How to market local events

by John Jones | Jul 02, 2022

We've all experienced the magic of local events organised by restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars. There's something special about their community feel, all centred around one particular F&B establishment. From classic car shows in the car park to table-top sales and Hawaiian evenings, the creativity showed by business owners is astonishing.

As community-minded as restaurants might be, such events do incur a financial cost and therefore have to be a commercial success, too. That really depends on the efficacy of two main elements – the quality of the event itself, and the level of engagement from customers. The latter comes down to good marketing.

In this short blog we take a brief look at five marketing areas which can positively impact an event's footfall without breaking the bank.

Stay traditional

As you will read later, there are plenty of ways to engage customers via modern tools and techniques and we would urge you to give them a go. However, sometimes the simplest methods can be very effective, too:

Hand out leaflets. Flyers can be designed and produced very cheaply and are a very effective way of hammering a message home, because unlike web-based marketing, they have a longer “shelf life”. Leaflets tend to be kept and looked at again and again. Leafleting a town or village centre can also be good fun for staff and it is a great opportunity to take time to chat with potential customers.

Posters. It goes without saying that a poster or two will work wonders in the restaurant concerned, but they are even more effective if distributed responsibly around the area. Most towns and villages have community noticeboards, as do larger super markets.

Local networks. Businesses are part of the community too, so there's no reason why other shops and businesses won't support your event by displaying a few posters or leaflets.

Word of mouth. Here's an obvious one: simply tell everyone you meet about the event and encourage them to do the same. It's amazing how far news travels.

Use your website

For a really effective marketing campaign, your key message needs to be visible across all platforms. If that sounds like marketing mumbo-jumbo, look at it another way – just advertise your event everywhere possible, including on your website.

Restaurant websites with online booking and menus are still the go-to place for curious visitors, so make sure your event is prominent on yours. A nice little pop-up window or splash screen is all it takes to get news in front of a potentially large audience. 

One last point on this, though: make sure the details are removed quickly after the event because nobody likes reading about events which have been and gone.

Be a phone warrior

If you take phone bookings, you have the perfect opportunity to promote your local community event – it just takes a bit of remembering. We would recommend jotting down some bullet points for a loose script and keeping them by the phone so that they can be woven into any conversation with bookers. We've even seen restaurants which have turned this into a fun competition among the staff, with kudos or a prize going to the team member who makes the most mentions.

Ping it out

Email and SMS are two very powerful tools for promoting your message. Use them! Most restaurants will, somewhere, have contact details for customers and as long as the appropriate GDPR due diligence has been done these guests can be sent useful information without over-selling. 

Clearly this task can be onerous if the customers' contact details are not simple to mine, but savvy restaurateurs' lives will be made much easier if they use a restaurant management system with a built-in marketing module to do the work for them. A little bit of restaurant technology will go a long way!

Get social

Customers of all ages now use social media to understand what's happening in their community, so embracing this medium as an opportunity is an excellent idea. 

The obvious choice is Facebook, which is perfect for posting in the restaurant's own “voice” conversational or more formal notices about exciting events. You can keep it passive, or introduce a more active approach with the use of Facebook's Events function, or even booking facilities. Just keep the communications natural, share as widely as possible among your Friends and Groups and encourage your team to do the same. 

A few photos of previous events on Facebook and Instagram which show how good they were will work wonders, too. Don't forget the final part of the trilogy – Twitter. If you have an account, post away and link back to your website so interested parties “land” in the right place.

Wrapping up

Restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes are at the heart of local communities day to day and there's a great opportunity for them to take this a step further while keeping an eye on the profits. 

Even the best planned, most creative and fun local event will be disappointing if it isn't well attended, so paying attention to some basic and low cost marketing will ensure the footfall needed to make the occasion go with a bang.

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