Although the first words that come to mind when considering college students may include ‘poor and ‘cheap’, this crowd is certainly one you will want to consider in your marketing plans. With an estimated 19.7 million adults currently enrolled in college and universities1 nationwide, the college student target is one you may not be able to afford to ignore. If your food establishment is located within a close proximity to local college or university campuses, consider implementing the following ideas to attract college students and see your profits soar.
Reach out through social media. This is the generation of Facebook and if there is a sure fire way to get a message out to students, it’s through your restaurant's social media. Begin by creating a Facebook and Twitter profile for your establishment. Besides using these outlets to declare your daily specials or upcoming events, periodically use it to offer a coupon for a free side or free drink with any purchase. While a student discount is always welcome, giving students a free incentive to come pay your restaurant a visit will be much more effective in driving traffic. Create a viral sharing opportunity and post photos of happy customers at your restaurant. Students love to tag themselves in online pictures, allowing it to be spread further it to their Facebook friends.
Sponsor a club or sports team. Campuses are crawling with intramural sports, professional teams and clubs that are usually looking for a sponsor to help with the financial end of things. Contact your local college to see how to get involved with becoming a sponsor. Marketing locally will open up doors for your restaurant to be promoted at events and around campus.
Offer Wi-Fi for patrons. If there is one thing students do more than eating and drinking, it’s studying. Design your dining room and seating area to be an environment where college students can do all three by offering free Wi-Fi to customers. If your restaurant can hold the capacity for lingering customers, invite them to use your wireless Internet for study sessions. Patrons who stay for longer periods of time will eventually turn that one coffee drink to become two or three and later a meal.
Show students a good time. Not only do students make up a large demographic in today’s market, but they also are your best marketing tool. Students talk to each other whether it’s face-to-face, on social media platforms or through online review sites such as Yelp!. This allows for each student to quickly get the word out to their friends, classmates and co-workers. So remember to not underestimate the budgeted student who stops by for quick meal. Stay on top of drink refills, keep service top notch and follow-up with how they are enjoying the meal. They may just have a network of potential customers who will quickly know just how great or horrible their experience was at your restaurant.