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10 marketing ideas to grow your bar and restaurant customer loyalty

Are you looking for ways to increase customer loyalty and engagement at your restaurant? Follow these strategies to find out how.

Imagine your bar and restaurant customers waiting eagerly every day for your daily specials and raving to all their friends about you. Tempting, right? In this week’s PosterMyWall free class, Linda Ringler, co-owner of Chase Creek Smokehouse, shared the strategies and secrets that have kept her restaurant thriving — and turned her customers into devoted supporters that spread the word on her behalf. You can watch the full live class via the video above. 

With her Facebook engagement strategies, Linda has managed to rack up an impressive following of 11,000 people. During the class, we asked her to teach us her ways. This is what she had to say: 

1. Post consistently and pay attention

How did you grow your following on Facebook?

The trick is to post consistently and pay attention to what people like. I post our specials every day, keep customers updated on what’s happening in the restaurant, invite people to events at the Smokehouse, and post lots of pictures of our food and deals.

How do you create enough content to post daily?

Look for content ideas that are relevant to your page or things that are generally funny or engaging. For instance, I did a National Twin Day post one time. I asked people to share a picture of them with their twin to win a free gift card.

How can you tell that your social media promotion is working?

There are a couple of ways to see if your promotional efforts are working:

  • Your follower count will go up consistently
  • The likes you get on your posts will slowly go up each time
  • Someone might come up to you and say that they saw a particular post
  • The comments on your post will be meaningful and will keep increasing 

You can also use Facebook Insights to get an idea about whether or not your posts are getting you engagement, and also which posts are getting you the most attention. 

2. Create your own content style

You add various announcements to a single post on your Facebook page. What is your rationale for doing that and would you recommend this strategy to other people?

Customers don’t like to feel like they’re been spammed with posts all the time. So to avoid the clutter, I add all my major announcements to one post that I make at the start of the day — this includes information about vacancies, daily specials, events etc.

Before you implement this strategy, think about your own audience. Will they like this posting format? Will it increase engagement for you? You can even post your content in this way once or twice to experiment and see results. Often, what works for one person doesn’t work for another. So make sure to create a content style that works for you. 

3. Communicate in your natural voice

How do you develop a voice for your captions?

The best approach is to keep the tone of your captions business casual. Talk to your customers on social media the way you would at your restaurant. Also, make sure the tone you pick is consistent across posts. This will become part of your branding i.e. people will recognize your posts immediately as soon as they see your captions. 

4. Create a tradition that keeps people coming back

You have a great ongoing deal at the Smokehouse called “Drink of the Week”. Tell us more about that and why you do it. 

“Drink of the Week” started as a way to get rid of leftover liquor from the previous week. We take the liquor and make a really nice cocktail out of it. Our customers absolutely love it! 

The great thing about a tradition like this is that it gives customers something to look forward to. People will keep coming back to your restaurant just for that one tradition. This is how you build customer loyalty. 

How should you promote the tradition you create?

There are three ways to promote your tradition:

  • Social media – particularly graphics for Facebook
  • Digital signage – we have a big TV at the restaurant, where we display the special deal going on
  • Posters – I create a poster, print it out on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, and put it up on my walls

I can create whatever graphics I want for my promotion with PosterMyWall templates in practically no time at all. The fact that I can do it all in-house saves up a lot of valuable time and effort. Another great thing about PosterMyWall is that I don’t have to create individual graphics for each platform. For instance, I can create one design and then resize it for social media, print posters, or display as digital signage all with a click of a button and no extra effort. 

5. Encourage engagement by selecting post topics that are personally meaningful to your customers

How do you decide which post topics will be meaningful to your customers?

I track the activity across my page to figure out what my customers’ tastes and preferences are. It’s also important to look at your target demographic to see what they would like. 

Can you give us some examples?

  • Pet crazy contest – we asked people to show us a picture of their crazy pet. Then I used a random name picker to figure out who won. The winner got a $25 Chase Creek gift card.
  • Daddy daughter dance – dads and daughters got dressed up and came to the restaurant for the event. We took a lot of pictures and posted them on Facebook. Our customers loved seeing themselves on our page.
  • Gorgeous grandma day – we asked people to show us a picture of their grandma. More than 500 people responded. This was a really cool way to appreciate and recognize grandmas and get some engagement on our page.
  • Coloring contest for kids – we asked kids to send us their artwork and we posted it on our page. We also accompanied this with other fun activities for kids e.g. asking them to create a fort in their living room and send us a picture. This was done during the COVID-19 pandemic so it was nice for parents to have something fun to do with their kids. 

6. Incentivise with gift cards

Why is giving out gift cards to your customers a good idea?

Gift cards work for two reasons:

  • A $25 gift card will not actually cost you $25 dollars — it will just cost you the actual cost of the food that the customer selected to redeem the gift card. 
  • When people come to the restaurant to redeem the gift card, they will bring a friend, a child, or a significant other along, thereby increasing exposure for your business. 

How do you decide who wins the gift card during a giveaway or lucky draw?

I use a random name picker so that I know I’m being impartial. I go into the random name picker, add everyone’s names in a text file, and upload it into the software. I record the video of the process and post it on Facebook. And that’s how I choose my winner. 

7. Bring people in with events

Where do you do your events?

We do the events at our restaurant. We have a beautiful, covered patio with a stage that we use. 

What kind of events do you host?

Anything that will get people excited and bring them to our restaurant. We do trivia nights in the summertime. Occasionally, we do karaoke events. We used to do a promotion called “Thirsty Thursdays”, and we turned it into an event by having a band play on Thursdays. So we get a lot of foot traffic in our restaurant every Thursday.

We also occasionally do fundraisers to support an important cause. This helps us integrate with the community and establish ourselves as a business that cares. 

How do you promote your events?

Since we do so many events, individual promotions for each would just confuse our customers. So we put up a poster that lists all the upcoming events of the week so that people can keep track. We hang the poster up at our restaurant, and also share it on Facebook. At the restaurant, we put them up on our front door, in the foyer, and on the bathroom stall doors. 

8. Partner with local businesses

What is the benefit of partnering with local businesses?

It’s a mutually beneficial collaboration. The business gets access to our customers, and we get access to theirs. Therefore, we’re able to increase exposure for our business and offer our customers something tasty and unique at the same time. 

Can you give us an example of a partnership?

We recently partnered with a couple of breweries to serve their beer at the Smokehouse. Every time we carry their beers, I create a special that goes along with them so that if their customers decide to have beers at our restaurant, they can pair them up with one of our delicious meals. This way, we encourage new people to try our food. 

9. Create a lead-up plan to promote your events

We noticed you don’t just post about an event once. You create a series of posts leading up to the day of the event. Tell us why you do that. 

While I do list down all the week’s events in an “upcoming events” poster, I also like to remind people repeatedly about whatever event is coming up just in case they missed the previous announcement. 

The way to go about this is to create a promotional schedule in which you post a series of posts over a fixed number of days at particular times. We did this with our Sunday Brunch special — we put up a series of posters to remind people about the event. 

10. Keep learning through free online classes and tutorials

How do you get all the marketing tips and ideas for your Facebook page?

I do a lot of research. I routinely go to the National Restaurant Association’s website as well as the website for the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. These sites have a lot of good restaurant marketing resources. They also direct me to classes on the Internet that I can go to for more education.

That’s how I was also introduced to PosterMyWall’s free classes. These classes have really helped me in my marketing. I usually take certain tips from these classes that I know will work for me, or I experiment with some new ideas. Sometimes, the classes inspire an idea of my own that I then implement. 

Are you ready to grow engagement and customer loyalty at your restaurant?

Linda’s tips should help you to build your social media following, and do it in unique and creative ways that will increase customer loyalty. So experiment with her strategies, and figure out a process that works for you.

Bonus: Download a summary of Linda’s marketing strategies.