You’ve just opened the doors to your new hospitality venue. You’re filled with excitement (and a good dose of apprehension!) about the future of your business. You know you’ve got a winning formula – fantastic food that sets your food truck apart, a music playlist to put other bars to shame, or decor soon to be the envy of your competitors.
But how do you let people know about your amazing venue? You’re no marketing expert.
It’s one thing to quickly google hospitality marketing ideas. It’s another thing entirely to put those theories into practice. So Impos has spoken to some of the pros who have done the hard yards themselves and figured out a formula that works for their venues.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular hospitality marketing techniques – and how other hospitality business owners assess the effectiveness of each method.
But first, remember…
There’s no one-size-fits-all hospitality marketing solution
Every bar, cafe, restaurant or other hospitality venue has its own personality to cater to a specific segment of the population. So naturally, while one nightclub might find huge success in marketing on Facebook, the same strategy may not apply for a family Italian restaurant targeting older generations.
Ben Walsh, who opened social dining venue Miss Moneypenny’s on Noosa’s main drag, says it’s important to think about your venue’s raison-d’etre when building a marketing strategy.
“I think you really have to be selective on the avenue of marketing that you want to apply to your business to make sure it fits your offering,” Ben says.
“There are some businesses that we know of, like speakeasy-style bars, that don’t advertise at all and advertising would actually be detrimental to their brand.”
Meanwhile, Christian Blair, who is the genius behind Annata in Crow’s Nest, says finding your right marketing strategy requires a lot of trial and error.
“We’ve had varied success with a number of different marketing methods and to be honest it’s been hard to gauge,” Christian says.
“You can do all the research and conjecture you want to work out what will work for your market, but you never know unless you try it.”
So here are some of the common ways to get the word out about your venue, and how effective these marketing opportunities can be.
Coverage in traditional media provides mixed results
Christian Blair says you can have mixed results when it comes to getting exposure from traditional media outlets.
“When we opened, we had fantastic coverage in places like Broadsheet and the Sydney Morning Herald, but I was always astounded that somehow, the vast majority of our local neighbourhood had never heard of us, even to this day.
“That being said, when I had a small feature in the North Shore Times, everyone in the area from local corporates to the guy who runs the local stationery shop were talking about it.”
Using digital emails can be effective in small doses
While some venues use digital emails, or EDMs, rigorously, Christian says he’s found it better only to use them as a way to notify patrons of special venue events and news.
“We occasionally issues EDMs … to let our guest list members know what’s been happening/what’s coming up, and the response is generally positive.
“[But] we’ve made the conscious decision to not issue them regularly as we find that if our guests receive emails from us constantly, they’re less likely to open each one as it seems routine. So we try to keep them for when we really have something to announce.”
Social media is the way to go
Most hospitality venues are embracing social media as their go-to channel to communicate with new and prospective patrons. Ben Walsh says social media and digital marketing is “where it’s all at now”, while Christian says social media is “an integral part of the restaurant game”.
Facebook and Instagram are the most commonly cited social media channels hospitality venues use for marketing. And why wouldn’t you? It’s free – or if promoted through paid advertising, comparatively cheap. And, as Ben says, it gives you access to broad swathes of your target customers.
“We tailor our marketing to suit our brand via digital media,” Ben says.
“You can build a database through [Facebook and Instagram] as well and hit the exact demographics that you’re reaching out for.”
But Christian says while social media is a good way to keep your business fresh in people’s minds or to broadcast announcements, new products and upcoming events, it can be tricky to gauge its effectiveness.
“We use our two social media channels … regularly and we find that we can garner decent engagement if we are making an announcement on these platforms. It’s hard to work out our conversion rate off these channels though,” Christian says.
“At one point, we were working a strict schedule of content over our two platforms, and whilst our following on each of these grew steadily in both our following and individual post engagement, we didn’t necessarily see it translate to our business performance.”
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Find or create your own niche marketing opportunities
Some hospitality venues look outside the box to find ways to promote their business. For example, Ben says he’s particularly interested in driving marketing through niche things such as food and wine festivals or by attracting influencers to the business who can spread the word to their huge following.
“We get involved in events that will be covered by mainstream broadcasters so that we will be seen, but we won’t be seen as an advertiser,” he says.
But popular Sydney cafe Cuckoo Callay takes a different approach. They chose to host their own food festival called the Bacon Festival, which runs for 12 weeks and includes a series of bacon-focused dishes to go alongside the cafe’s main menu.
It was an exceptional way to promote the business’s use of local, sustainable and ethical produce, as well as the perfect way to put the cafe on the map.
“By the time we did the first Bacon Festival, we were really itching for something to put us out there and get a bit of publicity, get in front of the audience,” Cuckoo Callay co-owner Ella Harris says. “And it was a way to tie a good cause with a personal passion.”
“My co-owner Ibby and I have a friend who owns Black Forest Smokehouse and is super passionate about bacon. One day he was explaining how it’s getting harder with more bacon being imported, Australian farmers going out of business etc. And we just thought: ‘That’s a massive shame. Maybe a Bacon Festival could raise awareness and allow us to have an amazing bacon menu too!'”
Seek out collaborative opportunities with like-minded businesses
On a final note, Christian says there’s an exciting trend toward more cross-promotion and collaboration within the industry.
“Restaurants doing cafe pop-ups or bars doing takeovers are a great way to spread and share between customer bases, especially when the businesses have similar approach to service and quality,” Christian says.
We’d love to hear any more original ways you’ve found to promote your business! Or if you’re looking for other hospitality marketing ideas, check out Impos’s targeted marketing solutions.