Categories: Blog

All too often an independent restaurateur will follow traditional marketing methods because they lack experience, and it’s the easiest.  Unfortunately, it is the most expensive and not always the most effective.

The founders of W&W Restaurant Consulting Group with over 50 years of restaurant marketing experience have been successful with “thinking outside the box marketing”.

Bounce back coupons can be prepared in the form of a coupon certificate offered to the customer by the server or management as the customer is preparing to leave the restaurant.  A % discount on their next visit or $$ amount discount.  Both can be effective.  The % discount is applicable to any food check total.  An effective $$ discount must be tied to spending a certain amount for the discount to be applicable.  For example, a $5.00 discount on a food purchase of $7.00 would not be very profitable.  A minimum required check amount would be $10.00 on a $5.00 discount.  That would essentially be a two for one promotion.  A recommended and more profitable $$ amount is a $5.00 discount on a $25.00 purchase.  Obviously, your restaurant check average will have a great deal to do with your dollar discount amount.

A more creative and aggressive in-house marketing approach to creating a return customer & resulting in a regular customer is as follows:  Pick the slowest night of the week and once every four to six weeks (you must vary the frequency) pick up the tab for the entire seating.  This is done completely unannounced and at a random time.

When the check would normally be presented, the server presents a letter from the Management announcing that in appreciation for you patronage the food portion of your dinner is on the house (alcoholic beverages excluded).


The letter can read something like the following:

“Dear Patron;

The Management & staff of _________greatly appreciate you patronage and support of our restaurant.

Our primary objective has always been and will continue to be, to make our customers dining experience with us a very pleasant one.   As restaurant professionals, we pride ourselves in presenting to our customers, only excellence in our food, atmosphere & service.

In appreciation for your support the Management and staff of __________ are delighted to have you as our guest this evening, at no charge for your food.

Thank you for dining with us this evening and we look forward to seeing you again very soon.


The Management & staff of ____________


Think what a pleasant and unheard of surprise this gesture is to the customer.  Think that they will come back?

How many other potential customers might they tell of this exceptional experience?  If you apply this marketing strategy as a regular random feature on that slow night of the week, you will soon find that you will have fewer slow nights.  If you were to compare the cost of buying dinners for the house against what a display media ad would cost, you will find that the bang for your buck is far greater.

Word of mouth advertising produces by far, the most effective advertising results.  By “going beyond the expected”, the customer is compelled to repeatedly tell others about it.

Another creative way of creating a regular customer for your restaurant is the VIP Club. It works like this:   Place a fish bowl on a counter near the cash register, coat check area or in a generally assessable area for the customer when they are leaving the restaurant.  Place a sign next to the fish bowl with instructions to leave a business card and receive a special gift.  Each month the cards are taken from the fish bowl and a data base is created from the names.  An email letter is then mailed to each of the names announcing that they are now members of the restaurants VIP Club.  Their initial

VIP Club membership entitles them to a dinner for two as the restaurants special guest.  Each month this letter is sent to new persons who have place a card in the fish bowl and a second letter goes out to the old VIP Club members with this month’s special offer, i.e., 15% off dinner for two or any special promotion that the restaurant may wish to run.

Before you begin to think that I am trying to turn your restaurant into a benevolent non- profit business, let me explain what really happens.

Typically, if as a new VIP Member has a dinner for two gift certificate, the new member may invite friends to join him and play the big spender.  Perhaps the big spender’s friends have not been to the restaurant before and if not, the VIP Club promotion has just introduced the restaurant to new customers.

On the other hand if the new VIP member just takes advantage of the free dinner for two, they may spend a little extra on cocktails & wine.

As the VIP Club membership increases, A growing data base is developed that can be used to give VIP members a reminder and reason to come back often.   The VIP Club members will look forward to this month’s bonus and be kept aware of Special Holiday or menu announcements.

Another marketing plan using a data base is the birthday book.  An attractive hard cover note book is placed in the reception area.  A small unobtrusive sign as the customer to please write their email address and birth date in the birthday book.   Once a year on their birthday, they will receive a birthday wish with an invitation to receive the corresponding per cent off their check as their age.  I.e, 99 years old, 99% off the check.

All of these marketing tools can add up to help create the most important and effective in-house marketing tool of all.  And, that is having as many bodies in your restaurant at any one time as possible.  The average person likes to be part of success.  When I go to a restaurant that is full of other customers, I feel that I have made the right choice and I am in the “in place to be”.  Conversely, when I enter a half empty restaurant, I wonder if I have made the right choice.   It’s called the “Heard instinct”.  It makes the individual feel secure when others have made the same choice that they have made.


Media marketing is the easiest, most expensive and, I believe least successful when measuring its effectiveness against the dollar amount spent.  Like most things in life, the easiest way is not always the best way.

A typical market area for a restaurant will be within one to three miles of their location.  Therefore, paying for advertising outside of that area may not be effective & worthwhile.

Focusing on the immediate market area surrounding the restaurant will produce far greater results and be far less expensive than media marketing.

W&W Restaurant Consulting Group specializes in all  aspects of creating a successful restaurant business.