If your print ads, direct mail and phone book ads aren't working, and if you're not quite ready for internet marketing and social media yet, restaurant owners can still turn to local TV advertising for a successful advertising campaign.
You make think that only the big restaurant chains can afford TV, but it's the exact opposite. They can't afford to compete with restaurants advertising on TV at the local level. If you stick with cable TV ads - which can perform really well - you can undercut the national chains to a point where they can't compete with you.
Contact your local cable provider (i.e.: Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) and ask for their sales department. When the sales rep shows up, be prepared to play a little bit of hardball.
If you're a high-end restaurant, the sports theme may still be a decent fit since almost every household watches some kind of sporting event. Aside from sports, check into cable news channels (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.). Also, check into the rates during the evening newscasts between 6:00 PM - Midnight. Morning news shows form 6:00 AM-8:00 AM may also be a good fit, especially if your customers are the types to pay attention to the stock markets and financial news.
If you're a family restaurant, you can do a combination of sports, news and even hit a few kids shows. Remember - if you're advertising during kids' programming, you're also hitting a lot of parents while they watch TV with their kids. We don't recommend going overboard on this, but supplementing your TV campaign with a few kids spots in prime time can help.
If you're a night club, you may be able to get some pretty inexpensive cable TV ads. You'll be able to advertise on later shows that get less viewership but more-dedicated audiences. Tabloid-ish shows and reality TV shows about housewives are decent for this demographic. On the other hand, you'll also want to be on the trendy, episodic shows of the day. American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy, The Bridge, The Strain, The Walking Dead (yes, we still recommend you advertise your restaurant during a zombie show) - show like this where you know tons of people in your target audience are watching.
In short, rotating ads - ads that run during a vague, unspecific time - are the devil. The cable TV ad sales reps will always try to sell you these by telling you they cost less. Don't fall for it. Running a rotator ad is like being blindfolded and swinging at a pinata when you don't even know where the tree is, let alone the pinata. Make sure you advertise your restaurant on TV when you know your target audience will be watching.
Think of it this way: would you rather spend $80 to gamble to win a prize, or would you just rather spend $100 to buy exactly what you want?
Don't fall for the "save money with rotators" sales ploy. Buy what you want, pay the extra money and make sure you get seen by the audience you want to reach.
Also, be prepared to dedicate yourself to your TV campaign for a minimum of 6 months, and a better rule of thumb is one full year.
TV ads typically take 3 months just to get off the ground to where enough people have seen your ad. It takes them 3 months to remember you exist before they remember to try out your restaurant. Once you hit 6 months, your TV campaign will be in full-swing. By the time a year hits, you need to look back at the year's revenue increases, when they spiked during your TV campaign, and how steady they've been since that spike. If the added revenue exceeds your TV ad spend
Example: if your restaurant is bringing in $4,000 more per month while your TV campaign is costing you $3,000 per month, you're making an extra $1,000 thanks to your TV campaign.
Also note that people don't typically go more than a couple of miles form their home for a restaurant. They're hungry when they're hungry, and they're not going to drive for an hour to get food. Advertise strictly to your local market and don't deviate from it. Once your ad is seen and remembered on TV, you will gain trust in your local market and they'll have your restaurant's name at the tip of their tongue when they're looking to go out to eat.
Read more of our restaurant marketing blogs here, and if Cable TV is out of your budget, you can read our guide to making print ads work for local restaurants, too.