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The Restaurant Business: 3 Popular Marketing Tools For Casual Restaurants And Chains

People from all walks of life get into the restaurant business. Some are born into it and follow in the family's footsteps. Others are inspired by grandma's favorite recipes and decide to take their home cooking to the masses by opening a mom-and-pop shop. Still others get bit by the entrepreneurial spirit and decide to open a franchised restaurant as a new business opportunity.

If you're running a mom-andpop shop or opening your first franchised location, you may not be familiar with the marketing tools specific to casual restaurants. Read on for explanations on three of the most popular and helpful tips on how to use them.

1) Table Tents

If you're in the casual restaurant business, you need to know table tents. Affordable and effective, restaurant table tents are essentially mini-signs made of paper and shaped like a tent that sit on a table. A convenient marketing tool, when implemented smartly table tents can lead to a boost in sales and ongoing customer loyalty.

Since table tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the key to selecting the right format is to know what you want to promote. Great for advertising appetizer deals, happy hours, desserts or specialty menu items, table tents put you in control of what your customer sees first when they sit down at the table. In addition to promoting food and drinks, you can also use table tents to advertise special events.

No matter how you use restaurant table tents, remember to implement an eye-catching design and use appealing graphics. Your customers are going to notice them, so make them stand out.

2) Restaurant Flyers

Flyers are a great way to promote your restaurant business to new customers. The key to creating useful restaurant flyers is to make it interesting, and give customers a reason to take action. Whether you offer a limited-time only deal or an appealing promotion, make sure you offer something; if you use flyers simply as a basic advertisement for your business, you run the chances of it being ignored.

Once you decide on the offer, it's time to work on your flyer design. If you're a savvy marketer with design skills, you may be able to whip something together on your own; otherwise, it's a good idea to employ a professional copywriter and designer to make sure your flyer is an investment that pays off in the end.

After your flyer is designed, figure out how to distribute it. Many businesses have bulletin boards where you may post such advertisements at no cost. You may also want to try hand-to-hand promotion in high-traffic areas such as festivals and farmers markets in your neighborhood. Finally, offer them to your customers in-store either at the register or with the check and encourage people to hand them to friends but remember: without the offer, they won't have a reason to pick it up.

3) Menu Inserts

A lot of thought and planning goes into creating a restaurant menu design that works, but your menu should always be considered a work in progress. Certain items will be more popular than others, customers will request special items, and as time goes on you'll notice trends you'll want to account for in your offering.

Menu inserts are a smart and cost-effective way to promote changes to your offering. While you don't want to go overboard with inserts - if you're changing your menu that drastically, it's probably time for a redesign - they can be used effectively to promote chef's specials, seasonal items, or group deals.

When designing your menu inserts, consider the look and feel of the existing menu and try to match it. Pay attention to where and how you place your menu insert as well; it shouldn't get in the way of the overall customer experience of viewing your menu.