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What Needs to Be in Your Restaurant Marketing Plan?

Business Planning Experts Weigh in on Restaurant Marketing Plans

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You’ve decided to put together a detailed marketing plan—or you’re thinking you might want one with more bells and whistles. What do business planning experts recommend?

While the specifics are different, the same basic parts are recommended by business planning leaders Philip Kotler and Tim Berry. Kotler is a Northwestern University professor and the author of textbooks often assigned in marketing courses at top business schools who has also written books for business executives. Berry founded Palo Alto Software and the business planning website Mplans.com, which is a useful enough resource for business that the U.S. Small Business Administration website links to it. Berry has consulted with companies for years on business and marketing planning. According to Kotler and Berry, you can make a strong marketing plan, or make an existing one better, with the following elements.

Situation Analysis

This section includes stats on the last several years in sales, prices, costs and profits for your company. It’s basically an overview in numbers of where you are as a business, or your balance sheets put together in a way that shows how you’re doing as a company.

Also in the situation analysis, Berry suggests a market forecast, as well as a market forecast table. A market forecast is a list of your target markets, how many people you expect to be in those target markets and how much you think you’ll earn from these markets for the next couple of years. For a restaurant, target markets might include families, unmarried people in their 20s and other groups. They’re really just any group of people for whom you’d use a single approach to marketing.

The situation analysis may also include an analysis of major competitors, or a description of your major competitors in terms of the factors that most influence revenues. A restaurant might look at each competitor’s organization size, service quality, growth, available capital and resources, image, marketing strategy and target markets. Make sure to look at these variables for your company too. The idea here is to see where you stand relative to your competition.

A SWOT analysis can also be part of the situation analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and the SWOT analysis is really just a list of these factors for your company. Strengths and weaknesses could include your company’s reputation, the quality of your service, the effectiveness of your staff and the flexibility and responsiveness of your team to client needs. (They could be strengths or weaknesses because you could be doing well or poorly on all of these fronts.) One threat for all companies today is the further weakening of the economy. Another could be a company that has moved into your area and is trying to do business with your target markets.

Marketing Objectives and Goals

Objectives are the broad aims to be achieved in the period your plan covers. They’re not specific. Goals are objectives that have numbers and deadlines attached. So, Kotler explains, where an objective might be “Increase sales,” a goal would be “Increase sales by 15% by the end of the fiscal year.” Berry suggests including this information in the following section, marketing strategy.

Marketing Strategy

Kotler mentions several subsections that this section can include: target markets, core positioning, price positioning, total value proposition and communication strategy. Your target markets subsection is where you paint a clear and detailed picture of the groups for whom you use a single approach to marketing. Whereas in your market forecast you focus on how big these groups will be in the future, and how much business they’ll bring, in this part of your plan should look at demographics for each market—how old they are, whether they’re male or female, where they live—and psychographics (attitudes, interests, opinions) of each market. You probably won’t have time to nail down all the details, and it's really not necessary. The idea is just to figure out who these markets are so you can figure out how best to reach them.

The core positioning is the core idea or benefit of what you offer (e.g., best service, best quality, best performance, least expensive)—it is closely related to price positioning, or how you want to present the value your company offers in relation to the costs of your services. Kotler describes the total value proposition as “a persuasive answer to the buyer’s question ‘Why should I buy from you?’.” With the communication strategy, you figure out how much you’ll spend on advertising, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing.

Action Plan and Marketing Controls

Kotler and Berry suggest breaking these sections down differently, but the point is the same: plan and put into writing exactly what you’ll do in terms of marketing, decide who will do what, figure out where you should be at different points during the year and decide what you’ll do if you’re not where you should be in reaching your marketing goals.

You can get a lot more information about creating and implementing marketing plans without spending a dime. We recommend Berry’s website, the website of the U.S. Small Business Administration—especially its section on small business management, and the website of the American Marketing Association. Check out your local public library for any of many books by Philip Kotler. The one used for this article is Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets.

Written by: Kate Hough