Long Term Investment in Your Restaurant Clients

SavingsPig_Full.jpg When you deal with your prospects and customers, you have to always think long term. For each action that you take with them, think that you are making an investment, because you are. This will also help you think more strategically whenever you have a problem with one of your customers.

For example, imagine that you have a table of four people, and that they are not in a very good mood today. No matter what your staff does, nothing seems to please them. Minor details that other times pass unnoticed, today seem to be a big deal. What can you do about this?

First, always try no to take the issue personally. Try to evaluate objectively if they are totally right and effectively there is something wrong with your food or service that day, and if so, of course take immediate action to correct any wrongdoing.

However, sometimes there is nothing wrong with your food, service, or ambience, and the problem lies within your customers. They are probably having a bad day, and they are looking for any external excuses to blame their internal feelings. We all do. Better for them to pick in your place than in their friends or spouses, at least for them…

So even in this case of unjust accusations, look at the big picture and think about that specific table as a long term investment for your business. You could take the short-term approach, recognize that it is their fault or problem, and do one of two things:

1.- Confront them and tell them that there is nothing wrong with your restaurant. Your pride will be very happy, but you will lose these customers for life and will get many negative reviews about your place in online social networks and offline referrals. This could mean tens (or even hundreds depending of how big their social cloud is) of potential new customers lost.

2.- Ignore their behavior and do nothing. You don’t confront them, but you don’t recognize the bad experience that they are having.

If you take this action (or inaction), in both cases these customers will leave your restaurant with a negative memory (it’s unfair, I know, but that+ ‘s life). So they will be less likely to come back to your place.

Or you can think more strategically and take this negative event as an opportunity for you to think long term. What if you could compensate these customers so that they leave your place really impressed with the way you handled the situation? Imagine that you approach the table and tell these people: “I apologize that you are not having an excellent dinning experience today. I want to make it up to you so here you have two gift certificates (and you handle one to each couple) valid for a free meal. I want you to come back to my place and try again. I promise you that next time will be much better for you.”

Now, how do you think that these people will react? Deep down they know that there wasn’t anything specially wrong with your place or your food, and however, you still acknowledged their feelings and tried to compensate them for something that you didn’t do wrong. I can guarantee you that this small investment that you made (two free meals), will pay you back a hundredfold in free advertising and referrals from these people. They will tell all their friends and family how gracious you are and how wonderful your place is.

If you think about compensating unhappy customers as a long term investment, you will remove any personal feelings from the situation. You will be more inclined to be generous with them, and they will leave your place with a really good feeling about your restaurant and your behavior. This is a win-win situation for both parties.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

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Changing Your Restaurant Marketing is Difficult

Emerging monarch

I’ve just read another great blog from Seth Godin called:”Priming the pump of efficiency”. You can read it here:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/priming-the-pump-of-efficiency.html

Basically Seth states that changes are difficult and often involve an initial setback before they produce the desired outcome. Have you heard the saying: “Things will get worse before they get better”?

This is what Seth is talking about.

For example, if you change from your old manual booking system to a new computerized one, you will probably run into initial setup and learning issues. Your staff will complain about having to learn yet another system, you will sometimes get lost and blaming the new system when something doesn’t work as you expect, etc.

However, after a while, you will be able to do things that you couldn’t do before with your old system such as printing profiled lists of your customers, or just emailing them to notify about a special event or promotion, etc.

The same thing applies to your restaurant marketing. You are very familiar and comfortable with the traditional marketing venues: ads in newspapers and magazines, coupon books with discounts, ads in Yellow pages, etc. However, these traditional marketing vehicles are slowly dying and extinguishing, just like the dinosaurs, and you are probably wasting your marketing budget on them.

You see? Your customers are now mainly looking online. They don’t open Yellow Books anymore. If they want to go to a restaurant, they browse the Web and read restaurant reviews from other customers. They look at restaurant websites to get a feeling for the place. They read the online menus to see if they like them, and check prices to see if they can afford it. They are, most likely, also making reservations online right there in the restaurant websites that have an online booking option. Do your website has one?

So what are you doing about it? If your answer is nothing, then you better start thinking about moving your marketing online, fast. Your competitors are surely doing it…

Once you make your mind and start marketing online, tweeting your specials and promotions, creating a Facebook page to share with your clients, making your website attractive, and specially useful, to your prospects and clients, you will probably see that it will take a while before you can harvest the results of your initial investment.

But make no mistake. You can’t just afford to ignore moving most of your marketing online. Not only is much more efficient and inexpensive than your traditional printed marketing, it is also “trackable”. You should always invest in marketing that you can track and test.

And if there is any final doubt, the World Wide Web is the place where most of your clients are now. You must also be there if you want to reach them!

Happy marketing,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Investing in Restaurant Marketing

Investment.jpgMarketing is one of the key ingredients in your restaurant success. It is the vehicle that lets people know that your restaurant exists (if they’ve never been there), or reminds them that you are a great place to go and have a great experience (if they’ve visited your place before but forgot about you).

However, marketing can also be an incredible source of expenses and a bad return of your investment if you are not careful how you expend your marketing budget.

You should think about marketing not as an expenditure but as an investment so you should treat it with the same care that you would treat your regular investments. For example, you wouldn’t invest your money with a financial institution and then never check back the results of your investments would you? I don’t think so.

However, many restaurateurs invest money in marketing blindly. They buy advertisement, ads and promotions, and never bother checking if they make a profit in all these marketing investments.

Think about marketing as you would think about your investments. Study the possibilities and track and analyze the results of your marketing investments. If a marketing investment is positive, keep on doing it. If not, cut your loses and move your money into a new, more profitable marketing investment. By doing this, not only you’ll know that your marketing works, but you will see a tenfold increase in your restaurant sales and performance.

Happy marketing,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Restaurant Marketing Strategies: Are You Wasting Your Time?

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Restaurateurs are busy people. Always running around solving problems, paying bills, meeting with people, making sure that everything is ready; every single day…

So being busy is part of the job description, but the question is: Are you being productive? There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. You see? You can run errands the whole day and keep your hours busy doing a million things that, at the end of the day, don’t add up to your bottom line.

Being busy is just filling in the time that you have available. Being productive, on the other hand, means moving in the direction of your goals. And I guess that this is where the problem lies. Many restaurateurs, unfortunately, don’t have a clear and define goal. They don’t have a vision and a strategy to take them there so they just work, day by day, hoping to make a lot of money and bring back many happy clients.

If you want to succeed in your business, and use your time efficiently, you need to have a vision and you need to create a strategy to take you there. This is the only way for you to know that each and every day, you are moving in the right direction and working on tasks that will take you there.

For example, your vision may be to work fewer hours so that you can spend more time with your family. Then your strategy should be to hire bright, honest, and hard working staff that you can start delegating on, and your daily accomplishments should be to delegate a new task that somebody else can do equal or very often better than you.

Or perhaps your vision is to expand your restaurant and open some other restaurants so that you end up with a multi-unit. In this case, your strategy should be to systematize and document your processes: from written recipes and cooking techniques, to interaction with your clients, from the moment they make a reservation to the time that they leave your restaurant. You must have clear and documented processes if you want all your restaurants to work and perform consistently.

You see where I am going? Without a clear vision and a defined strategy, you may spend your day running around and wasting your time in tasks that somebody else could you do for you. You should know what your strategies are and spend most of your time working on them. Everything else won’t take you anywhere, and it will leave you exhausted, frustrated, and working 16 hours a day without really accomplishing anything worth it.

Sit down, take a few hours os uninterrupted time and thing what is your vision, what you ultimately want to accomplish with your restaurant in, let say, 5 or 10 years from now. Then, once you have this figure out, write the strategy that it will take you there. Finally, share your vision and strategies with your staff and your family so that everyone is crystal clear about it and there is no doubt.

Now you are ready, each day, to work on tasks that will fulfill your strategy and, ultimately, your vision.

Would you have perfect productive days this way? No, you don’t. In the restaurant business there are a thousand daily interruptions and fires that need to be dealt with, but you will have a good sense of accomplishment each day that you make progress, even if it’s just a little, and move into the right direction.

Having a vision and a strategy is like having a compass that points you the right direction. Sometimes you won’t be able to go in a straight line. There will be mountains that you must go around and rivers that you must wade, but eventually, you know that you are moving towards your final destination.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Restaurant Marketing Strategies: Should You Give Away Free Food to Attract New Customers?


I was reading today in the news how KFC, Quiznos and some other fast food chains are giving away free food to attract media attention and capture new customers.

Should you, small or medium size the restaurant owner or manager, do something similar to compete with these chains? The short answer is NO, you shouldn’t, and I will tell you why.

Your marketing goal should always be to convert prospects, and occasional customers, into long term repeated clients. Anything that you do towards this goal is good, and it moves you in the right direction. Anything else will make you waste money or just attract customers who are probably just interested in getting the cheapest meal they can get anywhere without any loyalty to a specific restaurant.

Giving away meals to attract people without a long term vision or marketing goal is not a wise strategy. Yes, you may get lots of people going to your restaurant to take advantage of the free food, but this doesn’t mean you will make any profit, or that they will become future clients of your restaurant. What you should do instead is to implement a formalized referral system, where you select your best clients and give them special gift certificates that they can share with their friends and families. In this way, although you are giving away important discounts, you are doing it with a purpose: to bring new prospects to your restaurant. To bring quality people who have been recommended by their friends or family members. If you follow this strategy your restaurant will also gain instantaneous credibility, since people believe more the recommendations of people whom they appreciate and trust than any other form of advertising.

You should always have a long term marketing strategy instead of trying to jump into whatever marketing trend is fashionable presently. In this way, you will know the direction and the final destination where you want to take your restaurant. Yes, your circumstances and the economic reality can change, and you may follow different roads to reach your destination, depending of your needs, but if you have a master plan, a strategy, and a vision, you know that you will be going in the right direction, and eventually you will reach your goal.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Offering a Consistent Experience to Your Restaurant Clients

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One of the things that people really like and expect in a business is consistency.

Think about it. Imagine that each time that you want to buy a book in Amazon.com you’ll find a different User Interface or a different buying experience. You soon will get frustrated and abandon the site.

The same thing happens with restaurants. I don’t know how many restaurant reviews I read where the theme was always the same: “My husband and I went to the XXXX restaurant for the second (or third) time. We had a great experience in our previous visit, but this last time was horrible. The service ignored us, or the food was very late, or not good enough, etc. We won’t be going back any time soon…”

Does this sound familiar to you? Because people expect consistency, if they had a previous great experience, they expect to have a good experience every single time that they go to a restaurant, and they get very disappointed if they don’t.

For the same reason, if their first experience is not good, people expect that each time they go to the same restaurant, they will have the same experience. Consistency is also in the mind for the negative.

So what can you do to provide your clients with a consistent excellent dinning experience? To start with, you must have good and properly trained staff working for you. Turnover is one of the major causes of inconsistencies since new people need to be trained and have a ramp up curve. High turnover is a sign of employee unhappiness with the working environment.

Also, you must have clear processes defined.

From the moment somebody picks up the phone to make a reservation to the goodbye when they leave your place, you should have clear and defined policies about how to greet and treat your customers, how and when to handle and deliver the food, etc.

If you don’t deliver a consistently great dinning experience, your business will be leaking customers and you will have to deal with bad reviews in social media networks and restaurant review sites. You don’t want to do that.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

Restaurant Owners: Would You Go To Your Own Restaurant?

Grey Man USP.jpg
This sounds like a ridiculous question. “Of course I would. My restaurant is great!” would be probably your first initial reaction.

But, I want you to think a bit about it. The question is not “Would you rather stay home and cook, or come, and have dinner at to your restaurant.”

The question is “Why people should go to your restaurant instead of going to any of your competitors?”

This changes the perspective, doesn’t? Now you need to start thinking, and that’s good. I guess I should also ask you: “Do you know your competitors?” Have you taken the time to visit their restaurant and have lunch or dinner there as a regular customer? Have you observed their place? Their food? Their service? What’s good about it? What could be improved?

By knowing what works well, you can get ideas to improve your food, or service, or operations. By knowing what can be improved (or what you do better than them), can help you focus on the strengths of your restaurant.

Once you are familiar with your competition, ask yourself: What does my restaurant offer to my clients than my competitors don’t? In other words, what makes your restaurant special and unique?

This is what is called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and if you don’t have one you better start thinking about it. You see? If people who go to restaurants don’t think that you have anything special to offer, then they will go to a restaurant that has. It doesn’t have to be anything really fancy. Perhaps you have a special menu item that nobody else offers, or perhaps you have live music and your competitor’s don’t… you get the idea.

Once you have identified what’s unique and special about your place, make sure to let everybody know (and I include here your employees as well). You must live and breath your restaurant USP if you want your customers to believe it and go to your place because of that.

In my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book I dedicate a whole chapter to explaining and helping you create a powerful USP step by step. I would encourage you to check it out if you don’t have a powerful and believable USP.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

How to Prioritize Your Restaurant Responsibilities

As a restaurant owner or manager you have a million tasks that you need to take care of, every day, every hour…

In fact, there are not enough hours in the day to take care of all of them: food and drinks inventory, staffing issues, maintenance, paperwork, marketing, and sales, promotions, taking care of your clients…

So what can you do, poor restaurateur, to make sure that you spend your time wisely and focus on what is really important to your business?

The first thing that you need to remember is the 80/20 rule. In most of the businesses, 20% of the efforts bring 80% of the results. As a restaurant owner, you need to prioritize your tasks and see which ones give you the most return for your time investment.

Let’s go quickly over what it is really important for your business to be successful:

  • Your clients.
    • Without them, anything else matters
  • Your food.
    • Great food is a must in a restaurant; after all, it is the core of the business.
  • Your service.
    • Your clients deserve the best service you can provide them with.
  • Your ambience.
    • Your clients deserve a clean and attractive place to enjoy your great food and service
  • Your operations.
    • Your processes need to be efficient. Your reservation process, food preparation, food ordering and delivery need to work like a clock. All the appliances, heater, air conditioning, ambience music, etc. need to be operational and working.


Of course, there are a thousand more things that you need to manage: employees get sick, things break down, your accounting needs to be kept in order and your books updated, etc. but the listed points are your main priority.Now, as an owner/manager, there are things more important for you to focus than others. As an owner, you should focus mainly in creating efficient processes and in training your people to follow them. Then you can delegate many tasks and focus on what’s really important, and nobody else can do for you: filling in your restaurant with happy clients who will come again and again to your place.

People like to be greeted by the restaurant owners or managers. Nobody else can do this job for you. Also, nobody else can supervise the smoothly running of a restaurant. Being there, shaking hands with your clients, making sure that everybody leaves your restaurant happy and setting up marketing programs that let people know how great your places is should be your main priorities.

Ah, and another thing; you should also learn how to delegate. Hire the best people you can find and train them the best you can, then let them take care of the tasks that you can’t do. This will assure you that you spend your time focusing on the 20% of the tasks that will bring you 80% of your business and profit.

Happy prioritizing,

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.twitter.com/jlriesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Social Validation of Your Restaurant

Why do you think that Social Networking is so popular these days?

People love to hear from, and share information with other people. Several years ago, the marketing communication was always one to many. Companies created their own advertising and marketing, and they broadcasted it to the world. To the only information that you had about the company, was their own marketing materials, sometimes news in the media (usually bad), and perhaps some comments from friends or relatives if they had previous experience with that company.

This specially applied to restaurants. Often, the only criteria people used to go to a restaurant was convenience. If a restaurant happen to be in the area where the customer was hungry, the menus displayed in the restaurant doors looked appetizing (and the prospect could afford them), and the restaurant looked nice, then people will go in and give it a try.

Of course, when they had time to plan, then people more likely than not, will follow the recommendations of their friends and family members. Again, people love to hear from other people and they will trust them more than any other form of advertising. Referrals were always the most powerful marketing for any restaurant… and social proof.

Either we like it or not, it’s in human nature for people to follow other people. We tend to look at what others are doing and flock towards what’s popular. This is why restaurants, with long waiting lines, attracted more people than empty ones. If many people are lining up to wait, the restaurant must be great, right?

If we extrapolate this to the current times, the social networking phenomenon replaces the word of mouth and long lines of yesterday. People flock now to the social sites to read reviews about restaurants (and they can do this from anywhere and in real time, using the power of cell phones and Wifi connections). Online, they will find any information that they need: menus, prices, reviews, maps with directions to go there… no more browsing the restaurant doors or paying attention to the restaurants advertising.

People will value more the opinions of perfect strangers than any business ads since they assume (many times wrongly) that the opinions in public forums or restaurant review sites are unbiased and reflect the real experience of the consumer, a consumer much like themselves.

Monitoring the opinions that people write about your restaurant, and using the information (feedback) that you get in these forums are great ways to improve your business until the positive comments and glowing reviews become your best marketing and advertising investments.

Never underestimate the power of social media.

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.twitter.com/jlriesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com