PR Machine: Go For Full Exposure

Put your 2016 marketing calendar to work

Cranking out an annual marketing calendar is the easy part. After all, every restaurant and foodservice operation should have a plan to reach current diners and find new ones. The hard part is following and executing it. If this all seems daunting, hold up. You can do this.

First, decide what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year and determine objectives. Don’t just say, “I want more customers.” Be specific and say, “I want to be known for our badass burgers, our huge selection of our local beers and our housemade desserts,” and use that as a framework. 

Go one step further and determine the kind of customers you want (families, after-work crowd, late-night diners) and how often you expect them to dine. All this information will help you focus and build your marketing calendar. Here’s a guide to get started.

Create an Infrastructure 

That’s a fancy way of saying “set it up.” Start with the calendar year and break it into quarters using Google Docs or Sheets, which you can share with others for input. If you don’t know how to use these online tools, search the terms and watch a tutorial.

Determine Promotions

Dining promotions can focus on something new or existing, but they all need to tie into your goals and objectives. Seasonal items, menu specials, milestones and events are the most common themes. The easiest are holidays, but consider offbeat promotions, which always resonate with diners when they’re fun.

Get the Word Out

Creating a marketing calendar without using it is like running in place: You’ll never go anywhere. Planning will help get the job done. Organize to-dos by date, whether it’s a social media post, updating your website to include the promotion or purchasing gift cards as part of a giveaway.  

Determine which social media channels get the most traction among customers, and line up content. For example, if it’s Facebook, it makes sense to invest in paid posts for promotions. If it’s Twitter, upload a photo and include a link to your website.

Make sure that you line up content on social media at least a week before the promotion. Send information to traditional media one month in advance and to online outlets and bloggers several weeks before the promotion kicks off. To build excitement, take photos and videos that show a dish being plated or use photos of an ingredient that tease the promotion.  

Execute and Support

If staff is not familiar with the marketing calendar, why bother? Managers and servers make or break the success of any promotion. Include them in the planning and be sure they are signed on to promote it. Task someone at the restaurant to own the marketing calendar to ensure it gets executed, from the cooks who prepare a new menu item to servers who can share information with diners.

It might even be worth it to set an alarm clock to your marketing calendar for alerts. Just make sure you schedule plenty of time to plan and execute—and be sure that no one hits the snooze button too many times.

Boring or Fun?

Promotions are the backbone of a marketing calendar. But if the efforts are dull, don’t expect a lot of traction. Some ideas:

BORING

  • Buy one, get one
  • Regular holiday promotions
  • Bar specials 
  • New menu item

FUN

  • Buy one now and get one on a return visit 
  • Oddball holiday promotions (Kanye West’s birthday, anyone?)
  • “Buy a friend a drink” with names kept on a chalkboard tab
  • New menu item tied to a backstory (Proceeds help a staff member)