How much should you invest to market your restaurant?

As a restaurant marketing and consulting expert, I get often this question: How much should an independent restaurant spend in marketing? The answer is… it depends. There is not a hard rule or fixed amount that a restaurateur must expend.

When I bought my first restaurant, I remember that the previous owner told me “You should invest at least 10% of your gross income in marketing if you want to be successful.” So for a while I complied. Although 10% sounded very high to me, I knew nothing about the restaurant industry so whom was I to question the opinion of an expert restaurateur?

Very soon, however, I started realizing that I was wasting my money in marketing vehicles that just didn’t work (many inherited from him). After lots of trial and error, I reduced the amount that I was expending in marketing; but even more important, I started investing in marketing that worked and brought me lots of customers.

So, let me ask you this question. Would you invest $1,000 in marketing if I told you that it will bring you $2,000 in profits? Of course you would, it would be silly no to.

However, many times, when I recommend some marketing investments to restaurateurs, they complain that they are expensive and can’t afford them; even if I tell them that they will bring back many times their investment. This is specially true when these marketing investments are not the usual ads, flyers, coupons, etc. that restaurateurs are so used to, and love to hate.

Recently, I recommended to my list a great hands-off online marketing package from Online Reputation Management Expert Jenna Lloyd. This new program is specifically designed just for restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.

Yes, the price is $497 per month (soon to be raised to $697 per month), but the idea is that they will take care of everything, from writing newsletter articles customized to the restaurant, to take care of capturing customer’s information, email them with personalized emails, etc. This is a hands off approach.

You can check the details here:

After I suggested this online package to my list, I received many emails from restaurateurs complaining that they can’t afford $497 a month. They get the wrong message. It is not a matter of if they can’t afford it or not (they all can, $500 is not that high of a budget for a restaurant), it is about how much more business they will get if they invest this $497 a month!

They (and you) need to start thinking about marketing as an investment. If they get enough extra business to cover for their marketing expenses, then it is just a smart investment. If, on the other hand, after a few months, they see that there is not enough growth in their business brought by the marketing to justify the expenses, then this investment is obviously not working for them and they should cancel it.

At worst, they will expend only a few hundred dollars. At best they could improve their business dramatically. Isn’t worth it a try?

Oh, and let’s not forget all the hours that restaurateurs will save trying to market their restaurant online. How valuable is their time? Probably quite more than the $497 a month…

So should they cut any of their existing marketing and replace it all by this online system? Again, it depends. If it’s working for them (and they can measure it and track it), then they should keep it. If not, they should just cut it and save their money.

It is as simple as that.

I hope that this blog put some sound ideas about investing wisely in your marketing. I surely hope so.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.


Dear Restaurateurs: Your Servers Are Your Sales Force, Are You Training Them?


Based onpersonal experience, many restaurateurs underestimate the importance of having servers trained in sales in their restaurant. Although most of the people serving food are pleasant enough, and can do their jobs, the best servers are always also the best sales people. Not only the get the highest tips, but they also increase the restaurant’s profit.

Both, sales and marketing skills are key elements to make any business profitable. Usually (but not always), the restaurant owners and/or managers take the helm of the marketing while most of the sales rest on the shoulders of the servers. And this is probably where the problem lies since often, the servers just learn the operations and dishes. They never get any training in sales.

It happened to me more times that I can think of: I finished a very satisfactory meal just to be presented with the check, before anybody bothered to ask me whether I want dessert, coffee, or perhaps just an after-dinner drink. When a server brings the check, customers usually pay and leave the place, missing extra sales for very little extra effort.

Same thing with the water; offering your client’s mineral (or just bottled) water is an easy upsell that very few servers even consider.

There are many other examples where a trained server can increase the check amount without being pushy or bothering the clients. A client won’t order (or very seldom will take the initiative to do it) an item that doesn’t know of, or it’s not blatantly displayed in the menu. However, many of them will appreciate an informed suggestion by a professional waiter.

Customer engagement is also another important element of the overall dining satisfaction

Don’t underestimate the importance that your servers have in your business? After all, they are the main contact that the customers have with your restaurant. They are your image, your sales force and represent (for good or bad) your restaurant and the opinion that people dinning at your place have about it.

If you are not doing so now, implementing a formalized sales training for your servers should be very high in your priorities list.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.


Technorati Tags:

The Cactus Cowboy Sent Me!

Cactus_Cowboy.jpgIf you noticed that I haven’t posted any blogs lately, you are right, but I have a good excuse.

I’ve just come back from a well deserved 2 weeks vacation. Some friends were visiting us from Spain, and we all went for a 2 weeks road trip. We flew from Seattle to Las Vegas, rented a van and visited Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Los Angeles (from where we flew back to Seattle).

In one of the many motels where we slept in Arizona, I found a brochure in the room with advertising of local businesses. One of them was a typical Southern restaurant. What caught my attention waws that they had the following text under the ad:

When you come to our restaurant, mention the following to your server: “The Cactus Cowboy Sent Me!” and you’ll receive a free coffee or dessert.

Now, the symbol of the restaurant is a Cactus dressed as a cowboy swirling a lasso (you can see it in the photo), so this ad somehow makes sense.

Although I would prefer to pay for my coffee than to say something so silly to my server, these people have a good point. They are tracking their marketing expenses. Each time that somebody says this silly sentence, they know that these people saw the paid ad displayed in the brochure. They could have included a coupon instead, but this would mean replacing the ad each time that a customer clipped it to bring it to the restaurant.

By saying a unique sentence like that, they can track the results of the marketing without having to replace the ad each time. It is clever and effective.

So what about you? Do you have a way to track your ads? If not, you should be learning from the Cactus Cowboy. After all, he knows what he is doing.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.


Technorati Tags:

Restaurateurs: Are You Delivering a Consistent Dinning Experience to Your Clients?

Consistency.jpg One of the main turn-offs for people going to a restaurant is the lack of consistency.

Customers expect predictable results when buying a product or a service. If somebody goes to a restaurant, and has a great dinning experience, they expect to get this same experience every time that they go back to the same restaurant.

And this is often the problem. Since restaurants are heavily relying on people (cooks, servers, bussers, hostesses, etc.), and people have different moods and needs, depending on their personal circumstances, delivering a consistently excellent experience is both difficult and challenging.

If these people get temperamental servers, wrong cooked food, or some any other unexpected results, they will leave the restaurant very disappointed to probably never come back.

Part of the success of restaurant franchises is that they work hard standardizing the processes so that the mistakes get minimized. They have thick operations manuals where they cover each aspect of the process, from receiving the guests to the timing and delivery of food, etc.

So what can you do to minimize randomness and deliver a consistent excellent experience to your clients?

To start, you should have the basic processes defined. From the moment that a prospect or client walks in the door, you should have clear processes to greet them, sit them, and deliver them some water or drinks quickly and efficiently.

Same thing with the flow of the meals; Your waiters or managers should know how long each table has been waiting, when and how to deliver the food, when to check if everything is going well, how to deal with difficult customers, etc.

But, even if you try your best to document every possible situation, you will never be able to cover all the possibilities. People react in unpredictable ways and there are not enough manuals in the world to cover every possible scenario.

The most important training that you must give your staff is a good understanding about what your restaurant is all about: Make crystal clear to them what makes your restaurant different from your competitor’s and why your clients are your number one priority, and also it should be theirs.

You must specify in your operations manual that whatever issue occurs with a client, your staff should never argue with them. Make clear that your staff should do their absolutely best to compensate your customers for whatever incident (despite whom has caused it) that could make them unhappy with your restaurant.

If you have clear policies and rules to deal with problems and clients, you will be able to deliver the consistency that your clients are looking for.

Tomorrow I will be taking a well deserved vacation with my family. I’ll be offline for two weeks so don’t expect any new blogs during that time. 🙂

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.