Marketing

38 Traditional Marketing Tactics to Build Restaurant Awareness

Learn how to build restaurant awareness with these 38 traditional marketing tactics.

“Build it and he’ll come.”

That was the message behind the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, where an Iowa farmer builds a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield and the target market (Iowa baseball fans) shows up to watch a game.

Unfortunately, many businesses think the same way about marketing their restaurants:

“Build it and customers will come.”

Waiting around for your target market to find you will cost time, money and frustration. Users need to know your restaurant exists, what you serve and that you can satisfy their desire. Instead of the Field of Dreams, build-it-and-they’ll-come approach to marketing — do the following:

“Build it and create awareness.”

In part one of this post, I'm going to share 38 traditional marketing (i.e. offline) tactics to build restaurant awareness. In part two, I’ll follow-up with 19 digital marketing tactics.

1. A-Frame Signs

Cost: $$

A-frame signs or sandwich board signs are portable signs that are often used to advertise business, sales or events to passersby on sidewalks.

2. Adopt-a-Highway Program

Cost: $$$$

The Adopt-a-Highway program is a promotional campaign where a business agrees to maintain a portion of a highway. This usually involves collecting garbage and mowing the grass. In exchange for this service, the business is allowed to have its name posted on a sign along the highway. While this program builds brand awareness, it also builds trust with the local community.

3. Aerial Advertising

Cost: $$$$

Aerial advertising often occurs in the air at popular beaches or sporting events. This type of advertising can include blimps, hot air balloons, drones, airplanes that tow banners or compose messages in the form of smoke trails (i.e. skywriting).

4. Billboards

Cost: $$$$

Billboards are large, outdoor advertisements that are located above highways, expressways and roadsides and contain memorable images, slogans and value propositions. Digital billboards with remote scheduling and real-time updates are beginning to replace the cost and maintenance of traditional billboards.

5. Brochures

Cost: $

Brochures are promotional documents that can be used to highlight your restaurant's menu, private dining and catering services.

6. Bumper Stickers

Cost: $

Bumper stickers are adhesive labels that are affixed to automobiles and contain memorable logos, graphics, slogans or quotes that can be seen by other drivers.

7. Bus Advertising

Cost: $$$

Bus advertising consists of banners on the exterior and interior of buses as well as posters on bus stop shelters and printed ads on bus stop benches.

8. Business Cards

Cost: $

Business cards provide essential contact information in a pocketable size that can be given at formal introductions or distributed. Business cards are also used for referral marketing.

9. Celebrity Endorsements

Cost: $$$$

Celebrity endorsements leverage fame and social status to promote businesses.

10. Cross-Promotion

Cost: $$

Cross-promotion is a strategic partnership involving two or more businesses that work together to promote their business to each other's audience.

11. Direct Mail

Cost: $$$

Direct mail is the delivery of advertisements like postcards, letters, coupons, flyers and related materials via mail carriers.

12. Flyers

Cost: $

Flyers are usually 8.5 by 11-inch advertisements with discounts, specials or menus that are distributed in public places, posted on walls, community boards, shopping center entrances, etc. Flyers can range from black and white photocopies to high-quality, color copies.

13. Grabertising

Cost: $$$

Grabertising combines the words “grab” and “advertising” to create a type of advertising that consumers often grab like shopping cart handles at the grocery store, stickers on fruits, vegetables, pens, napkins, etc.

14. Human Billboards

Cost: $

Human billboards are people who hold or wear advertisements on signs, T-shirts, or costumes. Human billboards are also known as sign walkers, sign wavers, sign twirlers and human directionals. They often attract attention along busy streets by dancing or spinning signs that contain directional cues.

15. In-Flight Advertisements

Cost: $$$$$

In-flight advertising targets airline passengers and encompasses everything from ads on boarding passes, ads before movies and sales pitches from flight attendants.

16. License Plate Frames

Cost: $$

License plate frames are decorative edgings for license plates and are often used by dealerships, sports teams and other businesses to build awareness in local markets.

17. Magazine Advertising

Cost: $$$

Magazine advertising is made up of print ads that run in local, regional or national magazines. To learn more about advertising in magazines, read Entrepreneur’s article about magazine advertising.

18. Mobile Billboards

Cost: $$$

Mobile billboards or truck-side advertisements are static or digital advertisements on the side of trucks or trailers that are driven around neighborhoods or parked in strategic locations.

19. Movie Theater Advertisements

Cost: $$$$

Movie theater advertisements are usually 60-second commercials that run before movie trailers. These ads may be from local, national or international brands that target the demographic watching a particular movie.

20. Newspaper Advertising

Cost: $$

Newspaper advertising is made up of print ads that run in local or national, daily or weekly news publications. To learn more about advertising in magazines, read Entrepreneur’s article about newspaper advertising.

21. Novelty Advertising

Cost: $$

Novelty advertising consists of branding small, inexpensive items with restaurant names and logos to be freely distributed at events or in front of storefronts. This type of advertising often includes pens, tote bags, coffee mugs, stickers, magnets, etc.

22. Pole Banners

Cost: $$$

Vinyl pole banners are hung between two poles on lamp posts along main city roads to advertise seasonal events and celebrations.

23. Posters

Cost: $

Posters are usually A3 (11.7 x 16.5 inches) advertisements that are attached to walls and used to promote events, shows, concerts and movies. Many businesses also create hand-written posters to advertise sales, promotions, discounts and clearances to passersby in storefront windows.

24. Printed Article or Review

Cost: Free

The best way to build free restaurant awareness is from earned media like articles and reviews in newspapers or magazines. Sometimes, even negative publicity can be effective for building awareness. To learn more, read When Is Bad Publicity Good?” by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

25. Product Placement

Cost: $$$$$

Product placement is a marketing technique that references specific businesses or products/services in movies and television. For example, a character might be drinking a Starbucks latte while using a MacBook.

26. Rack Cards

Cost: $$

Rack cards are usually 4 by 9-inch full-color advertisements that are printed on both sides of heavy card stock and displayed where there’s significant foot traffic like hotels, sightseeing attractions, rest areas, etc.

27. Radio Advertisements

Cost: $$$$

Radio advertisements are 30 or 60-second commercials that run on radio stations.

28. Receipt Advertising

Cost: $

Receipt advertising consists of printing coupons or offers on the back of customer receipts at grocery and retail stores.

29. Referral Marketing

Cost: Free

Referral marketing consists of promoting your restaurant to new customers through spontaneous referrals like word-of-mouth.

30. Sponsorships

Cost: $$$

Sponsorships support someone or something financially or through the supply of services like meals. Sponsorships serve two functions — the support and awareness of a business.

31. Storefront Signs

Cost: $$$

Storefront signs hang above entrances, reflect a business's branding and build awareness to passersby.

32. Subway and Train Advertising

Cost: $$$$

Subway and train advertising encompasses subways, trains and their related infrastructure — from posters and digital displays to seats, train car wraps, bench wraps, etc.

33. Taxi Advertising

Cost: $$$$

Taxi advertising includes advertisements on the top, trunk and doors of taxis as well as the commercials that run on the TVs inside.

34. Television Advertising

Cost: $$$$$

Television advertising is a 60 second or less commercial on network TV stations.

35. Window Displays

Cost: $$

Window displays are common in the retail industry to showcase menu items in storefront windows that turn heads, draw attention and lead passersby inside.

36. Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Cost: $

Word-of-mouth marketing is when businesses influence or seed messages (unlike spontaneously-occurring word-of-mouth) to customers.

37. Wrap Advertising

Cost: $$$

Wrap advertising is partially or completely wrapping a vehicle in vinyl advertisements to become a mobile billboard when driven or parked. Wrap advertising can be done on large and small vehicles — from taxis to buses.

38. Yard Signs

Cost: $$

Yard signs can be single or double-sided and are commonly placed in lawns and along roads to advertise political campaigns, but they’re also used to advertise sales and direct attendees to special events.

Wrap Up

You just learned 38 traditional (i.e. offline) marketing tactics to build restaurant awareness. Try implementing some of these tactics to build awareness or read my follow-up post to learn 19 Digital Marketing Tactics.

38 Traditional Marketing Tactics to Build Restaurant Awareness first appeared on the Bento Sites Blog by Jeff Shibasaki.

Close-up of Jeff Shibasaki wearing a black hat

Jeff Shibasaki

Jeff's the founder of Bento Sites. He's a strategic web designer that specializes in visual design, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) on Webflow and Squarespace.