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8 Marketing Mistakes That Undermine Restaurant Success.

Intelligent and well thought out marketing is integral to the success of every restaurant. However, because most restaurant businesses are operations heavy and all-consuming, most restaurant owners focus their energies on day to day operations, rather than growth strategies and marketing.

Unfortunately, a lack of investment in marketing is a sure-fire way to sabotage and potentially create troubled waters for your restaurant in the long run. With growing competition, Brexit uncertainties, new openings stealing attention away from your restaurant and increasingly demanding diners, an effective marketing strategy is the difference between success and failure.

Merely having a strategy for marketing your restaurant will not increase your revenues. If marketing is not strategically and creatively executed, it will end up becoming an expense that drains cash from the business, rather than an investment, that creates growth.

In this brief article, we explore eight key reasons why marketing often fails to drive growth for restaurants.

1. Viewing Marketing As An Expense, Rather Than An Investment

For marketing to make an impact on the success of your restaurant, you’re going to have to allocate funds to support it. One of the significant marketing mistakes restaurant owners make is not assigning a realistic budget for EFFECTIVE marketing, because they view it as an expense, rather than an investment.

Organic marketing and word of mouth can only take you so far and unless you delegate the marketing operations to professionals with restaurant experience and an understanding of the lifestyle and psychology of the diners you want to attract, you risk merely exhausting yourself and your budget in the wrong direction.

2. You’re Marketing An Undifferentiated Restaurant

A restaurant that lacks differentiation, has a poorly thought out concept or that doesn’t deliver a unique experience will weaken even the best of marketing campaigns. Diners need to be told why they should spend their hard-earned money with you and not one of your competitors – and good marketing and PR needs to answer that question very well, by seducing them with your restaurant’s UNIQUE brand story.

In the current competitive landscape, that story needs to be about more than just good, beautifully presented food. Failure to create a differentiated experience that ties together your vision, menu, décor, service and ambience is one of the key reasons why marketing campaigns fail to deliver a long-term return on investment.

With a strong concept, every marketing campaign is underpinned by a powerful message, providing prospective diners with a unified and differentiated experience that appeals to them on an emotional and rational level, that they can buy into.

3. Ineffective Websites

Restaurant websites are not just “nice to have”; they are crucial when it comes to making your marketing investment convert into increased revenues.  It’s alarming how many restaurants underestimate the importance of a professionally designed website, that encompasses stunning photography, videography, a powerful brand narrative and a conversions driven user journey.   Whatever type of marketing activity you invest in, be it leafletting, social media, SEO or even word of mouth, your website is THE FILTER that will convert a diner’s interest into a booking.

Your website should be unique and bespoke, evoke the uniqueness of your restaurant and give guests a real sense of the experience that you will deliver if they walk through your doors – and off the shelf websites and templates fail to deliver on this front.

Be sure to partner with a reputed restaurant website design agency that has previous experience with restaurants and is not only creatively brilliant but understands how a website needs to integrate with the rest of your marketing strategy and convert diner interest into enquiries or bookings.

4. Not Building A Customer Database

If you’re not building a customer database then you’re losing out on two fronts. Firstly, you’re not getting a detailed insight into you diners’ buying preferences and secondly you’re losing out on the ability to re-market to them.

Marketing budgets should not just be spent to woo first time diners.  They should be invested in systems that maximise the lifetime value of each diner so that you convert them into a loyal, repeat customer that keeps coming back and telling others about your restaurant.

Rather than sending out unsolicited communication, ask diners how they would prefer to be communicated with, and engage them instead of simply talking to them. Identify the best way to reach your diners and then plan out customer marketing journeys and commit to staying connected and keeping them coming back.

5. Not Evolving Your Restaurant’s Offer

A big element of repeat dining out is linked to “newness”, people are always in search of the latest place to eat and in most cities, there is no dearth of new openings. 

For your marketing to be effective and for your restaurant to maintain a front of mind position with new customers and people you want to convert into repeat diners,  you need to continually evolve your offering and bring a set of new experiences into the fold, which align with your restaurant’s core brand and proposition. 

A failure to do this will not only let your marketing stagnate, it will also lead to your loyal diners seeking out alternative options that are better at offering them new, exciting experiences.

6. Discounting – Don’t Do It!

The vast majority of independent restaurants think that discounts are a great way to boost sales and attract new diners, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The sad fact is that long term discounts can seriously deteriorate a brand and the way guests perceive your restaurant and will only serve to attract bargain hunters, not long term, loyal, profit maximising customers.

A restaurant should strive to be known as a great experience, of which unique delicious food is a part, not the venue with the best discount. Diners who select a restaurant because of a discount are looking for a bargain, not quality. Rather than discounting as a basis for your marketing (aside from at the time of opening), we suggest promoting added value, this could be a complimentary item on your menu, a cocktail or dessert that is unique to repeat diners etc.  Not only does this re-enforce the brand position of your restaurant, it also keeps your profit margins healthy.

7. Not Segmenting Your Market

Marketing with a “one size fits all” message is a sure-fire way of short circuiting your success.   Before executing any kind of marketing (or deciding on your restaurant’s concept for that matter) you need to evaluate who your most profitable diner segments are and create detailed personas around their preferences and lifestyles.

A marketing campaign gets much more powerful when it is empowered with messages and experiences that resonate with your target market.  Focussing on these individual markets will work much better than casting a wide net and hoping it captures multiple audience segments.

8. Overlooking Strategic Partnerships

There are many opportunities for strategic partnerships between local businesses and restaurants that don’t seek these out are missing great chances for creating sales and profits. For example, sponsoring a local sports team can be beneficial to your restaurant as well as the team will endorse the restaurant heavily, meaning family members and friends of the players are likely to patron the business. In many instances, partnering with another business (that has the kind of customers you want to attract) means splitting the cost of marketing and reaching a larger audience together.

For more information on how to create a marketing strategy that will work for your restaurant, feel free to contact us at or on 020 7993 4477.  We will be happy to give you a complimentary 15-minute marketing consultation, tailored to your restaurant.

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