Today, many diners are back to eating out at restaurants with the same frequency they did before the pandemic. But restaurant businesses are not all quite out of the woods. Though some are thriving, bringing in more revenue than ever, many are still paying off debts and trying to manage ever-shifting labour and supply chain challenges.
We’ve been facing challenges like sourcing ingredients, and balancing food costs. But what’s helped us succeed has been consistency, listening to our customers, and adapting. Take the time to really understand what your customers want, and fill those needs.
Operating a restaurant business in 2023 may feel like running at full speed just to get back to a healthy baseline — but there’s a lot you can do to make things easier today and in the long run.
Here’s a variety of strategies restaurants can take to sustainably grow their businesses this year and beyond.
Restaurant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to track
Before choosing which restaurant growth strategies to try, consider your specific business goals. That way, you can set baselines and measure the impact of your new efforts.
There’s a lot more metrics restaurant owners can measure in addition to profit and loss statements. Track any of the following key performance indicators for the food industry:
Number of new customers generated by your marketing efforts
Average ticket size
Profit margin of particular menu items
Order volume on particular days of the week
Performance or growth of various ordering channels,
Open rate of your emails
Number of uses of promo codes or discount offers
Number of social media followers
Restaurant growth strategies to try in 2023
1. Learn more about your customers and what your target audience wants
Take the time to learn about your community: their tastes, how often they dine out, the size of their households, and how their budgets are currently looking. This can help inform the tactics you use in the marketing strategy for your restaurant, improve the targeting — and effectiveness — of your overall restaurant marketing plan.
2. Run targeted promotions for existing customers
Once you know what your customers want and need from your business, you can start to plan promotions and discounts that are tailor-made to catch their attention.
Here’s some examples of creative, tailored restaurant promotions and discounts:
For a restaurant in a college town, you can waive the delivery fee for late-night orders during exam season.
If your restaurant feeds a lot of young families, create attractively priced combos made specifically to feed a family (and make them easy to order for sleep-deprived parents).
If your restaurant is surrounded by offices, promote your lunch offerings and reward loyalty with a free coffee or dessert on a customer’s third order from you.
For a restaurant with a cause that’s important to its community, offer a free appetizer or dessert for customers who show proof of donation to a charity of your choice.
Of course, you can also experiment with promotions that have universal appeal, like:
Waived delivery fee for a first order from a new customer
Percent discount on a first order from a new customer
Free appetizer with the purchase of an order over a certain dollar value
Buy one item, get one half off
3. Optimize your menu for all kinds of diners
Taking a hard look at your menu and your profits is an important step to growing your business , as food waste can be a profit-killer. Eliminate menu items that produce more waste than profit, and add combos that are appealing to your customers and helpful to your bottom line. This process is called menu engineering, and it’s an integral part of designing an effective menu for your business.
At Favorites Thai BBQ, they only offer items that travel well for online ordering, but they also offer great natural wine pairings to all online customers, helping to boost average check size and provide the full experience.
4. Implement automated email marketing
Though setting up email marketing takes work at the beginning, it’s an extremely effective channel to promote and grow your business: email marketing returns an average of $44 for every $1 spent.
Once you’ve built a few emails, the best marketing tools can be programmed to send them off on their own, reminding customers who haven’t been back in a pre-set number of months to take advantage of an exclusive promotion.
5. Build partnerships to get your name and product out there
Partnerships are a very effective food marketing strategy. You can try sponsoring local teams and charity events, but also try partnering with other food businesses. For example, if you make croissants, talk to a local cafe about supplying their business with baked goods. If you’re next door to a bar, offer to create a few simple menu items that you can prepare to serve next door.
For example, Radical Road Brewing Co. in Toronto offers food for their guests from Mean Bao.
6. Ensure your Google Business information is always accurate
Part of growing your restaurant’s reach is about removing any potential stumbling blocks your customers encounter when considering your business. That means keeping an updated website with accurate hours of operations and location info, but also making sure that information is always correct on the Google Business listing for your restaurant.
If a customer tries to visit your business on a day you’re closed because the info they found online wasn’t right, they likely won’t bother trying again.
7. Build your brand on social media
Social media is one of the most popular ways to do digital marketing for restaurants. Instagram has long been an important social channel, as its photo-focused interface lets restaurants easily show off the most tempting and exciting photos of their food and atmosphere. And though it’s less popular with Gen Z consumers, Facebook can also still be a useful channel for social media marketing for restaurants — especially paid ads.
Today, TikTok is gaining ground, and restaurants are creating short videos that give potential diners an even clearer picture of what it’s like to eat at their restaurant. Table 51, an Montreal-based upscale comfort food kitchen and bar, has a truly delightful, humorous TikTok presence — and their videos regularly reach hundreds of thousands of viewers.
8. Reduce turnover with meaningful benefits
Though staffing continues to be challenging, investing in paying staff better and offering benefits (like dental coverage or wellness stipends) lays a foundation for a stronger business long-term. Turnover is expensive, as finding and training staff takes valuable time away from busy team members. Plus, teams that are constantly training and onboarding new staff deal with significant inefficiencies.
Make sure your employees have enough to live comfortably in your city, and create a supportive and enjoyable workplace culture to sustainably grow your business.
9. Meet customers wherever they are
Today. restaurants continue to benefit by offering many ways to order. The public has grown accustomed to the convenience and comfort of takeout and delivery on their favourite apps, so keep offering these channels to reach new customers and continue serving your off-premise regulars. At Kokomo in Vancouver, implementing DoorDash led to 20,000 new orders.
From a business perspective, [using DoorDash] is a no-brainer. We’ve driven $500,000 in incremental sales since joining DoorDash. It’s an honour to serve so many new customers.
10. Try out DoorDash Storefront
DoorDash Storefront lets customers order food from restaurants directly though the business’s website, social media pages, or Google Business listing. It’s a commission-free way to fuel food delivery growth and an efficient way to turn casual online browsers into customers.
Restaurants using Storefront’s Order with Google integration see an average of 21% more commission-free orders per store over a one-month period, based on December 2021 sales for all U.S. Storefront merchants using this integration. And, as of January 2021, restaurant partners on the DoorDash app using Storefront drive an average of 26% more incremental sales in the first 30 days after adding Storefront to online ordering.
Learn how to set up Storefront with our guide to growing your business online.
11. Put the DoorDash Merchant Suite to good use
The DoorDash Merchant Suite is full of tools that restaurants can use to attract new customers and bring back the ones that haven’t been by in a while.
Promotions: You can offer promotions and discounts right in DoorDash, and easily meet your restaurant advertising goals. Encourage guests to spring for a bigger order with a percent discount or free item, and stand out from the competition.
DashPass: Restaurants on Premium and Plus plans can use DashPass, which means they’ll be shown first to DashPass subscribers, who tend to order more frequently — which can help increase revenue.
DashPass has helped us to get new and loyal customers – most order 5 out of 7 days a week. DashPass brings me a lot of loyal customers that order regularly.
Sponsored Listings: Any DoorDash restaurant can opt to pay for sponsored listings, so they’ll be placed prominently in the DoorDash app, helping drive more orders.
Implement a new restaurant growth strategy today
Whether you want to give email marketing a try, grow your social media presence, or take advantage of the many marketing and growth opportunities with DoorDash, take stock of your business’s opportunity areas and plot your path forward. Your diners, employees, community, and P&L will thank you.