Seven Strategies to Increase Your Restaurants Traffic and Profitability in 2012

Joe Welsh – CORE Restaurant Marketing


As 2011 comes to a close, it is time to think about your marketing plan for 2012. Have you considered how you are going to increase traffic and improve the profitability of your restaurant next year?

One strategy could be the method of working closely with your food distributor to reduce cost. While this practice is important, for the average restaurant the return is about fifteen thousand dollars in a year.  Another strategy that I feel deserves attention and action is building your top line revenue by increasing traffic. For the average restaurant, there are seven proven strategies which have the potential to generate over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in sales.

There are seven strategies I would recommend to any restaurant looking to increase traffic and profits. Some are will yield benefits faster than others, but in combination they will produce results that will make 2012 a great year. Outlined below is a listing of the seven strategies:

  1. Local Search Visibility. Google, the leading search engine has made available websites for local restaurants where the can post information, pictures and videos for their restaurant. This service is free and will improve your local search visibility. While there are six primary search engines, there are over one hundred and fifty additional search engines that need to know that your restaurant exists. These search engines range from Citysearch to the GPS system in your car. Does your restaurant show up on your GPS? You may be surprised.
  2. Get involved with Social Media. Social media has become the “New” word of mouth marketing tool to help drive traffic. Services such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are changing the marketing landscape in how you find new customers and interact with them on a daily basis. Yes, you can put a dollar sign on the traffic it drives in and what it means to your restaurant. They key is to build your following and engage with your customers. The viral marketing strategy will take hold as more people see your post of happy customers, beautiful food images and promotional messages. “Follow us on Facebook” needs to be part of your marketing message in 2012.
  3. Direct Mail of Takeout Menus. Takeout menus are an important part of the overall marketing mix, but getting them into consumer’s homes is critical. Letting potential customers know what is on your menu, and item pricing is a great way to bring in new customers.  Best of all, postage on a Takeout menu is the same as a large postcard. Why not get your entire menu in front of customers who may have never entered your restaurant?
  4. Utilize email Marketing. Let’s face it, more consumers are reading their email at home, work or on the smartphone. Technology has opened up ways to communicate with your loyal customers in a cost effective manner that delivers results. The key to success is to utilize your servers as your internal marketing department to help you build your database. The larger the database, the larger the potential revenue gains from email marketing. Why not take advantage of this opportunity, your competition certainly is.
  5. Community Fundraising Programs. Tapping into the power of your community is a great way to generate new customers, retain your best customers and provide a valuable role in your community. Consumer studies have indicated that consumers will support restaurants that support the local community. This proven strategy is a great way to increase customer visits and check averages. Combining this approach with email marketing provides the marketing punch that will keep your restaurant top of mind in 2012.
  6. The Guest Experience.  Marketing within your four walls is a key ingredient to increasing customer visits and referrals to help your business grow. These marketing techniques utilize all of your employees to create the perfect guest experience that has your customers generating referrals for your business. Effective server training programs, perfectly prepared food, unique signature items and a measurement system of customer comments will help you build the perfect guest experience. The payoff for all of this hard work will result in loyal customers who tell their friends and drive traffic to your restaurant. 
  7. Your menu drives profitability. If you have done an effective job at driving traffic into your restaurant, you want to be sure that your menu is designed to be profitable. Over the past two years rising commodity cost have impacted the bottom line of all restaurants for the largest chains to the single independent. Have you adjusted your menu to reflect these rising cost? Most all of the chains have in order to maintain profitability. A menu engineering analysis is a great way to identify your most profitable items and assess the impact of pricing changes. Once the analysis is completed, taking this information and using design techniques to enhance your profitable items is the next step in building your bottom line. These steps can improve the profitability of your menu by as much as 15%. When was the last time you updated your menu?

While these are great ideas, the question remains, what will these tactics mean to mean to me financially and how do I get it all done with the limited amount of time and resources you have.  Often, engaging with an outside agency can yield results that are well worth the investment. It does not cost anything to review your options and learn what the possibilities are.


Joe Welsh is a partner in CORE Restaurant Marketing a national restaurant marketing agency based in Pennsylvania. Our mission is to bring the best service providers to our clients to help them gain new customers, enhance loyalty, and increase bottom line sales and profitability of their restaurant.


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  • Just did a re-read.  Still good stuff, if you read my posts and blog, you'll know that I think 6 is the most crucial.


  • Michele, Its not just design that enhances profitability, there is the menu engineering that goes behind it to identify profitable items as well as identify the dog items. When this information is gathered, it is then used as the foundation for the design techniques that are used to boost profitability.

  • This is a great post. I have to say #2 and #7 are the most important in my opinion. 

    Social media, is a must! If you're not already in social media, you're behind the game, and that's not good for business. 

    Menu is design is also very crucial.  A menu should be laid out in the way that the viewer's eyes go directly to the most profitable items.  It can't be too busy that it's confusing, but not too plain that is all meshes together.  PR professionals use an acronym "CRAP" when designing flyers, brochures, business cards, menus, etc.  C-Contrast, R-Repetition, A-Alignment, and P-Proximity.  These guidelines should be used when designing anything for a professional setting. 

  • That's a fantastic example, Martin.  Sounding genuine and personal is a hurdle for any mass campaign, and Nick's certainly did that.  Thank you for sharing the info!

  • Regarding #4…  I agree with Jammie on the Spam.  However I wouldn’t completely discount the email campaign just yet.

    Case Study:  Nick’s Pizza – Crystal Lake, IL

    On 9/27 at 2:29 PM I received an email, “Subject:  Nick's Pizza & Pub: An uncertain future.” 
    Due to the economy and a double whammy on road construction, his business was hurting…  Very badly.  His email was a no nonsense plea with his customer base asking them to please come visit and help him keep his 2 restaurants open by reaching a certain goal. 

    Now an e-mail like this is risky and unorthodox, to say the least.  But, along with 16,000 others that received it, I sent it on.  Apparently so many of us had sent it to so many others; Nick’s impassioned email received substancial national media attention.  Needless to say, his existing customers came back in droves bringing many new customers and is successfully reaching his goals.

    I keep hearing about Social Media with regards to this, but that is a misnomer.  It was not.  It was purely an Email Campaign.  In fact the “Save Nick’s” Facebook Campaign only has 256 followers.

    What no one seems to talk about is… You need those names to begin with.  Even if it is to invite customers to join their Facebook page or follow on Twitter, and Nick was ready to go.  You see, over the past 3 years Nick’s Pizza had been harvesting names and emails as part of an incentive via a “Nick’s Card” discount.  Simple enough; 1-Register and get a Card with a happy Moose on it, 2-Get points per dollar, 3-Reach 300 points, 4-Get free pizza. 

    What have I learned?

    This is surely a case where preparation meets opportunity.  Don’t wait until you you’re in a pinch or have something to launch.  Start harvesting those names today when the opportunity arises you will have those names at your disposal to disseminate you message.  Maybe even inviting them to Facebook or as a Twitter follower where they can receive greater incentives, savings or invitations.

    Post Game Analysis:   “WIN!” 

    Point is:  Email, can still be very effective when executed properly and sparingly.

  • Good list, but I would add having a strong mobile site. Super important to help convert local search traffic coming from mobile devices (iphones, ipads, etc.).
  • Good points Jammie.

  • As someone who works within the marketing industry, I'm always disappointed when a restaurant doesn't have a twitter.  It's a great way for guests to feel heard, and more importantly, for people like me to know what's going on with your restaurant and promote it if it's applicable to what I'm trying to promote.  Twitter campaigns and Facebook coupon interaction (like what Lean Cuisine did with a coupon that got more valuable the more people gave them Facebook "likes") are more important than email campaigns, I'd argue.  In my experience, people are much more likely to interact with brands via social networking than opening up "spam."

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