How to acquire customers for restaurants

Restaurant customer acquistion
I want more customers, said every restaurant owner ever. Food & service is the most important, but you can’t grow your business if you’re not bringing customers in through the door. That’s why acquiring customers is critical for every business.

The usual gyan (advice) for acquiring customers
Ask any restaurant owner, how they acquire customers, they’ll tell you:

  • Send out pamphlets
  • Advertise on Zomato/ Foodpanda/ Swiggy
  • Run a food blogger meetup
  • Do PR
  • Social media marketing

Well that’s because these marketing channels are standard, they’re the same for every restaurant. The best & the biggest restaurants use these channels to grow sales. From a single restaurant to a chain with over 1000 restaurants, these marketing channels don’t change.
What changes is how you use these marketing channels, and that’s what matters. Your need to focus on maximizing the results from these channels. Today, I’m going to help you do that by sharing the channels & principles that we’ve seen work for our partner restaurants over the years while building out Xeno.
 

Send out pamphlets

We’ve worked with & spoken to 100’s of restaurants about pamphleting, but we’ve seen one of Xeno’s earliest customers out-perform everyone else from the pamphleting results.
The key points I learned from them are:

  1. Buy pamphlets in large quantities (marketing is an ROI game after all, the lower the cost the better the chance of it working)
  2. Distribute pamphlets on a continuous basis across different areas. Just pick the 5 to 20 nearby areas you think will work best & put them on a schedule. Area 1 on Monday. Area 2 on Thursday etc. Then start tracking results to see which areas work & iterate.

Their are 2 ways of tracking the results:

  • Send a coupon code or use a missed call phone no. only available in the pamphlet – so you’re able to track back exactly how many people called. The drawback, a lot of people will remember your brand & call up or visit, but won’t remember to use the coupon code/ missed call no. leading to poor tracking.
  • Look at the no. of new customers you’ve acquired over the next 3-4 days vs. a similar time period. If pamphleting is only different marketing campaign you’re running at that time, this shows you how pamphleting made an overall difference to your new customer acquisition.

Final tip: If you’re going to do pamphleting commit to it so that you can bring the cost down & give it a better chance of working. If you think of just trying it out – it will probably be too expensive to work. So just go for it!
 

Advertise on Zomato/ Foodpanda/ Swiggy

In the app age – Zomato, Swiggy & Foodpanda rule the roost. Our customers acquire on an average 60% of their new customers via just Zomato & Foodpanda. That makes this the no. 1 & the most important channel in today’s day & age.
Their are 2 key marketing options you have to increase sales via these online channels.

  1. Purchase an ad slot
  2. Run an offer

You need to play around with them & see what works best for your restaurant.
For example, one of our restaurants recently say a 80% downfall in new orders via Zomato after turning off their 10% off discount, yet repeat orders grew by 15% in the same time period. That means, they should only run an offer for new customers on Zomato.
Similarly, if you look at your acquisition data over-time & compare it the banners you purchased or the offer you ran you’ll be able to figure out what worked for your business & what didn’t.
At Xeno we give our customers a tool to easily track new customer acquisition via these online channels, so that they can go from data to insight in a matter of minutes.

See how different channel affect new customers [Xeno tool]
 

Engage with influencers/ food bloggers

You can keep posting on your Facebook & Instagram feeds but the quickest way to get a headstart on social media is to engage with influencers who already have a following.
You can find influencers on Zomato & Instagram or if you’re hiring a social media agency, they’re usually connected to influencers. In-fact social media agencies organize “Food Blogger Nights” for a few of our customers.
Another thing you can do is engage with foodies on Facebook groups like Food Talk India/ Eat Treat, but don’t just talk about your own restaurant, assist others and you’ll build a reputation for yourself that will help your promote your restaurant automatically in the long run.
Disclaimer: You should never pay food bloggers for positive reviews if they’re not declaring, as that is against the policies of most online platforms
 

PR can do wonders sometimes

No PR is bad PR! Especially if you get it organically. But if you’re starting out & are looking to get the word out quickly, partnering with recommendation platforms like LBB, SoDelhi, Popxo or Brown Paper Bag is a good idea. One post on these platforms can drive in 100’s or even 1000’s of new customers to your restaurant, that too in a hurry. That’s the power of PR 🙂
 

Run targeted ads on Facebook

But there’s one thing you do on Facebook that will lead to direct ROI. Facebook Custom Audiences. You know your best customers – give that information to Facebook & they’ll find similar people nearby. Run ads to them & track how many customers you acquired. At Xeno we’ve built an automated way to sync your customer data to Facebook, but you can do it manually by following the guide here.
The strategy I’ve seen work best for Facebook ads is:

  1. Setup 4-5 audience sets
  2. Run an ad for 2-3 days
  3. Pause it for a week
  4. Change the creative
  5. Pick the 2 audience sets that work best
  6. Add 2 more experimental audience sets
  7. Repeat

If you’re ready to put in the effort you can even try out multiple creatives at a time to see what works best.
To track the results for a Facebook campaign, you can install the Facebook pixel on your website & link it to the purchase. That way, Facebook will tell you the exact ROI of your campaign.
Facebook & Instagram – because of the ability to track results along with being very visual, are critical marketing channels for restaurants.
 
To summarize the marketing channels I recommend are:

  1. Pamphleting
  2. Advertising on online ordering
  3. Influencer marketing
  4. PR
  5. Facebook ads

Again remember it’s not about the channels, but what you do on them. Plus before you execute any marketing strategy, first look at your data & then decide what to do. Otherwise, you’ll always be shooting arrows in the dark.
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