Most people open a restaurant because they're passionate about food … not about restaurant marketing. At Donna Italia, we get that.

However, we also understand that no matter how much you love your business, it's not going to get very far if people don't know about it. That's why we're going to be offering a series to help you market your business, starting with these ten tips on how to promote new menu items.
1- Put new items on the menu
While we understand that this may seem obvious, too often we see owners make this very simple mistake, especially when everyone's trying to be budget-conscious during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, new menus cost money, and many owners wonder if it's worth it to update the whole menu for one item.

The simple answer is yes. You can have a special's sign at the front of the restaurant, but if people don't see your new offering on the menu when it's time to order … they're likely to forget about it.

If you're not ready to reprint the menu, you can design an insert instead to save money. Most online printers provide tools you can use to create your new menu insert without a designer. Both Vista Print and Got Print offer a user-friendly online designer interface and good prices.
2. Table tents
Another way to promote a new menu item is with table tents! While people spend less time now reading through table tents than they did before smartphones were ubiquitous, they're still front and center, and a great way to grab your customers' attention.

You do want to put thought into designing them. You can hire a reputable freelance designer to make sure they look great, or you might try a free design program like Canva if you're artistically minded.

Either way, it's important to keep in mind that simple is better. People don't want to read a novel when deciding to order, so use great pictures and simple, descriptive language.

Bonus points for offering a drink or dessert pairing for your new menu item.
3. Appeal to the senses
You can take the best pictures and write the best copy, but there's something to be said for the simple art of appealing to your diners' senses. After all, looking at a picture is great, but how much more enticed will people be if they can taste and smell it?

That's why we recommend offering free samples to intrigue your guests. Depending on the size and style of your restaurant, you can have these samples at the front counter where people order, or have a hostess walk around and offer them to people while they wait.

You can also offer them up as "small bites" to people who are having a drink while waiting for their table.

Another way to use this is through the sense of smell. If you've introduced a new dessert, make sure there's a display when people walk in so that the sweet smells are already on their minds by the time they're ready to order dessert.

We're such a big believer in "promoting through the senses" that we've made our tabletop pizza ovens compact enough to be displayed. We've had so many clients tell us they've sold more pizza after bringing the oven from back-of-house to the front-of-house, so we know it works!
4. Offer a special
People like familiarity, especially during trying times. Therefore, it can be hard to get repeat customers to try something new if they already have a favorite.

However, offering a limited time special can be just the thing to sway someone into trying something new.

The Syndicate Bar at Fullerton, California, created a weekend special and made a post on their Instagram to notify all their customers. This type of post is ideal for LTO or weekly specials.
5. Make the most of your wi-fi landing page
Many small businesses--including restaurants--offer free wifi to their customers in the digital age, but few make the most of the landing page customers use to access that wi-fi.

Instead of having it be a generic page with maybe a static picture from your menu, use this page to promote new menu items and specials. A clear picture and brief text are all you need, and it takes minimal effort and cost to update this page once a month, especially if you go for a website through an easy-to-use platform like Squarespace.
6. Update your website
Many restaurants don't have the budget (or the need) to have a full-time web developer on staff. And with the advent of website platforms like the aforementioned Squarespace and Wix, you no longer need to.

Even if you hire someone to do the initial build, make sure you go with a platform that is easy for you to update. Not only does Google give regularly-updated websites priority on search engines, but it also gives you and your staff the power to make changes on the fly. After 2020, we've all learned how important it is to be able to adapt at the drop of a hat.

Having a website you can update easily is important both to communicate COVID-19 updates to your customers, but also to let them know about any new specials or menu items. Take a look like Divino Ceviche promotes their new app on the home page. They incentivize their customers to place an order through the app to get a 10% off.
7. Send an email
If you've ever asked people to sign up for an email list related to your business, you need to keep those subscribers engaged.

After all, people tend to forget they've signed up for email lists if they don't get updates regularly, and it can lead to a negative customer experience when an email shows up out of the blue.

However, using your email list to notify customers of not only new menu items, but also new specials or events, is a great and easy way to keep your customers engaged.
8. Get your team involved
Word-of-mouth is always a valuable promotional tool, and that's not limited to your satisfied customers promoting you. Engaged team members can be a great way to promote new items to your customers, who do rely on your servers to help them pick something they'll love.

Make sure your staff members not only know about new products, but also have the opportunity to try them, and they can be even better brand ambassadors for your company.

Even better, it's a good idea to have monthly trainings on product knowledge to make sure your team members know what your current menu items are, and how to talk about them in a way that makes them enticing to both new and regular customers.
9. Reach out to local influencers
If you've introduced a new menu item (and especially if you've overhauled your menu), reach out to local influencers to help you promote it.

Whether it's someone who writes a blog or email series focusing on things to do locally, or a local influencer on social media, reach out and ask if they'd be willing to stop out and try your new menu items (on the house, of course).

You can also reach out to the dining section of your local newspaper. New menu items can be a great way to encourage a reviewer to come check out your establishment!
10. Make the most of social media
Last but certainly not least is social media. While we could easily devote an entire article to all the ways you can use social media for your business, we're going to limit our scope to promoting new items here.

One of the best ways to bring attention to new items is through Stories, because those posts show up right at the top whenever people log in versus getting buried (or not being seen at all, if someone hasn't engaged with your content before).

Because people tend to follow far more companies than they interact with--and many small businesses still haven't embraced Stories--it can help you break through the noise.

When A-Taco by Divino launched salmon and octopus tacos, they created an Instagram story. Then they saved it as a Highlight which lives on the business profile above the posts, for an easy and quick view.

You'll want to keep the message short and clear, either with a great picture and short description, or a video from an enthusiastic and engaging team member.

And here's another bonus tip if you're either a bar or have a strong drink menu: have a weekly story series that introduces the cocktail of the week, and use that segment as another way to promote new menu items but telling people what new menu items the cocktail of the week will pair with.
Bonus tip: Update your Google My Business page
When someone is looking for a restaurant to check out, they often turn to Google to compare their options. Then, once they've settled on a restaurant, they use Google again to get the address and phone number, and to check out your menu.

Unfortunately, even though using Google My Business can boost your SEO (search engine optimization) and help you pop up on Google Map search results, many local-owned businesses still fail to take advantage of the free help their Google My Business page can offer them.

Posting regular updates on everything from new menu items to specials can help you gain traction in an underused space! After a while (SEO is never an "overnight" fix) you'll find yourself gaining more traffic to your website, and showing up more often when potential patrons search for "restaurants near me."
Next actions
We hope these tips have left you more than ready to promote new items on your menu.

If you're looking for new items to add to your menu, check out our pizza recipes for ideas, and learn about the benefits of a Donna Italia pizza program. And be sure to keep an eye on the blog for more ways to grow your food-service business!

You May Also Like

Subscribe to Our Blog

Keep in Touch with Donna Italia. Grazie!
Donna Italia Corporate Office
3930 N 29th Avenue, Hollywood, FL 33020, USA • Tel. (844) 366-2872
© Donna Italia 2021. All rights reserved.