The last couple of years has been pretty rocky for most restaurants, cafes, and other dining establishments due to the effects of the global pandemic. While this health crisis continues, widespread vaccinations and the relaxation of some stay-at-home orders and other restrictions means restaurants have much more chance of growing and thriving in 2022 than they did in the previous two.

To make this happen, though, you need to focus on marketing effectiveness. Here are some tips and ideas to consider.

Take Advantage of SMS Marketing

If you’re not already utilizing text messages in your business, now is the time to start. Many hospitality organizations find that SMS marketing campaigns deliver excellent benefits. For example, they remind past customers to come in and eat on-site again, try a new menu item, take advantage of a limited-time deal, or enjoy a special event such as a themed night or live music, and the like. Texts will help you radically increase the level of repeat business you obtain.

SMS messages can also help you engage more with diners, so they’re more likely to return again and again and refer your business to their contacts. Keep in mind that many people prefer texts over emails and other communication forms and thus open these messages more often and quickly, making your return on investment that much more likely to be high.

For best results, carefully consider the timing of SMS exchanges (in the times of day when people are more likely to be thinking about food and drink or generally dining out for leisure, for instance) and look for ways to create a sense of exclusivity where possible. For example, you might offer very short-run deals to a select list of people on your database, such as free drinks or entrees or access to a special event. People like to feel like they have an “in” with offers and opportunities that others don’t.

Plus, use clear, concise language on all text messages as people don’t want to scroll through a long spiel. Be to the point and direct and ensure the deal and its terms or other information you’re communicating can’t be misunderstood. Always include specific calls-to-action to get people taking next steps, too. Also, consider using photographs, videos, and other graphics in your messages (turning them into MMS texts) to add a higher visual component and engage more interest as a result.

Get Customers to Share Their Own Content

Next, think about the fact that you’re more likely to want to check out a restaurant or other business if you’ve heard mention of it through your friends or other contacts rather than through an organization itself. You should find that if you can get your valued customers to share content that they create themselves, this will be more noticed by other potential clientele.

Encourage those who dine with you to post content such as reviews of menu items, ambiance, service, and the like, plus photographs of their meals or fun times at your establishment with family members, friends, colleagues, etc. User-generated content on platforms like Yelp and Facebook or images posted to Instagram will come across as more genuine, realistic, and enticing endorsements of your restaurant than you spruiking your wares and fit-out yourself or paying for ads.

It helps to run contests to encourage people to upload images, videos, reviews, and so on to online platforms. People are incentivized when they can get something out of taking the time to do this, on top of the potential social media cred or interactions they might get. So, you might offer a certain number of winners of the most imaginative posts or conduct random draws and give away some prizes for use in your establishment. This should help expand the word of mouth of your business and increase customer retention, too.

Also, where possible, see if you can leverage clients who have influencer status or a large following online, so you boost your company’s brand awareness in the market.

Focus on Local Marketing Strategies

Another tip for effectively plugging your restaurant is to make sure you spend enough time and money on local marketing strategies. For example, when you work on your search engine optimization factors to have your website rank higher on Google and other search engines, don’t forget to include keywords related to your restaurant’s suburb and city location.

Also, think about doing some advertising in the nearby areas, such as through letterbox drops, ads in local papers and magazines, etc. You might also get involved in your local community by sponsoring or running pop-up food trucks or stalls at events or get to know business owners in the vicinity of your restaurant and invite them to come in and eat with you. You might hand out some cards with a special deal on them for other entrepreneurs nearby or even run a locals’ night once per week or month on one of your slower days.

No matter how you go about it, let all your staff know your goals and strategies so they can act on the data collected in your restaurant and help achieve the goals you set. The whole marketing team, in particular, should have this information. Data democratization technology, where the responsibility for data analytics shifts from IT to a broader group of employees, helps ensure that proactive steps are taken at multiple touchpoints to get the word out appropriately, rather than lots of data value sitting there untapped.

Make Mobile Ordering and Delivery Available for Customers

Another way to market your restaurant to a broader range of potential customers is through making mobile ordering and delivery available. After all, not everyone will be able to get into your premises to eat in or pick up food, and many may not know about your business unless they’ve actually walked or driven past it, etc. However, if you offer a delivery service, especially one that utilizes apps such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, you’ll open up your restaurant to a raft of additional clientele.

Also, with everyone so busy these days and often unable to leave their homes or offices when in the middle of a big project, making delivery quick and easy should entice a lot more repeat business from customers you already have. Some people don’t like dining out now due to the global pandemic and health concerns, too, so contact-free delivery is something they want to take advantage of and can regularly use if it’s on offer.

These are some of the top tips for marketing your restaurant in 2022. If you’re looking for some other ideas, you might consider developing gift vouchers so people can buy them for presents, spending more time on social media, and updating business profiles online via sites like Google and Yelp. Think about running some paid advertisements on Facebook, Google, and the like, too, and always keep your website updated and mobile-friendly so people can learn the information they need about your restaurant when they need to know it.

It also pays to develop both a referral program and a loyalty program and tie in your marketing efforts with fun public and food-based holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, National Spaghetti Day, National Gluten-Free Day, and National Corn Chip Day.

As you can see, there are many different options to explore to help you boost business and get better results this year.