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If you’re opening a new bar or restaurant, creating a marketing plan is more than a good idea—it’s basically a requirement. A solid marketing plan will help steer the ship, providing you with steps for how to market your new establishment. When you’re the new kid on the block, marketing is everything. For the first few years of your restaurant’s life, getting people through the door is critical. But, marketing plans aren’t only meant for brand-new restaurants. Even longtime, community hotspots will need to periodically brush up their marketing materials and overall strategy. Doing so can breathe new life into your establishment. Check out the most important steps in developing a great marketing for your restaurant. 

What is a Marketing Plan?

Before we jump into that… what exactly is a restaurant marketing plan? Well, it’s basically a document that will inform the entirety of your marketing strategy. A solid marketing plan will cover a wide variety of topics, including (but not necessarily limited to): social media, graphic design, branding, web presence, print ads and digital ads. 

A marketing plan will help you understand your business and how you can set it apart from other, similar restaurants or bars. If you're looking for capital, a marketing plan can help you with procuring investment. Any savvy investor will want to see a marketing plan. Note that a marketing plan is different from a business plan. A marketing plan will not cover the financials and fiscal projections.

Lastly, a marketing plan will help you stay organized. Most entrepreneurs have a thousand ideas floating around in their head at any given time. A marketing plan will make it easy to organize and execute these ideas. 

 

Planning Makes Perfect

The first part of building a marketing plan is—in a way—planning. Different projects, restaurants, or bars will require different approaches. A ten-year-old restaurant will require different marketing than a freshly-opened place. Meanwhile, a restaurant that has just opened will need something else entirely. Be sure to carefully determine what your establishment needs in its marketing plan. One good way to do this is to consider your goals—what milestones are you trying to hit with this marketing plan? What are your benchmarks?

 

Targets and Budgeting

A solid marketing plan should include quantifiable goals and targets. Avoid setting arbitrary, subjective goals like "market ourselves better" or "become cooler." Instead, look for solid information that you can genuinely measure. Quantifiable increases in profit, sales, or guest counts are all possible targets. 

Before going any further, it’s also important to set a budget. Hiring the world’s best graphic designers or PR agencies is a great idea, but only if the money exists. Determining a marketing budget will help ground your plans in reality. It will also help you determine what you are capable of doing—and perhaps more importantly, what you aren't.

 

Branding is the Backbone

Good branding can make or break your marketing. It includes many things, like graphic design, interior design, copywriting and much much more. Because it is so important, this is a great place to start actually creating your plan. Determine who you want to hire for things like graphic and interior design. Look at other restaurants and companies for branding inspiration. Your brand is basically the personality of your restaurant, so be careful and take time to consider this aspect!

 

Competitive Analysis

Let’s face it—the restaurant world is undeniably competitive. It’s a hard business, and one of the (many) reasons for that is simply competition. There are a whole lot of restaurants out there—and to make things more difficult, a lot of them are very good! For this reason, it’s important to consider your competition as part of your marketing strategy. What do other restaurants in your area do well? What tips or tricks could you learn from them? Conversely, in what areas do they struggle? How can you capitalize on these struggles? 

 

Target Customers

This is one of the most important parts of a good marketing plan. You simply have to determine who you’re marketing to. Who do you see enjoying your restaurant? What demographics are you trying to reach? Who should you disregard? Consider breaking down these groups by income level, age, location and other factors to find a "snapshot" of your perfect customer. This can help inform all of the other decisions in your marketing plan.

 

Break Out the "SWOT" Team

Performing a SWOT analysis is a good way to finish your marketing plan. “SWOT” stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This can help you understand what obstacles you may have, as well as what advantages you carry. Below are some examples of each:

Strengths are internal aspects of your business that will prove beneficial. Examples include:

  • “We have a world-class chef”
  • “Our owner is very well-connected”

Weaknesses are internal aspects that could hurt or be in the way of your success:

  • “Our owner has never opened a restaurant before.”
  • “We have a shoestring budget.”

Opportunities are external things that could help you. 

  • “Our type of cuisine is very popular right now.”
  • “Prices for red wine are low, and we are a wine bar.”

Threats are external factors that could get in the way of achieving your goals:

  • “There are already many types of this restaurant in the city.”
  • “There is a shortage of certain ingredients on our menu.”

 

Take Your Time and Crush It

Marketing plans are difficult—there’s no way around that. Some establishments pay well into the five-figures for their marketing plans, as opposed to doing them in house. So above all, take your time and make sure to get it right. As difficult as marketing plans are, they are equally important to the success of your business. 

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