Whether you’re a private chef or a restaurateur with dozens of restaurants, marketing is essential for a thriving business. Marketing builds brand awareness, generates interest, and persuades people to buy from you. Your marketing strategy has the power to differentiate yourself from competitors, inspire loyalty from customers, and drive revenue.
In this guide, we’re sharing expert tips from Lisa Mae Hobson, a marketing strategist with years of experience in the culinary industry.
- The difference between branding and marketing
- The no-frills way to kickstart your social media marketing plan
- The #1 thing to keep in mind when building your website
- Plus, other marketing ideas to try today!
1. Establish your brand identity
First things first, decide how you want to present your business to the world. This is the basis of branding. “Your branding is your story, and marketing is the way you tell it and the channels you use,” Lisa Mae explains.
To find your brand identity, ask yourself: What are your core values? What do you stand for? What do you want your business to stand for? “Whoever you are, show that — and convey it as clearly as possible,” Lisa Mae shares. “Because that’s what will come out anyway.”
Once you’ve determined your brand identity, begin to establish it across all platforms. Your brand identity should be apparent on your social media profiles, website, and even your uniforms.
2. Build your social media presence
When it comes to cultivating your business’ online presence, Lisa Mae recommends kicking it off on social media. Not only is social media an effective marketing tool, but it’s also one of the easiest places to begin. “A lot of people are really nervous,” Lisa Mae says. “The easiest thing to do is to film yourself doing what you’re already doing. People are innately nosy — so if you’re wondering where to start, just give people a window into your life as a chef or business owner.”
But social media marketing for restaurants isn’t just about the content you put out. It’s also about what you observe. Practice social listening to gain insights about how people are responding to your brand (and your competitors) on social media channels. It can open your eyes to new ways to connect with your target customers.
Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are among the many social media platforms you can choose from. But don’t try to be everywhere at once, especially when you’re starting out. Instead, pick one or two platforms and make sure you post consistently. This brings us to our next tip…
3. Awesome content doesn’t need to be fancy
“Content is king,” Lisa Mae says. From your restaurant’s social media to your website, your content should reinforce your brand identity. “Chefs are obviously focused on their food, so their page should showcase that.” But you can also share about philanthropy and any other messages that are central to your brand, Lisa Mae says.
“It sounds stressful, but it’s easy. People get caught up because we see these really high-quality videos that companies with big media teams are producing, or other chefs who’ve hired social media managers. Just start small. Get a cheap tripod on Amazon, set up your camera, and videotape yourself making something. Don’t even edit it. Just put it out and be consistent with it.”
4. Prioritize your website’s UX
Even if you don’t plan on offering online ordering anytime soon, a well-designed website is a must-have for chefs and restaurant owners. It allows people to connect with your business at any time. “My biggest thing when it comes to building websites is making sure the user experience is really good,” Lisa Mae shares. “Get your friends to look at your website to see if it’s functional.”
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
- Text should be easy to read (choose your fonts and font sizes wisely)
- Include your menu and ensure it’s accessible from the home page
- Add a signup form, if email marketing campaigns are part of your strategy
5. Build your email list
Social media often steals the spotlight as the most important part of any restaurant marketing plan, but email can also be an extremely lucrative tool. Email marketing for restaurants gives you the opportunity to connect with current and potential customers — away from the noise of social media.
To start building your email list, look into tools such as Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit. Then, create a special offer in exchange for people’s email addresses. Once you’re set up, don’t forget to track important metrics (like open rate, clickthrough rate, and list growth rate) to see how effective your email marketing strategy is.
Here are some ways to promote your restaurant through email:
- Share about your loyalty program
- Do spotlights on different menu items
- Link out to your social media profiles
6. Embrace collaborations and partnerships
There’s immense opportunity in collaborating with brands, restaurants, and other chefs — and it’s easier than you might think. “You’d be surprised how many micro-influencers actually get brand deals just by asking,” Lisa Mae reveals. “A word of advice is to not think that your brand or your following is too small.”
When looking for potential brands to collaborate with, consider whose values are aligned with yours, and whose audience is aligned with your target audience.
7. Explore marketing on your own terms
At the start of your entrepreneurial journey, it might not be possible to outsource your marketing to a publicist or agency. Thankfully, there are a number of free resources (like this guide) available for you to cultivate your own marketing expertise! Lisa Mae says: “Take your education into your own hands, so that when you do get to a point where you’re ready to hire a publicist or social media manager, you’re knowledgeable enough to hold them accountable. Starting there will empower you to know what you’re doing.”
Take a look at these free marketing resources:
- Latasha James — content creation, social media strategy, marketing and advertising
- Laura Davis — support and training for social media marketing
- Courtney Lynn Johnson — social media strategy for startups
- Hootsuite Blog — articles about social media strategy
- HeyOrca Blog — content planning
- Socialinsider Blog — industry insights
8. Get involved in events
While you’re working on your online presence, don’t forget about the power of connecting with people in real life, too. Events like food festivals, charity galas, and trade shows are the perfect way to get offline and bring your brand to life in a new way.
Events can enhance your credibility and reputation as a chef, Lisa Mae says. “It gives you a lot of legitimacy. And if people find you and they love your personality and food, they’ll find you on social,” Lisa Mae explains.
So, how do you score a spot in an upcoming event? Lisa Mae reveals it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there. Search online to see who’s producing the event you’re interested in, then reach out to the company in-person or online.
9. Tap into your local food scene
“A lot of people have a strong love for where they live or where they come from. Take San Diego. San Diego’s culinary scene is only getting richer as people put down roots here. So if you’re able to make a web for yourself wherever you are, and pull in your community, it becomes easier to do things like collaborate with big brands and other chefs,” Lisa Mae explains.
Build the brand of your dreams
Marketing your restaurant or other food business can feel like an overwhelming task. But with the right moves, you can connect with your ideal customers, share your culinary passion, and create a profitable business. And it all starts with a memorable brand. Shop Chef Works culinary apparel to bring your brand to life today.