The Essential Restaurant Marketing Plan

Why do you need a restaurant marketing plan? For the same reason that a builder needs blueprints to build a house. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Are you wishing for success or do you have a plan in place for success?

A comprehensive restaurant marketing plan should be created once a year, where you take the time to assess your current business condition, and make goals for the next 12 months to map out where you want the business to be a year from now. A complete plan contains an in-depth analysis of where you are, what the conditions are in the market, and identifies your opportunities for growth.

Many restaurant operators believe that a marketing plan is essentially an advertising calendar. “We’re scheduled to be on the radio this week, followed by a coupon mailer next week, then some TV ads plus a newspaper insert.” While an advertising and promotions calendar is useful and should be a part of your marketing plan, it is not the plan itself.

Following is an outline of the main sections of a marketing plan.

• Executive Summary: This is an overview of what’s to come, the “Cliffs Notes” version of your restaurant marketing plan. Consider this as the condensed elevator speech that summarizes what’s contained in the following pages. The Executive Summary should be written last, after all the other sections are completed.

• Situation Analysis: This section includes a Market Summary, presenting your Target Markets, Market Needs, Market Trends, and Market Growth. This is followed by a SWOT Analysis of your business, which looks at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to your restaurant business. Follow this up with a look at your competition, and your service offerings and keys to success.

• Marketing Strategy: Start this section with your Mission Statement, followed by your marketing objectives and goals for the coming year. This leads into a look at your Financial Objectives because marketing should be an investment that brings a return for the company. The next sub-sections deal with the nitty gritty of your marketing. Who are you targeting? How are you positioning your restaurant? What methods are you using to reach your target audience? Follow it up with any marketing research you may have available.

• Financials, Budgets, and Forecasts: This section provides an overview of the financial aspects of your restaurant as they relate to the marketing efforts, including break-even analysis, sales forecasts and expense forecasts.

• Controls: This final section breaks down how this plan is being put into action. Lay out the timeline of the important milestones for your marketing initiatives. This could include dates for planning, production, implementation, analyzing results, etc. plus budgeting information.

Creating a comprehensive restaurant marketing plan takes some time and effort, but you will enjoy many benefits by having a plan. You will have a better understanding of your business; it provides an opportunity to really think about where you currently are; and it helps identify what direction your company needs to go to really grow. The restaurant marketing plan is the roadmap to turn your goals into a reality.