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Six Restaurant Ad Tips If You Don't Have A Budget

By: Jeff Law

Running a modern restaurant can be challenging and expensive. Pressed between a tight budget and small margins, many owners don’t have the luxury of prioritizing their marketing, let alone generating a greater reach by running ads—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

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With the right knowhow, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on the market and gain exposure without breaking the bank. So, with that said, here are six inexpensive and effective ways to run ads without an extensive budget. 


Use Social Media


While plenty of other ad-ready platforms require buy-ins or have specific requirements for posting, most forms of social media are entirely free and include massive audiences—both of which combine to make them incredibly effective. 


While you can always supplement your organic posting efforts with paid restaurant ads on platforms like Facebook, you can certainly gain a lot of traction and significant exposure simply leaning into what you can accomplish for free. 


Make sure to use each platform’s greatest strengths to showcase our business most effectively. For instance, Instagram is perfect for drool-worthy images of your dishes or posting any weekly specials you may be offering. LinkedIn can be leveraged to connect and even collaborate with others in the industry, while also showcasing your business to a tailored audience of professionals. Twitter is perfect for advertising with images and short text while also generating engagement, traffic, and even organic sharing.


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Blog Often


If you already have a website, blogging is free and only costs a little bit of time and thought. It allows you to advertise your business specifically to those already searching for it, or related topics. So by using SEO best practices when writing about the food industry or highlighting what you are doing at your restaurant, you can easily bring in organic traffic and spread awareness of what you bring to the table—literally and figuratively.


Use your blog to engage your audience and keep people excited on a regular basis. The more you blog, the more your site is indexed by search engines, and the more traffic you’ll see. 


Leverage your current assets—like your website


Have you ever been to a restaurant website, and all you see is the address and an image? Chances are, if you have, you probably found somewhere else to eat. 


Having an attractive and up-to-date website not only makes your restaurant more appealing, but also tells current and potential clients how seriously you take your work. 


Consider what you’d like to see when choosing a place to eat—such as accurate food and drink menus, specials, hours of operation, and so on—and make sure it’s intuitive and easy to navigate. Remember to include flattering images of your space, food, and environment to leave a good impression on visitors so they’re compelled to try it out. While it may not look like an ad, a good website certainly operates like one, creating interest, showcasing your best side, and bringing customers in, so make sure you make the most of it.


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Local Search


Google is the most powerful search engine on the Internet and although Google Ads cost money, if done right, Google Places can be super cheap, if not free—and it’s massively helpful for directing a large quantity of local diners towards your establishment. In fact, it’s nearly a standard now, so if you’re looking to compete, you can’t afford to neglect it. Just make sure to use the right keywords and SEO practices so the site is optimized for search. With some quick lessons, you can learn to do it yourself, or if there’s room in the budget, hire a professional. 


Partner with Others


Partnering with others is an excellent way to promote your restaurant—and it’s mutually beneficial. Consider what kinds of exchanges you can orchestrate with local charities or even other related businesses for a reasonable cost, like sponsoring a food drive. If you’re creative, there are plenty of partners you can find locally who will willingly partner with you for the right cause or exchange of goods/services. 


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Cooking Classes or Webinars


You might not have the budget for a lot of restaurant ads, so bring the customers to you by getting involved in the community. Host a free cooking class, showcase your expertise, and get people excited about your restaurant. You could also host a free webinar in the local area to discuss food or whatever other topics you feel are relevant while making your restaurant the backdrop and your dishes or experience a highlight or focus. 

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