5 Actions to Grow Restaurant Sales by 20%+
5 min read

5 Actions to Grow Restaurant Sales by 20%+

You want to grow sales at your restaurant.

The problem is that between keeping existing customers happy, running operations and managing your employees, there isn’t much time left to focus on growth.

That’s why you need five simple actions to focus on that are guaranteed to increase sales.

But what are the simple and reliable ways to grow a restaurant?

Well you’re in luck. I’ve spent the time doing the work to narrow it down to the five most effective tactics that work to grow restaurant sales.

No messing around, here they are.

1. Find and Optimize Every Listing

Here are the top 3 ways customers choose a restaurant to visit:

  1. Visiting one they have been to before
  2. Getting a recommendation via word of mouth
  3. Find a restaurant on an online platform or apps

The first two require you to attract customers in the first place, so they can experience your food and service and decide whether to come back, or send a friend. That means the only opportunity you have control over to attract new customers is the restaurant apps.

This is how customers find new businesses to try these days.

So you need to get listed on every restaurant app. Don’t try to pick winners, create and optimize a listing on every single restaurant platform and app related to your business. Get listings on all of them including:

  • Yelp
  • Open Table
  • TripAdvisor
  • Zagat
  • Zomato

Plus, any others you can find.

These platforms allow people to filter for restaurants very specifically, so the key is to add as many details as possible, including your:

  • Category
  • Opening hours
  • Address and phone number
  • Menu
  • Website
  • Price Range
  • Lots of photos
  • Other important features (e.g. outdoor seating, parking, special diets, etc.)

Optimize your listings and then set a reminder to yourself to regularly keep them up-to-date (e.g. if you change opening hours).

Restaurant apps are among the best free restaurant marketing tools out there, because the people searching on them are considered high intent. That means they are looking for a restaurant like yours, make it easy for them!

Be everywhere with a consistent profile.

2. Ask for Positive Ratings and Reviews

Once you have all your listing set, the big driver of customer decision making is ratings and reviews. The restaurant with the 4.6 rating will beat the one with a 4.3 rating 9 times out of 10. So you need to push your ratings up.

The best way to do this is asking happy customers for ratings and reviews.

The power of reviews is undeniable, and customers are almost always happy to leave them. But the thing is, they still need a little prompting. You need to make this a regular activity.

How you do this will depend on your restaurant's positioning. But here are some ideas:

  • Include a QR code on the dessert menu
  • Have a framed sign near the exit with an easy-to-remember link or QR code
  • Include a request on your website, coupons and receipts
  • Ask for them in person from happy and friendly customers

And remember, always respond to reviews.

Responding to reviews shapes the perception of your restaurant. Here are some tips:

  • Respond to positive reviews to encourage more of them
  • Respond to negative reviews promptly, publicly, politely, and professionally, then offer to take the conversation offline to resolve their issue

Taking control of your ratings and reviews, and pushing them up month-by-month, year-by-year will make a massive difference to your sales. You’ll be getting new customers on autopilot.

3. Optimize for Google and Local SEO

Your Google Business Profile is digital gold.

It allows you to appear in Google Maps, local search results, and the all-important Knowledge Panel in regular search results.

That’s why you need it to be complete, clear and consistent. An optimized profile will mean your restaurant will appear in the top 3 local results (the “Local 3-pack”), rank higher on Google Maps, and in doing so attract customers from your listing.

So fill in every category of information on your Google Business Profile, and keep it accurate and up-to-date.

While you’re at it there are a few steps you can take to improve your local SEO and increase the chances that you’ll appear at the top of relevant searches. Try to improve your local SEO by:

  • Getting listed on the top local listing sites
  • Embedding a Google Map of your location in your Contact page
  • Publishing content specific to your location regularly
  • Getting online reviews (the number one ranking factor in local SEO)
  • Making sure your information is as identical as possible across all your online assets

Customers love to do research online. In many cases, a few minutes spent improving your Google listing and local SEO settings can pay off for years to come.

4. Buy Google Ads

Now that you have your online presence humming, with rich details about your restaurant and a portfolio of glowing customer ratings and reviews, it’s time for people to see it!

The quickest and most reliable way to do that is through ads.

Running paid ads on platforms like Google (or Facebook) will get your restaurant in front of a lot of high-intent potential customers. Start small, be careful and experiment (you may need to seek professional advice), but here are some tips:

  • Use location targeting to ensure only customers in your city (or within a specific radius of your restaurant) see your ads. This makes sure that your campaign will be more effective and will eliminate non-relevant clicks, which cost you money
  • Google Ads allow you to increase bids around dinnertime, which is an interesting avenue to explore when designing your campaign. Are your customers more likely to visit on a whim, or carefully research your restaurant? Change your bids accordingly
  • Mobile ads tend to be cheaper than desktop ads and also boast more impressive conversion rates. Run separate campaigns targeting desktop and mobile users to see which one works best for your restaurant

Once they are up-and-running, digital ad campaigns can provide a steady and reliable source of new customers for your restaurant. You can always tweak and optimize your campaigns over time, and set spend limits, so it’s a good (and underused) option for a lot of restaurants.

5. Retarget Customers With a Newsletter

Like I said at the start, the top 3 ways customers choose a restaurant to visit are:

  1. Visiting one they have been to before
  2. Getting a recommendation via word of mouth
  3. Find a restaurant on an online platform or apps

It’s time to focus on the first lever. Bringing back previous diners.

A really effective way to do that is by using a newsletter. In a busy world full of signal and noise, you can be sure that your best customers are hearing from you, getting important messages about offers they would like to hear about, and that you are staying on top of their mind.

It’s not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other platform where your message will be swamped in a deluge of content. If your customers invite you into their inbox, it’s a sacred place where they are more likely to see your message.

The key here is to laser focus your email list on your best customers. If you keep it small, you can really get bang-for-your-buck. For highly-effective results, you can even start with just a paper sign-up form and an email account.

Your restaurant’s newsletter can include new menu items, upcoming events, coupons, customer stories, and more. It doesn’t have to be weekly. In fact, users will probably appreciate a less flooded inbox if you simply send them a newsletter every month or so.

Bonus Growth Tip: Influencer Outreach

One great way to generate reviews and hype about your is to invite food bloggers or food writers for local media outlets to your restaurant. Consider offering a free meal to get them in the door and roll out the red carpet service.

When they finish, politely ask if they’d be willing to review your restaurant and share their experience online. Some might decline, but the more you ask, the better your chances are of getting some positive feedback and generating more interest online.

Some food influencers have a big sway with local diners and getting a post on their social media account or website can bring a flood of new customers to your restaurant.

That’s it. It’s very simple.

Just start executing on these simple ideas. That’s how you grow a business.

The only trick is to keep doing it. Then after a while, lean into what works. Do more of the effective marketing activities, and less of the ineffective ones. This way you can make sure that new business is flowing in reliably year after year.