Driving footfall – five proven ideas for your pub, bar, or restaurant

If you’ve ever wondered how to boost repeat visits from customers, compete effectively against the big chains, and meet the challenges of our cold British weather and a fast-changing High Street head on, then buckle in - you’re in for a treat!

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We've compiled a raft of great ideas you can put to use in your business. The best part? Many of them are completely free, requiring only a small time investment on your part!

The fact you have your own business means you have the freedom to get really creative with your marketing strategy, taking advantage of the latest trends in a nimble way that the big chains can only dream about. You have a golden opportunity to provide a far more personal & unique experience for your customers, and people just love independent and local bars for this very reason.

1. Be social

Social media thrives on FRESH content. Don’t worry too much about making everything look perfect - authenticity is what drives social engagement, and this is one area where quantity actually matters more than quality. Share new cocktails, promotions, dog pictures, events - tell the world what’s going on in your pub or bar with gusto and enthusiasm.

Remember that persistence is required. Don’t over-analyse each post to see how many “likes” it got - just keep putting the good stuff out there. Over time, you’ll build up more followers and get more engagement - provided you keep sharing! You’re keeping your business front-of-mind for your customers - rather than just being a physical space they pass from time to time, it becomes something they see regularly when they are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

Next, you need to make sure you take full advantage of letting your customers share their experience with their friends on social media - while they are in your premises. To encourage this, provide fast, free WiFi for them.


2. Be irresistible

Few of us can resist a real bargain, and food and drink is no exception. Creating an attention-grabbing special offer might seem laborious or old-fashioned, but it’s well worth the effort in terms of getting people to take action and visit.

Always remember: once they’re inside they’re almost guaranteed to spend more - and you can be creative with the timing of the offer to protect your profit margins. For example - half-price cocktails before 7PM - get them through the doors and they’ll be more likely to stay and order more!

Don’t just put the special offers on the posters and boards outside to attract passing trade - share on your social feeds too. Free tools like Canva make it super-easy for anyone to create lovely graphics that show off your offer - no design skills needed!


3. Be rewarding

From the traditional reward card that gets stamped each time a customer visits, to offering a discount each time someone leaves you a review online – rewards give customers a powerful incentive to return.

A reward scheme needn’t be complicated - you can experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you. For example, patrons could receive a free drink on their 6th visit… or a half-price meal if they return twice in one week! You can tailor the deals to make them work for your place and your priorities.

Another great way to encourage and reward repeat visits is to embrace themed nights and seasonal trends, so that alongside the regular favourites on your menu, there are new tastes to try and new experiences to savor every time they visit.

4. Make reviews work for YOU

Taking control of your online reviews can drive more positive ratings and in turn drive footfall as customers gravitate towards the best-rated venues.

There are email tools available which you can use to prompt customers to leave Google and TripAdvisor reviews for you following their visit to your premises. Some even allow the lower (1 to 3 star) ratings automatically get placed in a 'holding area' where you can deal with them before they are published online!

If this sounds too good to be true, don’t worry, it’s real - and working already for pubs and bars just like yours up and down the country right now.


5. Take advantage of easy email marketing

You might think that email marketing is “old hat” now, but believe it or not, it’s still reaping huge rewards for those that do it well. One of the big benefits of email marketing is the ability to monitor your email open and click rates - easy measures of success in marketing.

To get higher open rates, you can personalise your subject lines to make the message more relevant for the target audience. For example, subject lines like “Thanks for dining with us last week” or “Did you enjoy our new winter menu?” - the power of marketing automation can make this far simpler than you might think! Once set up, an automated marketing campaign will run by itself, ensuring you keep your customers in the loop about your latest deals and promotions, sending updates right to their phones.

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