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

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!

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: http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

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
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Restaurant Blogging Strategies

I’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they’re letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.

Restaurant Blogging Strategies

I’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they’re letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.

The Restaurant List Co.

I’ve just read a short article in the Orlando Business Journal (Yes, this is the beauty of the Internet, you can read about local news globally!) about two entrepreneurs that came up with an idea to create customized lists for hotels that cite restaurants by category with brief descriptions, addresses, phone numbers and maps, all updated on a monthly basis.

The Restaurant List Co. started in Nashville, Tennessee about a year ago and wants to include more than 100,000 restaurants and 12,000 hotels.

Their business model is to offer the list to hotels for free and make money in the back end from the restaurants that pay between $10 to $300 per month to be included.

So you think this a good idea? Should you advertise in this list if you city happens to be already included in their database?

My short answer is No, I don’t think so. I will explain why I think that this is a waste of money (your money) and why this is an almost obsolete idea in these Internet times:

  • The list will be distributed in hotels. This means that it will capture ONLY people who are traveling and therefore may go to your restaurant once in a blue moon. And this is assuming that they go to your place; remember, there will be hundreds of restaurant listed there! Now, if you are familiar with my restaurant marketing strategies, you know that I recommend cultivating your best existing clients and promoting for them to come more often and bring their friends and family versus expending lots of money trying to attract new customers. This initiative focuses exclusively in this expensive strategy.
  • People who frequent hotels, (at least that your restaurant is located in a turistic area) are usually business travelers. These are technical savvy people who will use the Internet to find good places to eat. With the proliferation of free user-rated sites such as http://www.citysearch.com, http://www.yelp.com, and other more prestigious sites such as http://www.zagat.com, http://www.restaurant.com, etc. who needs a printed list to chose a restaurant?
  • Since this list is on a per-pay model, any restaurant will be included, mixing high quality expensive restaurants with fast food places and making the clients confused about their choices.
  • Finally, if you really want to attract people who stay in hotels near your place, the best way to do it is to “bribe” the concierges. Offer them a complimentary meal once in a while and they will refer lots of people to your place for much less money than the monthly fee that you’ll have to pay to be included in this list

So there, this is my opinion of the whole idea. If you think that this would work for you, then at least try to track how many people will come to your place because of the list. Make the ad in the list so that the clients coming give you a code or something on exchange for some freebie. This is the only way to track the success of this marketing investment.

Remember, never invest in marketing if you can’t track its results! If you do nothing else and follow this golden rule, you will be way ahead of your competitors and invest wisely your marketing dollars.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Jose L Riesco

The Restaurant List Co.

I’ve just read a short article in the Orlando Business Journal (Yes, this is the beauty of the Internet, you can read about local news globally!) about two entrepreneurs that came up with an idea to create customized lists for hotels that cite restaurants by category with brief descriptions, addresses, phone numbers and maps, all updated on a monthly basis.

The Restaurant List Co. started in Nashville, Tennessee about a year ago and wants to include more than 100,000 restaurants and 12,000 hotels.

Their business model is to offer the list to hotels for free and make money in the back end from the restaurants that pay between $10 to $300 per month to be included.

So you think this a good idea? Should you advertise in this list if you city happens to be already included in their database?

My short answer is No, I don’t think so. I will explain why I think that this is a waste of money (your money) and why this is an almost obsolete idea in these Internet times:

  • The list will be distributed in hotels. This means that it will capture ONLY people who are traveling and therefore may go to your restaurant once in a blue moon. And this is assuming that they go to your place; remember, there will be hundreds of restaurant listed there! Now, if you are familiar with my restaurant marketing strategies, you know that I recommend cultivating your best existing clients and promoting for them to come more often and bring their friends and family versus expending lots of money trying to attract new customers. This initiative focuses exclusively in this expensive strategy.
  • People who frequent hotels, (at least that your restaurant is located in a turistic area) are usually business travelers. These are technical savvy people who will use the Internet to find good places to eat. With the proliferation of free user-rated sites such as http://www.citysearch.com, http://www.yelp.com, and other more prestigious sites such as http://www.zagat.com, http://www.restaurant.com, etc. who needs a printed list to chose a restaurant?
  • Since this list is on a per-pay model, any restaurant will be included, mixing high quality expensive restaurants with fast food places and making the clients confused about their choices.
  • Finally, if you really want to attract people who stay in hotels near your place, the best way to do it is to “bribe” the concierges. Offer them a complimentary meal once in a while and they will refer lots of people to your place for much less money than the monthly fee that you’ll have to pay to be included in this list

So there, this is my opinion of the whole idea. If you think that this would work for you, then at least try to track how many people will come to your place because of the list. Make the ad in the list so that the clients coming give you a code or something on exchange for some freebie. This is the only way to track the success of this marketing investment.

Remember, never invest in marketing if you can’t track its results! If you do nothing else and follow this golden rule, you will be way ahead of your competitors and invest wisely your marketing dollars.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Jose L Riesco

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.