By Nick Fosberg   |   March 15, 2016

For the last 6 years of being a marketing junkie, I’ve learned from a lot of different experts. Through books, $2,000-$5,000 courses, seminars, & $10,000 one on one coaching days.

From learning from all these different mentors and experts, going through my own trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t within the bar and restaurant business, I’ve completely changed my mindset on how to be successful in this industry.

Here’s 8 Restaurant Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned… And Yes, These Apply To Bars, Nightclubs, Pizza Parlors, Etc.


Lesson 1 – Must Bring The New

Your most loyal customers get tired of the same old food items, the same specials, and the same promotions. You must be able to change and bring new ideas to the table. You don’t want to bore them or they’ll start looking elsewhere.

This is true for attracting new customers as well. The more new things you have going on, the better your chances are at attracting new customers. Most bars and restaurants in a given area are all pretty much doing the same things. Come up with something totally new, different, unique, and fun that will get people to leave their favorite go-to place and check you out.

No, it’s not easy to come up with new promotions all the time. Business, in general, is not easy. But if you put your mind to it and ask the right questions from staff and customers, it actually becomes pretty easy.

One thing I will point out, let’s say for example you have a taco Tuesday going and it’s packed and it’s always packed. Do you change that to something new? Hell no. But you can maybe start featuring other recipes of tacos. You can maybe start trying multiple salsas.

Lesson 2 – Focus On The First Time Sale & Die

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know my go-to marketing strategy is capturing leads, capturing people’s information for offers and giveaways. I do this with what I call a “Lead Magnet.”

A lead magnet is a valuable offer that gets someone to hand over their information in exchange for your valuable offer. My lead magnets are NOT to make any money on the front end. It’s about acquiring new customers at a breakeven standpoint, getting them in the door, giving them the best experience I possibly can, and then banking on their great experience and my follow-up marketing to bring them back.

Some owners understand that loss leaders or breakeven offers can get new customers in the door, but what they lack is a follow-up system that will turn those new customers into a loyal customer who could spend $3,000-$5,000 or more per year with you. It’s critical that when you focus on the front end to acquire new customers, you have an automated system in place to build instant trust and credibility with them

The bottom line is if you focus your growth on making money on the front end, you’re going to struggle.

The front end is all about getting a customer, not about making money from that customer. The front end takes care of your acquisition costs, while your profit is on the back end. If you take your eye off the front end, your business will struggle.

Lesson 3 – Lesson #2 Determines The Speed & Size Of Your Growth & Success

If your bar or restaurant is stuck, not growing, and you want the fastest path to success, here’s how to make that happen.

In lesson two, I talked about the fastest way to acquire customers and that’s to out-beat your competition’s offers with breakeven offers or even going negative. Then betting on the fact you can turn them into a loyal repeat customer.

If you know your most loyal customer comes into your bar, 5 days a week, and spends $20 with you each time, that’s a $5,200-a-year customer. How much are you willing to spend to get that $5,200 a year customer? $5? $100? $500? I’d spend $1,000!

So if you can outspend your competition in GREAT, targeted advertising, with the right new customer acquisition strategies, your speed of success and growth is FAST! Keep in mind, you must have a plan in place to recoup how much you spend, if not, you’ll lose your ass!

What I do with all my clients is we go AGGRESSIVE on acquiring customers, we outspend the competition, we make more valuable offers than the competition, and then for them to get those offers, they are placed in a follow-up system that is designed to turn that new customer into a lifer.

Lesson 4 – Always Have A Big Ticket Sale

When I was a struggling bar owner, this lesson is what brought me the fastest growth in my income, which was only possible with lesson #2, lead capture and being aggressive with my offers.

Lesson 4 is to make sure you create ways to sell $500-$1,000, $1,500 or more packages. What do I mean? Group events and party packages. Why focus all your marketing dollars and energy trying to get one or two or four people in the door when you can market party packages for groups of 20-50 or even 100 or more.

Over the last 6-7 years, I’ve held over 100 benefits and retirement parties of 100 or more. Some which brought 300 or more people in the door over a 4-5 hour time period, resulting in thousands in extra sales and hundreds of new customers.

If you’ve had parties or events at your bar or restaurant, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So you should make it a priority to have a way to consistently book parties and events. If you’re doing a birthday offer to customers, screw the free meal! Even if it’s steak and lobster!

Lesson 5 – The More You Give, The More You Receive

Business isn’t just about putting money in your pocket. Business is about serving others. I’d say most restaurant owners get into the business with the mindset of serving others and taking care of others. But I wouldn’t say most bar owners get into the business with that mindset. I’ve met and talked to many of them.

They got into the business because it sounded fun, easy, etc. Then, they are ones at their bar drinking their product with their friends. Not a good recipe for a successful business.

You have to focus on the customers more than anything else and give back to those who give you the most business – loyalty programs are perfect ways to do this.

You need to also focus on helping out charity organizations. What can you do for others to help them make more money? What can you do for other businesses in your area to get more customers? Reach out to some businesses you know and say, “Hey what kind of offer or deal can I offer my customers to do business with you? I’d like to bring you some business and I’d love to give my loyal customers incentives for doing business with me.

That’s free marketing for this business owner and if he’s smart, he’ll focus on Lesson #2 with his offer.

What do you think this business owner is going to think of you? What do you think the charity organization is going to think of you for WANTING to help them? And what do you think the community is going to think of you for helping this charity?

Lesson 6 – Test & Measure

When you’re marketing your business, figure out what offers work better than others and measure the results. Do you get more people taking action when you do a percentage off on the entire tab? Or do you get a better response when you say spend $25 and get $5 back? Or do you get better results when you say come in with a group of 4 and get 2 free appetizers?

Test different marketing medias. Do you get more offers redeemed through Facebook? Or do you get more through the newspaper?

You must track your marketing and measure what’s working and what isn’t. Whatever is LOSING you money, you must STOP. Or at the very least, test a new offer to see if that works. But if you keep losing at the same thing over and over, you’re in for a long frustrating life in this business.

Once you know what works and what doesn’t, your stress levels drop dramatically & your income soars.

Lesson 7 – Know The Difference
In Tactics & Strategy
Then Focus On Strategy!

There’s a bunch of different ways you do the same strategy, which these different ways are called tactics. Example, if your strategy is to try building up your wing night on Wednesdays, you can target men and only men with direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

However, as the business owner who wants GROWTH, it’s your job to study, learn, and master STRATEGY. Not to only master the tactics. Too many owners focus on the tactics within their business and it’s what drives them insane and out of business because they lose focus on strategy.

Example, it makes a lot more sense to pay someone to stay up to date on social media tactics because it’s ALWAYS changing. With you owning a bar or a restaurant and all the jobs you have to do your overlook, it doesn’t make sense for you to try to learn 10 different marketing strategies that are changing on a monthly basis. Instead, hire that out to a manager or consultant and focus on what you do best – providing a great experience to your customers!

Lesson 8 – Advertising Isn’t
About Looks & Winning Awards

Lesson #8 is critical to all the other lessons here. So many owners focus on advertising their specials. Slap on a logo, an image of the special or promotion, let them know the day and price, “like us on Facebook” logo.

This is BAD advertising because it’s what everyone else does in your area. You don’t stand a chance to stand out in the crowded marketplace, and there is no incentive or urge to get your customer to do business with you.

Advertising has one sole purpose and that is to make a sale. And to make that sale, you must persuade them on why your offer or promotion will BENEFIT them, either with value or with experience.

Bottom line is if your marketing doesn’t persuade customers to do business with you, if you can’t convey reasons to why they should do business with you over the competition, your marketing dollars don’t stand a chance.

If you have any of your own restaurant and bar marketing lessons you’d like to share, please comment below.

Nick Fosberg

Nick Fosberg is known as one of the highest paid, marketing and promotional consultants in the bar & restaurant industry and he owns 2 bar / restaurants in the Chicagoland area. He's famous for creating some of the highest grossing digital marketing promotions in the history of the bar & restaurant business..... without spending a penny on marketing. All done through e-mail & Facebook posts. 

Click here to get a free copy of my latest book.

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