I’ve been asking our VerticalResponse customers in the restaurant biz to give us some great ways to get people in for the first time, as well as get them coming back. I got some GREAT ideas that I think even if you don’t run a restaurant, you can adapt some of them to your own business. Many of these ideas of course revolve around email marketing communications, so hope these ideas strike a chord.

1. Live Music – Speaking of chord! Local musicians are always looking for a place to play. Why not dedicate one night to “Jazz Night” or “Live DJ”? Then print out table tents touting this new night! Send a weekly email to announce who will be there that week.

2. Wine Tastings – Feature a winery or wine distributor for a special tasting night. For $20 taste 5 superb Zinfandels and chat with a knowledgeable wine expert! Send an email to your customers announcing this special.

3. Food/Wine Pairings – One night a month do a special food and wine pairing for dinner. Sell tickets and get people in the door. Once you’ve got a success, word-of-mouth will take over!

4. Meet the Chef – Getting to know the chef, the man or woman behind the curtain, is always a fun thing to do, especially for the foodies that visit your establishment. Announce this in your monthly email newsletter.

5. Win a Free Party for 6 – Ask your guests to drop their cards in a box for a drawing for a party of 6 of their friends. Offer to make appetizers (inexpensive for you) and give them a discount on the booze. This helps you build your list, but also gets you new potential customers that your guest has invited.

6. Get To Know Your Regulars – Sounds simple right? Our restaurant businesses couldn’t stress this enough. People go where they know they’re going to get great service but getting greeted by someone who knows the guests puts the restaurant in the forefront of their minds.

7. Neighborhood Gatherings – If your business is in a residential neighborhood, why not have “Meet Your Neighbors” night and offer free low-cost appetizers. Table tents as well as an email with a forward-to-a friend check box would also do wonders.

8. Sllloooowww Nights – If you’ve got a night where business is pretty slow, why not blow out one of your specialties? Here in San Fran, a bar called the Blue Light does Taco Tuesdays, low cost tacos and beer (they need to thank Elliot Feldman for that one). The place goes crazy. In Lake Tahoe, Sunnyside Restaurant offers fish tacos and Tecaté for $2.

9. Host a Fundraiser – Do you have a customer or two that might need a place to host a fundraising activity? Why not offer yours up? You’ll get new customers you may not have ever seen and perhaps even some PR out of it.

10. Some % Off Next Meal – In general, many that we’ve talked to are against publicly-known discounts. BUT, if you make it a “preferred customer” “vip customer” discount and “slip” them a discount card with their check, they’re likely to come back!

Bonus! – Birthday Program – Start collecting data on your guests. If you care to promote a “Birthday Program” you can send emails to those customers a few weeks before their birthday and give them their meal “on the house”!

Hope one of these ideas helped. Got any of your own that fill your house? Chime in!

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