The Best Free and Paid Restaurant Marketing Tools in 2020

Feb 26, 2020

Deciding how to market a restaurant, especially a new restaurant, can be a tricky prospect. You have many options available, many of them focused specifically on the food industry. We’ve compiled the best restaurant marketing tools for your restaurant in 2020.


1: Make a Digital Home

A website forms the digital home for any business, regardless of industry. For your restaurant, it’s a vital customer tool. Customers may look up your address or your menu prior to even walking in.

When considering your website, ensure you check the mobile compatibility. Your customers often decide on restaurants while they’re out and about, so making sure they can access your information in a mobile-friendly format is essential.

A good website only needs three pages and is quick to create. The first is a home page, highlighting your restaurant’s unique style. The second is a menu page, whether that’s a PDF or printed on the site itself. The last page is about us, which lets the customer see your story.

Overall, a website facilitates customer connections with your restaurant. You can also use it in your advertising.


2: Facebook Rocks

Many advertising advisors will say Facebook is not a high return platform. Since you’re running a restaurant, that’s not necessarily true. A Facebook business page serves as another way for your customers to get in touch, which is vital.

The important thing about a Facebook page is to fill in all the fields. Then the Facebook algorithm works in your favor and you’ll see more local customers come in. Additionally, it’ll help your connected repeat customers remember why you’re their favorite.

While initially, growth may be slow, it’s important not to become discouraged. Keep posting those featured dishes, chef specials, promotions, and more for long term results.


3: Using Facebook Ads for Massive Markets

Since so many people are on Facebook, it also makes a great ads platform with a solid history of investment return. Running Facebook ads requires a bit of strategy, but with careful management can do that for your restaurant too.

Facebook ads can use your existing audience to target people with the same characteristics. Additionally, there is a location targeting setting, so you only pay for ads that go in front of local customers.

Facebook ads can use existing posts, or you can design a custom ad. To begin, you can promote the existing posts to new audiences, so you don’t need the time to create ads from scratch.


4: Twitter for Quick Content

Twitter is famous for its small character requirements, which make it a perfect platform for restaurants. You’re incredibly busy, and the limits of Twitter help you get back to the business of running your restaurant.

In addition to Twitter-specific promotions, you have the option of more direct interaction than other platforms. You can interact with people who haven’t found your restaurant yet with a simple message or host chat with no more than a few clicks.

To begin on Twitter, create a profile and then start making a point to announce specials daily. From there, feature staff and invitations to come in during the lunch and dinner hours.


5: Twitter Ads Create Seamless Experiences

Twitter ads are a less used method of advertising a restaurant. The twitter method allows you to select a campaign focus, like website clicks or more interactions. Then the platform lets you select your content to campaign with.

When we consider using Twitter ads for a restaurant, we need to consider what the best use of our advertising budget is. Send people to your online menu, for example, might draw people into your dining room.

Twitter advertising has produced great results for restaurants before. It even has some interesting features that more directly benefit your business. To start, aim to get your profile out there.


5: Instagram for Visual Appeal

Instagram is an intensely visual platform, making it the perfect place to display your food and atmosphere. All you need is a handle close to the name of your restaurant and you can post pictures of the best of your kitchen.

Generally, Instagram posts consist of a picture, a brief caption, and several hashtags. These photos do not need to be highly stylized or edited. In fact, your customers probably prefer honest photos. Your Instagram feed allows your customers to check out what they could order.

To start with Instagram, all you need is pictures of the best plates coming out of your kitchen. Also, you may want to pick a hashtag for your restaurant, that way you can gather the best customer photos too. This follows one of the restaurant marketing ideas and trends, keeping it simple.


6: Instagram Ads to Stir Appetites

Like many platforms, Instagram also has an ads platform built-in. Using this platform allows you to place restaurant ads in the feeds of your customers, rather than hoping they stumble across your profile.

Ads on Instagram, just like the platform, rely heavily on visual appeal. Regardless of your level of graphic design experience, you can create these ads though. There are any number of drag and drop photo applications if you want to add text, or you can let your photo speak for itself.

To begin, you need a photo and a short message inviting people to do something, such as book a reservation. By keeping it short you make the message more shareable.


7: Pay Per Click Web Ads Everywhere

Pay per click web advertisement has a lot of reach. In this form of advertising, you design an ad and the service places it around the web on various sites. When people click the ad, they’re directed to whatever link you provide, such as a reservation system.

There is much pay per click platforms out there, such as Google and Yahoo. Each one will ask for your budget, ad design, link, and audience information. Once set up, many of these platforms run automatically until you shut them down.

Starting on an ad platform requires a strict budget and a clear goal. For example, you may be able to spare $20 per day and want to gain more online reservations. This clarity helps you use the platform to your benefit.


8: Online Reservations For Lines Out the Door

In today’s world, most people do not want to make phone calls. So, if that’s the only way to get a table at your restaurant, you’ll miss out on many new customers. People want to be able to reserve everything from their phones, so your restaurant needs to keep up.

Online reservation systems are available regardless of your budget. Many only charge a fee for booking tables, where your business is making money anyway. While you’re picking, bear in mind that many of these systems also have in restaurant applications, like table management.

To begin, look for a system that is easy for customers to use and which has the features you need. Ensure that the system integrates with your website as well, since that’s where many of your reservations will come from after customers see your delicious menu.


9: Online Ordering Made Easy

Sometimes, folks just want to grab dinner and get home. They may also want that same food delivered. Regardless, online ordering is a safe investment for your restaurant. Having a system free your staff from the phone and prevents errors.

There are two categories of online ordering platforms. One is the wrap-around approach where the online ordering platform has an existing customer following, like GrubHub and UberEATS. The other is a platform you integrate into your website.

Regardless of which you choose, ensure your menu loads in properly and with all the ingredients. People will make decisions on whether to repeat orders from the first experience, so there is no room for error.


10: SEO to Master the Long Game

SEO is short for search engine optimization, and it’s about how your website or social media read to a search engine. Keywords, such as your restaurant’s location or food style, serve to let the engine know when to display your website after a customer search.

For a restaurant, the most important keywords will be your location and your type of food. These should appear somewhere between 1 and 5 times on each page of your site, as hashtags on social media, and on any other profiles you set up.

SEO is an ongoing process focused on long term results. Your restaurant is unlikely to receive concrete benefits from SEO, unlike when people come in saying they saw your business on social media. Instead, it’s a workhorse in the background.


11: Blogging for Perfect Exposure

Blogging is an interesting option when it comes to restaurants. Contrary to popular belief, blogging does not need to be an everyday occurrence. To receive the benefits of blogging, it can be done twice a month.

Blogging shows search engines that your restaurant is active and gives you fun content to share out on other platforms. Restaurants have many potential topics, from promotions to community stories to staff profiles.

To begin, create a schedule of when you want to publish and who is writing. Then create the posts, usually 350 words or more, and get them on the schedule. From there, it’s a matter of sharing on your various platforms.


12: Scheduling Social Media For Less Stress

Social media can be overwhelming and easy to space in the middle of the lunch rush. That’s where a social media scheduling tool comes into play. You can take all the photos for the week, schedule them on a weekday afternoon, and let your social media handle itself.

There are many different options for social media scheduling. Your restaurant needs analytics, the ability to respond to comments, and most importantly, automatic posting to every platform. User-friendliness is also helpful since you’re busy.

To begin, select a platform, sign up, and then try to schedule a week ahead. That way even if you miss scheduling day, your social presence will hum along without a hitch. Scheduling social media is one of our top restaurant marketing strategy examples for success.


13: Profile Control to Manage Impressions

Generally speaking, your website is your restaurant’s digital home, but profiles on various sites are where many people first meet it. However, in order to make a good impression, you will need to claim your restaurant’s profiles on these sites and fill them out.

Every platform from Google to Yellow Pages to review sites has the option for you to claim a profile. This lets you ensure the information presented is correct, the photos are on point, and generally, watch what goes on.

To start, go to the sites you use when you’re interested in reviews. These should be your first profiles. You can reuse descriptions across profiles, so don’t worry too much about each being unique.


14: Yelp: The Standby

Yelp is one of the first reviewing site options, despite some allegedly controversial practices. The site is still popular, and you should claim your profile so that any information presented on the site is correct.

Yelp currently markets itself as an all in one solution. However, you can still set up a profile with simply your restaurant’s hours, contact information, menu, and a few photos. Then it’s a matter of time before the public finds your page.

Starting with Yelp means setting up a profile and waiting for those first few reviews. If you like, you can put up a sign letting customers know you are on Yelp. However, it is a violation of Yelp’s terms of service to offer a discount for reviews.


15: Google: The Powerhouse

Google receives many times the search volume of its competitors, so ensuring accurate information and reviews on this platform is paramount. You can claim your business using the My Places feature.

Google lets you link out to your reservations, social profiles, and more, in addition to the basic information like your address. Linking all of this together let’s potential customers connect even when they don’t come out right away.

There are many ways to claim a business on Google, so use the one that makes the most sense. From there, fill out the profile. People will start seeing your updated information immediately, but it may take some time for the reviews to start rolling in.


16: TripAdvisor: The Traveler

TripAdvisor is a great place to attract people who are visiting your area. The market is slightly different from review sites like Yelp, so you can impress travelers with your unique food.

TripAdvisor asks for the usual contact information, website, menu, and photos when you set up an account. It also asks for category tags, which are great for specialty restaurants. After a few photos, your listing is ready.

Once you have the profile set up, you will likely need to wait for reviews. TripAdvisor places a heavy value on reviews so until you have some, your listing will stay at the bottom of their search results.


17: Zomato: The Young Platform

Zomato is gaining popularity in the U.S. right now. Adding your restaurant to the growing list is a solid plan, and it only takes a couple of minutes. Since Zomato did not originate in the U.S., your restaurant may see a slightly different demographic.

Zomato, like most review sites, wants contact information, the menu, and pictures to create a listing. Zomato has a strange tendency to appear at the top of the search engine results for menus, so take extra care when entering yours.

As with many review sites, gaining your first few Zomato reviews may take some time. After creating an account, you can invite reviews, but not incentivize them, to start working your way up the listings.


18: Zagat and The Infatuation: The High Brow

Zagat is a slightly different style of a review site. Instead of signing up for an account, Zagat chooses to add you based on your existing reviews. This can be frustrating for many people since there is no easy way to get in. However, once you are in, Zagat supplies reliable traffic.

The Infatuation works the same way, though if you do get selected, be prepared for some quirkiness. You can share both out once you make them for maximum publicity.


19: Application Reviews: Making the Most of a Mixed Blessing

Delivery applications like Door Dash or Seamless, along with reservation apps like OpenTable, allow customers to review after the purchase. In fact, they encourage reviewing. This can be a mixed blessing for your restaurant.

With reviews on these sites, there is no separation from issues caused by delivery or electronic error. Therefore, your restaurant’s star rating may rise and fall with the speed of delivery or the performance of the app. However, you can control your profile.

The bottom line is if your restaurant is on an app, claim that profile and use it to your advantage, regardless of the ratings.


20: Website Reviews: The Homefield Advantage

Most website builders have a plug-in or widget that allows customers to leave reviews directly on the site as well. These can then become a powerful tool for marketing your restaurant.

You can also bring your social media and external site reviews into your website. Plug-ins exist for most major sites and create a feed of what people have thought about your restaurant right to your digital home.


21: Influencer Reviews to Expand Your Customer Base

There is a love-hate relationship between the foodservice industry and influencers. Fortunately, you can pick who you work with for your restaurant. Most influencers make themselves easy to find and work with.

An influencer comes into your restaurant and then writes about the experience on their chosen platform. If you pay their tab, then it’s a sponsored review. If not, then the results are more authentic.

To begin, contact the influencer expressing your interest in their review. The influencer should get back to you with how their process works. After the influencer has completed the review, you can then share it as well, so that you both receive a traffic boost.


22: Newspaper/Magazine Reviews for Lasting Press

While print media has had to alter its methods considerably, it’s by no means dead. Obtaining a print review puts your restaurant in front of many potential customers, some of whom may not use the web every hour of the day.

Different publications will have various processes for reaching out to them. Generally, you’re more likely to obtain press coverage around a special event, such as a grand opening or the introduction of new menu items.

To obtain coverage, write out a one-page letter detailing why your restaurant would be a great feature. Then send it to newspapers and magazines near you following their submission guidelines. Reporters will then decide what they would like to do.


23: Email Marketing as a Touchpoint

Email marketing is ubiquitous these days, and there’s a good reason. Email still has better conversion rates than social media does. That assistance boost means more people walk in the doors of your restaurant.

The trick with email lists is convincing your customers to sign up. Once they’re signed up, you can send them short promotions, news, and more to keep them coming back. You can even automate some of the gatherings using a plug-in on your website.

Generally, an email management system is the easiest way to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Then you can obtain email addresses from your restaurant’s patrons to email once a week or bi-monthly.


24: Loyalty Programs To Bring Customers Back

Loyalty programs are a great way to bring in repeat diners. Often, programs let you tailor the rewards you offer if you want to go digital. If not, the punch card option works for encouraging customers to come back.

If you go with a digital loyalty system, it provides you more options. For example, a digital system might text customers reminders of their pending rewards. These tasks also automate, so you won’t need to spend extra time on this.

Once you’ve selected a loyalty program, using it is simply a matter of training. Your front of house staff should be adept at signing people up and helping them claim their rewards. After all, people won’t sign up if they don’t know about the program.


25: Referral Programs For Adding Customers

You’ve seen enthusiastic diners come back to your restaurant with friends in tow. These diners are great for your business, so you should consider rewarding them. A referral program is key.

A referral program can be physical or digital. You’ll need to pick out a reward that sounds like it’s worth the effort of referring. Some ideas include 15% off or a free dessert, depending on where your restaurant sits in the market.

Since the referral program can start at a low-tech point, you only need to get the word out. You can run a referral program on a trial basis as a promotion to see how it works for your restaurant. You’ll probably love the results.


26: Location-Based Advertising as a Competition

With a smartphone in most of the population’s pockets, location-based advertising has never been easier. Since your restaurant has a physical location, you can use these services to target people in each area with relative ease.

Location-based advertising can take many forms, from general Facebook ads to actually using the location data supplied by a phone. The ad service performs this targeting at various levels, so it’s not as much work as it sounds like for you.

To start, check out a local ad platform. Then decide how close customers need to be. For general advertising, you could pick anywhere in town, while phone targeting maybe only two miles. These distinctions will help your advertising plan.


27: Retargeting for a Second Chance Impression

Many times, people will click on your ads or website only to retreat upon arrival. Your restaurant doesn’t have to let those potential customers go. Retargeting lets you have another attempt to make a fabulous impression.

Generally, ad retargeting uses cookies to keep track of who clicked on what. Then, the retargeting platform displays ads to the device carrying the cookie on specific sites of interest. Many of your restaurant’s ad platform options include a retargeting feature.

The first step in rolling this out is checking with your ad platform to see if you already have the feature. If not, you’ll need a specific retargeting platform. Once it’s all set up, you should see consistent repeat visitors to your site or page.


28: Complete Solutions Work Everywhere

Complete software solutions for your restaurant are great productivity helpers. These systems often help keep the back end of your restaurant flowing and the front end moving without more input.

These software solutions can manage everything from tables to inventory, depending on the features your restaurant needs. Having these automation features frees up your staff to spend more time taking care of diners.

To start one of these systems, your staff will need retraining. You’ll also need some time upfront to customize the software for your restaurant, so you get the most benefit for your money.


29: Coordinated Media Outreach for the Publicity Win

Individually, media outreach can do wonderful things for your business. As part of a coordinated push though, each effort yields more rewards for your business. Your restaurant can benefit from these efforts during major transitions.

Performing a coordinated media outreach for your restaurant will take up time. If need be, you can hire this out, either to a virtual assistant or a temporary hire. Either way, be prepared to field the inquiries that come back.

To begin, lay out the event you want the media outlets to focus on. From there, develop a plan for approaching those media outlets and piquing their interest. It’s a good idea for you to ask as many outlets as possible.


30: Local Event Participation In Your Community

While your restaurant may be stationary, your staff and food are not. People love to spend money in places they believe are good for the community. Participation connects your restaurant to this larger whole, which in turn leads to more customers, and often you can still charge.

There are a number of options in any size community, from youth sports fundraisers to dinner at the park. These both put your restaurant out in the community and supply free advertising. Often, participants are even featured on the marketing materials.

The first step in this endeavor is deciding on events for your restaurant to take part in. A city, town, or county calendar is a great place to find events and contact information. From there, it’s a matter of reaching out and offering your restaurant’s services.



With so many different strategies, the important thing is not to become overwhelmed and paralyzed. Your restaurant’s success depends on you taking action and getting your restaurant in front of as many people as possible.

With that in mind, you do not need to implement every strategy right away. Instead, choose the top three or four restaurant advertisement examples to implement immediately. Then you can return at leisure to implement the others into your restaurant’s awe-inspiring success plan.