Taking Control of Your Restaurant Marketing

In these days of doom and gloom I hear many restaurateurs complain about how slow business is and how the clients are spending less and less money dinning out.

However, as the saying says, “Times of crisis are times of opportunity”.

If your business is slow, perhaps this is a great time to re-evaluate the efficacy of your marketing. Eliminate dead wood in your marketing expenses and start investing your money smartly in marketing that really works (and you can prove that really works).

I met recently with the owner of the latest restaurant that I am consulting with, and we did precisely this exercise.

I asked him to write down every single marketing expense that he was making, and then we started evaluating which ones could be tracked.

Amazingly for him (not for me because I was expecting this), 80% of his marketing expenses were non trackable. This means that he was expending a substantial amount of money advertising in the Yellow Pages, two local weekly papers and some other local restaurant catalogs, and yet he had no clue how many customers these expenses brought to his restaurant.

The first thing that we did was to eliminate any marketing expense that couldn’t be measured. This is just a logical step to really assess the return of investment.

Let me ask you. Would you invest money in stocks or a mutual funds if you couldn’t measure how well (or bad) they were performing?

Of course not, and yet many restaurateurs still spend money hoping for the best and without any substantial way to know how many customers those investments bring to the restaurant.

Since this particular owner was very attached to one specific weekly magazine, and he was assuring me that it brought him many customers, I asked him to change the ad to include a discount coupon.

If people really read his ad and came to his restaurant because of it, they will surely bring with them the discount coupon. In this way, he’ll know how many real customers this ad brings him and we will be able to make the numbers to see if it breaks even to cover for the expenses of the advertisement (I sincerely doubt it, but we’ll see…)

So after the inventory and cutting down several of his marketing initiatives, this owner was happy to see that he could save $2400 a month! That’s money in the pocket that he was wasting.

But this is not all. We also started implementing some inexpensive marketing changes. For example, his online presence was very underwhelming and yet most of the potential and current restaurant customers nowadays (including his, of course) are looking for restaurants online.

So I started working with him beefing up his web presence.

Of course the first step is the restaurant’s web site. His web site was nicely done but quite underutilized. I met with his webmaster and we implemented a signup form in the front page to capture his visitors information (on exchange for getting a welcome to my restaurant discount coupon when they enter it). We also added an online registration, a comments field and some other useful and interesting information for his customers.

He also signed up for Meta Flavor (www.metaflavor.com) a great (and free) way to promote your restaurant in the web.

Finally, he created a Twitter account and now started twitting whenever he has empty spaces and wants to bring people (quickly and inexpensively) in.

These are just some examples of things that you can do to improve your marketing and save money in the process.

In these days of slow economy, taking control of your marketing and operating strategically and smart is a must, if you want to survive these challenging times.

Have a great day!

Jose L Riesco

2 thoughts on “Taking Control of Your Restaurant Marketing

  1. David Norris

    Good advice, you need to understand the return you get on your marketing spend.

    Profitability for a restaurant will always mean driving down fixed costs and increasing revenues. Therefore, marketing spend must deliver more than it costs, and should be a variable cost, not a fixed cost.

    My checklist;
    – take online reservations from your homepage
    – take online reservations from third party sites
    – use these reservations to build a customer database
    – add all walk-ins and phone reservations to your database
    – set up special offers for off-peak times to fill your seats all day long
    – use this database to do email marketing to bring in repeat business and pull in off-peak business

    If you do all of the above you can track every single cent going out and every dollar coming back.

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