Evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing for restaurants

Image depicts two people having a conversation while sitting at a table in a restaurant.

Word-of-mouth marketing and evangelism marketing are valuable parts of a restaurant’s marketing strategy. Both terms refer to the same thing: getting people to talk about your business and growing your customer base. Because word-of-mouth marketing is an unpaid form of advertising, you can use this important tool no matter your restaurant’s marketing budget.

Quick links
What is evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing?
Types of evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing
Why evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing is important for restaurants
Examples of evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing for restaurants

What is evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing?

Word-of-mouth marketing is a form of organic advertising. Happy customers share their experience with a service, brand, or product with people they know.

An effective word-of-mouth marketing strategy is based on the three Es: engage, equip, and empower.

  • Engage: Create a connection with guests. Let them know you’re listening and that their feedback is important.
  • Equip: Give guests something to talk about. Deliver an experience they can’t help but share with friends and family.
  • Empower: Make sure guests have the chance to shout their enthusiasm. Give them opportunities to share their thoughts with you and the world.

Image depicts two diners at a restaurant, one reaching out to take food from a server.

Types of evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing

There are a few different kinds of word-of-mouth marketing for restaurants. This form of organic marketing can take place in person or online.

Person-to-person: The old-school form of evangelism marketing relies on people sharing recommendations in face-to-face conversations. An example is a happy customer telling a coworker about a standout customer service experience.

Social media: Word-of-mouth marketing includes organic social media mentions. User-generated content and influencer marketing campaigns are both types of word-of-mouth marketing.

Online reviews: Customer reviews on websites like OpenTable, Google, Facebook, and Yelp are powerful forms of word-of-mouth marketing.

Referral programs: One way to encourage positive word-of-mouth is referral marketing. Businesses offer incentives for happy customers to share their experiences with others, then track and reward their referrals. This form of evangelism marketing is an effective way to turn loyal customers into champions of your brand.

Why evangelism marketing and word-of-mouth marketing are important for restaurants

Real-life recommendations still outrank digital marketing in customer follow-through. According to a 2021 report:

  • 55% of consumers have discovered a new brand, product, or service via word-of-mouth in the past year.
  • 28% of consumers prefer to learn about a new product or service via word-of-mouth marketing over forms of advertising on social media, TV, streaming, or podcasts.
  • 40% of consumers made purchases based on the recommendation of someone they know. That’s more than any other category of marketing.

Repeat customers are important to any restaurant, but guests who spend the most often aren’t necessarily the ones spreading the word about your business. The value of a customer’s referrals can add up to much more than their lifetime spend, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Restaurant CRM software can help you target guests most likely to spread the word about your business. This data can help staff deliver outstanding hospitality and boost the impact of your marketing campaigns.

Image depicts a group of people dining out at a restaurant, all wearing colorful shirts.

Examples of word-of-mouth marketing and evangelism marketing for restaurants

Once you understand evangelism marketing, it’s easy to use in your marketing strategy. Here are several ways to get people to spread the word after eating at your restaurant.

Give guests something to talk about

Think about what makes your restaurant stand out: the on-point playlist in your dining room, an exciting entrée prepared tableside, or the high level of service your staff provides. These are all opportunities to make an impression and inspire guests to share. Incorporate that wow factor as you workshop new dishes, plan updates to the space, and train staff.

Ask for feedback

Delivering outstanding hospitality is one of the best ways to get people talking about your restaurant. That includes actively seeking guest feedback. Train staff to inquire during and after service. Follow up with guests via your reservation software to request ratings and feedback.

Respond to online reviews

Online reviews can tell you what’s working and what’s not. They’re also an opportunity to show guests you care about what they have to say.

Be sure to engage with both positive and negative customer reviews. This shows that guest feedback is important and builds a connection to your brand or product. A prompt, thoughtful response to a review can turn a negative customer experience into a good one and spark positive word-of-mouth.

Image depicts two people sitting at a restaurant drinking orange drinks. One is laughing with their hand on their head.

Keep communication open

It’s important for any restaurant to keep in touch with past and potential customers online. This can happen through social media or an email newsletter. Engage with your restaurant’s social media followers. Reply to comments and share posts about positive customer experiences to let them know you’re paying attention. Keep up with your restaurant’s social media activity and maintain a regular schedule for email updates to keep communication consistent.

Partner with social media influencers

Influencer marketing can be an effective way to reach a new audience. An influencer has built trust with their online following, so their recommendations can draw lots of potential new customers. Inviting influencers to come in for a pre-opening event or a taste of your new menu can be an effective form of word-of-mouth marketing.

Turn neighbors into regulars

Connect with your neighbors. The people in your immediate area can be some of the best sources of positive word-of-mouth. Nearby residents will bring friends and family from elsewhere to dine in, but consider reaching out to business owners and their employees, too. Cultivate relationships with people who are in the business of telling others about restaurants. This can include hotel managers, concierges, and short-term rental hosts in the neighborhood.

Image depicts two people sitting at a restaurant drinking orange drinks. One is laughing with their hand on their head.

Create excitement with events and Experiences

Special events, collaborative pop-ups, and can’t-miss promotions are all smart marketing strategies. They can boost business and get guests in the door. Use Experiences to inspire existing customers to return and bring a new audience through the door.

Set up a referral program

Happy customers don’t need an incentive to spread the word about your restaurant. However, referral marketing can increase their impact. Train staff to ask first-time guests if anyone referred them. Record and track this data in your restaurant CRM.

This will help you identify the guests who are most valuable to your evangelism marketing strategy. The next time those guests dine in, offer them a heartfelt thank you and a little reward. Gift cards, branded swag, or a complimentary dessert are thoughtful ways to express your gratitude and inspire them to keep spreading the word.

A word-of-mouth marketing strategy is an effective, zero-cost way to grow your restaurant business. This approach can raise your brand’s profile, grow your audience, and boost revenue without an ad budget. Plus, getting people talking about your restaurant is one of the best ways to expand your customer base and build loyalty with existing customers.