10 Tricks To Drive Brand Awareness For Your Restaurant

Nobody likes dirty tricks, but the clean kind are another matter. Think about it. People pay good money to go to a magic show — hoping to be fooled. If that doesn’t happen and they can see how the magician did the trick, they aren’t happy.

That’s something to consider the next time you’re trying to get customers in the door. Customers are often happy to be “tricked” to get in the door and realize it’s all in good fun. What do I mean? Well, if you’re looking for strategies to bring more customers into your business, you might want to try a few of these ideas. These ideas are aimed at my fellow restaurant owners and executives — but really, you could refashion many of these to bring just about anybody into any business.

Contests: Everyone loves contests, and you don’t have to give away expensive prizes that destroy your bottom line. For instance, if you own a deli, you could ask your customers to vote on the name of your next sandwich. But, sure, you could also have a contest in which you do give away some cool prizes. That can get complicated with the public and the law, though, so if you do that, you should probably hire an attorney who specializes in sweepstakes and contests.

Limited-Time Offers: I believe every restaurant should be doing this. People may love your menu, but almost everyone loves variety as well. You can’t add every new item to the menu permanently. Do this enough, and someday you’ll sell a thousand items — and if you have fan favorites, people can get mad when you get rid of them. But the limited-time offer (LTO) can get your customers’ attention — and occasionally even the media will report on something if you offer a really interesting or whacky product.

National ‘Whatever’ Month: There’s generally a national month for just about every food … and social media plays a critical role in spreading the word. May is my favorite: National Hamburger Month. In fact, we celebrated with our customers during the entire month of May this year with 31 days of deals. October is National Pizza Month. July is Baked Beans Month. Well, you get the idea. If you sell a food — or a product or service — there may be a national month, day or week associated with whatever you’re selling. Learn what it is and use that to leverage your marketing. People may not mark these “holidays” on their calendar, but you can — and then offer deals associated with them. Trust me, you can have a lot of fun with this.

Big Volumes Of Food: You can never go wrong with offering your customers a stack of endless pancakes like IHOP did, and a few years ago, a restaurant in Las Vegas got a lot of headlines for selling a burger that was 19,900 calories. Clogging your guests’ arteries may not be the most sensible thing to do, but there’s no doubt that those outlandish offerings do get people talking — and presumably dropping by.

Eating Competitions: This can be an entertaining way to bring people in the door. But this is the one item on the list that I really wouldn’t encourage unless you have genuine competitive eaters showing up at your doors — with spectators to watch. People sometimes get ill from these things. In fact, some people have died.

But you could still have competitions where people aren’t consuming great quantities of food all at once. Maybe you can have people eat blindfolded and then ask them to guess what they’re eating. The world’s slowest eating competition, anyone? Or maybe you mix several of your entrees together, put them in a blender and see if customers will dare to eat what’s on the menu. There’s probably a way to reframe eating competitions so the average person can indulge, have fun and walk away without any problems.

Spicy Foods: Add spice, and you could add revenue. According to Kalsec (via QSR), a flavoring company, consumers’ interest in hot and spicy ingredients has been growing for 10 years now. In 2016, the company reported that 18,000 new hot and spicy products were introduced; in 2017, 22,000 new products debuted.

Jumping On A Trend: Bring spices, bacon, avocado, almond butter, ethnic foods or regional favorites to one of your menu items, and the public could praise you. If you include whatever the talk of the day is with one of your restaurant entrees, you’re probably going to get more foot traffic into your doors (yes, even if you sell cricket-infused milkshakes like we did).

Free Food: People love something for nothing. It’s always a classic. If you offer something free that doesn’t cost you too much, you’ll likely get enough people coming in who will buy plenty of everything else so you won’t lose money on the deal.

Partnering With Another Food Brand: Sometimes the food pairings work and stick. Many restaurants feature milkshakes with Oreos in them, for instance. If you find another popular brand to work with, you may get new fans dropping by to see your latest creation.

Just Being Different: Some restaurants have tried robot waiters. Others go with the tried-and-true method of remodeling their establishment — and sometimes that can get new people in the door or guests who haven’t dropped by in a long while.

The point is that you can always be trying something new. It can help ensure that your business doesn’t get complacent, and for the fence-sitters who sometimes drop by and sometimes don’t, you’ll give them a good reason to come on over. Otherwise, you may find that people are playing dirty tricks on you. Of all the bad tricks there are, no business owner wants to see a customer disappear.