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5 Innovative Restaurant Advertising Methods for 2021

Austin Chegini
6 Jan 2021

Nearly all businesses have struggled with the uncertainty of 2020. Restaurants and other customer-facing industries have taken an incredibly hard hit. Although life is expected to slowly return to normal throughout 2021, the service industry will still face challenges. 

You need to take a forward-thinking approach to restaurant advertising if you want to succeed in 2021. Many people will go back to their old routines, but some will likely keep their habits from this year. For example, statistics show that takeout and food delivery demand will not decrease all that much.

On top of this, these traditional advertising strategies may no longer work over the next year:

  • Gift cards: While these cards are excellent for bringing in new guests, they do not work well if you have seating restrictions. Customers who order delivery usually choose third-party apps instead of calling the restaurant directly.
  • Billboards & transit ads: Fewer people are driving or taking mass transit. Even when they do, they are not stopping to eat at restaurants. However, this form of restaurant advertising will still be good if you are Quick Service Restaurant.
  • Door hangers: Since people are still hesitant to touch surfaces, consumers will likely see door hangers unfavorably and toss them in the trash.

Advertising ideas to try in 2021

Restaurant advertising needs to keep up with consumer trends. While you should certainly continue using traditional methods like direct mail and commercials, allocate some resources to these ideas.

Sign Up for HARO to get free press coverage

Have you ever read a news article and saw a comment from an industry insider? If so, the journalist likely used a tool called Help A Reporter Out to get comments from the public. 

HARO is a website that connects you with reporters who need industry insight. They tell you the topic of their story, and you reply with some ideas that could complement the article. In most cases, the journalist will include an excerpt from you and credit you/your business. 

The service is a completely free way of getting your restaurant’s name in front of countless people. Even large, international media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Reuters turn to HARO, exposing your brand to the world.

Sponsor local streamers

As people continue to stay indoors, they will consume more and more online content. TikTok, an app mostly used by teenagers in 2019, exploded in popularity during 2020 because of the pandemic. Likewise, live streaming is entering the forefront, with even popular politicians partaking in online gaming and cooking streams.

Live streaming is not all that different from the classic television talk show. Hosts sit in front of a camera and do something while speaking to their viewers. Classic live streaming content focuses on playing video games, offering social commentary, creating handicraft and art, and more. 

Restaurants can grow their brand awareness and boost leads by partnering with these streamers. Some sponsorship ideas include:

  • Giving them free food to review
  • Buying ad space on their stream overlay
  • Giving away discounts to their watchers

To start, follow these tips:

  • Go local: Unless you are a national chain, find an influencer who lives near you or talks about local happenings. 
  • Think about demographics: Ask the streamer about their audience to ensure they fit your target persona and are old enough to order food.
  • Consider the cost: Pricing will vary, so focus on quality leads instead of large followings.
  • Have brand guidelines: Make sure the streamer does not say or do anything when representing your restaurant that can harm your reputation.

Offer unique weekly “drops”

In the fashion and retail world, “product drops” are all the rage. In short, a drop is a limited-supply offer that focuses solely on building hype. Retailers and brands often create a special edition product and sell only a few hundred in a short amount of time. For example, Supreme sold out of a limited edition suitcase in only 16 seconds.

Using these limited-time offers at your restaurant can help increase awareness and boost demand for your food. Customers like trying unique dishes, especially when there is plenty of excitement and limited supply. Just think about the huge demand and long lines after the announcement of the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich.

You can supplement your restaurant advertising campaigns with a weekly limited-time offer. First, think of some new menu items that are different from typical offerings in your area. Next, create a calendar and chart out each run of the new product. 

Finally, build excitement for the offer on social media and other channels. You should focus on email marketing, Instagram posts/stories, and paid social ads. 

Building this hype is the most crucial step. You should follow a drip marketing strategy to inform customers of the offer and then announce when it is available. For example, a few days before releasing the new meal, let your customers know something special is coming. Keep it a mystery but leave clues to what it could be. 

24 hours before release, share another clue about it and say when it will be available. Upon release, give a final update and say what your weekly meal is and where to get it. 

Start an online feud with a local restaurant

Brands are increasingly showing off their personalities on social media. They act strange, post weird jokes, and sometimes get into feuds with competitors. Consider how IHOP critiqued McDonald’s for newly offering breakfast all day, something IHOP has always done.

Most of these brand wars are harmless. While each company has to weather some light criticism, they get tons of free press coverage. More importantly, they help establish human connections with users. 

In 2021, every restaurant needs all the help it can get. If you have a local competitor, contact them and see if you can start a fun online feud. Both businesses can increase online engagement within the community, and you will be showing unity during tough times. In the end, you can call a truce and even promote your competition, much like Burger King did in Europe.

Reward local businesses with free meals and treats

How involved are you in the community? Survey data shows that consumers want to patronise local businesses that are involved and give back. 

While you should certainly contribute to charitable organisations, do not forget about other hard-hit businesses. These people have been fighting hard throughout 2020, and offering them a free “pick me up” will certainly boost spirits. At the same time, it will improve your restaurant’s reputation in the area. 

Every so often, choose a local business to reward. Depending on the food you provide, you can cater lunch, drop off free coffee, or give them a supply of fresh baked goods. Make sure to feature the business on your social channels, and be sure to make the post all about them. 

If you do this correctly, the business and employees will feel grateful and give your company a shoutout on their social channels.