By Nick Fosberg   |   February 20, 2017

If you’re like many bar or restaurant owners, you’re looking to grow your business.

What if there were a way to ensure your marketing dollars are well spent, and achieve actual results?

Lock in your regulars and ensure they have an experience worthy of sharing with all of their friends?

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Below, you will find a comprehensive guide to squeezing the absolute most out of your marketing dollars.

Solid tips, tricks, and principles that will lay a concrete foundation for the growth of your restaurant for years to come.

The trouble for many restaurant owners is they just don’t have the time to learn new strategies, principles, and game-plans. 9 out of 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees.

Someone has to actually run the business. And its incredibly stressful trying to juggle everything at once.
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Of course it makes sense to delegate where appropriate, and utilize your team to complete the tasks you don’t want to bother with

But it is important to understand the working parts of how to grow your restaurant.

Your business. Your livelihood.

This guide will help you put in the necessary effort to breathe life into your restaurant. To ensure it provides for your family and your employees’ families for years, decades, and beyond.

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How Do I Market To Customers Without Spending An Arm And A Leg!?

Digital marketing is the easiest, and most cost effective way to connect with the modern consumer in any industry, and even more-so in the restaurant industry.

There is an obvious trend toward using technology to deepen relationships with customers. The advantage of using digital marketing is its relative newness. Your competition is most likely clueless how to use it effectively. They may not even be using it at all.

Most restaurant owners feel like marketing is a waste of money, and it doesn’t drive results.

Studies show that 70% to 80% of people research a company online before visiting them, while only 25% of small businesses invest in online marketing. (Source)

Its simple. Those who capitalize on this new wave of opportunity will be the ones left standing, and those who remain stuck in their ways will not.

Much of growing a business is repetitive, and thankfully, formulaic. What you’ll read in this guide works because it follows the proven laws of business growth.

Three Proven Laws of Business Growth

If there is one thing I hope you take away from this guide, its that relationships are everything. In life, in business, and especially in entertaining your guests.

You are the beer after a long day. The date night after three weeks of no sleep for the couple with a newborn. The prom date for the nervous teenager trying to make a great impression.

The more you create a deeply fulfilling experience for your customers, the more they will return to see you, and spend their money with you.

More referrals, and a greater sense of accomplishment knowing that what you are doing is valuable.
A Simple Formula For GrowthThere are many tools that allow you to take advantage of this, and we’ll begin with driving traffic.

The King of Traffic: Facebook

There are various traffic sources, and with the shifting winds of the digital landscape, new opportunities arise monthly.

The most profitable way to getting new customers in your doors is using Facebook pay per click ads, where you can target people based on their interests, income, where they live, how much money they make, etc.

There are nearly 1.79 billion active monthly users and 1.18 billion people who log in to Facebook everyday.

Its where your customers are spending their valuable attention, and where you should focus a large portion of your efforts.
Facebook Like

You might be familiar with the Facebook ads manager, but what about “The Power Editor?”

This is Facebook advertising platform on steroids, and it’s revolutionized the way bar and restaurant owners market their business. It’s saving owners well over 10k-20k a year on advertising dollars.

In the power editor you can target people in your area based on gender, where they live, etc. You can also target by purchase behavior with their credit and debit cards. Meaning, if you want to target people who are buying beer, wine, liquor or food at other bars and restaurants, you can specifically target these people with your offers.

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This is totally revolutionary for bar and restaurant owners. But here’s another key component to this: You only pay when people click on your ads and offers. Meaning you can still brand your business with no cost to you if people don’t click. They will see your offers, they will see your brand, but if they don’t click you don’t pay.

I’m not talking just posting on Facebook, but paying for traffic. Facebook doesn’t give businesses exposure on Facebook anymore because they want you to pay, but the price is so cheap and the targeting is so precise, you’d be out of your mind not to pay for Facebook traffic.

Facebook itself does a great job on how to use the power editor to generate traffic. I highly recommend spending some time to implement this correctly.


Retargeting (or re-marketing/pixeling) is essentially placing a marketing focus on people who have already visited your website.

At its core, retargeting turns window shoppers into buyers.

How many times have you seen that item you were browsing pop up in a banner ad, or Facebook ad? That’s retargeting, and it is a highly effective way to drive sales.

Retargeting Stats

When someone sees your ad, they generally like to compare to other offers or see what else is out there.

That’s why its important to be top of mind, as well as front and center.

There are various ways to use retargeting, and you can see explosive results if you focus on marketing to people who have expressed interest in what you have.

As important as retargeting is, only 1 in 5 marketers have a dedicated budget for it.

Other Digital Traffic Sources

You can drive traffic from anywhere there is attention. However, its best to focus your marketing dollars where the most relevant attention is.

Here are a few other relevant sources of traffic that you may want to use to supplement your efforts.


Follow Bar Restaurant Success on Instagram

You don’t need to be an expert photographer to share compelling photos of your offerings, but it is important to take time and make sure the the pics are of high quality.

  • #hashtags will attract people to your posts, but they are generally not potential customers, and certainly not targeted to the people who will visit you.
  • Facebook ads also run on Instagram, so you can actually target customers on both platforms.
  • Utilize IG takeovers and IG swaps with local businesses and artists that will drive traffic for them as well as for you.
  • IG stories is MASSIVE (300 million daily active users as of the writing of this guide). Those who funnel their attention to creating content and getting users to share it will have the lion’s share of growth.


  • Snapchat is perhaps the very best storytelling platform in existence. IG stories is very similar, but Snapchat allows you to target people based on geographical location, while they are in that location.
  • You can use Snapchat to bring your competitor’s customers to you, over and over again.
  • For the 18-35 year old demographic, Snapchat is where they do most of their communicating. Many don’t even text anymore.
  • Use the relationships you’ve built to continue providing things like behind-the-scenes video, event coverage, and offers.


  • I don’t recommend spending much time, if any, on Twitter, but it is a place for conversation and social listening.
  • Go to and search for for keywords such as “happy hour” near:”san francisco” this will find people tweeting about happy hour who live in the bay area. Change the search terms to fit your area.
  • Don’t spam people, but be a part of the conversation. Tweets such as, “Have a great time!” or even recommending a place to visit other than your own (landmarks, events, etc.) will endear people to you for being a resource or friendly and not bothersome.

Blog Comments & Facebook Groups

  • Commenting on other blogs in a resourceful way and being part of a community can inspire interest in your bar or restaurant.
  • Find groups and blogs of clubs, organizations and people with common interests in your community, and spend time actually communicating with people.
  • This strategy won’t drive a TON of traffic, but when you put relationship building first, people will reciprocate.

Banner Ads

A banner ad is an ad displayed using an image or animation that links to the website of the advertiser.

They are a simple, yet important part of digital marketing, and have been around since the internet’s inception.

 The Internet’s First Banner Ad

Banner ads should grab your customer’s attention to either drive traffic to your website or get them to accept your offer or lead magnet. They are integral to your retargeting strategy.

People are highly visual, and this is why this form of advertising has survived this long. Because it still drives results.

Use banner ads to announce discounts & sales, drive people to your events, tout your superiority, or various other ways.

Marketing 101:

The central focus of successful marketing is to exclude everyone you don’t want to do business with, and only target those who want what you have to offer.

If you keep this at the center of your process, you’ll see much stronger results.

Ask yourself questions like:

Where do people who like to drink beer hang out?

Am I using my marketing dollars to blast the entire community in hopes that someone will bite?

What is something I can focus on right now, to get more people in my doors?
If you ask a high quality question, you will get a high quality answer. That’s why its important to refine, trim and grow your methodology and continually place your emphasis on things that actually have an impact.

Once you’ve found your groove in driving traffic, you’ll want to capture your customer’s information so they become loyal patrons who want to experience your establishment over and over.

The Almighty Lead Magnet

The lead magnet is an irresistible offer that provides value and benefits to your new prospect. In order to get that lead magnet, they must give you their full contact information in exchange for your offer.
You want their information so you can continue marketing to them so they come back and spend more money more often.

How much is a new customer worth to you if they come in once a week and you profit $20 every time?

The idea is to convert new prospects into paying customers, even at the expense of your profit margin, with the understanding that acquiring a paying customer will deliver massive profits.

In order to do this, you need to have an offer that is far superior to what your competition has.

What Makes a Good Lead Magnet

The more complex the lead magnet, the lower your chances of converting your leads into a sale. It needs to be something that provides immediate value.

This is great, because its one of the few areas where you can put relatively minimal effort into creating something that creates HUGE results.

Make your lead magnet something that solves a specific problem, something that speaks directly to your customers. This is where it helps to have a customer avatar  (an overview of who your ideal customer is) or at least a solid understanding of what your target market wants.

A Few Lead Magnet Do’s & Dont’s

  • DO make your lead magnet easily and quickly usable.
  • DO make sure it is actually valuable and unique enough to pique interest.
  • DON’T go overboard in giving them access to something that requires ample work on their part.
  • DON’T be afraid to experiment and try discounts, coupons, and even free offers to bring new leads in.

Examples of Successful Lead Magnet Offers

  • FREE video of our master chef creating our signature dish.
  • Sign up and get a FREE entree with a drink order
  • Sign up and get a ticket to private cooking demonstration
  • Become a part of our Exclusive Taster’s Club, where you come in monthly to try our new dishes and give feedback!
  • Get the recipe of our signature sauce.


These are just scratching the surface. You can have them sign up for a meet and greet with this weekend’s band, a VIP pass that gets them special access to exclusive events, and so much more.

The idea is to make them feel how grateful you are for their potential business. In the mind of the consumer, if you’ve gone this far before they’ve even spent a DIME with you, how far will you go once they become a regular?

What Do I Do With Customer Information Once I Get It?

Your customers have entrusted you with their information, so the last thing you want to do is betray that trust and begin spamming them with offers. Sure, you may get a large number of people who drop in, but the goal here is to create a lifelong fan of your restaurant, and keep them coming back.

To do this, you need content.

The wonderful thing about the digital revolution is creating content is incredibly simple to do. You have a smartphone, you have a camera, and you have an internet connection.

 Short, funny videos are shared and consumed all the time along with quick videos on how to make a recipe. Some of these take a bit of editing, but you can create an Instagram account in a few minutes and begin sharing the happenings in your restaurant with everyone who is on your email list or following you on social media.

The great thing is content doesn’t have to be video, it doesn’t have to be blogging, all it has to be is a simple conversation. Some nugget of value that piques your customer’s interest.

Email Marketing

 If you don’t have an email list, start building one now. Begin using Facebook to target potential consumers in your area, give them a super valuable lead magnet, and keep their email so you can continue the conversation through email.

Email is still the king of marketing, with $38 ROI for every $1 spent. (Source)

Sure, social media is a wonderful avenue for providing value, but due to Facebook limiting organic views on business pages, your main avenue for providing value direct to your customers will be email.

72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% of people who prefer social media. (Source)

Its clear that people still view email as more personal, and who can blame them? Email is their own personal platform, its not littered with other friends and distractions the way social media is.

Ideas for Engaging Email Content

Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a social media juggernaut, abides by the axiom Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which is required reading for any marketer wanting to understand how brands big and small use social media to deepen their customer relationships.

Its about providing value first, and creating an environment where your customer becomes almost guilted into doing business with you. But its more than that. Its being the resource. Its being the place they think of when they want to enjoy a meal or hang out with friends. You do that through staying consistently engaged, and having conversations.

You can “jab” by sending emails about the upcoming bowl game (assuming the team in your area made it to the bowl), sending emails with “behind the scenes” videos of your chef cooking up their favorite meal, or literally anything that is creatively unique and valuable to your customers.
You want to stay top of mind, and email is a great place for that. Hit them with offers, and keep them coming in and spreading the word of how great your establishment is.

Direct Mail

Another common misconception in marketing is that direct mail is dead. While many people throw away direct mail, if its done right, people will hold on to it. Coupons in plain view, special offers that are limited to a certain number of people, etc.

Personally, I don’t open direct mail, unless it comes from a restaurant, or something I see as immediately valuable. And that’s not just for researching how to provide more value in my writing. I’ve been doing this for years. You never know when that coupon may come in handy for a “buy one get one free” entree.

Handwritten, personal letters can be a great way to stay engaged with your customers. When is the last time you received one of those? Its about doing the things that make your customers feel special and letting them know you are grateful for them.


Geolocation is going to become incredibly huge in the coming years. Many of the places I visit send me a notification as soon as I enter their doors, and I get texts from my local sports bar quite frequently letting me know about happy hour and other events.

While it may seem intrusive, it is becoming for more common for customers to accept and even look forward to these notifications.

There are a few directions you can go here, and in order to use geolocation for notifications you would need to have an app (which is not as expensive as you would think).

Texting can be done for pennies per text, and new platforms are emerging to make this much easier.

Final Thoughts

Although this is the Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing, don’t be afraid to experiment, create new strategies, and implement things that make sense.

Each restaurant is different. What works for you personally may not work for Joe’s Bar & Grill down the street.

Also realize that it can be overwhelming to keep tabs on the moving parts of your marketing machine, but as long as you’re implementing the core mechanics, you will attract new customers, convert them to sales, and keep them dining with you for years to come.

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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