Finding a budget for marketing when you first start your business is TOUGH. But, even if you've got ZERO budget to pay a marketing agency to help, you can still design your business to market itself using a few tricks.
Here are our ideas for marketing your restaurant or food biz for free:
1. Create an outlandish food item
It's doesn't need to be a giant pizza, but basically, get known for something bizarre. Your whole menu doesn't need to become a gimmick. Just one or two things. A giant pizza? A HUGE cookie with every topping possible in and on it? The trick is, find a way to make an outlandish, inexpensive item that ties to your restaurant menu and theme, and the neighborhood will hear about it via word-of-mouth and social media pretty quick.
2. Give back to the local community
This may seem like a way to spend money, but it's marketing. By giving back, you'll automatically get your name seen by your local community. You don't need to write a giant check, but you can: sponsor local teams, provide small snacks/catering for local public events, or seek ways to provide lunch/dinner to first responders. The beauty of giving back is it's totally up to you where and how to give back.
3. Celebrate cultural events in your community
This is a great way to expand your audience. If you've got a taco spot, but have a special, or even theme specifically to celebrate another culture, you'll bring in most guests who may not have been seeking tacos in the first place. Plus, you can submit your event to local news outlets and/or social platforms for further marketing impact.
4. Bottle your star condiment, or INVENT one!
Some places sell merch, like t-shirts or hats, but, it's the food that they like. Don't be afraid to sell a sauce to patrons. Your brand will be in their home, and seen by others. Additionally, users tend to share items like these on social media when cooking and may likely tag your account. Be sure to add social media handles to your labels if you create them!
5. Offer a give-away for shares
You can do a give away like "lunch for a month" or even a giveaway like the one pictured below which is a feast giveaway - essentially, lunch for a small staff. Other ideas could be free merch you already have, a lesson from the chef on how your make a signature meal or even cocktail, etc. There are lots of ways to get your current fans to promote you to their own networks.
6. Marry your culinary concept with another business concept
Better together! By sharing audiences you both get further exposure. It doesn't need to be a food business of course. Take the below example, guitars and coffee? It works. Pitch this idea, but if you don't see any potential partners, consider if there is something you'd sell! You essentially pull in multiple audiences this way.
7. Try creative bar and appetizer snacks - better than peanuts or bread
Some places offer something different, just for the added factor of uniqueness that gets talked about. Be the bar with fresh cooked kettle chips, or the restaurant with popcorn instead of bread. There are lots of equally priced options that you can swap in for the usual free item.
8. Make a selfie wall by hiring a local artist or DIY it
If you don't have the budget for hiring an artist, mostly any good looking wall with a mirror will get a selfie. However, the more recognizable, and pretty the wall is, the more guests will snap a pic of themselves there. By showing your business to friends, guests are generating organic marketing for you. Here's how one taco and oyster bar is doing just that:
9. Make your as drinks pretty as possible
It tastes good, but can you make it almost impossible to resist taking a photo of it to share? Just the glass can make all the difference or a little touch of decor. By making a cocktail pretty, others often ask the original poster, where did you get that? The best perk of this trick, is you get easy photos to share to your own social pages when guests tag you, but - be sure to tag and credit the original account if you reshare.
GOT MORE IDEAS? TELL US IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!