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:

Using Online Social Networking to Attract New Customers to Your Restaurant

Brenda Segna writes in her blog about using MySpace to attract young customers to a Pizza place.

Some restaurant owners (check out these ones: and as an example) created a MySpace site to promote their businesses.

MySpace is a social networking website offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos for teenagers and adults. It is a very music oriented social networking site so teens and young adults constitute the majority of its 120 million members (yes, you read this right One Hundred Million Members!).

As you can imagine, if you have a restaurant targeted to the younger crowd (pizzerias a prototypical example), your message can find them easier if you advertise in the places where they “hang out”. In this case is a virtual hang-out but as valid as the physical world one for marketing purposes.

Creating a MySpace page is free and relatively easy (although the two examples that I gave you have been designed by professionals) so you may want to consider it. There is also the ability to add background music, blogs, etc.

Check out and give it a try. You never know if it will bring you lots of new customers.

Happy Networking,

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.
Restaurant Marketing Strategies

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: ( 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:

George Howard, the blogger in 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

Marketing Your Restaurant in a Slow Economy

It looks like you can’t turn on the radio or TV these days without hearing about the crisis of the economy and recession in the country.

If you just listen to these (bad) news, it looks like the sky will fall on top of our heads any minute now. Restaurant business is a economy driven business and perhaps eating out is the first thing in the chopping list when people don’t have enough disposable income.

However, the good news is that there is always enough people to fill in your place if you don’t get scared and make the following 4 main mistakes:

  1. Reducing Your Marketing and Sales

⁃ This looks like a no brainer. If the business is slow, you need to beef-up your marketing, not cut it down.
⁃ However most restaurateurs make the mistake of reducing costs by reducing their marketing investments. Please notice that I am not proposing to spend more money in marketing. There are many ways to increase your marketing presence while decreasing your marketing costs.
⁃ If you haven’t done so yet, setup a formalized referral system. This is the best and cheapest way to get and maintain quality clients.
⁃ You can find more information about referral systems in my free audio interview. Download here:

2. Cutting Corners in Quality to Save Money

⁃ You may feel tempted to cut down in the quality of your ingredients to save some money but, believe me, your clients will notice that the quality of your dishes is going down and then they will take their money to some of your competitors.
⁃ Because it is a slow economy, this also means that your clients will be more selective in their restaurant picks. Don’t lower your quality to save a few bucks. Your clients will resent it and so will you when they don’t show up anymore in your place.

3. Reducing Your Work Force

⁃ It is OK to adapt your work force to the needs of your restaurant, but don’t make the mistake to have so few people in your staff that your service will suffer. Great food and service are the cornerstones of any restaurant and you can’t afford to cut any of them.

4. Caring More About Saving Money Than Taking Care of Your Clients

⁃ Never forget what your restaurant is all about. It is all about your clients. Without clients, there is no business. Without business, there is no restaurant. Don’t ever forget that.

Your clients are the lifeblood of your restaurant and in tough times is specially important that you make them feel like royalty. If they are going to spend their hard earned money in your place, you better give them a great reason to do so. After a great dinning experience, they will be more likely to go back to your place than to give their money to your competitors.

This is it, if you can avoid these mistakes, you will be better off than many of your competitors. Don’t forget that there are enough clients to fill your restaurant. Only the restaurateurs that forget the basics and try to save money in the wrong places, will suffer the down turn of this always variable economy.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco

Bad Restaurant Service

Bad Service

This weekend I went with my family and some friends to a trip to Long Beach, WA. On the way, we stopped in a Mexican restaurant to get some lunch.

The place was empty (only the 8 of us and another couple) and we were promptly seated in a long table.

Soon enough, our young (in his late teens or early twenties) waiter came with the nachos, no salsa. When after a while we asked him for some salsa, he smiled and brought it a few minutes later. No big deal.

Then we order our foods. Two members of our party didn’t get their tortillas for their fajitas. We waited and waited but the waiter never came back to check on us. Another woman in our group ordered a Coke that never made it to the table. We needed to get up and look for the waiter who was talking to another guy by the kitchen. Finally a busboy brought us the tortillas when they were almost at the end of the meal.

In the middle of the meal, a terrible noise startled us all. Somebody dropped a whole tray filled with glasses. It made a terrible ruckus and got all the attention from our waiter (although he wasn’t the responsible for the accident). We never saw him again until we had to go again and ask for the check.

They charged us for the coke that we never got but we were ready to leave and didn’t want to make a fuss about $1.65 so we paid and left.

Now, we were in our way to Long Beach and it is doubtful that we will stop in that place for a meal any time soon, but even if I was leaving in that town, I don’t think that I would frequent that place. The food, by the way, was pretty good.

I always said that food in a restaurant is important but service is almost as important. If one of the two fails, the dining experience also fails.

I see often restaurateurs hiring very expensive chefs that get lavishly paid, and compensate their expenses by hiring inexperience (and cheap) servers, often teenagers, who are neither interested in the business nor knowledgeable of what a good dining experience entails.

Don’t make this mistake. Good food with poor service is as bad as bad food with great service. Both need to be in balance if you want your place to succeed. Select the best servers that you can get, train them continuously (teach them the foods, the wines, what makes your place unique and special) and don’t try to squeeze as much money as you can from them. Not only they won’t be motivated to offer an excellent service but they may even resent you and pass that resentment along to your clients.

Remember, the weakest link in your business will setup the standard.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco

You can find more information about restaurant marketing strategies in my website

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