How Restaurants Should Respond to Customers Asking for Money for Charities

One question that often remains unanswered is what to do with all these people coming to your restaurant and asking for donations (gift certificates).

It seems like lots of people all the sudden think that it is a great idea to go to their favorite restaurant and ask the owners for gift certificates to donate to their children’s schools, their churches or their preferred charities.

Of course, they don’t realize that hundreds of customers and organizations have the same idea and ask for the same gifts. And perhaps they think that this sinking economy is not impacting your business.

And what can you do, poor restaurateur, but suffer the unpleasant experience of having to say NO to these, often pleasant and good people?

Don’t despair. I have a couple of ideas for you to use next time that you get the happy solicitor asking you for a donation:

  1. If the solicitors are organizations with many people: school, hospital, church, charity, etc. Offer to give them many small gift certificates that don’t cover your average price per customer. For example, if your average ticket is $25 per person, offer gift certificates for a value of $10. Also make sure that you clearly print on them that they can’t be combined. You want to take advantage of this opportunity to give away coupons masked as gift certificates for a value less than your average check so that the customers coming will spend more money in your place.
  2. If the solicitors are individual customers. Offer to sell them the gift certificates at a discount. You can apply the same principle than before. You can sell them several $10 gift certificates for a value of $5 each. They can buy as many as they want but they have to give them or raffle them to many people (and not bundling them together) so that many people get to come and try your place. Tell them that you are contributing your share by giving them the discounts, but they also have to contribute theirs by paying for the difference. After all it’s their idea and it should be their donation, not yours.

If you apply both techniques you will:

  • Be happier because you won’t have to say NO to a good cause
  • Leverage your marketing by distributing gift certificates that will bring additional customers (who could be potential clients) to your place at a minimum cost

It is a win-win proposition.

Happy Sailing,
Jose L Riesco
Get a FREE 36 pages Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book Summary here: www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Bracing for a recession

These are tough times for everybody but perhaps restaurateurs are feeling the impact more than most other business since people are cutting down the eating out budget.

I read somewhere that the restaurants suffering the most are the middle priced ones. People who used to pay $20 to $30 for a meal are going now to fast food places to eat cheaper. Fancy restaurant clientele are not being affected that much by the crisis so they can still afford to go out to their favorite upscale restaurant and pay the fare.

So what can you do, if you have a small mid-priced restaurant to survive these down times?

Here are some suggestions for you:

  1. Look at your marketing budget and cut any expenses that you can’t measure. This doesn’t mean to cut down in marketing. Cutting down in marketing in slow times is a terrible idea, although for many restaurateurs is the first thing to do to save money. What you have to do is to make sure that your marketing dollars are working hard. If you don’t know if a marketing campaign is working for you, then assume that it is not. For example, don’t spend money advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio or Yellow Pages if you can’t count how many customers these ads bring to your place. You need to make sure that you are making more revenue from the ads than you are spending in the advertising. This looks like an obvious thing but I can guarantee you that many restaurateurs never question or analyze their advertising expenses.
  2. Reduce your portions if you give lots of food in your dishes. Not only you’ll be doing a favor to your customers (they really don’t need to overeat these huge portions) but you will save in food costs. Reduce quantity and improve quality. Everybody will benefit.
  3. Look at your menu and see if you have dishes that give you very small profits (either because of the high cost of their ingredients or because they are very labor intensive and difficult to prepare). If so, replace them by dishes easier to make or that require less or more inexpensive ingredients. Again, you will save in food costs increasing this way your profit per sale.
  4. Keep an eye on your labor expenses. If you see that some days of the week are slower, reduce your employees these days. If you reduce your labor expenses, you will cope better with slow times since you won’t spend in food if they don’t eat.
  5. Spend extra time and energy pleasing your clients. They are your most important asset, more than your food or your chef or anybody else. If you don’t have clients, nothing else matters. Period. Make them very welcome to your place, bend backwards to please them and try to always exceed their expectations. This is the best way to assure that they will come back.
  6. If you haven’t done so, start a formalized referral system to bring back your best clients. Please read my previous blog to get more information about this point.
  7. Replace costly snail mail by communications via your website and email. This cost you nothing and will allow you to keep in touch with your clients more often.

These are just some ideas for you to implement. In these time of crisis, ingenuity and excellence go a long way to make sure that you’ll be there when the economy recovers and hungry customers are looking for the best places to eat. Your restaurant should be always on top of their minds and their harts.

Good luck!

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc
Restaurant Marketing Strategies

Hungry

Seth Godin has a really good blog call Hungry. You can check it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/11/hungry.html

If you don’t know Seth, he is the bestselling author of more than seven books. He writes about marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. (This bio is taken from his Squidoo page). I really recommend you to subscribe to his blog since he usually posts really insightful and interesting information.

The point that he makes in his blog Hungry, is that people are not really hungry most of the time. They just want to experience the satisfying feeling of fullness or the satisfaction that people associate with eating good food.

If we extrapolate this idea to the restaurant business, your restaurant provides (or should provide) your clients, not only with food to fuel their bodies, but with an emotional experience to satisfy all their senses (yes, with emphasis on the senses of taste and smell, but without forgetting the rest).

This is why it is so important to appeal to your clients’ five senses all at once:

  • Sight: With beautiful and tasty decor and ambience. Put some art if you can afford it, and above all, have your place spotless clean.
  • Hearing: Have some good background or live music to make their dinning experience even better.
  • Taste: The key one for obvious reasons. If your food is not good, the rest doesn’t matter really.
  • Smell: Closely related to taste and specially appealing if you are selling good wines or other aromatic foods and drinks.
  • Touch: This one is interesting. The quality of your silverware, your plates, your glasses, your tablecloths (if you have them), napkins, etc. they all contribute to the overall experience.

Most of the restaurants provide satisfactory experiences to at least two or more of the senses, but not many restaurants are able to provide with the whole experience to all senses simultaneously. Some of the best restaurants in the world are considered best not only for their exquisite food or drinks but because they appeal and massage all senses at the same time.

Only when you can pamper all 5 senses at once, you will move from the category of good restaurant to the category of excellent restaurant. You will provide your clients with an “incredible dinning experience”, a experience that they will remember and tell all their friends and relatives giving you the best advertising that you can get anywhere.

Give it a try. Look at your place and make a list of things that you can improve to appeal all the senses. You don’t need to spend a fortune, just be thoughtful and think how can you improve the sensorial experience of your clients. You both will be happier. I guarantee you.

Hungry

Seth Godin has a really good blog call Hungry. You can check it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/11/hungry.html

If you don’t know Seth, he is the bestselling author of more than seven books. He writes about marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. (This bio is taken from his Squidoo page). I really recommend you to subscribe to his blog since he usually posts really insightful and interesting information.

The point that he makes in his blog Hungry, is that people are not really hungry most of the time. They just want to experience the satisfying feeling of fullness or the satisfaction that people associate with eating good food.

If we extrapolate this idea to the restaurant business, your restaurant provides (or should provide) your clients, not only with food to fuel their bodies, but with an emotional experience to satisfy all their senses (yes, with emphasis on the senses of taste and smell, but without forgetting the rest).

This is why it is so important to appeal to your clients’ five senses all at once:

  • Sight: With beautiful and tasty decor and ambience. Put some art if you can afford it, and above all, have your place spotless clean.
  • Hearing: Have some good background or live music to make their dinning experience even better.
  • Taste: The key one for obvious reasons. If your food is not good, the rest doesn’t matter really.
  • Smell: Closely related to taste and specially appealing if you are selling good wines or other aromatic foods and drinks.
  • Touch: This one is interesting. The quality of your silverware, your plates, your glasses, your tablecloths (if you have them), napkins, etc. they all contribute to the overall experience.

Most of the restaurants provide satisfactory experiences to at least two or more of the senses, but not many restaurants are able to provide with the whole experience to all senses simultaneously. Some of the best restaurants in the world are considered best not only for their exquisite food or drinks but because they appeal and massage all senses at the same time.

Only when you can pamper all 5 senses at once, you will move from the category of good restaurant to the category of excellent restaurant. You will provide your clients with an “incredible dinning experience”, a experience that they will remember and tell all their friends and relatives giving you the best advertising that you can get anywhere.

Give it a try. Look at your place and make a list of things that you can improve to appeal all the senses. You don’t need to spend a fortune, just be thoughtful and think how can you improve the sensorial experience of your clients. You both will be happier. I guarantee you.

Using Twitter to Promote Your Restaurant

I am so busy building my consulting business and finishing editing the last chapter of my Restaurant Marketing Strategies book (almost done, two more weeks and I will have it ready!) that I didn’t even have time to blog lately.

However, today I was reading today an interesting blog from 9 Giant Steps called “A restaurant is actually doing The Straddle: (http://www.9giantsteps.com/?p=1000) and this blog got me motivated to write a short comment.

Twitter (for the ones of you who are not familiar with all the Social Media happening lately) is a service for friends, family, and coworkers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages answering the question: What are you doing? You can find more information about this service in their home site: www.twitter.com

George Howard, the blogger in www.9giantsteps.com was wondering if any restaurateur was tweeting out their specials to spread the word to potential customers using this social media.

Well, the world is big and there are many restaurateurs trying to actively promote their business so he got some answers from a couple of places that use Twitter as a means to advertise their specials.

This is a great idea for a bar or a place with lots of activity and things happening. Many people use Twitter from their mobile phones or notebooks connected via WiFi so a well placed information about your specials could entice somebody to visit your place.

Location and timeliness could be the factors that make somebody react and go to your restaurant instead of your competitors.

The nice thing about Twitter is that the messages have to be short by definition. Twitter doesn’t allow you to write anything that has more than 140 characters so you need to be concise in your messages.

Go ahead, give it a try and be creative. You never know how many people will respond to your messages.

By the way, my Twitter name is jlriesco so feel free to send me some messages with feedback or just to say hello.

Happy Tweeting!

Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

How the Crisis is Affecting the Restaurant Industry

A good friend of mine who owns an upper scale small family restaurant called me in panic. The business is slow, in fact it is so slow that she was afraid that she will have to lay off people because her cash reserves were getting depleted.

It is true that with this uncertain economy, with the stock market collapsing, the sub-prime mortgage down the tubes and the credit taughter than titanium, sometimes it seems like the end of the world.

So what can a restaurateur do to keep the business going?

The best course of action is to focus on the bases. Yes, the economy is not good, yes people go out less and eat less in restaurants because they have less money (specially if they invested in real state or the stock market) or they are just afraid that the economy will collapse and want to save some money… but you know what? This is more an emotional reaction than a real depression with lots of jobs being lost.

Most the people are still keeping their jobs and there is always enough people who go out to eat to fill in your restaurant IF (and this IF is really important in these taught times) provides them with something better than your competitors.

In easy times it easy to make money by just about anybody with a business. People are happier to spend their money when the economy is vibrant and there is plenty to spend and they are less picky where they spend it.

However, turn the economy around, just like now, and people start watching really careful where they spend their hard earned dollars. If they decide to go out for dinner, they better hand pick a restaurant that it will guarantee them a great dinning experience.

This is where your restaurant should shine and set apart from your competitors. Focus on your clients with a laser sharp intensity. Make their dinning dollars count by giving them the best food, best drinks and best service that you are able to provide at your place and they will be grateful to you and come again looking to repeat that great experience.

Also, don’t skimp in your marketing. this is a mistake that many restaurateurs do. In times of crisis, they start cutting down their marketing and sales effort and this brings less clients and less revenue.

Try no to panic and run your business the best you can. This is the only way you can weather these stormy times. Hang in there and wait for the economy to recover and people to come back to eat at your place.

Good luck!

How the Crisis is Affecting the Restaurant Industry

A good friend of mine who owns an upper scale small family restaurant called me in panic. The business is slow, in fact it is so slow that she was afraid that she will have to lay off people because her cash reserves were getting depleted.

It is true that with this uncertain economy, with the stock market collapsing, the sub-prime mortgage down the tubes and the credit taughter than titanium, sometimes it seems like the end of the world.

So what can a restaurateur do to keep the business going?

The best course of action is to focus on the bases. Yes, the economy is not good, yes people go out less and eat less in restaurants because they have less money (specially if they invested in real state or the stock market) or they are just afraid that the economy will collapse and want to save some money… but you know what? This is more an emotional reaction than a real depression with lots of jobs being lost.

Most the people are still keeping their jobs and there is always enough people who go out to eat to fill in your restaurant IF (and this IF is really important in these taught times) provides them with something better than your competitors.

In easy times it easy to make money by just about anybody with a business. People are happier to spend their money when the economy is vibrant and there is plenty to spend and they are less picky where they spend it.

However, turn the economy around, just like now, and people start watching really careful where they spend their hard earned dollars. If they decide to go out for dinner, they better hand pick a restaurant that it will guarantee them a great dinning experience.

This is where your restaurant should shine and set apart from your competitors. Focus on your clients with a laser sharp intensity. Make their dinning dollars count by giving them the best food, best drinks and best service that you are able to provide at your place and they will be grateful to you and come again looking to repeat that great experience.

Also, don’t skimp in your marketing. this is a mistake that many restaurateurs do. In times of crisis, they start cutting down their marketing and sales effort and this brings less clients and less revenue.

Try no to panic and run your business the best you can. This is the only way you can weather these stormy times. Hang in there and wait for the economy to recover and people to come back to eat at your place.

Good luck!

Restaurant Marketing Plan

Do restaurant owners and managers need a Restaurant Marketing Plan?

The answer is, ABSOLUTELY. Without a marketing plan you are just investing money blindly hoping for the best and trying to get lucky.

Would you build a house without first having a blueprint? Probably not a good idea since you could end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get, at best, a questionable house.

However, many restaurateurs spend thousands of dollars in marketing (placing ads in weekly papers and magazines, printing and mailing coupons, accepting programs like Passport, etc.) without having, or even ever considering a marketing plan.

A restaurant marketing plan is a blueprint of your marketing strategy. It tells you where and how to spend your marketing dollars so that you can maximize your investment and get the results that you want. In other words, it is your plan for a successful restaurant.

Restaurateurs are busy people. There are so many things that they need to take care of on a daily bases (inventory, appliances, staff, schedules, finances, cleaning, maintaining, etc.) that they can always find excuses for no sitting down and do some upfront planning that it could save them thousands of dollars in marketing investments and additional thousands in increased revenues and sales.

If you don’t have a restaurant marketing plan, you will be pray of the persistent sales people who will come to your restaurant (because they will come, count on it) trying to persuade you to place ads in their yellow pages, their billboards, their newspapers (that, they will tell you reaches thousands of readers, like if this was any measure of your success advertising there!), etc.

Think for a moment how do you want to position your restaurant. Do you have something obviously special that you offer to your clients? (this is called a Unique Selling Proposition or USP). If so, you should use this USP in your advertising, if not, you should come up with one.

All restaurants are different from each other and all have something unique about them that their regulars clients like. If you don’t now what’s special about your place, ask your regular clients. Approach them after a good meal and ask them what’s that they like about your place that they come again and again. Is it your great food? or your excellent service? Is it perhaps your location or your ambience? There are many variables and your job, as owner/manager is to identify what makes your place special and different from other places.

Once you have your USP, use it in all your marketing materials.

Then think about your clients. What’s your average client? If you are a medium/upper scale restaurant, they are probably professionals or retired people with money, perhaps couples with no kids, etc. If you are a family restaurant, your clients are families with kids, etc.

This is very important when you create your marketing campaigns. For example, why should you advertise in a weekly newspaper mainly aimed to youth if most of your customers are middle age couples with higher income? You would be wasting your marketing dollars. Or the opposite: If you have a family restaurant, should you send coupons in an area where most of the population are retired senior people? I don’t think that this is a great idea.

You see where I am going? Before you spend ANY dollars in your marketing, try to think about your place:what’s unique with it?, and about your clients: what kind of clients do you have and what kind of clients do you want? this will set up the tone and channels for all your marketing.

Think always strategically. Know what your plan is and where do you want to take your business before you spend your hard earned dollars in marketing that doesn’t work for you.

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.

Restaurant Marketing Plan

Do restaurant owners and managers need a Restaurant Marketing Plan?

The answer is, ABSOLUTELY. Without a marketing plan you are just investing money blindly hoping for the best and trying to get lucky.

Would you build a house without first having a blueprint? Probably not a good idea since you could end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get, at best, a questionable house.

However, many restaurateurs spend thousands of dollars in marketing (placing ads in weekly papers and magazines, printing and mailing coupons, accepting programs like Passport, etc.) without having, or even ever considering a marketing plan.

A restaurant marketing plan is a blueprint of your marketing strategy. It tells you where and how to spend your marketing dollars so that you can maximize your investment and get the results that you want. In other words, it is your plan for a successful restaurant.

Restaurateurs are busy people. There are so many things that they need to take care of on a daily bases (inventory, appliances, staff, schedules, finances, cleaning, maintaining, etc.) that they can always find excuses for no sitting down and do some upfront planning that it could save them thousands of dollars in marketing investments and additional thousands in increased revenues and sales.

If you don’t have a restaurant marketing plan, you will be pray of the persistent sales people who will come to your restaurant (because they will come, count on it) trying to persuade you to place ads in their yellow pages, their billboards, their newspapers (that, they will tell you reaches thousands of readers, like if this was any measure of your success advertising there!), etc.

Think for a moment how do you want to position your restaurant. Do you have something obviously special that you offer to your clients? (this is called a Unique Selling Proposition or USP). If so, you should use this USP in your advertising, if not, you should come up with one.

All restaurants are different from each other and all have something unique about them that their regulars clients like. If you don’t now what’s special about your place, ask your regular clients. Approach them after a good meal and ask them what’s that they like about your place that they come again and again. Is it your great food? or your excellent service? Is it perhaps your location or your ambience? There are many variables and your job, as owner/manager is to identify what makes your place special and different from other places.

Once you have your USP, use it in all your marketing materials.

Then think about your clients. What’s your average client? If you are a medium/upper scale restaurant, they are probably professionals or retired people with money, perhaps couples with no kids, etc. If you are a family restaurant, your clients are families with kids, etc.

This is very important when you create your marketing campaigns. For example, why should you advertise in a weekly newspaper mainly aimed to youth if most of your customers are middle age couples with higher income? You would be wasting your marketing dollars. Or the opposite: If you have a family restaurant, should you send coupons in an area where most of the population are retired senior people? I don’t think that this is a great idea.

You see where I am going? Before you spend ANY dollars in your marketing, try to think about your place:what’s unique with it?, and about your clients: what kind of clients do you have and what kind of clients do you want? this will set up the tone and channels for all your marketing.

Think always strategically. Know what your plan is and where do you want to take your business before you spend your hard earned dollars in marketing that doesn’t work for you.

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.

Great Service

What constitutes great service when you go to a restaurant?

This is one of these things that are difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it, or better yet, when you experience it.

Some times we go to a restaurant where the service is so obviously poor that there is no question about it: long delays, rude or inattentive waiters, mistakes with the food or drinks orders that don’t get compensated, apologized, etc.

We know that it has been poor service and we can totally account and

However, other times, although everything seems OK, we have the impression that something is missing. Yes, the waiters were on time and yes, they delivered the food and drinks that we ordered in a reasonable time and yet, however, something is missing: I will call it the WOW factor.

You see? We humans are very tuned, although many times, in a subconscious level, to the feelings and moods of other people. If a waiter is unhappy, or just has a bad day, you will notice. That mood, that unhappiness will be transmitted to the people who their customers.

The reverse is also true. A happy, sincerely smiling waiter, transmits their happiness to their clients, chatting with them and making them feel good. It doesn’t matter that much if they make a mistake or forget some food item because their tables will feel connected with them and understand and forgive their mistakes.

This seems unfair, after all, every person has the right to be moody or unhappy. So how does the waiters mood or disposition relate to the restaurant owners or managers? What can you do if they have unhappy faces or unhappy lives?

Well, to start with, many of the unhappiness of your employees could probably be related to your work environment.

You should ask yourself. Are your employees happy to work for your restaurant? Happy to work for you? If you try to squeeze as much as you can from them, they will resent you and transmit this resentment to their tables, to your clients!

I mention in my online seminar that the quality of your restaurant is as good as the quality of your weakest link. If your employees are not happy working for you, your clients will suffer the consequences.

I am not saying that you need to bend backwards to please your employees. After all, they are also human and therefore always want the best for themselves, even if they are not being fair with their fellow coworkers.

What I am saying is that you should provide your employees with the best work environment that you can (of course while still running a profitable business). Trying to take advantage of your employees by having unreasonable working hours, treating them with disrespect, paying them late, etc. will make them unhappy and will make you lose a lot of money in the long term with your clients.

Happy employees make happy clients. Period.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
jose@riescoconsulting.com
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.