Restaurants are a whole different kind of animal in the world of marketing. While the potential of restaurant marketing is vast, if you want to stand any chance of excelling, you have to understand what makes it so different and challenging.

Not everyone is a potential customer

There’s a major misconception when it comes to food and restaurant marketing. Lots of business owners in the industry think that because everyone has eyes and a stomach, every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a potential customer.

But just like a flooring company or data and voice communications company, your restaurant has a niche too.

You have to digest factors like your menu, location, and price point to determine exactly who your appropriate and ideal customers are. From there, you can accurately determine your best course of action for marketing.

Why is it so important to realize a target demographic as opposed to casting as wide of a net as possible? Just take a look at what happened to Applebees. They turned their back on their core customer base in an effort to attract a market that had virtually no interest in their product. They ended up alienating both.

Long story short, if you try to please everyone you will please no one.

Visuals are everything

Although it may be a total cliche, the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” absolutely applies to food and restaurant marketing.

You may be able to sell me a car by simply talking about all the great features in has. You may be able to sell me a piece of software by talking about the advantages it provides. You will, however, never be able to sell Chicken Parmesan just by telling me how good it is. You sell food with pictures, not words.

Food and restaurant marketing is almost totally reliant on your product’s visual appeal. Reading the words “melted Parmesan cheese over a breaded chicken breast, served with a side of spaghetti and red sauce” will never compete with a well-photographed picture of the real deal. Pictures evoke stronger feelings that words can never equal, so don’t skimp out when it comes to photography.

That’s another reason why social media and food are such a dynamic pairing. Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter are such visual platforms that play into what makes food videos and pictures such a strong marketing component. If you don’t believe me, just look at how popular those silly 30-second Tasty videos are.

You’re selling an experience

Allow me to go on a tangent for a minute. Sports are a unique, and challenging, product to market and sell. Why? Let’s look at a typical football game. An NFL team doesn’t promote anything tangible. An attendee may get a free T-shirt, sure, but that isn’t the big pitch. No, an NFL team markets games as once-in-a-lifetime events. No two football games will ever be identical. You may be able to hear the roar of a frenzied crowd or see an amazing play happen on TV. But, to be there when it happens, tell people for years to come “I was there when so and so did such and such!”: that is what an NFL team is pitching.

Now, back to your restaurant. Your restaurant, in some respects, is like that football game. Because, food isn’t the only thing you’re selling. You are also selling an experience.

The decor, the service, the atmosphere: all of these elements play into how you choose to market your restaurant. Restaurants that hit high marks in these areas can find great success, even if they don’t have the absolute best food in town.

Billy and Susie can go on a date and get a steak at any number of places on Saturday night. So why should they go to your restaurant?

The restaurant business can be tough. It’s impossible if you can’t market yourself. Social media is a great place to start, but it’s not the only base you need to cover.