5 best ways to bring in new customers to your bar or restaurant

For the past 8 years, we’ve been working with many bars and restaurants to grow their audience and attract more customers through the door. Now, we will be sharing our 5 best ways to bring new customers into your bar or restaurant based on our experience. 

We’re mainly focussing on NEW customers here, not existing customers. How to find new potential visitors and convince them to actually visit you. 

A lot of small restaurant owners assume social media is the way to go. And why not? It’s free. Everyone is on it and everyone says you should be using it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t! Because it’s important to have an appearance on social media to build your brand and connect with your current audience, but to reach new customers, it’s not the best place to start.

What brings new customers through the door? 

If you are in the tourism industry, or you simply want to bring in people from around your city who never heard of you. This is how to do it!

1. Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth is obviously the holy grail. Plus it’s something you don’t have to pay a marketing agency for! It’s mainly influenced by the staff you hire and the management of your staff.

When someone leaves you a review on Google or Tripadvisor, they leave a review based on the person they have interacted with. As a business owner or general manager, you have to make sure the bar and restaurant staff change their mindset.

They might come to work without motivation thinking “I don’t want to be here. I’m just here to make money. I’m only doing this job until I have a real job. I don’t care about this job.” 

Change. Their. Mindset! 

They are selling your business! You have to keep them happy and motivated.

How to motivate the staff? Be creative! Think outside of the box…

  • Give them a career path to look forward to
  • Reward them if their name is mentioned in a new review
  • Organise team days to connect with them on a more personal level

You should also make sure you train them on how to receive positive reviews from a client, and increase their tips! Always tell them to remember “Name, Drink and Conversation” of the clients. Next time a client comes in, they will be able to say “He John. How’s it going? Rum & Coke again? By the way, how’s your mum doing in the hospital?

The customer will feel special! They will feel very invited to come back. And they will share their good experience with their family, friends and online review platforms.  

2. Online reviews

For restaurants, online reputation management is so important! We cannot say this enough. You have to make sure you have a good reputation on Google Reviews, Tripadvisor, Facebook, Zomato, Yelp, etc. 

One of the easiest ways to stay on top of your online reputation management is by responding to reviews! Positive and negative. Within 24 hours or less. Very few businesses respond to every single review on every single platform. 

When you’re responding to an online review, you’re not just responding to that one person, you are responding to the public. You want to let the public know that you’re present. That you are listening to feedback, and taking it onboard to improve your services. If nobody responds to the reviews, it shows the public nobody cares.

This does not mean only responding to the negative reviews. You should also respond to all the positive reviews! Show how grateful you are that they share their great experience with you. Take the time to respond.

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, make sure you don’t respond with a hot head. Staff and business owners can take negative reviews very personal and their response might be more emotional than politically correct. Don’t be afraid to apologise. We are all human, mistakes can happen, and the public knows that.

It can be very useful to get a professional online reputation agency, like Boom Local, involved to deal with review responses. We are able to respond without getting emotionally involved and we know what the public wants to hear.

Don’t be afraid to leave your email and cell phone at the bottom of every review! Everybody is scared to do that. “I’m going to get blown up with people calling me.” But don’t worry they won’t. It will actually help preventing people to leave a bad review. They might call you saying “I was just about the leave a 1 star review, but just saw your number and thought I would call you first.”

If you really don’t agree with a negative review, you can always try to report or flag the review. Explain why it’s not fair or reasonable and the platform might remove it for you. But please keep in mind there must be a good reason for a review being removed. It’s not as easy as a click on a button.

One other thing to keep in mind when replying to reviews are the keywords you want to rank for! Make sure you use your keywords in the replies as signals to Google that you’re offering those products or services.

3. Google

What is the most common place you go to find something new, to ask a question, or to check what’s nearby? That’s right. Google! Bars, cafes and restaurants often overlook the importance of Google and they have no idea how many people are actually using it to find places to eat!

Searches you want to come up for are, for example, “restaurants, restaurants near me, restaurants + “your town”, dog friendly beer gardens, pubs + “your town”, taverns nearby”, etc.

You want to rank high for all the search terms related to your business. If you are dog friendly? You want to rank for dog friendly restaurant + “your town”. If you have an onsite brewery, you want to show up for brewery + “your town”.

You want to rank on page 1 of Google for these keywords at least! Plus, you want to be in the top 3 search results of Google Maps, also known as the “Snack Pack”. If you are not on the first page, you don’t exist.  Our goal is always to get you up in the top 3 pack of Google maps and on page 1 of Google.

To rank in Google Maps, your Google My Business profile is hugely important! Everything is right there. Star ratings, phone number, Q&As, business information, menu… Your Google My Business profile is becoming as important as your website, or even more!

Please keep in mind though that ranking in Google takes time. Just changing a couple of things on your website won’t bring you from position 20 to position 3 in a couple of days. It can take months for SEO efforts to really show off, depending on the amount of competition in your local area or industry and your marketing budget. 

4. Social Media

Social Media can bring you new customers, but it’s not as easy as you think it is. If you are just posting on your page, not advertising, not using groups, then it will not bring you any new clients through the door.

First of all, only your followers will see your posts. But not even all followers! Often just 1% of your followers, depending on the performance of your post. The more people comment and like on your post within the first hour of posting, the higher the chance that your post will reach more followers. If the first 10 people that see your post don’t react to it, then you’re post it doomed to disappear.

The same happens in Facebook Groups! You don’t see all the posts that are published in a Facebook Group you follow. You only see the posts that are getting a lot of traction or are very relevant to your interests.

But hey, you can use hashtags right…? Yes you can! And you might reach a few people. But be honest, when is the last time you were searching for hashtags on social media to find a place to eat…

Nowadays, social media is best used to connect with your returning customers and fans and to build your brand. To attract new customers, the tactics previously mentioned in this post are more effective, but if you still want to give it a try, these are the best 2 ways to reach new people on Facebook…

  • Facebook Ads
    Facebook Ads reach new people, but they can get expensive. Especially if you are trying to reach a “cold” audience. If you are running Facebook Ads for your restaurant, keep in mind that people on social media want to see fun content, beautiful images, engaging videos and interesting facts, not commercials. Use Facebook Ads to engage with new customers through high quality content that entertains.
  • Facebook Groups
    Facebook Groups can work, but only if you actually engage with the people in the group. Before posting, make sure you know what’s working in the group, what are people talking about. For example, are photos of beautiful sunsets getting a lot of engagement in your local community group? Then use this type of content to reach more people in the group (and then maybe mention your dinner special in the caption).

5. Online Influencers

The last one to mention here are online influencers in the restaurant and beverage industry. Think of AGFG, the Crafty Pint, Untappd, Gourmet Traveller, The Urban List, etc. There are many more!

Making sure you are mentioned on these authority websites in your industry can help you be found online, plus their mentions will improve your SEO and Google Rankings!

Be careful though which online influencer you get onboard with… There are a lot of dodgy website out there, pretending to be a high authority in your industry, talking you onboard with a very strong sales chat, charging you a big fee for a yearly membership without actually giving you any results or new customers. Make sure you do your research, check their website traffic and make sure other big brands in your industry are advertising with them.