|How to Market a Restaurant|
Filled Seats, Happy CustomersHappy customers are the lifeblood of a restaurant. Customers are fickle. The smallest of errors to the wrong person can mean disaster for the entire restaurant. Do everything in your power to make each customer happy, no matter how silly the issue. I'll talk more about customer relations in another article.
Keep in mind the old statistic:
- 1 happy customer tells 3 other people about his great experience.
- 1 unhappy customer tells 9 others about his bad experience.
How to Market a RestaurantRegular advertising and marketing is great, and a great burden on your marketing budget. With Yellowpages, radio spots, television spots and newspaper ads your budget could be eaten well before summer.
These simple guerilla marketing techniques are designed to be very low cost. Most involve some sort of "elbow grease" by you and your staff. However, the payoff will be evident by your bottom line, the servers' total tips and more man hours worked by your staff.
Make is a point to constantly remind your employees: Everyone benefits by your success.
- Signage- This should be the largest allowed by law. Digital signage is great as you can quickly change your indoor and outdoor signage to whatever you want in 5 minutes. Outdoor signage is a great investment and will start in the $100,000 range, but indoor digital signage is just as important. Indoor digital signage is great for menu boards or announcements. I have a client with a lake restaurant who sells ad space on his indoor digital signage for $200 per month per 15 second advertisement! After all costs, he told me he profited $27,000 extra that first year after paying off the digital signage costs. Not bad for an add-on you don't have to think about but once per month!
- Flyers- Very under used medium. Your hyper local customers should be canvassed every month, using your slow times. I find canvassing the areas where your best customers live is a great way to draw in the clientele you want when you want. For instance, I have a great client with an all-you-can-eat pizzeria. He charges a very low price for great pizza, and makes up for it with their great wings and ice cream. Once he started finding out where his best clients lived, he was able to canvass those locations on slow days. Over time, this technique brought in a large following of like-minded families who had never heard of his pizzeria. New customers are great, and this technique was focused and profitable.
- SMS Advertising- The new guy on the block, with a whole bucket of potential! Using a great service provider, create a club. The VIP Club or the Pizza Club or even call it the Pit Pass. Whatever the name, make sure your customers feel they are joining an exclusive club. Post a large amount of table tents, posters and such advertising your club. Make sure your servers are really pushing the text advertising. "Are you in about the newest text special today?" is a great script starter for your servers. Give discounts, free drinks, 50% of appetizers, etc to get them to join. (Hint: 90% of those joining will never leave!) Now, when you are having a slow day simply log into the website, type out a special offer, then submit. In an hour, people will start to show up! Be careful though, no more than 2 specials per week or you could risk your new honey hole. 1 special per week, targeted to 1 day is best. Maybe "Group day: Bring in 5 friends for lunch and get 2 free appetizers." Of course, with this method you are targeting the 5 friends, not the 1 VIP. Wash, rinse, repeat weekly!
- Publicity Stunts- Every restaurant has a signature dish. If your restaurant has the best pie in town, show it off! Buy cheap pies at the bakery and stage a "Pie Fight, sponsored by John's Eatery. We have the best pie in town!" This needs to be planned, but can keep you in your customers mind for a long, long time. The local radio stations, television station, newspapers, local websites should all be contacted and asked to participate. Make sure the police department is notified of the event and promote heavily on Twitter and Facebook. This type of publicity will go viral fast as everyone likes a good messy time!
- Customer Service- I really should have put this at number one. Without a caring and compassionate staff, restaurants will go under fast. If your customers come once and are never seen again, you might have a hiring problem. Consistent hiring isn't a good thing, especially when your customers love to have a particular server. Customers love to see the same people and come back to your restaurant. They had a great time before, they expect a great time again. Ask your current customers what they want, what they like and what they don't like. The best restaurants I have ever been to have a "walking manager". This is a great looking, personable representative who walks around and "touches" each table. If there is an open seat, he/she joins them for a minute or two just enough time to make sure their meal was outstanding and resolving any issues before they become permanent.
- Promotions- Promotions can be huge...or a bust. Many corporate restaurants market their promotions for every day. I just don't see it that way. A promotion is meant to get people to come to an event hosted by your restaurant, not your restaurant as a rule. If you really want to grow your weekday lunch sales, promoting your restaurant to the business community is the way to go. Landing a Business Networking International, Redhat Society, Elks Lodge, Free Networking International, etc group to come to your restaurant every week can make your restaurant an indispensable hub of activity. But to really knock your bottom line out of the park, start hosting "Dinner Theater", "Wine & Cheese Tasting", or other family friendly destinations. As a parent, I know there just isn't much out there for us old folks anymore and I'm bored of movies, bars, etc. Dinner Theater is a great addition and can be coordinated to work with the local high school or college. This means your actors bills are FREE!
- Website/Email/Social Media- Since about 2009, the traditional telephone books have been dead. Everyone is online in all ways, from laptops and desktops at work to mobile phones and tablets at home. Telephone books really should be outlawed for being a waste of our resources! A clean, updated website with a mobile website theme is a great start. Most newer sites can be created with a matching mobile theme for under $1,000 and you can update the content whenever you want. It really isn't hard at all. Marketing a restaurant should start with the web and integrate scheduled email marketing campaigns, twitter, and facebook. Pinterest.com is great for posting pictures of your food, atmosphere and building. Urbanspoon.com is critical for restaurants and ranking poorly on this site will cause hungry customers to go somewhere else in a hurry. Failing to promote yourself on any one of these mostly free avenues is a huge mistake. Anyone can go to the UrbanSpoon.com application on their mobile phone and before they leave your restaurant have posted a bad review or good review with pictures included. They can tweet how their meal was or post it to facebook. Additionally, if you don't embrace foursquare.com you will not get the younger generation to eat at your restaurant. Its just that simple!
Marketing your restaurant has gone mostly digital, but some old-school tactics still resonate. I hope you have enjoyed how to market a restaurant!