How to Make a Marketing Plan for a Restaurant: 8 Key Steps

May 16, 2024

Creating an effective restaurant marketing plan is critical to the success of any dining establishment. Whether you’re just starting or looking to improve your existing strategy, a well-thought-out plan can set the foundation for reaching more customers and increasing revenue. But what exactly goes into a restaurant marketing plan, and how can you ensure it addresses all aspects of your business’s unique needs? 

This guide will cover everything you need to know, from defining your brand to measuring the success of your marketing efforts.

What is a Restaurant Marketing Plan?

A restaurant marketing plan is a strategic roadmap designed to promote your dining establishment. It outlines your marketing strategies, tactics, and activities aimed at achieving specific business goals, such as increasing your customer base, enhancing brand awareness, and boosting sales. 

Think of it as a detailed battle plan for your restaurant’s success in the competitive food industry.

The Importance of a Restaurant Marketing Plan

Operating without a marketing plan is like navigating a ship without a compass. You might eventually get somewhere, but the chances of ending up where you want are slim. 

A well-crafted marketing plan for your restaurant ensures that every marketing dollar is spent effectively, targets the right audience, and aligns with your overall business objectives. It also prepares you to adapt to market changes and consumer behaviors, keeping your business agile and forward-thinking.

How to Make a Marketing Plan for a Restaurant

Starting a marketing journey without a map can lead to missed opportunities and wasted resources. Follow this step-by-step guide to create a marketing plan that delivers results.

Step 1: Define Your Brand

Before you jump into selecting marketing tactics, take a moment to clarify what your restaurant stands for. Think about your mission, vision, and the values that guide your business. What promise are you making to your customers? This is your restaurant's identity—its soul, if you will.

  • Start by revisiting your mission statement. This is your restaurant's purpose, the reason it exists. Is it to provide an unforgettable dining experience through unique flavors, or perhaps to offer a cozy gathering place for the community? Ensure your mission is clear and inspiring.

  • Next, consider your vision statement. Where do you see your restaurant in the future? This vision should guide your long-term planning and inspire your team and customers.

  • Values are just as crucial. They define how your restaurant operates and makes decisions. Are sustainability and community involvement important to your brand? Ensure these values are practiced and evident to your customers through your actions and communications.

  • Lastly, pinpoint your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What makes your restaurant different from the one down the street? It could be your farm-to-table ingredients, innovative menu, or the live music nights that no one else offers. Your USP is what makes your restaurant special—embrace it and shout about it.

Clearly defining these elements lays a strong foundation for your marketing efforts. They help ensure that every promotional activity reflects and reinforces what your restaurant is truly about.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing your audience is crucial to successful restaurant marketing. Think of it this way: the better you know who you’re serving, the better you can serve them. But how do you figure out who your ideal customers really are? It starts with delving into demographic and psychographic details.

  • Demographics tell you who: age, gender, income levels, and marital status. For instance, if your restaurant is in a bustling city center, you might find many young professionals grabbing a quick lunch or hosting business meetings. Or, if you’re near a residential area with lots of families, your clientele might skew toward parents and children looking for family-friendly dining experiences.

  • Psychographics explore the why: personality, values, interests, and lifestyles. These insights help you understand why certain people might choose your restaurant over another. For example, are your customers value-seekers, or are they more inclined towards premium experiences? Do they prefer quick, casual meals, or do they value a restaurant as a place for relaxation and socializing?

Combining demographic and psychographic information creates a vivid picture of your ideal customer. This isn’t just about knowing who they are but also understanding their dining habits, preferences, and the factors influencing their restaurant choices. With this information, you can tailor your marketing messages precisely.

Step 3: Perform a Competitive Analysis

Understanding your place in the local restaurant scene is crucial for crafting strategies that truly resonate with your target audience and give you an edge over your competitors. A thorough competitive analysis begins with conducting a SWOT analysis — evaluating your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This technique sheds light on where your restaurant stands and what moves you might consider to advance your market position.

  • Strengths: Start by identifying what your restaurant does best. Do you have dishes that are unique to your menu? Is your location a key advantage? Maybe your customer service is exceptionally responsive, making diners feel right at home. Recognizing these strengths helps you understand what to emphasize in your marketing efforts.

  • Weaknesses: It's equally important to be honest about areas where you might be lagging. Is your menu less varied than that of nearby competitors? Do you experience slow service during peak hours? Acknowledging these weaknesses allows you to tackle them head-on, either by improving internally or strategically marketing to shift focus away from these areas.

  • Opportunities: Look for external factors that you could leverage to your advantage. Is there a rising trend in the cuisine you offer? Perhaps a new business park opening nearby could bring a flux of potential lunchtime customers. Opportunities can come from changes in consumer preferences, local economic shifts, and technological advancements that you can adopt earlier than your competitors.

  • Threats: Be aware of external challenges that could impact your business. This could include anything from new restaurant openings in your area to changes in food safety regulations. Understanding these threats helps you prepare and adapt, ensuring they don't catch you off guard.

Conducting this analysis not only clarifies your position but also helps you pinpoint exactly how to communicate your unique offerings to your audience. Knowing your competitive edge and areas for improvement informs your entire marketing strategy, ensuring you focus your efforts where they will count the most.

Step 4: Set Marketing Objectives

When it comes to driving your restaurant to new heights, setting clear, actionable marketing objectives is key. You might wonder, “What exactly should my goals look like?” Well, your focus might range from boosting your restaurant’s visibility in the community (increasing brand awareness) to drawing more diners through your doors (attracting new customers) or ensuring that your current guests keep coming back (enhancing customer retention).

Here’s how to make those objectives work for you in real terms: adopt the SMART framework. Let’s break that down:

  • Specific: Get clear about what you want to achieve. Instead of saying "increase sales," specify "increase lunchtime sales by 20% within the next quarter."

  • Measurable: Ensure that you can track your progress. For example, use your point of sale system to track lunchtime sales daily.

  • Achievable: Set ambitious yet attainable goals with the resources and time you have. Increasing lunchtime sales by 20% is realistic with a targeted lunch promotion or special offer.

  • Relevant: Choose goals that make sense for your restaurant’s success. Boosting lunchtime sales is pertinent if lunch is a quieter period for your business.

  • Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline. This not only provides motivation but also a clear timeframe to measure success. Aiming for a 20% increase in the next quarter sets a clear target date.

By setting SMART goals, you create a roadmap for your marketing efforts. This approach directs your activities and provides a clear benchmark for assessing progress. Remember, the key to effective goals is flexibility. As you implement your plan, stay open to adjusting your objectives based on what the data tells you. This dynamic approach ensures your marketing stays relevant and focused on driving tangible results for your restaurant.

Step 5: Budget Allocation

Allocating your marketing budget effectively is a critical step in ensuring your restaurant marketing plan delivers the desired impact. It's about making every dollar work hard to achieve your objectives. Let's break down how you can set a realistic budget and distribute it wisely across various marketing channels.

First, consider the total amount you can commit to marketing over a specific period, such as a quarter or a year. This budget should be a percentage of your projected revenue—a common practice is allocating between 3% to 6%, depending on your business size, goals, and market position. If you're launching a new product or service, or if you're in a highly competitive market, you might decide to increase this percentage.

Next, it's crucial to think about how to divide this budget across the different channels. Here’s a straightforward approach:

  • Review Past Performance and Audience Alignment. Look at which channels have performed well for you in the past and where your target audience spends most of their time. If social media campaigns have consistently brought in customers and your audience is active on these platforms, it's wise to allocate a significant portion of your budget there.

  • Set Channel-Specific Goals. Define what you want to achieve with each channel. For digital marketing, goals might include increasing website traffic, enhancing engagement on social media, or boosting online reservations. For traditional marketing, goals could be enhancing local brand awareness or driving foot traffic during specific hours.

  • Match Budget to Goals and Audience Preferences. Allocate more funds to the channels that directly contribute to your major goals and are preferred by your audience. If your aim is to increase brand awareness locally, and your audience frequently engages with local print media, you might spend more on community events and local print ads. If your goal is to enhance online engagement, then boosting your digital marketing budget makes sense, especially if your audience is highly active online.

  • Keep Some Flexibility. Markets change, new trends emerge, and customer behaviors shift. It’s wise to keep a portion of your marketing budget unallocated for new opportunities and strategies that arise throughout the year. This flexibility allows you to react to unexpected changes or to test new marketing channels without reallocating existing funds.

  • Track and Adjust. As your marketing campaigns roll out, keep a close eye on their performance. Use tools to track the return on investment for each channel. If certain strategies are not performing as expected, don’t hesitate to reallocate those funds to more successful tactics. Continuous monitoring and adjustment will help you maximize your marketing budget's effectiveness.

By approaching your budget allocation with a strategic mindset, you ensure that your marketing plan fits your financial capabilities and optimally supports your business goals. This careful planning and flexibility in budgeting will position your restaurant for growth and success in a competitive market.

Step 6: Develop Marketing Strategies

With clear objectives and a well-defined audience, you're now ready to craft targeted restaurant marketing strategies that blend digital innovation with traditional appeal to optimize your restaurant's reach and influence.

Digital Restaurant Marketing Strategies

In the digital age, an effective online presence is vital. Here’s how to harness various digital channels:

  • Website and SEO: Start with a user-friendly website, ensuring it's optimized for search engines to boost your visibility. This is your digital storefront, so make it inviting and easy to navigate.

  • Content Marketing: Engage your audience by sharing compelling content that highlights what makes your restaurant special. Think blogs, behind-the-scenes videos, and mouth-watering photos of your dishes.

  • Social Media Marketing: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are perfect for building customer relationships. Use these spaces to interact directly, share daily specials, and promote upcoming events.

  • Email Marketing: Keep your customers in the loop with regular newsletters that offer exclusive insights and deals. It’s a great way to remind them of the great experiences waiting at your restaurant.

  • SMS Marketing: SMS is unmatched for instant communication. Send real-time updates about new menu items or special discounts to stir up interest.

  • Review Sites: Your reputation online can make or break your business. Actively manage your profiles on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to respond to reviews and enhance your visibility.

  • Loyalty Programs: Reward repeat customers with a loyalty program that makes them feel valued and encourages continuous patronage.

  • Paid Advertising: Invest in digital ads that target specific demographics. Platforms like Google Ads and Facebook provide tools to refine your audience and track the effectiveness of your campaigns.

  • POS Marketing: Enhance customer experience with POS technology like self-ordering kiosks equipped with promotional screens, QR code menus, and POS systems with customer-facing displays. These tools streamline operations and open up new marketing opportunities directly at the point of sale.

Traditional Restaurant Marketing Strategies

While digital tactics are essential, traditional methods remain powerful tools for making personal connections and building community presence.

  • Direct Mail: Send out eye-catching promotional materials to locals. This traditional method still has a personal touch that digital ads can't match.

  • Word of Mouth: Encourage your satisfied customers to share their positive experiences. Personal recommendations remain a highly trusted source of new business.

  • Print Advertising: Local newspapers and magazines can be great venues for reaching potential customers who enjoy a more tactile approach to information.

  • Events and Promotions: Create a buzz with events that reflect your restaurant’s theme. Whether it’s a live music night or a tasting event, make your restaurant the place to be.

  • Partnerships and Sponsorships: Partnering with local businesses and events can expand your reach and embed your restaurant in the community’s fabric.

  • Signage and Visibility: Make sure your restaurant stands out with clear, attractive signage that captures the essence of your brand.

  • Public Relations (PR): Utilize PR strategies to get featured in local news stories, enhancing your credibility and appeal.

  • Networking: Building relationships with other local business owners and patrons can open doors and create opportunities for collaboration.

  • Traditional Media Appearances: Appear on local TV or radio to discuss your restaurant and share exciting news or promotions.

  • Gift Certificates and Vouchers: Offering gift options is a great way to increase your customer base and provide current patrons with easy gift solutions.

  • Broadcast Advertising: Radio and TV ads can help you reach a broader audience, especially if you target specific demographics or times of day.

  • Outdoor Advertising: Billboards and other outdoor ads are hard to miss and can drive significant traffic to your location.

  • Referral Programs: A referral program rewards existing customers for bringing in new diners, effectively turning satisfied guests into ambassadors.

  • Sales Promotions: Quick promotions can spur an influx of guests looking to take advantage of limited-time offers.

  • Trade Shows and Exhibitions: Showcase your restaurant at industry events like the National Restaurant Association Show to capture the attention of a wider, engaged audience. This prominent event provides an excellent platform for networking with industry leaders and displaying your unique offerings.

Your restaurant is more than a place to eat—it’s an experience. Ensure every marketing move reflects the quality and spirit of your establishment. This holistic approach broadens your reach and deepens your connection with the community you serve.

Step 7: Implement the Plan

Implementing your marketing plan is about turning strategy into action. Here’s how to ensure that your planned marketing activities effectively translate into tangible results:

Creating a Detailed Marketing Calendar

Begin by developing a comprehensive marketing calendar. This tool serves as your roadmap, outlining when each marketing activity will occur. It helps visualize how your marketing efforts are distributed throughout the year, aligning with key dates such as holidays, local events, or significant milestones for your restaurant.

Scheduling and Task Delegation

Effective implementation relies on clear task scheduling and delegation. Assign specific responsibilities to team members or external partners based on their expertise and roles. 

For example, let the social media manager handle all postings and interactions on social platforms while your marketing manager oversees campaign management and performance monitoring. Regular check-ins can help ensure everyone remains aligned and responsive to the plan’s needs.

Developing Timelines

Each marketing campaign should have a precise timeline, from the initial planning stages to execution and review. Consider the specific requirements of each campaign to estimate the time needed for various tasks. For instance:

  • Promotional Offers: Determine start and end dates based on customer behavior and seasonal trends.

  • Social Media Posts: Schedule these to maintain steady engagement without overwhelming your followers. Automation tools can help manage this process efficiently.

  • New Menu Items: Time the introduction of new menu items with your marketing campaigns to maximize interest and excitement. Ensure your staff is ready and knowledgeable about the new offerings.

Campaign Details

Detailing each campaign is crucial. Clearly define each initiative’s scope, objectives, and key performance indicators. Whether you aim to increase foot traffic, boost average ticket sizes, or enhance online interactions, setting these parameters early will guide your execution and simplify success measurement.

Step 8: Measure and Adjust

Once your marketing strategies are up and running, the real magic lies in tracking and refining them. It’s essential to regularly monitor how these strategies perform. Using analytics tools, you can keep tabs on key performance metrics like customer engagement, conversion rates, and overall return on investment.

Consider this: if a particular strategy boosts your customer engagement but doesn’t quite enhance sales, what tweaks can you make to convert that interest into actual revenue? By keeping a close eye on these metrics, you get a clear picture of what’s working and what isn’t.

Make it a habit to review this data consistently. Are your social media ads bringing more people to your website? Is your email marketing campaign driving repeat business? These insights allow you to refine your tactics, ensuring your marketing efforts are active and effective.

Adjusting your plan based on this feedback loop is crucial. If something isn’t working as expected, don’t hesitate to pivot or tweak your strategies. Sometimes, even a small change can lead to significantly better results. Keep evolving your approach based on solid data, and watch your restaurant’s marketing success grow.


Creating a structured marketing plan for your restaurant can dramatically increase your chances of success. It provides clarity, direction, and a framework to gauge your progress. As your business evolves, so should your marketing plan. Regularly revisit and refine it to ensure it remains aligned with your business goals and market conditions.

Ready to take your restaurant marketing plan to the next level? 

Discover how Chowbus can enhance your operational efficiency and boost your revenue with our all-in-one restaurant point of sale system solution. From a comprehensive restaurant loyalty program to advanced restaurant CRM with SMS capabilities for effective SMS marketing, our suite of restaurant marketing tools is designed to meet your unique needs. Explore the power of POS marketing and innovative restaurant promotions to attract and retain more customers.

Book a free demo with Chowbus today and see how our solutions can transform your restaurant's marketing strategy. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to elevate your business!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Marketing Plan

Explore our Frequently Asked Questions section to get clear insights into creating an effective restaurant marketing plan. Learn about setting the right budget, identifying suitable marketing types, and what a comprehensive plan should include.

What is a Good Marketing Budget for a Small Restaurant?

A good marketing budget for a small restaurant typically ranges from 3% to 6% of the gross revenue. However, if you’re just starting or aiming to grow rapidly, consider allocating up to 10%. It’s important to carefully assess your financials and marketing goals to determine the most effective allocation.

What Type of Marketing Do Restaurants Use?

Restaurants commonly use a mix of digital and traditional marketing strategies. Digital methods include social media advertising, restaurant email marketing, SEO, and online ordering promotions. Traditional approaches often involve print ads, direct mail, menu flyers, and community event sponsorships. Many also leverage loyalty programs and partnerships with food delivery services to boost visibility and attract customers.

What Does a Marketing Plan Look Like?

A marketing plan outlines a company's strategy to attract and retain customers, detailing specific actions, timelines, and budgets. It typically includes market research, target audience profiles, positioning, marketing channels, and evaluation methods. This strategic document guides promotional activities and measures success against set objectives.

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