A great way to market your restaurant business and boost sales is through integrating your enterprise with the local community. Goodwill goes a long way, and by becoming a cornerstone of the community your restaurant will become more appealing to community conscious diners than any of the many chain options that are seemingly everywhere.

While you may not be able to compete with the large corporate restaurants when it comes to a marketing or advertising budget, there are ways that you can develop devoted customers without running expensive television commercials. Many people would prefer to spend their disposable income in a way that helps maintain local businesses. According to nrn.com, diners prefer to patronize independent restaurants to chains. You just need to get them to know that you’re around.

That’s where the community outreach angle comes in. Finding ways that you can interact with the local residents and turn them into regular customers can spell the difference between an establishment that is simply surviving and one that is thriving. To accomplish this you need to know your community’s makeup and interests.

Here are 7 ways that you can utilize to get your name better known in the community and drive more business to your restaurant. Your goal should be to increase your customer base and not necessarily to profit from every method discussed.

Employ a food truck

One of the best ways to attract customers to your restaurant is to bring some of your delicious food to them. Adding a food truck to your business is a great way to do this. You might think that the cost is out of reach for your small restaurant, but you can find many used food trucks for sale that just might fit your budget.

With a food truck, your restaurant’s logo can become a familiar sight to the residents of your local community. You might find that a central location in a busy shopping mall or business park is where you should be every day. Then again, you might want to rotate locations, serving a wider cross-section of your potential customers.

County and local fairs are a great place to reach a diverse group of individuals who may not have had an opportunity to visit your restaurant. After enjoying the offerings at your food truck you will certainly attract some foot traffic to your establishment.

If you can’t afford to dive into a food truck, you could always look into purchasing a used food trailer. If you buy a food truck used, you can boost the ROI of your outreach project because most of these vehicles are extremely reliable.

Sponsor youth sports teams

Many localities have youth sports leagues that are primarily run on donations and sponsorship from local businesses. Getting involved as a sponsor will help get your name out there as well as foster good relations with community members.

Usually how these sponsorships work is that for a fee that helps the sports league survive, you get your restaurant’s name associated with a team. In many leagues, the players’ shirts will advertise your business.

You can tie in your food truck by having it present at your team’s games. Offer a discount for the players and coaches. A little money spent here will go a long way toward developing new customers.

Lead a community fundraiser

Stay tuned to local news events with an eye toward situations where a financial contribution can be very welcome. Perhaps a local landmark has been damaged in a storm or fire. Since you are in touch with the pulse of your community, you know it is important to them that this landmark is restored.

Arrange for your restaurant to be the fundraising hub for the restoration efforts. Have a kick-off dinner where you donate all of the profits to get the fund off to a good start. People will remember and appreciate this kind of goodwill.

Host a themed event

Taking your cue from the interests of your community, you can host themed events as a way to engage with your customers. You can offer different menu options and pricing from your normal fare, and tailor the choices to the chosen theme.

Some obvious choices may be holidays such as a Halloween feast or an end-of-summer extravaganza. Discounts for wearing a costume or shades! People will be more likely to return for a regular dinner after enjoying themselves at one of your special events.

Offer space to local community groups

Many local community groups are on a limited budget and struggle to provide adequate services for their members. Reaching out to these groups and offering some space during your quiet times can develop strong community relationships that result in people choosing your restaurant when dining out.

An example would be allowing the local cancer support group to use one of your private rooms on Tuesday nights when business is slow anyway. Having your name associated with groups that help local residents is never a bad thing. Here are some ideas for finding charitable groups from restaurants.org.

Stay in touch with local events

Local events are a great way to bring the community together. Charitable walks or runs are common in many areas, as are semi-pro or professional sports teams. You can use these events to reach out and attract traffic to your restaurant.

Consider options such as a free beverage or appetizer if a patron presents their ticket stub from yesterday’s game. Maybe that 5k run gave out finishers medals. One might be worth a discount or a dessert. Your food truck might look real tempting parked across from the finish line as well!

Special delivery and catering offers

Even if your restaurant does not regularly offer delivery or catering you might make an occasional exception for special community occasions. If you can have your business associated with an event that is important to your community members there is no way it won’t help your business.

Something like delivering a dinner to the local police department to thank them for their service to the community will generate interest in the local news media. It might be all it takes to get a potential customer to try your place next time they are looking for a restaurant.

Keep in mind that while you never want to just throw money away, the primary goal of these endeavors is to foster better community relations. Trade some short-term profits for long-term goodwill and it should help your bottom-line.

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