The restaurant industry has experienced significant disruption in the past few years. Even before the pandemic, restaurants dealt with competition, fickle consumers and rising prices. Many pivoted successfully with takeout and curbside options. Those options aren’t going away, but most people have returned to on-site dining. A new era of restaurant advertising is happening locally, and these fresh ideas can help this category acquire and retain customers.

The Restaurant Landscape: Trends Impacting Advertising

A good primer for pitching new ideas to restaurants is understanding where the industry is. According to the National Restaurant Association, sales were down by $65 billion in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. As a result, many locations shuttered or scaled back, creating possible gaps in options for some consumers.

Those still operating experienced a net decline in foot traffic in June 2022. At the same time, wholesale food prices increased by 16.3%. Inflation is also impacting the number of items ordered and, therefore, sales. Consumers are still eating out, but they do so less frequently or visit less expensive venues.

While the economic outlook is likely a concern for your restaurant advertisers, there is reason for optimism. Inflation is curbing, consumer spending confidence is still high, and pent-up demand to be outside the home is still present. New data details that consumers are eating from restaurants 9.1 times per month, only slightly less than pre-pandemic numbers.

Additionally, the holiday season is coming, which can boost revenue around catering, events and gift cards.

Expect pushback from local restaurants regarding advertising. Answer those concerns with these unique ideas.

Restaurant Advertising: Fresh Concepts for the Current Climate

Pitch these restaurant advertising ideas to drive strong results and meet the needs of the industry.


Propose Geofencing to Lure in Foot Traffic

For restaurants in high-traffic areas or entertainment districts, consumers are right where they need to be to check out the spot. Geofencing these areas allows targeted display ads to appear on mobile devices (when they have location tracking on). Encourage advertisers to provide a promo code for a free appetizer or dessert to nudge people to the table.


Create Clever SEM Ads to Gain Market Share

Restaurants may perceive SEM (search engine marketing) as too expensive because of high competition. Traditional SEM ads with keywords around restaurants, locations and cuisines can work. You can also suggest a new angle on paid search. Bidding on the names of other restaurants that are their main competition could grab the attention of someone searching for that establishment. See the example below. It’s lighthearted and not negative.

sem ad sample


Test Out More Niche Social Media Platforms

Many restaurants have been advertising on Facebook and Instagram for years. Those can be great channels, but why not try something new? Restaurants can reach younger, diverse audiences on TikTok and Snapchat. Another option is Pinterest, which could be a site to attract users building boards for travel and vacation.

Running some tests with fun, vivid creative on social media could deliver results and help advertisers expand their customer base.


Remind Restaurants of the Power of Radio

In a recent post from the RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau), the organization offered data on how radio reaches foodies. According to the post, radio listeners spend more, so it’s a perfect, low-cost way to connect with them.

Food is visual, but audio ads can still resonate. Strategizing on when to play them will matter. Early morning spots can influence lunch choices. Late afternoon ones can get listeners craving that special dinner meal.

The content can also include information related to convenient takeout and specials for dine-in eaters.


Recommend National Day Campaigns

Every month, we publish national day campaign ideas. There are so many opportunities that revolve around food. Restaurants can capitalize on these trending days to reach new audiences on social media. They are urgent, so it can mean more diners immediately. Also, suggest that they use email marketing and mobile messaging to deliver deals to current customers.


Spotlight the Local Angle

Local restaurants are part of the community, and more consumers want to support them. Customers have higher expectations of the food itself, as they’ve become more aware of the benefits of fresh and organic selections. If these things are central to your client’s brand and story, they’re perfect for ad campaigns. Telling these stories on broadcast TV or OTT/CTV ads can make a lasting impression.


Capitalize on the Holiday Season Early

The holiday season offers new opportunities for local restaurants. Start early with these campaigns to capture those planning early for holiday parties. Gift cards are also a favorite for holiday shoppers, and restaurants can offer BOGO (buy one, get one) deals treating gift recipients and givers. These ads would work well on social media, radio and digital display.

Share These Delicious Ideas for Restaurant Advertising

Restaurant advertising is evolving and will continue to do so based on consumer behavior and economic forces. You’ll need to launch creative and unique campaigns to ensure your clients use their ad budget for the highest value. Sharing these ideas could be very appetizing!

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