Do you lie awake at night worrying about how you’re going to launch a new menu for your restaurant? What if no one comes? What if they hate it?
If you’ve been proactive enough to change your restaurant’s menu to keep customers engaged, it can be terrifying to think that your hard work may go to waste. Or negatively impact your business.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could all but guarantee a queue out the door and around the block on the first night of the launch?
Well, we can’t promise you a full house, but we can promise to give you the tools to make your new menu launch a massive success.
Successfully launching a new menu is all about being prepared and taking the necessary steps to let as many people as possible know. Lucky for you, we’ve outlined exactly what those steps are below.
So roll up your sleeves and get ready to make your new menu a big hit.
Start promoting your new menu well in advance of the launch
A new menu is an amazing promotional opportunity for your restaurant. It’s not just a chance to show what your chef can do or keep regular customers engaged with your restaurant, it’s also a fantastic chance to get new customers through your doors.
When the launch day comes, you want to have diners queuing around the block to try out new dishes. You want to have them drooling in anticipation. This is only possible, however, if you start your promotional efforts well in advance of the launch day.
If you’re reading this on the eve of launching a new menu, all is not lost. There are still plenty of actionable tips in this article that can help. But if you are just starting to think about redesigning your menu, then make this the one thing that you take away from reading: make a plan and start promoting your new menu early!
Don’t worry, we’ll show you exactly what to do below.
Start by making the most of the items that are leaving the menu
While many restaurateurs are keen to get the word out about their new menu and make sure that sales are high straight off the bat, very few think about getting the most out of the items that are leaving the menu.
This doesn’t make a lot of sense for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there’s a chance that the ingredients used in these dishes may not be used in any others. If you have excess stock, it’s important that you use as much up as you can to avoid it going to waste. But you’re also missing out on the chance to get even more income from these dishes before they go. Even if they aren’t the best sellers (and let’s face it, if you are getting rid of them they probably aren’t), you’ll be surprised at how popular they become when customers hear that they won’t be available again. We always want what we can’t have, after all. There’s also nothing worse than being a customer and discovering that your favorite item is no longer on the menu. So giving them fair warning will win you some brownie points with your loyal diners.
We recommend starting to promote these items as soon as you start promoting your new menu—so at least a month before they are gone for good. Don’t be tempted to tie everything into one confusing ad or social media post, however. Adverts for the new menu should be kept separate from promotional offers on the departing dishes.
Spread the word with a new menu launch press release
One of the easiest ways to spread the word about your new menu launch is to get the local press involved. As a trusted source of local news, the press can be a huge help in raising awareness of your new menu and allow you to reach people who may not have known about your restaurant in the first place.
Sending out a press release
Start by contacting the local newspapers in your area. Depending on where you are in the country, there may only be one paper or there may be half a dozen. It doesn’t matter how many there are, you can send the same press release to all of them.
HubSpot has an excellent guide and template that you can use to craft your press release. But here are some great starting points:
- Start with an attention-grabbing headline. Seriously, most of your time should be spent on the headline. In some cases, this will be the only thing that journalists read. Make it irresistible so that they have to read on to find out more
- Provide a quote. Journalists love it if you make their job easy. So provide a quote about why you’re doing a new menu, what inspired you and what you want to achieve
- Give who, what and why clarity. It should be easy for the report to understand who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it.
- Provide contact details. Some journalists will want to get in touch with you for more information. Give them your email address or, even better, your phone number.
With your press release drafted, all you need to do is send it out. Just make sure that you BCC everyone in your email.
Don’t forget about other influencers
It isn’t just the local press you should notify about your new menu. Thanks to social media, there are plenty of other local influencers you can tap into. There’s almost guaranteed to be at least one blogger in your town, and probably more than a handful of them. If they have a strong following, they can be a great way to notify the general public about your launch. Local food critics, even if they aren’t affiliated with a paper, can also be a great way to get the word out. You can choose to send these influencers the same press release that you sent to journalists, or you can reach out to them on social channels for a more personal approach.
Hold a press tasting night
One event that is sure to get everyone talking—press and influencers alike—is a press tasting night. Choose a night that you are normally closed on or usually not busy to host a private dining event for journalists, food critics, and bloggers. The event should be held before your new menu goes live so that these influencers get a sneak peek (and taste) of your new food. This doesn’t just have the benefit of making them feel special, it will also encourage them to write about your menu in detail and raise awareness further. If a local food critic praises your new range of starters, for example, you can expect a queue out the door on your first night.
Get your team excited about the new menu
Getting the press excited about your new dishes is one thing is a great start. But they’ll only give you an initial push. It’s much more important to get your staff onboard and excited about the new menu. After all, they’ll be the ones selling it to the customers. Have a private tasting session with both your front of house staff and your kitchen staff. Have the kitchen staff explain the food, the ingredients, and the influence behind their creation.
Giving your staff the chance to try and taste your new menu won’t just help them answer questions about the dishes to customers, it will also let them pick their favorite dish, which they can recommend honestly.
Drum up anticipation in your followers
We’ve got the press on board, we’ve got your staff on board, now it’s time to get your loyal customers on board. Getting the word out to your customers is actually one of the easiest steps in this launch program. If you’ve been following our advice on email marketing and social media, you should already have a strong following on Instagram and Facebook, as well as a big email list. Now it’s time to use them.
Start by taking professional pictures of the new dishes
We’ve spoken before about the need for high-quality images of your food, and now is not the time to skimp and use an iPhone. If you can’t take high-quality images on a proper digital camera in-house, hire an expert to do it for you. It won’t be more than a couple of hours worth of work, and it really is worth to get the kind of pictures that make your new dishes look irresistible.
Create a social campaign
Do you know what’s sure to make your new menu launch disappointing? One or two social media posts! As it becomes harder to show up in Facebook’s newsfeed, it is important that you create a social campaign to promote the new menu that sees you post on your major social accounts at least once every other day. Only by repeatedly posting teasers of your new dishes (making sure to include the high-quality photos) will you be able to drum up enough interest.
You can take this one step further by creating a paid advertising campaign on Facebook and targeting everyone in your town. This can be a great way to get the word out to thousands of people for relatively few dollars.
Once you’ve set up your social campaigns and scheduled your messages its time to set up an email campaign. If you already use a service like MailChimp, this will be pretty easy. If you don’t, you should think about starting with MailChimp for free.
We would recommend sending out one email every week for at least a month before your new menu launches. This will give you enough time to drum up awareness without spamming your customers’ inboxes.
Content ideas to promote your menu launch
It’s all well and good us telling you to create social messages and send out emails. But what the heck should you include in them? If you’re stuck for ideas, here are the type of messages we have seen work well in the past.
- Release a new menu item each week
- Encourage bookings for the first day of the launch
- Run a giveaway for attendance to the exclusive tasting night
- Tell the creation story behind the new dishes
- Interview the chefs and staff about the new menu
- Have customers vote on the items they are most excited for
There are so many ways you can take this and the more creative you get, the more traction you’ll achieve.
A done-for-you menu launch from the professionals
If you’re stuck for ideas or don’t know where to start, The Digital Restaurant is here to help. We can provide a done-for-you menu launch service that raises awareness and excitement about your new menu in the press, influencers, and your customers. For more information, request a free consultation with a member of our team today.