, because each user has their name, email, and even cell phone number attached to their profile. This makes it incredibly easy to get these valuable pieces of information in exchange for a great offer from your restaurant (Call it a bribe), like a Buy One Get One Free offer or Free menu item, if you have the right systems in place.


There’s no doubt that the restaurant industry has been revolutionized by Instagram. This social media platform not only provides the perfect opportunity to showcase your creative drinks and dishes, but also offers key business tools such as online ordering, maps, and messenger apps that will make managing a business much easier. In fact, Facebook has already begun integrating Facebook Messenger and Instagram DM’s into one central inbox, making communication with your potential guests much easier. Our culture today is all about messaging over calling in, so adapting to this new trend will position you well for it’s increased use in the future.

Restaurants should be just as invested in their Instagram presence as they are with social media. It’s more than a marketing tactic; it’s an opportunity to create an inviting atmosphere that will attract new customers on the basis of visuals alone.

Build a Database...and leverage it!

All of the info you collect on your potential guests would be wasted if you simply collected it into a boring list like you see happening with most databases...Instead, you should develop a plan to funnel all of this valuable data into a central location where you can utilize email and text marketing to continue to build the relationship between your guests next visit.

The best method of reaching guests in 2021 is by utilizing text messaging since it has a 95-99% open rate...think about it, how many unread texts are in your phone right now vs. unread emails?

And, if you’re also taking things a step further and segmenting your database by demographics like people who are married, single, have kids vs. none, like to come in for lunch vs. dinner...you get the idea.. You can use these tools to invite them back in for a special offer that is perfectly relevant to them, where your well trained staff will have the opportunity to upsell them on more of the delicious food you serve.

It's no secret that incentivizing your customers with rewards is a surefire way to get them to come back time and again. Loyalty cards are an oldie but goodie, but taking your loyalty program digital gives you the opportunity to collect customer information and continuously advertise through text or email for pennies on the dollar.

Creating the right kind of content for social

The tone of voice you use in your content should be tailored to the audience. If high-end, sophisticated customers are what you’re after then show them the luxury of your restaurant. Is it time for a burger? Create videos that will make mouths water and stomachs growl!

The best way to get your food out there is by posting daily on Instagram and Facebook. But that's not enough. You need to provide extra content like recipes or videos of "how it's made." Share your cooking sessions live through Facebook and Instagram, host photography contests with prizes for the winners, share images your customers have taken to your Story - this is social media's new content-rich version of the old-fashioned review. There are many other methods of getting attention online that we outline in our Restaurant Marketing Made Simple videos like the one below.

Social media and technology have opened up a whole new world of marketing opportunities for restaurants, but it can be difficult to use them to their full potential. This presents an opportunity for restaurants - if restaurateurs know how best to take advantage of these platforms, they now have access to countless new customers at their fingertips.

Hopefully, this has helped you think bigger than simply “posting online” and hoping and praying people come in.

Whether it's a small diner, or a large chain of restaurants across the country, building segmented databases with trackable offers (so you can see your ROI) is what we do at Restaurant’s Secret Weapon. Contact us here: matt@restaurantssecretweapon.com or call us at 951-816-0181