How To Market Your Hospitality Business Without Breaking The Bank

When it comes to creating a popular restaurant, bar or coffee shop, offering great food, drink and an excellent service is only one part of getting people through the door. Once you’ve perfected your hospitality business, you’re going to want to get the word out there. And you don’t have to steam through your budget to do this!

Through a mixture of old school and modern marketing techniques you can boost your company name for a fraction of the price the big marketing agencies spend.

Have a great business

This may sound like a cop-out of a tip, but it is the most essential thing you must do before you start marketing.

When it comes to the hospitality business, there’s no hiding behind good marketing. When you put your company out there, people are going to see it for what it is. Advertising can’t really change your reputation, but put it centre stage.

You must be confident that your customers are enjoying what you’re producing and the service that they are getting. Had any complaints recently? Some meals selling more than others? It’s a good idea to take your clientele’s feedback on board and adapt appropriately. Ask them what they’ve enjoyed and what they haven’t. You can even get some short questionnaires printed and place them on tables.

Also, look at what people are saying about you online. As annoying as it can be, customers are much more likely to give honest feedback on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google reviews than they are to your face.

Word of mouth

The oldest marketing technique in the world, and still one of the most powerful: Word of mouth. It’s what gets you new customers through the door more than any other marketing trick. According to a study by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), two thirds of conversations that ultimately inspire a purchase happen offline, not online.

Again, this lives and dies by the service you provide. People are only going to talk positively about your business if they’ve had a positive experience.

Be attentive to your customers. Talk to them, become their friends. A bar or restaurant is much more likely to gain a good reputation among people who like the staff. Once you’ve developed an amicable relationship with your customers, then you can ask them to come back and bring their friends.

If you own a restaurant — on top of producing great food — sweeten the deal by giving free liquors or chocolates with the bill. It’s these little touches that stick in a customer’s mind and gets them talking about you.

coffee shop

Use your staff as ambassadors

Your customers aren’t the only people who have friends. It’s likely that each of your staff will have their own set of mates, all prepared to spend money and see their friend working.

Take advantage of this.

Ask your staff to bring their friends in. If it’s economically viable, you can even allow your staff to give their friends discounts on drinks, food or coffee. For example, if you own a bar, perhaps it’d be a good idea to give your staff’s friends a free first drink. Not only does this get people through your door a first time, but it helps create a community that your business is at the centre of.

Another way to get your staff to spread the word is to give your staff business cards. Although business cards are more of a corporate phenomenon, they still work wonders for small food and drink businesses.

These cards don’t need to have the staff’s personal number and email, just their name, along with your business’s name, number and address. This also goes some way to make your staff feel like they are an integral part of the company — as well as getting your name known.

Make your restaurant look busy

It’s a proven psychological theory that people are much more likely to exert a certain behaviour if they see others doing it. Witnessing other people doing something provides a level of comfort: “If they’re enjoying it, so will I”. This is why nobody walks into empty restaurants.

There are ways of keeping people in your establishment to give it that busy feel. If you’re a restaurant, offer your customers more drinks or coffee once they’ve finished eating. You can even hang up mirrors to make it look busier at a first glance.

In a cafe, get comfortable chairs, easy listening music and good WiFi so people want to stick around for a while, rather than just buying a coffee and running. This is a great way to attract walking traffic — once people see others inside, they’re more likely to trust that you serve high quality food and drink.

social media

Social Media

Whereas word of mouth has been around as long as businesses have, social media has risen only in the past 10 to 15 years. Be that as it may, it is already saturated with businesses trying to cut through the noise and get in front of potential customers.

First things first, you’re going to want to be on all of the social media channels. All of them.

You’re going to need to have a presence across the whole internet to reach as many people as possible. This includes the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, you’re going to want to have the most important things in your bio: your number, address, opening times.

Internet users have started using social media like they would Google, using the search bar to look for potential eateries, coffee shops and bars in their area. This means that you want to have all of your integral information easy to find.

The great thing about social media is that your customers are basically prepared to do your advertising for you — if you push them in the right direction. Get yourself a tag on Instagram and Twitter.

In the selfie generation, it’s inevitable that somebody eventually is going to take a picture of themselves in your establishment. It’s up to you to make sure they can hashtag your business name in their posts. After that, who knows how people are going to see it?

This is another opportunity to use your staff. Explain to them that the more customers that come through the door, the more tips they are likely to get. To help this they can use their personal social media accounts to spread the business. For instance, you could ask them to post about certain deals or events that are happening that week.


Branding is hard to get right in the food and drink business. Especially when you’re competing against big chains using their endless marketing budgets to create highly recognisable brand messages. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

To create a good brand strategy, you need to walk before you run. In other words, you need to get an idea of your business’s character and what kind of message you want to deliver before you start designing the logo and buying merch.

Think deeply about what your hospitality business is, which kind of customer you want to attract and where you stand against your competitors.

Once that’s all sorted, you can then go about your branding. For your brand to be recognisable, both the logo and any accompanying slogan or writing needs to be striking and unique. Not only will this be on your shop front, but also on your sandwich bags, coffee cups, beer mats, which your customers will take out all around town, essentially doing your marketing for you.

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