woman typing on laptop

No matter how good your restaurant’s food and service is, no one will know just how great it is until they become customers of your business. This is where advertising comes in. Restaurants turn to advertising to spread the word about their unique menu, delicious drinks, and unparalleled hospitality, but sometimes it can feel like every business is saying the same thing. And with more and more platforms to advertise your business, it has become increasingly difficult to set your restaurant apart from the competition.

The good news? You can target the right people with the right messaging by having a comprehensive understanding of your customers. By knowing your customer demographics like the back of your hand, advertising to them will be a breeze.

The “big guys” are big for a reason. They know their customers and they have the funds to try and fail over and over again. While you likely don’t have the budget to take big swings like these restaurant giants, it’s worth looking to them for some inspiration for your next advertising campaign.

Learn from the Greats: 5 Restaurant Ads

Get inspired with these advertisements that fully embrace the values of each business. From food-conscious Chipotle to fearless Wendy’s, these will help you communicate your restaurant’s own unique mission.

Chipotle

This short film from fast casual giant Chipotle sticks with you. It tells a story with an emotional element that holds the attention of the viewer, and supports the restaurant’s mission to serve food with integrity.

Panera Bread

panera restaurant ad billboard

If you have a focus on clean ingredients, take a hint from Panera Bread. They use menu items to show not only the nutritional value, but the variety in the fast casual restaurant’s offerings.

Legal Sea Foods

legal sea foods restaurant ad

If you have deep roots in your community and lifelong patrons, use nostalgia to reach your customers. This ad from Legal Sea Foods uses a vintage vibe and humorous messaging to remind their audience that the restaurant is a classic.

Taco Bell

taco bell restaurant ad

If there’s anything you could possibly learn from Taco Bell, it’s to stay in tune with trends. When Snapchat released filters, Taco Bell hopped on the bandwagon, and created a filter on Cinco de Mayo. It turned quite a few heads: The filter was viewed 224 million times in 24 hours.

Wendy’s

Relentlessly bold as always, Wendy’s went after McDonald’s in a 2018 Super Bowl ad. It’s rare for restaurants to go after a competitor with such intensity, but it aligns with Wendy’s marketing strategy to fearlessly reach their customers with bold, attention-grabbing messaging.

How to Create Restaurant Ads

As a small business, you probably don’t have the bandwidth to create something that’s going to cost thousands of dollars. However, you do have an opportunity to create something incredible. If you’re ready to branch out beyond using social media as your main marketing tool, you can get started quicker than you think. By using the talent you have on your team, finding local resources, or searching for a professional, you can create a brilliant restaurant ad of your own.

Discover talent on your team

You never know what hidden talent you’ll find under your own roof. Before venturing out to find someone to do the work for you, it’s worth asking your team what the like to do in their free time. They could have a secret knack for something outside of cooking, serving, or bartending. You might find someone that has an eye for advertising and can create an awesome ad for your restaurant.

Partner with a local university

Marketing and advertising programs at colleges are always looking for real businesses to partner with. There is no better experience for a college student than to understand the needs of a real business and be hands-on during the creative process. Reach out to your local schools to give students an opportunity to collaborate on your next restaurant advertisement.

Start making brilliant restaurant ads of your own with help from our Restaurant Marketing Guide.

Do it yourself

We know you’re busy, but hear us out: You know your business better than anyone else. We understand the importance of delegating tasks to prevent burnout, but if you’re interested in marketing and easily tune into your creative side, give it a shot. Use a free design tool like Canva to create promotional graphics or put your phone’s camera to use to create your own videos for social media.

Hire a freelancer

When all else fails, there are always people looking for short term work. Many people are leaving their traditional 9-to-5s to enter the life of a freelancer, which means there are plenty of professionals who are ready to work for you. Check out popular websites Fiverr (they even have a dedicated restaurant services page), Upwork, and PeoplePerHour.

Business owner is using laptop

Where Should Restaurants Advertise?

With digital advertising spend rising each year, businesses are finding value in all of the opportunities on the internet, especially on social media. Facebook and Instagram advertising allow for businesses to geographically target customers based on location. That means you have the opportunity to show the people in your community just how awesome your restaurant is.

While online advertising is all the rage these days, there is still a special place for traditional advertising tactics. Television, direct mail, and outdoor advertising are still an important piece of your advertising puzzle. Having a mix of traditional and new advertising strategies for your restaurant will help you attract a variety of customers from the places they’re consuming media every day.

If you find that one advertising channel isn’t working for you, it’s best to shift your focus to the places you are most effectively reaching your current and future customers. Don’t be afraid to experiment with outside the box tactics—just make sure you have a way to measure your success.

Remember: The biggest advantage you have over the “big guys” is that you truly know your demographic. As a restaurant owner or manager, you’re having conversations with people at the bar, stopping by tables of customers enjoying their meals, and dealing with problems daily. This is something the marketing teams at huge corporations don’t have the opportunity to do. Daily immersion in your restaurant and the community will help guide you through your creative process, and you will know exactly how to target the type of customer that you want to walk through your doors.

What does it take to be an effective restaurant marketer? The strategies you need (and everything you ever wanted to know) are in one place.

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Written by   |  
Holly Everett is a Massachusett-based writer with an affinity for fresh seafood, Rhode Island's beautiful beaches and Del's Frozen Lemonade. When she's not searching for new breweries and wineries to visit or traveling with friends, you can find her on her couch with her cat, Theo, watching her favorite shows on Netflix and drinking a glass of cabernet.