You’ve heard the statistics: Every year, one out of six Americans (that’s 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.[1]

Of course, not ALL of these cases originate at a restaurant, but still: As someone who loves to go out to eat, that makes me nervous—and I know I’m not alone.

So how do you assure your potential customers that your restaurant’s food is not only delicious, but safe?

Here are three suggestions:

1) Add a food safety element to all of your marketing.

Let your customers and prospects know that you take food safety seriously.

In addition to mouth-watering pictures of your dishes, add a brief message—no more than a sentence, or no one will bother to read it—about your food safety standards. Even better, include your latest health inspection rating and any food safety certifications your staff has earned.

Put it on everything. That means your
•    Website

•    Facebook page

•    Direct mail

•    Commercials

•    Menus

•    Print ads

2) Get your message out with a direct mail campaign.

Even in the digital age, direct mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to bring in new business. Saturate your neighborhood with direct mail postcards inviting them to try your restaurant!

Check out these numbers:
•    60 percent of direct mail recipients were influenced to visit a promoted website[2]

•    92 percent of millennials—MILLENNIALS!—are influenced to make a purchasing decision as a result of direct mail they received[3]

But delicious food and high safety standards alone aren’t enough to bring in new customers. A retail research firm found that more than one-third of dining decisions are based on deals and special offers![4]

In other words, you need to eliminate the risk of trying a new restaurant.

Here are some of the successful offers that have been used:
•    $25 gift certificate

•    20 percent off the entire bill

•    Buy one entrée, get one free

•    Free cocktail and appetizer with dinner for two

To get the best return on investment, you need to mail to the same list again and again.

Here’s why:

Most of us need to hear a message multiple times before deciding to act on it. In fact, 80 percent of sales only take place on or after the fifth contact![5]

I know this from experience as a marketer AND as a consumer.

My husband and I often “forget” to try a new restaurant we’ve been talking about because we are not reminded. Think about that—a new restaurant gets some press, we say “Oooh, we need to try it!” Then we don’t.

When you market consistently, you are at the top of your prospective guests’ minds when they’re deciding where to go out to eat!

3) When a food-safety issue surfaces, react quickly.

If a public health concern arises, tweak your marketing message to include information about how SAFE and RELIABLE your food is—and it’s best to get as specific as possible. For example, if an outbreak is traced to imported produce, tell people that yours is grown locally (if, in fact, it is). Tell people the name of the farm you work with, or take photos of your own gardens if you have them!

Get your message out immediately with Facebook—where many of your prospects and customers are every day.

Facebook has 156 million users in the U.S.,[6] and 66 percent of users access it daily.[7]

Unfortunately, Facebook’s organic reach is only a fraction of what it used to be—as few as 2 percent of people who like your business page see your posts[8]— so you’ll need to fork over some money for an ad.

The good news is that the site’s ad manager is super easy to navigate and gives you tons of targeting options.

You can:
•    Boost your posts so more of your followers see them

•    Saturate the area around your restaurant

•    Target users by demographic

•    Target your own customer database

You can also reach your current database quickly with an email message telling them what you’re doing to prevent any issues at your restaurant. (You DO have a database of your current customers, right?)

Just don’t forget to give them a reason to come in. Whatever deal you offer, the initial loss is nothing compared to the value of a loyal customer!

Joy Gendusa is a business marketing expert.