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Restaurant Target Marketing

In an ideal world, you’d know all about your target customer before you ever opened the doors of your restaurant. You would design everything from your menu, your sign, your choice of carpet, to the music you play based on understanding who’s going to buy your food, and creating a brand designed to appeal directly to them.

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If you’re a startup restaurant, take this advice to heart because it’s much easier and less expensive to start by knowing your target customer and building your brand identity before you open, then it is to rebrand later.

For established restaurants, It’s never too late to reset your branding strategy and improve your restaurant marketing. Better late than never! ​To learn more about branding, refer to our Learning Center article “Restaurant Branding”.

This article on restaurant marketing will focus on the following:

This article will provide you with the information you need to understand targeted marketing, so you can create a plan of action.

  • What targeted marketing is and why it’s important for your restaurant business plan.
  • How to define your target customer using demographics.
  • How to use information about your target market to improve your business.

What Restaurant Target Marketing is and Why it’s Important

Simply, targeted marketing means understanding who your best customers are and making everything you do appeal directly to them. By understanding your target customer you can more easily make choices regarding your business. You’ll feel confident about the decisions you make because they are unified around your brand identity. You can anticipate how your choices will be received by your guests.

It gives you the ability to form a personal connection with your customers in a meaningful and authentic way by making them feel understood and accepted for who they are. This is how brand loyalty is created.

The biggest mistake you can make is trying to target “everyone”. That’s the exact opposite of targeted marketing. If you want to be successful, embrace the fact that people have different opinions, tastes, lifestyles, and personalities. To create a brand for your restaurant, you want to take advantage of these differences to create a restaurant marketing strategy. Defining your target customer gives you focus, purpose, and certainty. There is a very good reason why steakhouses often have a Western theme and not tie-dye. They know their target market.

If you’re worried that restaurant target marketing will lose rather than gain customers, rest assured, that when you provide your target with outstanding service tailored to their lifestyle, you will create a cult following that creates a type of gravity that pulls others in.

How to Define Your Restaurant’s Target Customer

The key to defining your target customer is demographics. Demographic data gives us answers that allow us to construct a “model customer”. Based on the model, we can make predictions about them that help us to better serve their needs.

It may help you to think of this process like a sculptor, taking a clay block and turning it into a statue. You begin with the basics and build details as you go. Don’t let yourself be distracted by too many details in the beginning. You wouldn’t start sculpting hair before you’ve made the head, right?

You’ll get a better understanding of who your target customer is in time, so don’t be afraid when your customer model evolves. It’s just a place to start.

If your restaurant is already open but you want to increase sales, then use the guests who come in the most, have the most positive things to say about your restaurant and whose lifestyle most closely matches your style of restaurant to create a target model. If you’re starting a new restaurant brand, use demographic data about the people in the area to create a customer profile.

Unless your restaurant specifically caters to travelers, begin to form a customer model based on your unique local community. The country, state, town, neighborhood. Every place on Earth has a history and a story behind it. Our sports teams, landmarks, accent, and a particular way of doing things are all a source of regional pride. You want to tap into this current and begin listing some basic ideas about what is important to people who live in the area your restaurant serves.

Specific lifestyle questions about your target customers:

  • What is their age?
  • What is their gender?
  • How much money do they make?
  • Are they single or married?
  • Do they have kids?
  • Do they dine in groups?
  • Are they value shoppers or do they enjoy luxury?
  • Do they identify with a specific ethnicity or culture?
  • Why kinds of social or “big picture” concerns do they have?

To gain this type of information takes a bit more sleuthing. However, it’s a crucial part of your restaurant business plan. Census data is available online and you can do a search online to learn more about market research and how demographic data is collected.

Your restaurant should have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that helps you track your individual customer's buying habits. From your CRM records, you can determine who’s spending the most and who’s coming in most frequently. These are the people who identify most with your brand. Study their habits closely.


Use Targeted Marketing to Improve Your Restaurant Business

Think of yourself as an investigator.​ It’s important to talk to your customers all the time, and not just small talk. Really seek feedback from your targeted customers about what they like and what they don’t like. Is the music in the restaurant too loud? Are there not enough high chairs? Is there anything they wish was on the menu? If you want to attract more customers like them, you need to understand their preferences in detail. Adapt to their needs and you’ll attract others like them!

Get your staff to sleuth for you.​ When customers come in, make sure your staff asks them questions about how to improve their experience and what they like. Take these comments to heart and you’ll earn their trust and loyalty.

Use your understanding of restaurant target marketing to strengthen your brand.​ If you don’t know who your customer is then you won’t know what your brand message should be. If you don’t know your brand message, then you don’t know what to say in your advertising.

Use your targeted customer profile as the basis of your restaurant marketing strategy.​ By understanding your target customer you can identify what types of advertisements, promotions and social media posts will interest them.

Getting to know your restaurant’s target market means learning about your customers and showing them that you don’t just care about what they eat, you care about their thoughts, feelings, ideas and lifestyle. By appealing to your target customer you can focus your energy on providing the best guest experiences for those who match your profile.

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