10 Free Advertising Ideas for Restaurants That Work in 2023

Free Advertising Ideas for Restaurants

With prices going up, running a restaurant can be tough. But cutting costs doesn’t mean cutting corners on getting the word out. Our team knows the restaurant business well and has found 10 free ways to advertise your restaurant that really work. Just because there’s less money to spend doesn’t mean your restaurant can’t shine!

1. Tap into Social Media

How we use social media to promote restaurant for free

Surprisingly, many restaurants aren’t using this tool. But today, people find new places to eat by looking at pictures and videos, not just menus. If your food looks good online, it can bring customers in. Think about it: if another restaurant is showing off their dishes on social media and you’re not, guess where diners might go? By sharing yummy photos and clips, you’re inviting folks to say, ‘let’s eat there!’

You don’t have to be an expert to use social media. Just set up an account (Instagram works best for restaurants), snap some photos of your meals with your phone, and post them. It’s that simple. Need help getting started? Reach out to us. But if you’re looking for free restaurant promotion tips, we encourage you to give it a try yourself.

2. Display your menu and today’s specials outside

Pedestrian checking out the menu outside

Lots of restaurants miss the chance to attract walk-ins by not showcasing their menu. Some folks might be interested but are hesitant to come in just to see the menu. By putting your menu, especially today’s specials, outside, you’ll catch more attention. It gives people a reason to stop, look, and think, “That deal’s only for today? I don’t want to miss out!”

3. Collaborate with local food influencers

Connect with local “foodies” and offer them a meal on the house in return for a post about their experience on their social accounts. Yes, you’re offering a free meal, but the exposure can be worth gold. Some top influencers might want payment, but many will post in exchange for just the meal. To really make a splash, ask them to make a Reel or TikTok—it’s got a better chance to go big. We once worked with a restaurant and a video from one influencer reached over 300k local viewers. That place was packed for a month! So, try your luck with the Reel or TikTok algorithm—it could be your jackpot!

4. Team up with Local Businesses

Dive deep into community connections and strike up collaborations with neighboring businesses. Think of it like neighborhood teamwork – you help them, and they return the favor. For example, why not team up with a local gym? They hand out your restaurant’s discount vouchers to their members, while you proudly display their membership brochures or promotional posters in your dining area.

Let’s look at a real-world scenario: Imagine a health-conscious eatery located near a gym. By partnering up, the eatery offers gym-goers a special post-workout smoothie at a discounted rate. In return, the gym promotes a “Healthy Dining Night” at the restaurant for their members. Both businesses see an uptick in new clients. The restaurant attracts fitness enthusiasts looking for healthy options, and the gym gets diners who want to work off those delicious meals. It’s a win-win! Such symbiotic relationships not only boost business but also foster a sense of community spirit.

5. Sample Advertising

sampling restaurant event

Sometimes, tasting is believing! This strategy is a gem, particularly for restaurants offering cuisines unfamiliar to locals. Take, for instance, our experience with an Ethiopian restaurant in the Vancouver area. We set up a sample booth, and the response was overwhelming. We quickly ran out of samples! Many curious folks admitted, “I’ve always been intrigued by your place, but your menu items were unfamiliar.” I mean, would you spontaneously order Kitfo or Tibsi without knowing what they are? By letting people taste these dishes, the fear of the unknown was replaced with an appreciation for new flavors. The outcome? A significant uptick in restaurant foot traffic in just a fortnight.

6. Fine-tune Your Google My Business Listing

GMB listing of the restaurant that we manage

Being discoverable online, especially in local searches, is a game-changer for restaurants. When someone types “restaurant near me” into Google, you want to be right there at the top! How? Optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing.

Start by filling out every detail Google asks for. Showcase tempting photos of your dishes, ensuring the star attractions are right up front. Take the time to type out your entire menu—it might be tedious, but it’s a game-changer for drawing in customers who browse menus online. Engage with your clientele by responding to reviews, both positive and not-so-positive. Keeping them updated on special holiday hours or any changes is key.

But don’t stop there. Stay active by posting weekly/monthly updates, like today’s special or an upcoming event.

restaurant post updates for Google listing

These regular updates signal to Google that your business is active and engaging, which can give you an edge in search rankings.

Need deeper expertise in restaurant local SEO? We’re here to help. But even the basic steps can greatly improve your restaurant’s online visibility, driving in more customers through the power of search engines!

7. Partner with Food Delivery Platforms

Joining hands with reputable food delivery platforms can be very helpful. It’s not just about delivering meals—it’s about tapping into a new audience who might have never walked through your doors. By not offering a delivery option, you might be overlooking a vast group of potential customers eager for your cuisine. Embracing delivery can be the key to unlocking those additional sales and broadening your restaurant’s reach.

BUT… there’s a catch.

While these platforms can give you exposure, their 20-30% commission can be a hefty bite out of your profits. So, here’s a trick: slip a flyer into each delivery bag. Encourage customers to order directly from your restaurant’s website next time. Not only does this cut out the middleman, but it fosters a direct relationship with your patrons. And if you’re scratching your head about how to set up online orders, don’t fret. We offer a specialized online ordering system tailored just for restaurants. Think of it as a way to serve convenience, without the hefty commission!

8. Use Local Bulletin Boards

Local bulletin boards, often overlooked in the digital age, can be a goldmine for reaching out to the community. These boards, found in community centers, libraries, and other public gathering spots, are frequently visited by locals looking for services, events, or recommendations.

Create an eye-catching flyer or a mini-version of your menu, and pin it up! Ensure it captures the essence of your restaurant—whether it’s showcasing your best-sellers, a special discount, or a mouthwatering photo of a signature dish. It’s a tangible way of reminding people in the vicinity about the culinary experience awaiting them just around the corner.

Moreover, it’s not just about the promotion. Posting on these boards solidifies your presence in the community and portrays your restaurant as an integral part of the local fabric. In essence, it’s not just advertising, but also about building and nurturing local relationships.

9. Engage in Facebook communities

Joining local Facebook groups can be a great way to connect with your community. You don’t always have to promote your restaurant. Just being active, answering questions, or joining in on local chats can give your restaurant a friendly face.

Now and then, you can drop a special deal just for group members. It’s a way of saying “thanks” for being a part of the community.

Of course, if you run a Thai restaurant and someone in the group asks for Thai food recommendations nearby, don’t hesitate to suggest your place.

10.Embrace Video Content on TikTok and Reel

Tiktok viral video of restaurants that we manage

While we touched on social media earlier, there’s a specific shoutout we’d like to give to video platforms like TikTok and Reel, especially since they’re leading the pack in 2023. For restaurants, video is a golden ticket—after all, who can resist a mouthwatering dish in motion? Whether you’re showcasing a recipe, capturing customers’ delighted reactions, or sharing a heartwarming backstory of your restaurant, video has the power to captivate like no other.

The cherry on top? These platforms have algorithms that can, at times, propel your content to a vast audience out of the blue. So, there’s always a chance your video might strike gold and go viral! Dive into the dynamic world of video content; it’s a delicious way to get eyeballs on your restaurant.

To Sum Up

Running a restaurant isn’t just about great food; it’s also about getting the word out. With the right moves, like diving into social media or teaming up with locals, you can really make a splash. Need a hand with all this? If you want more customers coming your way, just give MainMenus restaurant marketing agency a shout. You can contact us here.