The Tabletop: Your Restaurant’s Most Effective Place to Market

This is part of our Improving the Tabletop Experience series, sponsored by French’s Food Company.

The table is one of the most versatile tools at a restaurant’s disposal. Of course, it serves as the hub for your guests’ dining experience, but if you are not also using it as a marketing device, you are severely underutilizing valuable real estate. Though space is limited on your tabletop, with a little care and ingenuity, there is certainly enough room for your diners to eat and drink comfortably while simultaneously consuming your promotional efforts.

Tabletop Marketing: Where the Old Meets the New

There are really two main ways you can leverage tabletop marketing. The first is the traditional method of using cardstock pop-ups, laminated bi-folds, menu insertions, etc. These are hard-copy printed advertisements that have been used forever by restaurants. 

The pros are that guests are used to them and they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to make. The downsides are they take up precious room on your table and are often the first casualties when your guests decide to rearrange the table to their liking. Items get moved, folded and hidden away behind the ketchup bottle – out of sight, out of mind.  You can mitigate this by using tabletop caddies with built-in rings meant to hold marketing material, like the free ones offered by French’s. That way your guests have more tabletop space, but your most important marketing efforts stand tall and proud for them to see. Win-win.

Your other option is to go a little more modern by using tabletop technology like restaurant digital tablets. The dynamic brilliance provided by digital tablets on your tables can captivate an already captive audience, essentially airing commercials directly in their sightline. From an aesthetic standpoint alone, the striking high-definition screens blow printed images out of the water. The level of detail is far more appealing and they offer an interactive element that paper cannot. They also allow for tableside ordering and on-demand payment, which can improve your guests’ dwell times and overall experience levels. 

Both work but which one you use really depends on your budget and restaurant’s branding & atmosphere.

Marketing for Now…

Restaurant tabletop marketing is a great way to upsell to guests

Advertising at the table can be broken down into two goals: now and later. Marketing for now entails upselling and enticement, trying to grow check sizes. At the same time, your marketing should also be encouraging your guests to make repeat trips to your establishment. There are a number of ways to achieve both of these objectives.

A vibrant, interactive menu that never leaves the table is just as much a marketing platform as it is a slate of options. There’s a reason why retailers stock the checkout area with a multitude of small, bright items. It’s called impulse buying. These products, which may not be part of the customer’s normal purchasing plan, are far more likely to end up in the basket if placed in a more accessible area.

The same holds true in restaurants. Reading the description of a tres leches cake while scanning the menu before the original order is not an effective sales pitch. It takes away the item’s strengths and delivers it at the worst time. On the other hand, when a diner is midway through their meal, enjoying every bite, and suddenly a glamorously-lit video of a fork cutting into that decadently rich sponge pops up inches away from their face, the temptation can be too real to avoid.  

The ability to present your products in as strong a manner as possible, at the opportune moment, will undoubtedly grow your check sizes.

…and Marketing for Later

Use tabletop marketing to promote your restaurant’s future events

Now, an unending assault of menu items could sound appealing to operators. However, it’s one-note and only harnesses a fraction of the power at your disposal. If all goes well with your service, your guests should be planning their next visit before the check is even presented. Your tabletop marketing can help them plan that trip.

A robust calendar of events is a crucial cog in your marketing machine. Anything that drives niche market segments to your establishment is an asset. Karaoke nights, trivia competitions, sip and paints, fortune tellers -- these are all opportunities to build your customer base. Of course, don’t forget about major sporting events or even niche sports.

There’s no better way to build a stable of regular guests than with bodies that are already in the building. Promoting your special events via tableside marketing not only breaks up the monotony of food and drink, but it also intrigues a different sector of your guests’ brains. They already know they can satisfy their hunger and thirst here, but learning that they can get their fix of entertainment in the same spot sparks a conversation at the table.

Take that conversation a step further and get your guests to initiate an interaction. When they see an event that piques their interest, there should automatically be an invitation to learn more. Getting the tablet into the guest’s hands takes it from an advertisement to an experience.

Whether it be reserving a spot for a night of painting or physically perusing a list of upcoming live music performances, the tiniest action can increase the likelihood of a commitment. It’s one thing for a guest to know “they have trivia on Tuesdays!” Sure, that might get them back in the door, but signing up to get a text alert with a question from that Tuesday’s quiz is a lot more motivating.

It doesn’t take much to turn a maybe into a solid yes, and the tiniest bit of input from the guest sometimes is all it takes. They can still be aware of the fact that they’re being sold something, but when it feels like a collaboration, the power is in their hands -- figuratively and literally. By utilizing interactive, focused marketing right at the table, you can boost your revenues far more efficiently than broad campaigns beyond your walls.