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

Using Online Social Networking to Attract New Customers to Your Restaurant

Brenda Segna writes in her blog http://segnamarketing.blogspot.com/2008/11/myspace-for-seo-and-web-marketing.html about using MySpace to attract young customers to a Pizza place.

Some restaurant owners (check out these ones: http://www.myspace.com/tarantinopizza and http://www.myspace.com/mamacitascafe 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 www.myspace.com 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: (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

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.

What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

This is a very important question that you need to answer honestly if you want your place to succeed.
Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you are one of your clients.
What attracts them to your place?
Is it your great food? or perhaps Your convenient location? Are you the cheapest place around? (I hope not or you will have to make your profit in pure volume.) Do you have a signature dish that attracts people? or Live music? or Does your place have great atmosphere and beautiful decoration? Do you have a view? Easy and convenient parking?
Whatever makes your place unique and different is what it’s called in marketing a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and this is the key factor that differentiates your place from any other place.
All restaurants have (or should have) a USP so if yours doesn’t jump at you right away, just sit down when you have a few free minutes (I know, I know, it’s difficult to find free time for a restaurateur but you own to yourself and your business to do this exercise) and write down a list of things that make your place special.
If you are not able to come up with any, ask your staff or any of your regular clients, they may tell you something that you didn’t even thought of.
If nobody can tell you anything special for your place, then you are in trouble my friend, because if you or your people don’t find anything special, nobody else will do. In this case you need to “create” something special. Make a new dish, a new signature cocktail (if you serve alcohol), bring and hang art (from an art school or local artists) in your walls…
Once you finally have your USP, use it in your advertising, make sure that all your employees know about it. Tell your clients. This will resonate with them and will make your place to stand from 90% of other places that have nothing special to offer.
If you are really serious about improving your business, I strongly recommend you to check my
. It is free for you to evaluate and I can garantee you, it will improve your business dramatically.
Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.

What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

This is a very important question that you need to answer honestly if you want your place to succeed.
Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you are one of your clients.
What attracts them to your place?
Is it your great food? or perhaps Your convenient location? Are you the cheapest place around? (I hope not or you will have to make your profit in pure volume.) Do you have a signature dish that attracts people? or Live music? or Does your place have great atmosphere and beautiful decoration? Do you have a view? Easy and convenient parking?
Whatever makes your place unique and different is what it’s called in marketing a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and this is the key factor that differentiates your place from any other place.
All restaurants have (or should have) a USP so if yours doesn’t jump at you right away, just sit down when you have a few free minutes (I know, I know, it’s difficult to find free time for a restaurateur but you own to yourself and your business to do this exercise) and write down a list of things that make your place special.
If you are not able to come up with any, ask your staff or any of your regular clients, they may tell you something that you didn’t even thought of.
If nobody can tell you anything special for your place, then you are in trouble my friend, because if you or your people don’t find anything special, nobody else will do. In this case you need to “create” something special. Make a new dish, a new signature cocktail (if you serve alcohol), bring and hang art (from an art school or local artists) in your walls…
Once you finally have your USP, use it in your advertising, make sure that all your employees know about it. Tell your clients. This will resonate with them and will make your place to stand from 90% of other places that have nothing special to offer.
If you are really serious about improving your business, I strongly recommend you to check my
. It is free for you to evaluate and I can garantee you, it will improve your business dramatically.
Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.

What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

This is a very important question that you need to answer honestly if you want your place to succeed.
Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you are one of your clients.
What attracts them to your place?
Is it your great food? or perhaps Your convenient location? Are you the cheapest place around? (I hope not or you will have to make your profit in pure volume.) Do you have a signature dish that attracts people? or Live music? or Does your place have great atmosphere and beautiful decoration? Do you have a view? Easy and convenient parking?
Whatever makes your place unique and different is what it’s called in marketing a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and this is the key factor that differentiates your place from any other place.
All restaurants have (or should have) a USP so if yours doesn’t jump at you right away, just sit down when you have a few free minutes (I know, I know, it’s difficult to find free time for a restaurateur but you own to yourself and your business to do this exercise) and write down a list of things that make your place special.
If you are not able to come up with any, ask your staff or any of your regular clients, they may tell you something that you didn’t even thought of.
If nobody can tell you anything special for your place, then you are in trouble my friend, because if you or your people don’t find anything special, nobody else will do. In this case you need to “create” something special. Make a new dish, a new signature cocktail (if you serve alcohol), bring and hang art (from an art school or local artists) in your walls…
Once you finally have your USP, use it in your advertising, make sure that all your employees know about it. Tell your clients. This will resonate with them and will make your place to stand from 90% of other places that have nothing special to offer.
If you are really serious about improving your business, I strongly recommend you to check my
. It is free for you to evaluate and I can garantee you, it will improve your business dramatically.
Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.