How to solve the biggest problem with your restaurant marketing

By Donald Burns

How do you feel about your sales? Are you happy? Satisfied? Do you wish they were better? I’m going to take a wild guess that you want them to be better. Welcome to the common dilemma many restaurants face: trying to use marketing to drive more guests in the front door.

As more restaurants enter the market, it seems like you are fighting an insurmountable wave of new competition each year. It can become frustrating and overwhelming. How are you supposed to compete? That’s the problem right there. You never want to compete; you want to stand out from the crowd. Competition is for suckers.

We tend to be mimics in business. We see someone doing something successful and we put out our version of the same thing in the market. Add a fancy new sauce or topping on a hamburger and you still have at its essence…a hamburger. So, how do you stand out?


Marketing that stands out makes people feel something. Now, most restaurants play the hunger emotion card way too much. That beautiful picture of your signature pork chop entree will trigger an emotional trigger if the audience is hungry and IF they like pork chops. Those are long odds to be investing in with your marketing. How about something a larger number of people can relate to, like family?

As humans, we all need to feel connected. That’s why we gathered to form communities and neighborhoods. We feel better together. Your restaurant is a place where people gather around a table to share food and create memories. Sometimes we forget that and focus too much on the food part. It’s time you remind people of the family aspect of dining. It’s time to start using other emotional triggers in your marketing.

emotionsConnecting with people is the only way to stand out and set yourself apart from your competition. Don’t assume that people get the message by pictures alone. Incorporate video into your marketing message of guests having a great time at your restaurant. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. You want to show people expressing emotions that others want to feel: nostalgia, happiness, community and love. These emotions are what being human is truly about. These emotions will connect you to your guests in a way that just playing the hunger card cannot.

Here’s a quick three-step formula to stand out from the competition with your marketing:

Be consistent.

You need to have a regular schedule and stay with it to keep your brand top of mind. If you only post once every week, or worse, every two weeks, you are just not keeping your message in front of your audience.

Tap into other emotions.

There’s more than one emotion that you feel during the day. You need to translate that into your marketing messages too. Play to those emotions that resonate with the guests that you also want them to associate with your brand. Write down at least five emotions to start with and create a post around each different emotion.

Stop being one-dimensional.

Great photos are nice, however, the modern world loves video and live streams. Show your guests who you are and the team behind your brand. The best thing you can do is use video as a way to show you are human and not just a place that serves food and beverages. If you want to attract more people to your restaurant, you need to connect with them on a more personal level. Video allows you to do this easily.

The number one mistake that people make with their marketing is trying to compete and not standing out. Emotions connect us and they connect you to your guests if you realize that. Your restaurant is more than brick and mortar. It’s more than your menu. It’s your core values. It’s how you make people feel when they visit your business. It’s how they share the memories they created eating at your restaurant with their friends and family. Your restaurant is a reflection of you as a human being. Celebrate that and share that.

About the author:

Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach™, named one of The Top 50 Restaurant Experts to Follow in 2018 and one of 23 Inspiring Hospitality Experts to Follow on Twitter. He is the leading authority, speaker, and international coach on how restaurant owners, operators, and culinary professionals go from just good to becoming outstanding. A former USAF Pararescueman (PJ), restaurant owner, and Executive Chef with Wolfgang Puck, he has the unique skills to break restaurants free from average and skyrocket them to peak performance. He works with restaurants that want to build their brand, strengthen their team, and increase their profits. He is the author of: Your Restaurant Sucks! Embrace the suck. Unleash your restaurant. Become outstanding.