Word-of-Mouth Marketing for Restaurants

Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most powerful marketing and promotional tools for small businesses, but especially for restaurants. Simply put, word-of-mouth marketing is when people spread the word about your business among their personal network, including family, friends, coworkers, and all of their social connections directly (person-to-person) or using a communication tool (text, social media platforms, etc.). Word-of-mouth can be positive, neutral, or negative. You should strive to have your customers share positive feedback about your restaurant to their network.


Why Is Word-of-Mouth Important for Restaurants?

Family and friends influence our decisions – where we shop, the professional services we use, and unquestionably which restaurants we patronize. People are much more likely to visit your restaurant if they have heard a stellar review about your food, service, and overall experience from their Aunt Mildred or coworker than from a review in a newspaper from an “expert”. In our super-connected society, positive word-of-mouth about your business is more important than ever. One-on-one communication is more likely to have a strong influence on your potential customers, but you cannot underestimate the significant impact your customers’ social conversations can have. Word-of-mouth travels almost instantaneously and potentially to a wide number of people over social media platforms.

How to Generate Buzz for Your Restaurant

In two words? Be awesome.

People will spread the good word about your restaurant if you provide them with an experience so great that they can’t help but tell their friends and family (and coworkers and sports teammates and so on).  Here are a few things that can impress your customers enough for them to chat about you to their connections:

Unique Feature Offer your customers something different (that they enjoy) and they’ll have more reason to talk about you with their friends. Whether your unique feature is that your servers dress up like clowns and make balloon animals or you change your menu every week to accommodate the local market’s fare, special features help your customers set your restaurant apart from your competitors.

Special Events Host a special event at your restaurant and you create an atmosphere and experience that will attract new customers and get them talking. A special event could be hosting a wedding at your restaurant, showing the NHL playoff game in your bar, or making something up that’s totally distinctive - Twitteroke with the Ottawa Valley Moms to benefit CHEO was a hit at Big Rig Brewery in Ottawa recently.

Personal Care Seemingly small (and FREE) things can result in amazingly positive buzz about your restaurant. When you or your staff go above and beyond for your customers, they’ll share their experience – a handwritten note on a receipt, a warm greeting when they arrive, or helping to surprise a loved one with a birthday cake or even a marriage proposal all leave a lasting impression.

Comfort and Convenience Provide your customers with a comfortable atmosphere, including clean surroundings and smiling, engaging staff. Go a step above and provide your customers with an easy-to-use online ordering system that they can use from the comfort of their homes. People love sharing new technology and will be able to send the link to your menu to friends and family with a few clicks of their mouse.

Online Word-of-Mouth

The average Facebook user has 141.5 friends (source: expandedramblings). This means that there’s a chance that 140 or so people may see feedback that your customer posts about your restaurant on their Facebook page. If one of their friends comments on or shares that posts, then 140 of their friends may also see the feedback. Now, it’s unlikely that all of their friends will see the post, and even more unlikely that they will read it fully; however, the potential for comments about your restaurant to spread like wildfire is increased when you add social media to the equation.


Since social platforms and other online media can help word-of-mouth marketing spread over long distances, to many of your potential customers, easily and quickly, it is extremely important that you try and leave a positive impression on your customer’s mind. People tend to spread the word about negative experiences with more fervor than positive so you need to aim to surpass your customers’ expectations. Do your absolute best to give your customers an amazing time – friendly staff, delicious food, quick service, and little special touches to add something extra to their dining experience. Try to turn around an unhappy experience for your customers – handling a customer complaint well can help convert negativity into positivity for your brand.

Make Sharing Easy

Providing your customers with a unique, enjoyable experience and you’ll make them want to share the news about your restaurant. Make it easier for them to be your (unpaid) marketers using word-of-mouth by providing access to communication tools. Have a presence on various social media platforms so that people can give you a shout-out publicly. You can also provide incentives for your customers to spread the word about your restaurant by offering perks like 10% off their next order if they tag you in their Facebook post or a “tell a friend” card that they can give to someone to get a free appetizer if they order online from your website.

There are no ads you can write, no jingles you can sing, and no reviews you can receive from industry experts that will ever be as persuasive as word-of-mouth recommendations from your customers to their friends, family, and other connections. If you wow your customers, they will talk about their experience. Just make sure you wow them in a good way so that they refer people to your restaurant and not away from you (into the welcoming arms of your competitors).

Jessica Bertrand

Jessica is the Project Manager for MENU.CA. She has been working in the online marketing industry since 2005 and shares her social media, online communication, and sales experience.

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