Be Part of Local Events and Activities
Word of mouth is one of the best marketing strategies you can hope for, and there’s no better way to get it going than by becoming part of the local community.
Getting involved in community events and activities is a great way to gain loyal customers who are emotionally invested in your brand. It’s also a way to stay up to date on trends and customers’ shifting preferences, and it’s a great approach to networking and building long-lasting partnerships.
With some creativity and planning you can establish your restaurant as a familiar community brand. Here’s how you do it.
Mark Key Dates
Planning is key. Have a calendar where you mark recurring as well as sporadic events.
While acknowledging national holidays is important, being part of local events and happenings is more likely to get you closer to your community. For example, you can hold marketing campaigns or offer street-food tastings during exam weeks or the start of the academic year, if your restaurant is located nearby a university or school. If you are located near a concert hall or a local cultural center you could invite the attendees or even the musicians to eat at your restaurant after the performance. Strategically offer discounts or special menu items to attract those clients. The point is to be aware of your surroundings and study your neighbours’ activities.
Participate in Local Festivals and Fairs
Festivals and fairs, whether food-related or not, are a great opportunity to increase sales, spread brand awareness, and connect with your community. You want to show people that whenever their town is celebrating, your restaurant is celebrating too. Contact the festival organizers to see if you can participate by opening a food stand or food truck. If you can’t participate, hand out flyers with a special offer, directing clients to your tables, integrate the festival’s theme into your menu offerings and decoration.
Be a Sport
Many communities have strong sporting traditions. Especially if yours is a neighbourhood joint, organizing game nights or special events during important competitions like the NFL or the World Cup is one of the keys to becoming a community brand.
Other than offering sports fans the chance to bond over peanuts, beer, and good football, you can also offer a special menu or service during special sporting events, like marathons or cycling events.
Piggyback on Events Marketing
If you’re participating in a local event, the organizers will usually feature you in their advertising materials. Be sure your name appears on brochures and ads, that it is spelled correctly and that it includes the restaurant’s address. Local events are also a great opportunity to piggyback on targeted marketing. More and more people get notified about local events via social media. Set up GPS-targeted marketing campaigns to attract the event-goers to your restaurant.
Local events are not always about food, but that does not make them irrelevant to your business. A bookstore hosting a literary event might not be an obvious hook for restaurant customers. But imagine offering the bookstore manager to cook a demo of items from a cookbook they’re promoting, or to cater at the event. If you can’t find a way to be a part of the event, you can still sell sample sizes of your best dishes in the entrance to the event location, so long as it is legal.
Get in Touch With your Local Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce can prove a great help in building up your public relations. Start by registering, and telling them what you are willing to contribute.
For example, you can offer to host events, cater dinners or offer a meeting room for business associations or conferences. You can also ask to be put you in contact with local charities. They, in turn, can help you set up a food donation program, connect you to relevant feeding programs and provide you with necessary resources. Chamber of Commerce is also a great resource vis-à-vis schools and universities. They can help you set up apprenticeship programs for local schools. Besides getting you involved in the community, this also provides youths with free training and you with a fresh and motivated workforce.
Take an Initiative
This is your chance to get creative and offer your community members a memorable experience.
Hosting a charity event, for example, is a win-win. Partner up with a local charity organization and together with them and your staff come up with ways to offer your support. You could offer a space for the charity’s monthly board meetings, advertise that you will donate the profits from a designated dish or menu item to charity, or sponsor a charity event.
Get your chefs and cooks involved and organize a cooking class. Teach people how to make your dishes or invite members of your community to a tasting session to get their feedback on new menu items. Showing them their opinion matters to you is a sure way to get them to care about your brand. The next time they eat out they’re very likely to come by your restaurant to see if “their” dish made it to the menu.