How to Attract New Business on a Budget

If you’re still establishing your restaurant in the community, it’s important to balance a savvy budget against a need for publicity. Luckily, there are a lot of creative ways to make a name for yourself without breaking the bank. Read on for inspiration about events and programs that engage customers without costing you a dime.

Establish a Media Presence

Insta, Tweets, Or The Book of Faces

The number of social media platforms seems infinite, but you’ll be most effective if you focus on these:

  • Facebook – Reaches a range of demographics, gets people involved with Facebook Live, and is essential for promoting live events—which we’ll talk more about in a bit.
  • Instagram – Capitalize on the visual format to create a recognizable aesthetic for your brand, do giveaways, and advertise promotions.
  • Snapchat – 73% of 18-24 year-olds reported using Snapchat in a national survey, so if you’re looking to draw in a younger crowd, post info, promos, and lifestyle images to your story regularly. 
  • Twitter –  A great resource for getting direct feedback from customers and establishing a brand personality (the wittier, the better). 

Respond to Concerns

Social media can be a double-edged sword when it comes to a business’s reputation. Yes, it increases the company’s visibility, but it also makes it easy for people to visibly complain after a negative interaction. It is absolutely vital to customer loyalty and the health of a small business to respond quickly and helpfully to online complaints. Monitor your Facebook and Yelp reviews and follow up with the customer. Offer a free dessert for their trouble and encourage them to give your business another chance. You want to win back a customer, but even if you can’t, your efforts will show people that you value your customers. 

Create a Narrative

Social media is more than a way to get your service out there. It allows you to create a narrative around your product that resonates with people and the more defined your narrative is, the more compelling it will be to customers. Talk about how your restaurant started and what your goals are. Figure out what your passion is and tailor your social content to reflect that. For example, a restaurant could be in search of creating the most exquisite creme brulee or a fun after-work ambiance. You could be dedicated to sourcing food locally, or using environmentally-friendly brands. Whatever your niche, commit to it and invite people to share it with you through social media.

Bar Trivia, Live Music & Sports

Want a space where everybody knows your name? Hosting events like live music and sports games is a great place to start. Because these events bring people with shared interests together, it builds camaraderie among patrons and creates an environment that people want to return to. Recruit local bands to play live shows or host bar trivia nights and rotate the topics to draw in a wider variety of people.

Promotions & Discounts

Happy Hour

Give people a reason to show up and the purchases will come naturally. Since restaurants that host happy hour find a 33% increase in their sales in comparison to those who don’t, this is a really easy way to create a fun culture and keep customers coming back. What’s more, people rarely attend an event like this on their own, so you’re drawing in friend groups, co-workers, and sports teams.

Loyalty Programs

Help customers feel like a part of the family with a loyalty program. With 54% of consumers saying they’re more inclined to purchase from a company with a loyalty program, it pays to show your customers a little love. Loyalty programs give your patrons a sense of investment: if you do well, they do well. Go beyond a typical punch card and offer surprise discounts for loyalty members. Give them an excuse to come in (sensing a theme?) and encourage them to branch out and find new favorites that only you provide. 

The Last Course

Defining a new brand can be difficult and include a significant amount of trial and error, but finding a rhythm and a point of connection with customers is one of the most gratifying experiences you’ll have as a new business owner. As you set the trajectory for your bar or restaurant, remember, people are drawn to fun, authenticity, and passion. The more you convey those things in your interactions with customers, the more they will connect with your brand.

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