14 Tips for Defining and Reaching Your Restaurant's Target Customers

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 restaurant target market

As a business owner, it’s important to have a clear picture of the people you’re trying to attract, as well as a strategy for getting them through the doors. Don’t make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone; creating a focused marketing campaign is crucial. Here are our top tips for defining and reaching your target customers.

Experts believe the UK restaurant industry generates a revenue of around £40 billion every year - but it’s a highly competitive sector. Restaurant owners must work hard to attract and retain customers, or they risk joining the thousands of failed businesses that didn’t make it. So, how can you build a customer profile and reach your target market? We’ve got the answers.

Defining your target customers

To build up a profile of your ideal customer, run through each aspect of your business model; the type of restaurant you run will influence the people it attracts. Think about: 

  1. The dishes you’ll serve - you might choose to focus on healthy or vegan options, as opposed to indulgent meals or fast food

  2. Your location - city-centre restaurants will have a different customer base compared to food outlets in shopping malls or those in the suburbs

  3. Your opening hours - perhaps you’re launching a brunch spot or a late-night kebab outlet

  4. The types of occasions you’d like to cater for - for instance, casual dinners, romantic dates, birthday celebrations or family get-togethers

  5. Your pricing - try to pinpoint your position between a fast food outlet and a fine dining experience

  6. Your ambience and décor - are you opening a trendy restaurant with loud music and sociable bench seating or will your eatery be a more relaxed location with a live pianist and cosy alcove seating?

Once you’ve established the finer details of your restaurant business model, you’ll be in a better position when it comes to defining your target customers. By this point, you should know what sort of person will enjoy eating in your restaurant and how you’ll provide a fantastic experience for them. 

Reaching your target customers

So, you know who you’re looking for - but how do you find them and persuade them to eat in your restaurant? The food service industry is notoriously competitive, so you’ll need to set out a winning promotional strategy if you’re to maintain a good profit margin. Here’s how to market to your ideal customer: 

    1. Do market research

      Any first step should be to carry out market research. You can pay companies to conduct surveys on the groups you’d like to target or take to the search engines. You’re likely to find interesting statistics about the sub-sector you’re joining and the people you’ll attract.

      Market research can reveal surprising trends well before they’re common knowledge in the food service industry. So, taking this step should give you a massive leg up when it comes to reaching your target customers.

      For more information, take a look at some of the questions to ask when doing market research.

    2. Consider your competitors

      As a new restaurant on the scene, you’re almost definitely going to be competing with existing businesses. Do some research to work out which local restaurants are currently catering to the customers you’d eventually like to serve. If you’re to take some of their custom, you’ll need to think about how you can differentiate yourself from rival eateries,  and then let people know your USP. 

    3. Highlight your USPs

      When designing your marketing campaign, revisit the factors you considered when defining your target customers. Draw out the most attractive ones, and any that give you an advantage over the competition. For instance, you might like to shine a light on your late opening hours, ethically-sourced ingredients or romantic ambience. 

    4. Use the tools at your disposal

      These days, the vast majority of businesses would benefit from engaging with customers online. Restaurant owners have so many options when it comes to marketing. So, if you haven’t launched your own shiny website, created social media profiles or written a blog, you might be missing a trick. 

      The best part? Using these tools is usually fairly affordable, but could have a huge impact on your revenue. 

    5. Showcase your food

      According to Hubspot, people are 40 times more likely to share visual content on social media than any other type of post. As the owner of a restaurant, you’re at an advantage here; you have the chance to take attractive photos of your dishes to tempt customers through your doors.
    6. Get SEO-wise

      Search engine optimisation might sound like jargon, but it’s incredibly useful if you want more people to find you on Google. By using a number of techniques, like incorporating keywords and links, you can make sure your website ranks highly on search engines. This step requires a bit of research or the help of an expert, but it shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re serious about success. 

    7. Offer freebies, discounts and deals

      Nothing gets customers quite as excited as a freebie. Show passers-by just how delicious your dishes are with bite-sized samples at the door, or launch a money-off deal for your opening week. Although you might feel like you’re losing money, you’ll gain long-term customers and enjoy their income for years to come. 

    8. Use testimonials

      People tend to trust reviews more than any form of marketing, so take the time to collect positive feedback from your first few customers. If you get their permission to share it, you can put testimonials on your website, social media pages, flyers and any other marketing material you develop. Over time, this should help you build a great reputation. 

Launch a thriving restaurant business

Hopefully, this guide has given you plenty of ideas when it comes to defining and reaching your target customers. For more information and handy tips, see our other articles or use the search bar to find resources on a given topic. 

If you’d like the security of working under a recognisable franchise brand, take a look at the businesses interviewing investors at the moment. Our selection of restaurant franchises covers a variety of sub-sectors and investment levels. 

>> Read more articles on the Restaurant sector

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