How to Increase Tourist Traffic in your Restaurant in 7 Steps
Tourism has an exponential impact on the global economy, boosting the gross GDP by 2.7% in the United States, and much more elsewhere. For operators, tourism has a palpable effect on the restaurant industry, generating a sales increase of up to 30% at fine dining establishments, 16% at quick-service restaurants, and 15% at fast casuals. That’s about one in four dollars attributable to tourism and travel spending. Knowing how to increase tourist traffic in your restaurant can offer a tangible increase in your bottom line, and drive your growth.
Types of Tourist Traffic
Out of town traffic come in all shapes and sizes. Some of that traffic is from travelers who are en route from destination to another, and looking for a place to grab a quick bite. Tourists, on the other hand, are deliberate in their goals: they came to your city for a recreation. In the United States, these tourists have spent around $150,000,000 annually, since 1900, excluding during World Wars. That money travels both inside and out of the country, spreading commerce on a global level at a steady clip.
While mileage varies on why people travel, modern tourists are looking for honesty, space, and experience. Staying knowledgeable of your location and considerate of travelers’ needs can put you ahead of your competition, and improve your guest experience.
Know Your History
Whether it’s history or natural splendor, there are a host of reasons for people to come through your town, and you probably already know some of those reasons. Is there a famous person or event in your town? Does your city have the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine? Is your restaurant near a Gnome Reserve? Knowing a little about the locale that you want to put your restaurant can give you a marketing advantage. In doing so, you can tap into whatever it is that attracts people to your area.
Consider a Fun Gimmick
Knowing where your region, you can survey the demographic and play into that image. If you’re in a rural area along an interstate, perhaps appeal to the rustic qualities of the region. More specific examples may be incorporating something about the locale into your restaurant’s theme or menu items as logical. Are you near that giant ball of twine? Use twine to tie your utensils. Put gnomes in your menu items. Tying into that locale allows you to tacitly or directly enhance your guest’s experience while visiting the area.
Picking your location is no small task. Not only do you have to consider the cost involved in choosing a spot, but you must balance that with the potential for traffic. If you’re too far off the beaten path, you may encounter some challenges, although there are plenty of modern options that can enhance your sales.
If you already have a spot, take the immediate location into account and build out from there. If you’re near an industrial park, for example, you may consider abbreviated menu items to accommodate for the lunch rush. Either way, use your location to your advantage to drive sales.
Keep It Local
Sourcing your ingredients locally environmentally healthy and a great selling point for travelers looking for a taste of native fare. Irrespective of what type of restaurant you operate, using foods unique to your area can enhance your customer appeal. Studies indicate that consumers are willing to pay more for fresh, local foods, and an opportunity to network with the local farming community. Additionally, consider sourcing local brews, wines, or spirits, which further incentivizes travelers to stop in and experience your location.
Finding a good sign is integral in standing out in a crowd. There are a few options that you have to your advantage that looks at the color and motif to draw the eye. Whatever the case, a large sign outside of your business can grab attention, enhance your business, and serve as a primary branding tool. If you can localize the concept, you can do some work towards making your restaurant signage instagrammable.
For weary U.S. highway travelers, there are few better resources that the blue signage that prefaces each stop in your route. If you’re a restaurant looking to capitalize on interstate traffic, there is a lot of criteria that you have to meet. Mileage varies as to what you need to qualify to get your restaurant’s name on a sign, as that is broken out state-by-state. Generally speaking though, your eligibility is contingent upon a few factors: your proximity to the exit, hours of operation, and seating capacity. These are all factors that can make a difference to travelers who’ve spent hours on the road and are just looking for a place for a little rest without a lot of fuss.
Staying connected with your local community is critical in driving business. While there are many ways to go about that, an effective route to the most people possible is through your Chamber of Commerce (CoC) or comparable governing body. The CoC is a network of businesses that serve as advocates for their constituent services while working together to strengthen the community. Whether you join the board or just develop a relationship with the CoC, you can work to get your name into the minds of prominent business figures, as well as city guide books, which make suggestions to travelers.
Get in Good with Nearby Hotels
Survey your area and seek out the nearby hotels and lodging. Developing relationships with the staff can help get your name suggested to travelers looking for something to eat. Don’t be afraid to treat that staff on occasion, as a show of your appreciation. This relationship is ultimately symbiotic, as both restaurateurs and hoteliers benefit from the increased traffic that an enriched set of attractions brings to the table.
Develop a Relationship with Influencers
You have likely encountered top 10 lists unique to the culture of your location. These listicles attract attention by offering quick, easily digestible bites of information for your audience. Because of that, they get a lot of traction in search inquiries on Google, making them an especially findable way for travelers to get to know you. Find the people who help make these trends in your cities and put together a strategy to entice them to want to know more.
Have a Strong Social Media Presence
One of the reasons that listicles and influencers are so important is that the content that they create and promote is often tailor-made to share through social media. Giving potential patrons insight through social media can help create a buzz. Keep a schedule by using tools like Hootsuite or Sprout, and post routinely. Make it interesting, and engage with your guests; tell their story too. Curate your aesthetic and stay on brand, but tie it into local trends when possible.
Of course, social media is more than just platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The undisputed champion of search engines is Google, which serves around 63K search requests per second every day. Considering that the search “restaurants near me” gets millions of hits per month, Google has refined their algorithms to help businesses. You can use Google My Business to give guests critical information about your restaurant. Recent integrations allow restaurants can also take advantage of the Reserve with Google feature that enables guests to get on your waitlist or reserve a table quickly and efficiently.
Follow Up With Feedback
By and large, avoiding the comments or review sections online is an excellent way to improve your mental and emotional health. In this case though, be thoughtful with your responses and use them to your advantage. Foster community wherever possible by responding with kindness when appropriate. Beyond that, learn from what your guests and patrons have to say. Learn what people are saying about similar restaurants and build on that. Take notes, especially on how tourists engaged with the business and apply them whenever it makes sense.
By knowing how to increase tourist traffic in your restaurant, you can increase your revenue and put that back into the community. During the summer months, the restaurant industry employs up to 500K additional workers. Hiring local staff is beneficial for a number of reasons, including having a staff of trained professionals who know and represent the area of your restaurant. Not only can you drive sales, but you can bring those efforts home. Hiring locally can help foster a positive and welcoming environment for travelers, who are greeted by people knowledgeable of and invested in their community.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.
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