How you can get more customers to your restaurant for free

How you can get more customers to your restaurant for free

One of the easiest ways to open your ‘online doors’ to potential customers and to reach your local and foodie market is using third party websites. These sites have invested heavily in building a responsive, large database of your target market, and often allow you to get listed for free. It could take years for a hospitality business to organically build a customer base as relevant and as large as these are. Here is how you can take advantage of these opportunities. 

Clean up your online presence:

 1. Update your free online listings


You are already on these sites, even if you haven’t created or managed these pages. Customers can create businesses by checking in on these sites and leaving reviews, without the permission of the business owner.

Ensure your contact details, menus, prices, description, photos, website and social media links are correct. Ensure reviews are responded to and all aspects of the listing such as opening times are optimised and updated.

I’ve listed below the most popular sites, followed by links on how you can claim your business. You should also Google your business name and update all sites coming up on the first 3 pages, to ensure your online shop front is representing your business accurately.


  1. Google


  1. Social media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn/Pintrest)

You should check for page duplicates and merge them


  1. Tripadvisor


  1. Zomato


  1. Yell/Yelp


2. Utilize commission based websites


There are many online partners who will list you without a contract, listing or set up fee, but charge you for covers booked through their engines. This is an easy way of controlling your costs and fill quiet periods in the restaurant. You’ll also get a lot of first time diners, who you can turn into direct bookers in the future.

Be aware of discount only sites (i.e. Groupon, Wowcher). After their commission and the reduced package price they request, you may end up with more covers, but lost revenue. You must track these bookings and feed back to a booking partner if the reservation didn’t show up, so you only pay for covers whom you have in the restaurant. Here are the top 5 sites to drive high volume of covers with affordable commission:


  1. Bookatable

Usually £2 per cover through their website, or 15% commission per package under special promotions.

  1. Opentable

A little higher cover charge, so ensure your menu or package is designed with this in mind: £2 for a la carte bookings, £3.50 for offers and £5 for diners booked through their loyalty scheme. 

  1. Design My Night

This is a great website for bar and drinks and food experiences. Be it hen parties or master classes, when it comes to night out experiences this is the best website to rely on. Charges per cover will depend on the type of event you are running and whether you ask guests to pay in advance. 


Bookatable owns this site; hence the cover charges will be the same.

  1. Buy a Gift

This site is great for joint ventures with local attractions in your area. Hefty commission and needs to allow for a discount too, but if the experience is paired well it can deliver a steady flow of customers.

Note, this partner is asking for a 12 months contract and vouchers must be redeemable 10 months after purchase.


3. Consider paid for listings to attract more group and private dining bookings


Groups and private dining can deliver great margins; hence we all would like to have more of them. Below are the top performing sites for small-medium sized restaurants. You have to get in touch with them directly to find out about their rates and contract available for your venue:


  1. Opentable private dining listing
  3. Venue directory
  4. Hitched
  5. Design My Night


I hope you enjoyed this summary. If you have any questions please drop me an email, I would love to hear your thoughts.