Who is your restaurant’s target customer? Unfortunately, it can’t be everyone – your menu, ambiance, and other factors are going to appeal to some but not others. Identifying your target demographic will help you spend your time and advertising dollars smarter by tailoring your efforts to those who are most likely to dine at your restaurant.

4 Ways to Identify Your Restaurant Target Market 

When you came up with your restaurant’s concept, you likely had a specific customer type in mind – freelancers and office workers for a coffee shop, as one example. You probably also did some demographic research before choosing a location to make sure you were close to those types of people. That’s a great place to start, but as you get to better know and understand your customers (and their spending habits), you can narrow down your target market and offer them more personalized marketing and promotions.

1. Conduct Demographics Research

If you haven’t done this yet, or it’s been a while since you have, start by looking up your area on census.gov and local government websites to see who is living and working near your restaurant. Are there more young families in the area than you realized? It might be time to introduce that kids menu you’ve been considering.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, reaching target customers in your area is more important than ever. Make sure your loyal customers still know your open and available for takeout or delivery.

2. Collect Anecdotal Information

No one knows your restaurant target market better than the Front-of-House staff, servers especially. Encourage your staff to chat with guests regularly and ask what they like, what they’d like to see changed, or anything they’d want to be added. Once you receive enough personal feedback from guests, regulars especially, you will start to see patterns in feedback and be able to adjust from there.

3. Use Data Insights from Your Restaurant POS

While hearing feedback from your guests is valuable, sometimes their spending habits may be able to tell you even more about them. By leveraging insights from your restaurant POS you can find out who your most loyal customers are, how often they visit, what they order most, and more. 

By aggregating this information from your top 25, 50, or 100 most loyal customers, you can create an ideal customer persona. This hypothetical guest (you can even give them a name!) is who you will want to keep in mind when creating your menu, marketing materials, and even choosing in-house music and decor. If you see segments of different trends among groups of people, you can create an additional persona or two on top of your main customer profile. All of these personas combined can form your fully realized target market.

4. Check Out Competitors Near You

Look to restaurants in your area that are similar to your menu, price point, and ambiance. Are they attracting mostly Millennials and Gen Z or is it an older crowd? Are there more families or couples? How are they attracting guests? What seems to be working or not working for them? Use this information to help create your restaurant’s target market and ideal customer persona.

choosing a POS - Upserve

3 Ways to Appeal to Your Restaurant Target Market 

If you’re going to be running marketing through social media ads or email, it’s important to keep your target market in mind and speak directly to them through your messaging, design, and images. Once you’ve created your ideal customer persona, build your marketing strategy around that hypothetical person.

1. Offer Targeted Promos and Deals

By tapping into your guest profile data, you can send targeted marketing emails to your guests based on their past orders, how often they visit, or how much they spend in a given time period. If a guest ordered the summer salad at every visit but hasn’t returned since it was taken off the menu, send them an email once it’s back on for the season. Additionally, you can offer periodic promos for a percentage off discount or free entree to VIP guests who visit frequently and/or spend over a certain amount of money in a time period.

2. Speak Their Language

If your target customer is a businessperson, age 25-40, who generally spends $15 or less on lunch, you’ll want to use language much different than a restaurant who’s customer persona is a young stay-at-home parent with two small children. Be careful here, however – you don’t want to rely on stereotypes or tropes. If you aren’t able to hire a writer or marketing consultant who can help you with the language, seek out a friend or family member in that demographic and ask them to proofread your marketing materials and see how it resonates with them.

For more tips on social media marketing download our guide: Love at First Like.

3. Tailor Events and Specials to Your Restaurant Target Market

Once you know your target market, it’s time to identify what they want in a dining or online ordering experience, and create one just for them. Like we said above, it is possible to have more than one ideal customer persona, so offering multiple options can help please more top guests. 

For example, your upscale Italian restaurant might identify your target customer as couples in their 30s-40s with some extra disposable income. A date night special is a great idea, but what about couples with children who may not be able to get a babysitter? Include a to-go option of your date night menu with added kids meals so they get to have a similar at-home experience.

Get the Guide to Effective Restaurant Marketing to find out how the best restaurants market themselves and for tips on creating your own successful marketing strategy.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.