Tim Strauss
Local events, such as this Systema Solar concert at SXSW Music 2016, are great opportunities for restaurants to attract business from tourists.

3 Ways Restaurants Can Attract More Tourists as Guests

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Capturing these customers can drive profits.
By Trevor Bernardo June 2017 Vendor Bylines

Every restaurant’s initial marketing plan involves making a splash in its local community— driving steady foot traffic and repeat visitors from the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. As a restaurant establishes its footing and looks to scale growth, a plan that moves beyond regional outreach and finds a way to drive interest from people outside its city is key. Why should a San Diego eatery’s customers be limited to only San Diego residents?

Tourism remains the primary driver of restaurant industry growth, with one in every four dollars spent at restaurants coming as a direct result of travel and tourism. Capitalizing on seasonal or a year-round influx of tourists can be easy if your restaurant is on a busy street or a trendy part of town, but it’s also important to think of where people can find more information about your restaurant. More important than the location of your physical business is the location of your advertising.

1. Partner with Others in the Hospitality Industry

The relationship between the restaurant and hospitality industry is close, with 46.9 percent of travelers indicating that restaurant options are the most important factor in determining their travel destination; therefore, ensure your ads are available where tourists are arriving or planning their next moves. One of the best ways to do this is to meet them where they are—at airports, bus depots, hotel lobbies, popular attractions, and sporting venues.

Can your business sponsor a trade show at the convention hall? Is your logo and other restaurant branding available in the program at the theatre or opera house? Smart restaurants will find ways to integrate formally or informally into these spaces were tourists frequent on vacations to keep the restaurant top of mind for these transient customers.

2. Think Digital and Mobile

In addition to placing ads and marketing activations for the restaurant in other physical locales tourists are likely to visit, consider the format that your messaging is available to travelers. Is it available digitally? Can they view it on their smartphones?

Pamphlets and brochures can feel outdated and get mixed in with trash at the end of day, whereas mobile content is unlikely to get looked over as Americans spend an average of over four hours per day on their phones. In addition to being environmentally friendly, digital and mobile efforts are also profitable. Strategic promotions and discounts offered through digital ads can help upsell tourists on a menu special, which they can use for tracking campaign success or gathering new email addresses or other contact information to continue marketing to that tourist after they’ve finished viewing the ad. This is especially fruitful for franchise operations, which can continue the customer relationship with tourists as they travel to different cities.

3. Don’t Forget Social Media

Just as it’s important to be where tourists hang out in the real world, social media is an opportunity to target audiences where they live online. The U.S. digital advertising market is poised to grow 16 percent in 2017, led by ads on popular social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, making social media advertising key for targeting tourists based on their taste and interest profiles. Indirectly, restaurants should also think of social media as a tool to raise brand visibility and build a dialog with tourists. Eighty-seven percent of restaurateurs say social media is an effective way of communicating with customers and increasing revenue. Can your restaurant join online conversations about popular tourist events, like #ComicCon or #SXSW? Even if you’re not directly “advertising” on these platforms, engaging with consumers on social media pays dividends in the long run.

Trevor Bernardo is the director of partnership integration at Porter24. Located in the hotel lobbies, each Porter24 screen offers guests an interactive experience highlighting the best local attractions, eateries, nightlife and more—including exclusive content and offers—to enhance guest stays. In addition to its directory component, each Porter24 screen includes a selfie opportunity for tourists, convention attendees and locals to share their time spent at the hotel instantly with friends, family and colleagues.