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
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Exceeding Expectations

How many times do you get one of these surveys, specially after buying a new car (see my previous blog titled
where they expect you to fill them always with the top score? (Meaning that they’ve exceeded all your expectations).
If we followed the car dealers’ standards, “Exceeding Expectations” would mean OK service…
Or did they delivered the car to your door at work or at home? Did they give you an incredible discount or did something so out of the ordinary that you were in shock and awe (and not in a negative way!) because it greatly surprised you?
These would be cases of exceeding expectations. Giving you a free pot coffee while you wait for the salesman or just going for a test car ride are not. All the dealers do this, so we expect this from them.
They never impressed me much so I guess that I should rate them with 3 stars (average) although they always demand 5 (exceeded expectations) for some unfounded reason.
Perhaps their expectations are lower than normal after you spend more than $25,000 on their product?
But I digress.
Going back to the restaurant business, how many times do think your clients believe that you’ve exceeded their expectations? Sometimes, seldom, never?
How many times did you go to another restaurant where they’ve exceeded your expectations?
It didn’t happen too many times to me.
Perhaps because this industry is very predictable and it’s difficult to be original, or perhaps because we are too conservative to try anything new, dinning at most restaurants is a totally prdictive experience.
Sure you expect good food and good service at reasonable prices. Every restaurant should give you at least that, but what about surprising your clients with some unpredicted extras? They don’t need to be expensive, it is more a matter of thinking than of spending money.
For example, you could tell your chef to prepare some small appetizers that you could give, on the house, to your clients when they order their drinks. Or you can ask your waiters to replace napkins when somebody leaves the table to go to the bathroom or to make a phone call, etc. You could, for example, one night buy flowers and give one rose (or some other flower) to each woman in the restaurant, give a little sack to each guest (or table) with some spices that you’ve used in the dishes… The sky is the limit!
These are very cheap things for you to do that will pleasantly surprise your clients. These little things will exceed their expectations because they don’t get it anywhere else and therefore they are not expecting it.
But don’t do always the same things or they will become routine. Come up with new ideas, always new, always fresh and unexpected. Setup an idea context among your employees and give a price to the ones that give you the best ideas.
Not only your clients will love your place, but you will also make your restaurant unique and invite your clients to repeat their visits looking forward to be “surprised” and enjoy their dinning experience.
Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco
Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.