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3 ways to drive local guest business for your hotel restaurant

In 2017, total guest spend in hotel restaurants, bars, lounges, banquets and more totaled $48.7 billion. And with consumers continuing to prioritize food and beverage experiences while traveling, hotels can no longer afford to not prioritize on-property F&B outlets. Though it’s easy to focus on reaching and engaging with only hotel guests, a robust marketing strategy for your hotel restaurant should focus on another important audience: local guests.

In fact, the fastest way to drive up revenue for your restaurant is by focusing on reaching local guests. When you prioritize a local audience in your marketing, you benefit by:

  • Extending your business beyond your hotel’s busy season
  • Growing recommendations from locals to their friends, family and out-of-town guests
  • Building loyalty for your brand while locals are both home and away

But how do you attract locals into your property? Read on to learn how you can engage with locals year-round to drive repeat visits and boost profits.

Focus on what matters to locals

A local audience varies from your typical guest, as they care more about how connected your brand is to the local community. As part of a robust strategy to target locals, you should look for new ways to engage with them across various areas of your business. Here are four strategies that will encourage locals to visit your property:

  1. Develop a seasonal tasting menu of locally-sourced fare, specifically highlighting any local purveyors.
  2. Create a “secret” locals-only menu that is only available on certain days, and only to guests with a local address who follow your social media channels.
  3. Use the holidays to host special events that help drive off-peak-hour business — such as brunch with Santa, a Halloween costume contest, or a Thanksgiving-themed dinner supporting a local food pantry.
  4. Host cooking classes for local business groups looking for team building activities, for couples on date night, or for parents and kids on the weekend.

Local guests who feel connected to your brand and part of the local community will continue to come back time and time again. In fact, by offering something special to locals, you build direct relationships that will last for years to come.

Leverage local channels

To get local diners into your hotel restaurant, reach them where they’re already looking for information on where to eat. From local influencers to popular regional publications, to actively participating in local community events, there are many channels for you to reach local guests.

Micro-Influencers

When looking at your social media strategy, go micro! In 2019, there is no reason to pay a high-priced influencer with millions of followers. Instead, focus on micro-influencers with between 2,000 and 50,000 followers. These influencers usually have higher engagement, and focus specifically on one area (e.g. food in San Diego). Invite them in to enjoy your hotel restaurant, and reap the benefits of reaching an engaged audience of local guests! Plus, when they post about their experience on their social channels, you can reshare that content across your own channels and website.

Local publications

If you’re currently working with a PR agency, use them to identify the top local publications in your area, and prioritize those outlets for your outreach. Many local publications will happily cover a local event, write a review or include your property in a round up of top local restaurants. This will help drive more awareness for your brand across the local community.

Community activism

66% of restaurants sponsor community and charity events and organizations, making it an important channel to reach local guests. Here are a few ways to engage with your local community:

    • Sponsor a community sporting or music event
    • Connect with local schools to mentor the next generation of culinary and front of house staff
    • Host a stand or food truck at community fairs and events
    • Support a local charity organization with monthly drives or special menu items to collect donations
    • Lend your space to a community organization when your kitchen is closed, or host a dinner with a cause to support a local charity

Localize your marketing

Once you’ve developed programming aimed at local guests, the next step is to promote these events, offerings and experience across your channels using content specifically tailored to a local audience. This includes:

Locals-only emails

Email marketing is the fastest and easiest way to get reach your local guests with information on upcoming events, menu offerings and other local-specific content. These should always have timely news, and include clear call-to-actions (e.g. book a reservation, buy a ticket, etc.).

To be effective at email marketing, you must prioritize the collection of email addresses when a guest books a reservation or attends a local event. The best email campaigns specifically target a local audience with content that’s relevant to them, so don’t blast the message to your entire email database. To build your database, have a business card drop at the host stand, collect email addresses when guests book a reservation online or by phone, and offer fun promotions for joining the mailing list.

Engage with locals across public channels

As part of your marketing strategy, make sure you respond to every comment across your channels — both positive and negative. Do a quick search to make sure you’re taking extra care with locals and that their experience match your brand standards. For example, if a local leaves a bad review on Yelp, take the time to thoughtfully write back, and even invite them back in to enjoy the restaurant. In fact, a recent study showed when consumers with a negative experience received follow up from the company they complained about, 1 in 3 actually turned around and posted a positive review. The more your team interacts with locals on public channels, the greater your connection will be to these guests.

Target your messaging

When looking to promote local events or experiences across social media channels including Facebook and Instagram, you have the tools at your fingertips to target specific locations and narrow down who will see your content. In these cases, create targeted campaigns that get promoted within 10 miles of your hotel’s restaurant to ensure the message resonates with and reaches your local audience.

To learn more, check out SevenRooms’ latest playbook: Hotel F&B: Local Marketing – Unleash the Revenue Potential of Locals for additional local guest strategies. Plus, hear directly from EAST, Miami, a Swire Hotel property, on how they successfully built a local following for their F&B outlets.

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