We think it’s fair to say that times are tough for most restaurants right now. The squeeze from all sides – business rates hikes, mandatory wage increases, staff shortages, ingredients costs soaring and many more factors mean that the bottom line is being hit from every side, while the realisation that the great British public don’t a. have infinite capacity for going out to eat and b. have more choice than they’ve ever had so can be as fickle as they like, means that income is not such a certain thing after all. It’s across this sea of uncertainty that operators have to chart as steady a course as possible, and where effective restaurant marketing can provide the outline of a map to steer by.

Being such a broad church and possessed of such visible capability to be brilliantly creative or tacky in the extreme, marketing has very mixed reputation, especially where it comes to restaurant marketing. As with most things, getting it right is all about the mix. In essence, marketing is packaging up something that you have and offering it to people in a compelling way so that they take you upon the offer. 2-4-1’s, BOGOF’s, mid-week meat-up’s and Sunday Fundays all crowd into view here and of course they’re a part of the mix where needed but these deep-discounting tricks can only take you so far. To maintain that vital bottom line, restaurant marketing has to give value but not the family silver every day of the week. It’s striking the balance between compelling and being of genuine value to the restaurant as a sales driver which exercises the minds of most marketeers and can put the fear of all that’s holy into the most staunch ops director. Once that balance has been struck, how do you get it out there? The mix comes into play here too with tactile campaigns, third party booking sites, organic and paid social media and the rest of the raft of communications methods out there. A pop-up in a London bus, live-streamed to Facebook to show off your locally-sourced produce and for-the-people ethos perhaps? More likely it will be a mix of in-restaurant collateral in the form of flyers and postcards, combined with placement on your website, 3rd party sites and a sustained social media campaign to trail, push and get your offer talked about.

If it sounds simple, it’s because when it works, it is. When you have a restaurant which provides compelling reasons to visit in the first place, marketing is about fine-tuning that message and then selecting the best route to where, thanks to your meticulously-kept customer records and research, you already know your customers are. It gets less simple when you don’t have a clear idea of why people dine with you or why you want them to either – surprisingly common problems – and also where restaurant marketing can descend into a mess of flyering, random tweets and cut-price offers which erode not just the GP but also customer confidence, the start of s spiral. Getting it right means knowing your customer and yourself, something more true in this data-rich environment of 2018 – marketer, market thyself.