How much should you invest to market your restaurant?

As a restaurant marketing and consulting expert, I get often this question: How much should an independent restaurant spend in marketing? The answer is… it depends. There is not a hard rule or fixed amount that a restaurateur must expend.

When I bought my first restaurant, I remember that the previous owner told me “You should invest at least 10% of your gross income in marketing if you want to be successful.” So for a while I complied. Although 10% sounded very high to me, I knew nothing about the restaurant industry so whom was I to question the opinion of an expert restaurateur?

Very soon, however, I started realizing that I was wasting my money in marketing vehicles that just didn’t work (many inherited from him). After lots of trial and error, I reduced the amount that I was expending in marketing; but even more important, I started investing in marketing that worked and brought me lots of customers.

So, let me ask you this question. Would you invest $1,000 in marketing if I told you that it will bring you $2,000 in profits? Of course you would, it would be silly no to.

However, many times, when I recommend some marketing investments to restaurateurs, they complain that they are expensive and can’t afford them; even if I tell them that they will bring back many times their investment. This is specially true when these marketing investments are not the usual ads, flyers, coupons, etc. that restaurateurs are so used to, and love to hate.

Recently, I recommended to my list a great hands-off online marketing package from Online Reputation Management Expert Jenna Lloyd. This new program is specifically designed just for restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.

Yes, the price is $497 per month (soon to be raised to $697 per month), but the idea is that they will take care of everything, from writing newsletter articles customized to the restaurant, to take care of capturing customer’s information, email them with personalized emails, etc. This is a hands off approach.

You can check the details here:

After I suggested this online package to my list, I received many emails from restaurateurs complaining that they can’t afford $497 a month. They get the wrong message. It is not a matter of if they can’t afford it or not (they all can, $500 is not that high of a budget for a restaurant), it is about how much more business they will get if they invest this $497 a month!

They (and you) need to start thinking about marketing as an investment. If they get enough extra business to cover for their marketing expenses, then it is just a smart investment. If, on the other hand, after a few months, they see that there is not enough growth in their business brought by the marketing to justify the expenses, then this investment is obviously not working for them and they should cancel it.

At worst, they will expend only a few hundred dollars. At best they could improve their business dramatically. Isn’t worth it a try?

Oh, and let’s not forget all the hours that restaurateurs will save trying to market their restaurant online. How valuable is their time? Probably quite more than the $497 a month…

So should they cut any of their existing marketing and replace it all by this online system? Again, it depends. If it’s working for them (and they can measure it and track it), then they should keep it. If not, they should just cut it and save their money.

It is as simple as that.

I hope that this blog put some sound ideas about investing wisely in your marketing. I surely hope so.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.


One thought on “How much should you invest to market your restaurant?

  1. Matt

    Excellent article! Restaurateurs will have to embrace online marketing sooner or later and I think a $500 – $1,000 per month package is a perfect starting point. Please check out some more articles about why online marketing should be a part of every restaurant's strategy at the TwoTables Internet Marketing website!

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