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Independent Restaurant Marketing – 3 Ways To Compete With The Big Boys

Restaurant Marketing With The Big BoysBig chain restaurants dominate the mass market when it comes to advertising – a fact of life that can sometimes make it difficult for smaller independent operations to be heard among all the songs about baby back ribs.  Launching a restaurant marketing campaign for an independent means less money to spend and more to lose if the campaign doesn’t drive more business.

That means a successful marketing campaign has to stand out to be effective.  Independents can’t rely on constant coverage through big media outlets, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage.  Some tips on how to make your restaurant’s marketing campaign, no matter how small, a success:

Be controversial. An edgy advertising campaign is a great way to tell customers you’re different than those corporate chains, and many controversial ad campaigns have the added advantage of drawing local media coverage, which spreads your message for free.  Of course, the line between edgy and over the top is very thin, so proceed with caution.  You don’t want to find yourself having to defend something your advertising said that others found offensive.

Use several channels. Diversify the places you advertise.  Supplement traditional channels like newspapers, flyers, and billboards with newer channels like email, social media, and websites.

Create a culture around your message. So your customer reads an edgy, funny message that draws him or her to your restaurant.  They’re expecting something fun and maybe even a little hip.  Instead, they experience the same thing they get in every other mom and pop burger joint.  They go home disappointed and probably not very enthusiastic about coming back.

The most successful marketing campaign has complete harmony between the image that’s projected and the one your customer actually experiences in your restaurant.  Luckily for you, this is precisely why you have an advantage over the big chains in your area: you can make your restaurant’s culture unique and inviting in a way chains simply can’t.  They’re shooting for the lowest common denominator.  You can offer so much more.

Of course, creating a culture your customer will find enticing takes some real effort.  You have to hire staff that buy into the culture you want to create.  You have to train that staff.  You have to create and design a menu.  And you have to tie all that in to your marketing campaign.

The good news is that if you can build a successful image and get your customers to buy into that image through a smart marketing campaign, you’ll be able to beat the pants off your local chain restaurant.  In the end, people value unique brands that have a clear identity.  Your ability to create that identity is the key to your success.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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