Happy smiling beautiful brunette young women with talking in cafe

June 4, 2021  

When it comes to restaurants, ‘choice’ is the operative word. Customers today have never had so many options to please the palate, discover the deal, or pay the piper. Differentiating your restaurant in such a crowded space is more difficult than ever, but it remains crucial if you don’t want to become an ill-fated statistic.

Marketing your restaurant in the 21st Century is part art and part science. Both sides place a crucial role in your success.

Most restaurateurs agree it is harder running a successful restaurant today than it was five years ago. The top three reasons restaurants point to it being more difficult today are:

  • 55% the economy
  • 49% keeping pace with technology
  • 40% greater direct competition

Only 12% of restaurateurs we asked said it was easier to run a restaurant today than it was 5 years ago and of those restaurant owners, 89% credited digital for their prosperity; citing it made it easier and less expensive to attract and retain customers.

So why do so many restaurants struggle when there is access to literally thousands of qualified prospective customers at the touch of a button? What distinguishes the winners from becoming a depressing statistic?

Restaurants that thrive have a number of things in common. One thing that stands out in particular is they excel at attention economics - put simply, restaurants that thrive understand the importance of positioning themselves as the obvious choice to the right audience, at the right time. 

How do you do this?

The secret to a thriving restaurant is not MAGIC, 


Well, prior to the mid-20th Century, marketers focused little attention on the individual behaviour of customers. Instead their strategies focused on mass promotion. This involved impersonal campaigns, which aggressively tried to convince consumers to make purchases. It wasn’t until the 1950s that marketers recognised the benefits of targeting customers already inclined towards buying their products.

Understanding who your customers are and where they hang out when looking for a restaurant like yours, influences where you should market, how you should market and the vernacular to use.

The fundamental lesson here is to communicate with potential customers where they are already looking. Acquiring more customers all starts with the right traffic source! From there it’s a matter of capturing their eye and imagination.

Remember, your prospects are more distracted than ever. They are only ever one click away from your competition, inconsequential chit-chat, or cute cat videos!

Today’s fast-paced, technology-saturated consumers are placing an even higher value on their time, so restaurants need to find ways to make their communication shorter and more impactful. In the first few seconds you must drag them in with an exchange of value that no potential customer can resist!

Remember this first value exchange is all about stopping the thumb scroll just long enough to create enough intrigue in a potential customer’s brain to register interest.

Business meeting in cafe

Three ways you can do this:

  • Talk about how good you are
  • Have others talk about how good you are
  • Demonstrate how good you are

Unfortunately, to demonstrate just how good your food and service is often requires customers to already be in your restaurant, which means you have to have already successfully attracted them.

 Now you can rant and rave about how good you are until you are blue in the face, but to attract a stampede of new customers, you’re going to need Advocates.

By definition, Advocates publicly support and recommend your business. They are your greatest asset; especially when their recommendation comes from a position of influence! People naturally follow the endorsement of people and brands they trust.

On the spectrum of customers, Advocates are your cheerleaders, your super fans! They are the lifeblood of your business - your unofficial marketing team, who directly and indirectly PAY YOU over and over again (their Lifetime Value is MUCH higher than a typical customer).

Young brunette at the cafe

Create an army of Advocates and your restaurant has the best foundation possible, not to mention all the other people they bring along with them. When you break it down, your marketing is really just a curated amplification of word of mouth, and if it’s not…then you’re going to run into problems.

You need to position your messaging so you add the right fuel to the fire, otherwise instead of igniting a spark, everything will go up in flames. Remember, restaurants that thrive position themselves as the obvious choice, to the right audience, at the right time!

But what if I told you there is a HIGH chance that 97% of your communication is misdirected?

Jump onto the vast majority of restaurant marketing campaigns and you’ll see they are focused on direct response marketing and measured response marketing…

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What if I were to tell you that only 3% (on average) of your audience is actually ready to buy from you at the time you are reaching them with your marketing?

How would that shape your next conversation?

This brings me to the Larger Market Formula:

There are layers to the process of effective customer acquisition; strategic layers! Even customers who have felt organic, have gone through each stage before they came to you. If all you are doing is going hard after the 3%, you are never going to attract all the customers as you want!

Knowing this now, how would you map out your messaging?

Restaurants that only have immediate acquisition in mind, begin to act from a place of scarcity and will often use cheap tactics and discounting to get customers through their door. However, the real profit is in the 37% of customers, who are either information gathering, or problem aware.

If you want to actually grow your customer numbers and have a healthy flow of good customers, you need to understand that nurturing them through these stages is all part of the process.


The more attention you attract from the start, the more likely customers are to buy from you!

All communication should build on a cumulative experience that shapes perception. Show them the pathway and have customers chasing you - not the other way around!


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