How to Attract Tourists to Your Restaurant
According to the U.S. Travel Association, travelers spend more than $209 billion annually on dining out in the United States. This means that turning your restaurant into a tourist destination can boost sales and up the ante on your reputation and reach.
“Tourists are always looking for places to go that are authentic to the region where you are located,” says Michael Eisenberg, management instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. “Aside from marketing to the tourist directly—which can cost a fortune—the solutions can be to market directly to the concierge of a hotel, the taxi drivers at the airport, the doormen in the local business, etc.”
Building relationships and partnering with local tourism bureaus and hotel concierges is a great place to start.
Consider inviting concierges within a few blocks of your restaurant to taste the menu and experience the service in your establishment. Keep them afloat of any menu changes, specials, events, etc., suggests Aubrey Gordon, president of Sprocket Communications. The tourism bureaus often host media that visit the city, so keep them in the loop as well, Gordon advises.
Lauren Cook, senior director of social and digital for FEED Media, recommends creating “Instagram-worthy spaces,” as her client, Punch Bowl Social, has done throughout its 20-plus locations nationwide. Their “I Love You Wall” in each city has “proven to be one of the top Instagrammed locations in the city,” Cook says. “How can you create an experience for your guests that demands they take a selfie, share it with their friends (far and wide) and tag you?”
Meanwhile, restaurants would be wise to position themselves as welcoming to newcomers and visitors. If the front-of-house staff is trained to speak knowledgeably about the area and local culture, that can be incredibly valuable for out-of-town guests.
According to Eric Elkins, CEO and chief strategist of WideFoc.Us, the most important thing to do is monitor your restaurant’s Yelp reviews.
“People go there first when they’re figuring out where to eat,” Elkins says.
Monitoring what tourists say about your restaurant on review sites and responding to reviews—positive or critical—allows a restaurant to best control its reputation.