Loyalty Marketing

How Restaurants Can Transform Customers Into Promoters

Word of mouth marketing is the most effective way to grow your business. Every time a person suggests your restaurant or bar, it’s like a personalized review meant to convince somebody your business is the best choice.

The problem with word of mouth marketing though is you have little control over it. You can’t force people to talk about your business; you can only encourage and try to be so amazing people can’t help but talk about their experience.

One great approach to getting more word of mouth is to create promoters. A promoter is somebody who loves your business so much that they are constantly talking about it. You don’t pay a promoter, you earn them. You have to put extra effort into gaining promoters, so here are some best practices to do so.

Above & beyond service

It should already be incredibly important to provide great service. Good service means more customers, better reviews, higher tips, happier employees, loyal customers, and more revenue. It’s also essential when trying to create promoters. It doesn’t matter how delicious your food is, or how smooth your beer is; if your service is terrible, people will never suggest your business.


When converting customers to promoters, you need to stand out with your service. Every restaurant tries to have “good” service, which equates to basic good service being the norm. That means things like “free” bread or polite waiters won’t get you noticed in the sea of competition.

Standing out is hard, and may be costly, but so is most marketing efforts. Do something that changes and improves their experience. This could range from making it a policy to give out free desserts on occasion, to taking away the uncomfortable experience of tipping by paying workers proper wages.

To pull this off, you will need the help of your employees. It’s easy and common for service staff to lose interest and compassion when serving tons of people day after day. Follow the example of how health care professionals take care of themselves to prevent fatigue. Make sure your employees are taking care of themselves properly and come to work happy. It might take several positive experiences to create a promoter, but it takes only one bad experience to ruin one.

Doing great things in the community

Having a strong community reputation can only encourage people to recommend your business. PR work can be the tipping point to making a long-term customer start talking. This is important to both huge corporations and smaller local businesses.

The best approach is to do something memorable and leaves a positive impact. The more newsworthy whatever you do is, the bigger reach you’ll have. That means more word of mouth and more promoters.

A great example of a food industry company doing this the right way is Starbucks. ASU and Starbucks teamed up to give all of their employees access to free college education. When they first announced this program, it got a lot of national attention and was a wonderful bit of PR. Even now, it gets coverage because of how unique it is.

It might be tempting to simply do something small and call it good enough — like donating some money to an event or running some sort of canned food drive around the holidays. Again, it’s important to stand out, and these are the same things everybody else is doing. Go big. Tell people about it. Make it special.

Using social media to create connections

What are you currently using your social media for? Most restaurants and bars only use it to announce events, deals, and to show support for their local sports team. A great social media campaign is all about connecting with people. Social media is a great tool to encourage promoting.


Having a wide variety of content and posting regularly is essential. There is nothing wrong with posting events, deals, and sports, but you need more. Post about local events, funny memes, share stories, and more. Social content should entertain, inform, and connect with people intellectually and emotionally.

Posting regularly and entertaining your customers helps keep you top of mind for the long term. Once people follow you on social media, they should see your name at least every other day with new content. That way, when making recommendations to others, you are easy to recall.

Retaining promoters

Over time, you and your employees will start to identify who your promoters are. They are typically regulars and often bring new people with them. As you identify them, make sure you go out of your way to thank them for their support. This can include things like gift cards, personal thank yous from management, or going out of your way to keep them happy.

Getting customers to promote your business naturally can be hard and a long, expensive, road. But it is worth it. Owning a restaurant or bar is a people-centric industry, and people can be your most valuable marketing tool.

What are your thoughts? Do you have an experience where a promoter sent your business a ton of new customers? Got a question about creating promoters you would like answered? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Ben Allen

Ben Allen is a freelance marketing writer focused on helping small businesses grow and helping others succeed in life.