GUIDE: Small business marketing plan template

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A strategic marketing plan should act as a reference document to help you guide your marketing decisions. It will also help you to develop a methodical approach to communicate a clear message about your venue.

When writing a marketing plan you need to be clear about your marketing objectives and how you think you might achieve them. A good marketing plan sets realistic objectives; includes budgets, action points, allocates responsibilities and discusses how to measure success to develop new actions and changes to update the plan with. Essentially the plan should read like a story and be connected. Your actions need to help achieve the goals, the goals need to match your vision and greater business strategy.

This Marketing Plan template will help small businesses get started on developing your own plan, providing guidance and suggestions of what you need to consider.


Boost sales with free WIFI

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As a restaurant owner, you already know that putting good food on the table is just half of the equation. Not only do you have to offer up a great meal, you need to make sure the entire dining experience is one that customers would both repeat and recommend to others.

Nowadays, people are making more use of the internet while on the go and expect to find WIFI hotspots at their disposal. Offering free WIFI to customers in your restaurant has some unique benefits:

1. Create a welcoming multi-purpose environment.

Customers are likely to stay longer if they can remain connected, and research shows increased spending by 50% of patrons in such environments1. Some restaurants will want to appeal to those looking to make client presentations on an iPad over business lunches, while others would look to attract university students hoping to settle in for hours of thesis writing. Offering a dependable free WIFI service makes your restaurant or café the easy choice for work.

2. Encourage guests to opt-in.

Use your free WIFI service as an opportunity to make direct contact with your customer. You can configure your network settings to prompt diners to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, or join a loyalty programme. This is an easy way to increase your customer database as well as get to know your guests a little more intimately.

3. Enable easy social media posting.

Social media is the new ‘word of mouth’, and an easy way to distribute information about your restaurant. By providing free WIFI for your guests, you’ve offered them the opportunity to post photos and comment about their dining experience.

Creating a personalised hashtag for your restaurant and making your social handles easily known and accessible creates a fun and free way to share content about your business.

Join in on the conversations in real time, thank guests for follows and recommendations, and respond to their comments. Great experiences shared online can spread exponentially.

The availability of WIFI in restaurants is no longer an amenity exclusive to large retail chains. The benefits of offering free WIFI to customers far outweigh the costs, and it’s a low-maintenance way to satisfy the demands of the increasingly tech-savvy diner.

Survey reveals what is driving customer dining habits

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Findings from a nationwide study have revealed that most Kiwi diners (70%) prefer casual dining over a formal setting, and that excellent food is what will keep them going back to a restaurant time and time again.

The “What Matters?” 2016 survey, which was run by Salt & Pepper PR, a consultancy that specialises in food and drink public relations, also found that New Zealanders are most likely to avoid a restaurant due to poor food quality (89%), dirty bathrooms (61%), and rude staff (61%). Kiwis are relatively forgiving of slow service, however, with only 20% citing this as a reason not to return.

When questioned about what encouraged them to try a restaurant in the first place, a huge majority said that they relied on word of mouth and online reviews (95%).

Unsurprisingly, smartphones have become an integral part of the modern dining experience. Eighty-percent of Kiwis use their phone to find a restaurant to go to, 55% take photos of their dishes to share online, and 45% check-in to restaurants on social media.

Kiwis also like following their favourite chefs and restaurants, with only 25% saying they don’t do this. They most enjoy seeing food photos, followed by special deals, information (opening hours etc.), and recipe ideas/cooking tips.

“The survey results definitely confirm a few developments we have noticed, such as the casual dining trend. Increasing numbers of food trucks, and restaurants offering sharing plates are appearing to accommodate the demand. The rise in restaurants with a no-booking rule is a reflection of that as well,”explains Jennifer Boyes, Managing Director of Salt & Pepper PR.

“The amount of Kiwis following restaurants and chefs via social media is also very interesting. Hopefully, those figures will encourage them to invest more time in their online presence. Those actively engaging with their customers on social media have a definite advantage over their competitors. It’s an area that many Kiwi restaurants and cafes could improve on.”

Salt & Pepper PR is a rapidly expanding consultancy that prides itself on designing campaigns that deliver real results, with no smoke or spin. They are also against the tight retainer contracts and mark-ups that a lot of the larger, more traditional agencies are well-known for.

The agency has managed a number of successful campaigns for The Coffee Club, Hell Pizza, Manuka Health, LeaderBrand, Stonegrill, Duncan Venison, and Babich Wines. Visit for more information.

Get on board our restaurant gift card and gift voucher programmes

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Over $1.7 million in sales were made for the restaurant gift card and gift voucher programmes in 2020, making these two of our most outstanding member benefits!

This means that for those members who are registered for these programmes (you can check if your business is registered by going to there will be a number of customers wanting to use them in your businesses over the coming weeks and months.

So its important to give a refresher course to all staff regularly so that they are all aware and know the process for redeeming the gift vouchers and gift cards.

In brief, the process is as follows: – the gift vouchers are scanned and emailed through to the Association for redemption ( you can take a picture with your smartphone, just make sure the voucher number is clear)- whereas the gift cards are redeemed through your EFTPOS terminal (by selecting credit and using the PIN on the back of the card).  Download the Gift Voucher Card Survival guide to read more.

If you have ANY queries about these programmes please contact the Restaurant Association on 0800 737 827. And if you haven’t registered your participation yet, it’s not too late to sign up. Simply fill out this form

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Want more customers? Build buzz

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When you are caught in the day-to-day routine of your restaurant, it can be hard to find time to work on searching out new customers.

But tempting people through the doors may be easier than you think.

By Sara Reid, go forward marketing

1. Know your market

Where your restaurant is will have an effect on the type of clientele you attract. Is the business in the city? You might be surrounded by offices full of people looking for somewhere to host their after-work get-togethers or client meetings. Drop them a copy of your menu and a coupon offering a special, such as 20% off or a free drink with lunch.

If you’re in a tourist spot, make sure local hotels and motels have a flyer about your restaurant and a promotion to offer their clients. Treat the proprietors to a meal so they can rave about how great you are when tourists ask for a recommendation.

Get involved with local charities who are bound to look for a venue for events from time to time. If you can do them a deal, you’ll likely pick up a goodwill benefit that will translate into new customers.

2. Offer entertainment

Do you ever have live music at your restaurant? Or a quiz night? A benefit of offering a spot for aspiring musicians or established bands to perform is they usually bring their own crowd.

3. Maximise your slow nights

Tackle quiet times head-on. If Tuesday is never a busy night, consider “Try it Tuesday”, where an unusual menu item is offered at a special price. This is especially good for ethnic restaurants where regulars get caught in a rut.

If Wednesdays are slow for daytime traffic, consider a “buy one, get one free” lunch deal. Many customers will likely come back again and pay full price.

4. Use your regulars

You already have a sales force who will speak highly of you – your regulars. Put them to work by setting up a referral programme.

Write their names on cards and have your regulars give them to their friends. When the friend comes in, give them a discount and make a note to give the customer who made the referral a deal on their next meal. Take email details from all your customers and send them an update and offer each month. Set up a loyalty card system to hold on to your regulars.

5. Get online

A good website is a constant advertisement, luring in business. People who are looking for somewhere new to eat will often use Google for recommendations – make sure your website is search-engine optimised so it’s one of the first to show up. Set up a social media presence that directs people back to your website.

Need help making your restaurant standout in the crowd? Contact Go Forward Marketing.

6 ways to make your website more effective

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Once upon a time, hungry customers relied on their ‘local’ to perform every kind of fun-having function.

The ‘local’ was where they met after work for a beer or four, where they went on first dates, where they drowned their sorrows when their first dates didn’t work out, where they celebrated special occasions. These days, foodies have a lot more choice.

By James Kemp

They like to experiment, to mix it up a little, to invest in a whole dining experience instead of just dinner out. They also like to look around and make informed decisions and the wonderful world of the internet gives them so many options it’s often hard to choose.

Take an objective look at your website through a potential customer’s eyes. What do you see? Out-dated and same-old menus, or vibrant seasonal options that are regularly revised? Fuzzy amateur nondescript photos that look like they were taken on your phone, or slick professional images that draw customers into the total (insert the name of your restaurant here) package?

Next, take a look at your biggest competitor’™s website. Is their website sexier than yours? Be honest. If the answer is yes, you’™ve got some work to do. If the answer’™s no, look again. Don’t let your competition win your next customer – and don’™t get complacent either. Encourage more people through your doors by overhauling your online presence.

1. Make your site mobile-friendly

Gone are the days when we used phones to make calls and computers to send emails. A whopping 50% of mobile phone users use mobile as their primary source to browse the internet*.

It’s important, then, to ensure your website works well on a phone too. Make your website responsive to the size of a mobile phone screen; include an easy-to-use local search functionality; encourage users to share your site with their friends via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

If you feel like the evolution of technology has whizzed straight past you, it’s time you joined the 21st century. It’™s what all the cool kids are doing. And you want the cool kids eating in your establishment, after all. #yolo**

2. Invest in high-quality images

Hiring a photographer is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. They don’™t have to be really expensive or even that awesome, but they do need to know how to light and frame a decent shot and highlight the sexiest parts of your restaurant and what you have to offer.

Fuzzy, badly-lit, poorly-framed photos of empty rooms are a big no-no. Opt for wide open spaces, well-lit close-ups of your best dishes and happy attractive people enjoying themselves instead.

3. Make it easy to find you online

The internet is a massive place filled with an immense amount of content, but high-quality writing is becoming more and more important to search engines and readers alike. Google’s latest update, for example, pushes low-quality, advertising-heavy sites with badly-written copy to the bottom of search results.

Ensure the person who writes the content on your site has great understanding of grammar, punctuation and the English language and even better SEO (search engine optimisation) know-how. The higher up a user’s search results you appear, the better.

4. Give them a reason to visit

Ask yourself, “What does my restaurant have that makes it extra awesome?” People who like to eat out have a lot of choice so when they visit your website for information, give them what they’re looking for otherwise they will leave your site as quickly as they stumbled upon it. Up-to-date menus; daily specials; a well-stocked gig guide; free and handy parking. All the nice extras culminate into a whole dining experience, not just an average meal out.

5. Make it easy to find your restaurant

Make this page easy to find -“ at the top of the page with an obvious button, not hidden away in the middle of a lot of clutter. If a prospective customer needs to hire a detective to find your contact page, you’ve got problems. Include your opening hours and a map in there too. A reliable online booking system is a great way to convert traffic instantly, particularly if you’™re not open during the day.

6. Get people talking about you

Encourage customers to review their dining experience, either on your own website or Facebook page, or on an external review site. Whether you like it or not, people talk. It’s important that if your restaurant is on a review website that past customers are saying nice things about you. Of course, that ultimately comes down to awesome service. If you give them a bad experience, they’™ll tell everyone about that too.

* Sourced from
** #yolo = you only live once

Don’t forget to check out these Marketing resources too!

Get on board our gift card and voucher programmes
Extending your social – Instagram 101

Extending your social – Instagram 101

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In recent years the photo sharing programme, Instagram, has really taken centre stage for a business’ social media promotions.

Instagram helps people share their lives, their adventures, and, increasingly, their meals…

This social media platform is also a great way for restaurant and cafe operations to showcase their business tantalising images of food are a powerful method of triggering someone’€™s interest in food. But where do you start?

1. The first step (after downloading the app) is to set up your username and profile.

The username will display publicly and will be what people see when they find you on Instagram, so make sure it is recognisable and as close as possible to the name of your business.

When creating your profile, Instagram lets you fill out a 150 character bio about your business. Because of the limitations in the amount of text you can use, make sure you are clear and concise about the business and what you offer. Use relevant business keywords. You can also add your business’s website, which users will be able to click to visit right from their mobile device. It is worth taking a bit of extra time at this first point to make sure you get it right, from the start.

2. Who should manage your Instagram account?

Depending on the size of your business, you may use a couple of key (trusted) staff, who manage your Instagram content along with you. Whoever you choose to do it, make sure they understand Instagram and are users themselves. There is more to it than just posting a photo, you need to write a captivating caption, use #hashtags that increase exposure and actively follow and engage other users.

3. What photos should you post?

Here are some suggestions:

Have a look at your sales, what are the hottest menu items currently? Post images of these. You can also use Instagram to promote a new menu item, cocktail, or a special. But be mindful of how you present any dish, people will come in and expect to get the dish that they saw on Instagram.

And needless to say make sure the photo is actually visually appealing. Food is only part of the equation however, you are inviting people into your world, so post photos of your staff, the different parts of your business interior and exterior and your customers enjoying your hospitality. There’€™s no better advertisement for your restaurant than happy customers willing to help spread the word.

4. How often should you post?

Be consistent with your posts as there is nothing worse than minimal, outdated, photos. But, be careful not to over post people will unfollow you if you clog their feed. As a suggestion, start off with two posts per day at most and monitor it. You can adjust this over time. Play around with time of day you post as well, to get a feel for what works best for your followers.

5. Use #hashtags

Similar to #hashtags on Twitter, #hashtags on Instagram are keywords added to user photos that associate them to a specific topic or idea. Try to €˜own€™ 2-3 hashtags for your business and be consistent in your usage of them.

Then encourage other Instagram users to add them to photos they take at your business. In addition, pay attention to the #hashtags used by other local restaurants and businesses. There may be a hashtag popular in your community which you can utilise to promote your business.

6. Share Instagram with your other social accounts

You can integrate your Instagram account with your other social channels, like Facebook (who also own Instagram). Once you integrate with Facebook, you’€ll have the option to share Instagram photos on your personal Timeline, or on a page that you manage. Although you can’€t directly integrate Instagram with Twitter, you can still share links to your Instagram photos directly through the service.

7. How do you get followers?

If you have an existing database of customers, you can send out an announcement and ask them to follow you. However, you can’€™t expect to suddenly have a whole lot of followers as soon as you start your Instagram account, as it often takes time to build a presence. So first off take some time to follow others yourself – similar restaurants as well as other food lovers in your area. If a new user follows you, be sure to follow them back. Following other people and businesses is not only a great way to make new connections but can also provide inspiration for your own Instagram account.

8. Encourage and reward your customers for sharing photos using your #hashtag.

Be sure to remind your customers that you’€re on Instagram,€“ perhaps promote it on all of your menus or as a small line on the bottom of your receipts – and encourage them to share photos. You can €incentivise them to do this as a great way for them to join your community. Make sure you also have links to your Instagram account on your website. If you’€re also active on Facebook, select one customer photo each week and feature it on your page. A key component of building an audience on Instagram is engaging with the people who follow you. When someone likes or comments on your photo, you will receive a notification. You can respond within the comments of a photo by including the €@€ symbol, followed by their username.

9. Measure your success

Like any good marketing tool, you need to develop a strategy for what type of content you plan to post and be consistent in this approach. Measure what posts work best for you, and when (time-wise) the posts work best, and tweak the formula.

With a little practice, you’€ll find Instagram is a great way to enhance your brand and connect with your customers!

Here’s an easy template for you to use to implement your Social Media Policy:
Social Media Policy Template

The art of cultivating customer loyalty

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The hospitality industry is in a period of growth.

Consumer confidence is also on the improve and so it is reasonable to expect that as a result consumers are more prepared to spend…hopefully in your business. The reality though is that many hospitality business still report difficult trading conditions. Business owners are saying that it is more difficult to get customers to return to their business than it was two years ago. Cultivating customer loyalty remains a challenge.

What are your tactics for building customer loyalty? You’ve probably heard the adage before that it is far cheaper to market to an existing customer than it is to capture a new customer. There is also strong evidence that regular customers spend more per visit than your irregular customers. Definitely worth cultivating then…

Here are two key factors to consider:

1. Word of mouth still carries the most weight in influencing a consumer to choose one restaurant (or café) over another. A new consumer survey conducted by the Association indicates that 76% value recommendations from friends and family over any other method in choosing where to dine.

2. Good food will lure customers into your business, good, consistent service keeps them coming back.

Consistency is key

We all know that the business of hospitality is about the experience. To build repeat customers, and to get your customers recommending you to their friends, the customer experience needs to be consistent.

No doubt you pride yourself on providing excellent food, ambience and service to all of your customers. But take some time to analyse whether there are occasions when the consistency in your brand fails. Service by your wait staff may be exemplary on Tuesday when the restaurant is a little quieter but is it at the same level on Saturday night when you are at your busiest? Is a menu item going to look and taste the same if a customer comes back two weeks later and orders it again? For a customer there is nothing more disheartening than discovering a wonderful new dish at an establishment only to find the offering is quite different when they next return. The first experience sets an expectation in the customer’s mind, while the second raises questions about the business.

For your customers it can’t be a hit and miss proposition; repeat customers will return, and recommend your business to others, if the experience is consistent.

Good customer service will keep them coming back

According to consumers one of the worst sins for a restaurant or café is “service provided with a shrug”. Make sure that your recruitment process guarantees you are hiring the best candidates. Then ensure your entire front of house staff are trained to a consistent business guideline where the emphasis in on the customer.

It is also useful that if there is regularity with the dining habits of your loyal customers, there is also regularity with your rostering. Being greeted by the same cheerful waiter who delivered such a pleasant customer experience last time is all important for the repeat customer. Sometimes easier said than done, but if you can focus on your staff turnover, this will help to build consistency with your brand. It is unlikely your new waiter will know that “Bob” dines here every second Tuesday and always orders the steak (medium rare). And if it is another new waiter next Tuesday then you are not really building that key customer relationship.

“Our object is not to satisfy customers, it’s to delight them.” This quote from a successful American restaurateur should be the motto of all hospitality business owners.

Tracking customers

You also need to ensure that you are tracking your customers. Otherwise, knowing who your regulars are is too hit and miss. Make sure you encourage all new customers to sign up for your email database (give them an incentive to do so) and have a campaign to actively try and turn those first-timers into repeat customers.

Your database should differentiate between regular and non-regular customers and your marketing to those groups should be different. The offer to get a first time customer back will not be the same one that your regulars will necessarily respond to. Rather, create special occasions (this doesn’t need to involve discounting) for regulars that will help them feel like VIP’s.

This is also where you can get your customers to help you identify any consistency failures in the business. If there are subtle problems the average customer probably won’t be assertive enough to tell you – they’ll just politely leave and never come back; particularly if it was a result of poor customer service. However, if you actively seek feedback from those on your email database it might be easier to obtain information. If you can show that you have acted on that feedback and invite the customer back, then you are fostering a real customer relationship. When they return though, you’ll have to show that you really have changed as a result of their advice, as it is unlikely they’ll give you a third chance.

Loyal customers are essential for long term business success and repeat business should be a key focus. Some say that the customers decision to return to your business is the real moment of truth. The decision to return signifies whether or not your performance met, or exceeded, the customers expectations.

Take note

  • Not even competitive pricing can build up a lifetime of loyalty the way great customer service can. “Our object is not to satisfy customers, it’s to delight them.”
  • Analyse the consistency of your product and seek feedback on it
  • Start with the basics; recruit the right candidates and train them well
  • Have a solid strategy for tracking your customers and encouraging first time customers back
  • Market special occasions to your loyal customers
  • Consider starting the marketing to consumers before they have even chosen to walk through your door – you can do this through your website and Facebook.