Restaurant Marketing: Do you know your customers?

Do you know your customers? No really; do you?

Often restaurateurs market to the wrong people instead of trying to target their message to their core customer base.

Again, who are your customers? Think about it, this is important for your marketing.

If you have a fast food place, your customers could be almost anybody (even Warren Buffet eats once in a while at McDonald’s) but they all have some common expectations such as:

  • They want a quick meal
  • They want a cheap meal
  • They want it delivered fast

If you, on the other hand, have a family friendly restaurant your audience is looking for something different:

  • Kids menus
  • Good food for adults also
  • Perhaps some alcoholic beverages for the parents
  • Moderately fast service
  • etc.

What about if you have a medium to upper scale restaurant? Then your customers will be looking for:

  • Good food
  • Quite environment so that they can talk and converse
  • Perhaps romantic or elegant ambience
  • Soft background music
  • Good drinking list: wines, beers, spirits, etc.
  • Slow service so that they have time to enjoy their meals and conversations,
  • etc.

So you see? If you have a family restaurant, it is probably a waste of money marketing to singles or professionals looking for a quite atmosphere to conduct their business… And viceversa. Families don’t care about fancy restaurants where they will be uncomfortable with their kids and will make the rest of the customers uncomfortable as well.

If you know your audience, you can totally target your marketing efforts to them: your advertising, your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), your offers and discounts, your communication… they should all talk directly to your customers. They should be totally targeted to your core audience. Don’t waste your money, your time and your customer’s time trying to offer them something that they are not interested in.

You will both benefit.

Happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

Get my 40 pages free Restaurant Marketing Book Summary here:
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

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Why Restaurant Marketing is So Important for Your Business

Many restaurateurs spend most of their time running the daily operations: inventory control and ordering, making sure that the place is clean, that the employees turns are in order, that the broken dishwasher gets fixed, etc.

There are a million tasks that form part of the daily routine of running a restaurant business. All are important and all of them need to be taken care of.

However, there is usually one task that most of the restaurateurs are happy to delegate: their restaurant marketing.

Most restaurateurs are not very business savvy people. They open their restaurants because they love to cook and to mingle with their customers. They naïvely think that offering good food at reasonable prices is enough to attract customers to fill their tables…

The reality check is often brutal and leaves restaurant owners scratching their heads in disbelief, wondering why their place is mostly empty while other nearby restaurants seem to be always full.

The problem is that the world is full of good restaurants. Competition in the restaurant business is brutal and, if you own a restaurant you should know that is not enough to offer good food. You also must compete with many other restaurants that are often wiser than you investing their marketing dollars.

So, if marketing is so important, why is that restaurateurs are more than happy to give their marketing budget away to sales reps?

You know whom I mean. These are the sales people who flock to restaurants always offering a good deal, although “You must act now because the next issue is going to print and you are going to miss it!”

You know what? Miss it! It is probably a waste of money anyway.

I’ve just started coaching a restaurant. When I sat with the owner and we did an inventory of all his marketing expenses, his eyes almost popped out of the sockets.

He is spending more than $3,000 USD a month in mostly useless marketing. And the best part is that, until now, he never did an analysis of the return of investment that his marketing expenses are bringing him.

You don’t need to be a marketing genius to expend your marketing budget wisely, just follow one simple rule. Just one. If you follow this rule and do nothing else, I guarantee you that your marketing will improve dramatically.

Ok are you ready?

The rule is: Never invest in any marketing that you can’t track and measure the results.

That’s it: Very simple, very straightforward and very logical.

If a sales rep comes to your place and ask you to place an ad in his newspaper, or directory or whatever he is selling you, just ask them: How can you guarantee me that if I spend $1,000 with you, you will give me at least $1,500 in business?

If all they offer you is their word that their ads work, just ask him to guarantee it in writing. If their marketing is really effective, they shouldn’t be afraid to back it up with a solid guarantee. However, I can assure you, they won’t do it. And you know why? Because they can’t.

Most of the traditional restaurant marketing only benefits the advertising companies that produce it.

If they can guarantee you the results, go for it, you have nothing to lose and much to win. If not, think about other ways where you can track and measure your results.

It sounds simple but it requires that you have a marketing plan and stick to it.

Good luck!

Jose L Riesco
Free 40 Pages Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book Summary:
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

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

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

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
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Bite2Eat

I’t come to my attention a new Web site called www.Bite2Eat.com

It’s a site where people can order (take out or deliver) food. Although there are several sites that follow this model, Bite2Eat is trying to differentiate themselves from the others by adding a community  spin to the on-line ordering business. They call it “Buddy Order” and they have a video explaining how it works. In my humble opinion, the video is not very clear and I told them so in an email that I sent them with some feedback.

Since they are just getting started with this effort, there is room for improvement in their site to better explain how their offering is better than their competitors. However, they are very open to get feedback and improve upon it, so if you would like to tell them your ideas for improvement, and how can they serve you better, you can do it here: http://bite2eat.com/form_pages/contact_us

As a restaurateur, you can register to participate free of charge. You will only pay a commission of 10% for each sale that you make through their service. This is a good business model for both parties since you will only pay if you sell your food, and they only make money if you have sales so they are very motivated to work with you and promote your business if they want to be profitable.

Go ahead, connect with their site and register, you don’t have much to lose (nothing actually) and perhaps you will start getting lots of additional customers ordering food to go.

Bite2Eat

I’t come to my attention a new Web site called www.Bite2Eat.com

It’s a site where people can order (take out or deliver) food. Although there are several sites that follow this model, Bite2Eat is trying to differentiate themselves from the others by adding a community  spin to the on-line ordering business. They call it “Buddy Order” and they have a video explaining how it works. In my humble opinion, the video is not very clear and I told them so in an email that I sent them with some feedback.

Since they are just getting started with this effort, there is room for improvement in their site to better explain how their offering is better than their competitors. However, they are very open to get feedback and improve upon it, so if you would like to tell them your ideas for improvement, and how can they serve you better, you can do it here: http://bite2eat.com/form_pages/contact_us

As a restaurateur, you can register to participate free of charge. You will only pay a commission of 10% for each sale that you make through their service. This is a good business model for both parties since you will only pay if you sell your food, and they only make money if you have sales so they are very motivated to work with you and promote your business if they want to be profitable.

Go ahead, connect with their site and register, you don’t have much to lose (nothing actually) and perhaps you will start getting lots of additional customers ordering food to go.

Join Ventures

I was reading today the Wall Street Journal online when I read the news that in a new promotion with TiVo Inc., Domino’s Pizza Inc. will begin taking orders using only a TV set from customers who have broadband TiVo service. For the ones of you who don’t know what TiVo is, you can find more information here: (http://www.tivo.com/whatistivo/tivois/index.html)

This is how it works: When a customer forwards through a commercial for Domino’s, TiVo will flash a pop-up advertisement that asks the customer if she would like to order a pizza, then direct her to a Domino’s ordering screen.

I think that the idea is brilliant. Think about it. Who is the ideal candidate to order pizza? Probably somebody who is hungry and watching TV. Domino’s can target their ads to a hungry multitude eager to get their products and able to buy on the spot!

Both companies will benefit from this deal. TiVo will increase its revenue by allowing their technology to display a Domino’s link to their ordering screen. Domino’s will capture thousands of new customers that otherwise will remain inactive or order some food from some competitors.

This is the power of Join Venture. All parties benefit.

Now think about your restaurant: Is there any company that you could make a deal with to promote your business?

Do you have a local business or company whose employees go to your restaurant for lunch on a regular basis? If so perhaps you can make an agreement with the owners or managers and provide them with customized lunches (pre-packaged and easy to eat) that their employees can order (online or on the phone) and your restaurant will deliver to their premises. Explain to the managers that, in this way, their employees don’t need to spend time and go out for eating. They may save time and the employees may appreciate the convenience.

You can also think about other creative solutions such as doing business with:

  • Local jewelry stores: you can sell them gift certificates for a discounted price so that they can pass them along to their customers
  • Car dealers, beauty saloons, hair saloons, spas… : same concept
  • Other restaurants: yes, you can cross-promote other restaurants with a totally different kind of food. People like variety and will try different foods. For example, if you own an Italian restaurant, you can cross-promote a sushi place or an indian restaurant… And they can do the same with you. It is a win/win proposition. I hope that you get the idea.
  • etc.

The possibilities are unlimited. Just think about a partner that can bring customers to your restaurant and try to make an attractive offer that benefit both of you.

Join Ventures

I was reading today the Wall Street Journal online when I read the news that in a new promotion with TiVo Inc., Domino’s Pizza Inc. will begin taking orders using only a TV set from customers who have broadband TiVo service. For the ones of you who don’t know what TiVo is, you can find more information here: (http://www.tivo.com/whatistivo/tivois/index.html)

This is how it works: When a customer forwards through a commercial for Domino’s, TiVo will flash a pop-up advertisement that asks the customer if she would like to order a pizza, then direct her to a Domino’s ordering screen.

I think that the idea is brilliant. Think about it. Who is the ideal candidate to order pizza? Probably somebody who is hungry and watching TV. Domino’s can target their ads to a hungry multitude eager to get their products and able to buy on the spot!

Both companies will benefit from this deal. TiVo will increase its revenue by allowing their technology to display a Domino’s link to their ordering screen. Domino’s will capture thousands of new customers that otherwise will remain inactive or order some food from some competitors.

This is the power of Join Venture. All parties benefit.

Now think about your restaurant: Is there any company that you could make a deal with to promote your business?

Do you have a local business or company whose employees go to your restaurant for lunch on a regular basis? If so perhaps you can make an agreement with the owners or managers and provide them with customized lunches (pre-packaged and easy to eat) that their employees can order (online or on the phone) and your restaurant will deliver to their premises. Explain to the managers that, in this way, their employees don’t need to spend time and go out for eating. They may save time and the employees may appreciate the convenience.

You can also think about other creative solutions such as doing business with:

  • Local jewelry stores: you can sell them gift certificates for a discounted price so that they can pass them along to their customers
  • Car dealers, beauty saloons, hair saloons, spas… : same concept
  • Other restaurants: yes, you can cross-promote other restaurants with a totally different kind of food. People like variety and will try different foods. For example, if you own an Italian restaurant, you can cross-promote a sushi place or an indian restaurant… And they can do the same with you. It is a win/win proposition. I hope that you get the idea.
  • etc.

The possibilities are unlimited. Just think about a partner that can bring customers to your restaurant and try to make an attractive offer that benefit both of you.