Taking Control of Your Restaurant Marketing

In these days of doom and gloom I hear many restaurateurs complain about how slow business is and how the clients are spending less and less money dinning out.

However, as the saying says, “Times of crisis are times of opportunity”.

If your business is slow, perhaps this is a great time to re-evaluate the efficacy of your marketing. Eliminate dead wood in your marketing expenses and start investing your money smartly in marketing that really works (and you can prove that really works).

I met recently with the owner of the latest restaurant that I am consulting with, and we did precisely this exercise.

I asked him to write down every single marketing expense that he was making, and then we started evaluating which ones could be tracked.

Amazingly for him (not for me because I was expecting this), 80% of his marketing expenses were non trackable. This means that he was expending a substantial amount of money advertising in the Yellow Pages, two local weekly papers and some other local restaurant catalogs, and yet he had no clue how many customers these expenses brought to his restaurant.

The first thing that we did was to eliminate any marketing expense that couldn’t be measured. This is just a logical step to really assess the return of investment.

Let me ask you. Would you invest money in stocks or a mutual funds if you couldn’t measure how well (or bad) they were performing?

Of course not, and yet many restaurateurs still spend money hoping for the best and without any substantial way to know how many customers those investments bring to the restaurant.

Since this particular owner was very attached to one specific weekly magazine, and he was assuring me that it brought him many customers, I asked him to change the ad to include a discount coupon.

If people really read his ad and came to his restaurant because of it, they will surely bring with them the discount coupon. In this way, he’ll know how many real customers this ad brings him and we will be able to make the numbers to see if it breaks even to cover for the expenses of the advertisement (I sincerely doubt it, but we’ll see…)

So after the inventory and cutting down several of his marketing initiatives, this owner was happy to see that he could save $2400 a month! That’s money in the pocket that he was wasting.

But this is not all. We also started implementing some inexpensive marketing changes. For example, his online presence was very underwhelming and yet most of the potential and current restaurant customers nowadays (including his, of course) are looking for restaurants online.

So I started working with him beefing up his web presence.

Of course the first step is the restaurant’s web site. His web site was nicely done but quite underutilized. I met with his webmaster and we implemented a signup form in the front page to capture his visitors information (on exchange for getting a welcome to my restaurant discount coupon when they enter it). We also added an online registration, a comments field and some other useful and interesting information for his customers.

He also signed up for Meta Flavor (www.metaflavor.com) a great (and free) way to promote your restaurant in the web.

Finally, he created a Twitter account and now started twitting whenever he has empty spaces and wants to bring people (quickly and inexpensively) in.

These are just some examples of things that you can do to improve your marketing and save money in the process.

In these days of slow economy, taking control of your marketing and operating strategically and smart is a must, if you want to survive these challenging times.

Have a great day!

Jose L Riesco

Promoting Your Restaurant in Twitter

Andy Lynes in his latest blog in Big-hospitality: www.bighospitality.co.uk talks about the success of some restaurants using Twitter to promote their businesses.

You can read his blog here: http://www.bighospitality.co.uk/item/3072/23/5/3

Twitter, with more than 6 million unique visitors (UV) a month is the fastest growing Social Network Site. In the attached table you can see how it grew from number 22 to number 3 in a year (and this data is 3 moths old!):
Twitter stats

Although Twitter can’t compete (yet) with Face-book or MySpace in the sheer number of users, it has an advantage that the other two social media sites don’t have: immediacy

When you send a Tweet (a Tweet is a short Twitter message, up to 140 characters), your followers immediately receive it. This gives you a great opportunity to broadcast pertinent information to them.

For example, are you having a slow lunch day?

You can tweet your followers a message announcing that if they go to your restaurant within the next hour, and tell your servers that they saw this offer in Twitter, you will give them a free dessert, (or a 10% discount, or whatever attractive offer you want to make to attract people).

In this way, not only you can capture new customers in slow days/hours but you can also track Twitter’s results. You will know how many of your new customers are coming because of Twitter, (they will tell you!).

And the best of all, it’s that you will do all of this in a very inexpensive (Twitter is free to use so you’ll only absorb the cost of the discount) and interactive way. It surely beats mailing coupons (with the high cost of printing and mailing) and gives you the freedom to totally adapt it to your hourly needs.

But Twitter is not just a US phenomena. Its popularity Worldwide is spreading very fast. In this chart you can see the breakdown of the top 10 countries. So if you restaurant is in any of these countries

you better start Twittering to them.
Twitter penetration
Some other useful information is to know who is using Twitter. This site: http://www.istrategylabs.com/twitter-2009-demographics-and-statistics/ shows very interesting Twitter statistics broke down by sex, age, ethnicity, kids/no kids households, and average income and education. Very interesting information if you use Twitter (or are planning to use it) to target your audience.

So my question to you is: Are you using Twitter to reach your clients (or followers) to promote your restaurant?

If not, you are missing a great a free tool. It totally makes sense that you use this tool to reach to your customers; after all, they are already using Twitter!

Since I know that technology can be sometimes intimidating, and there are so many ways to use Twitter (including many to waste an incredible amount of time with this tool), I am creating a report called: “How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Restaurant”. In this report I explain step by step how to setup a Twitter account, how to use free tools to create a targeted list of followers, how to communicate with them and how to maximize the power of Twitter to promote your restaurant. I included lots of screen captures to help you with the whole process. I think you’ll love it, and the best of all, it will be very inexpensive.

I will announce here when it’s ready.

Have a great day,
Jose L Riesco (www.twitter.com/jlriesco )

Converting Prospect Into Loyal Restaurant Clients

Every time a new person walks in the door, your front of the house personnel (hostess or servers) should have been trained by you to approach them and ask them if this is their first time in your restaurant.

“Is this your first time in our restaurant?  Well let me tell you about us…”

Ask your staff to pitch about the restaurant, about you, how did you started, where did you get the recipes, anything that it’s personal and differentiates your restaurant from your competitors (and by the way, this is the perfect place to pitch your Unique Selling Proposition to your potential and future clients.)

The purpose of this buyer education is to create brand loyalty. Once your clients build a relationship with your restaurant, they are more likely to visit your place than your competitor’s. 

By knowing more about you and your business, you personalize their relationship and their loyalty with your restaurant.

This is why it’s also a good idea to have an online (or printed) quarterly or bimonthly newsletter so that you can give your clients interesting information about your place, your staff and your cuisine.

Restaurants Create Memories

Last week I was listening to my local NPR (National Public Radio) station. They were interviewing Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson about the closing of Trattoria Mitchell, a 32 years old restaurant located in the old Seattle neighborhood of Pioneer Square.

She was describing how sad she was that this old restaurant was closing because she fondly remembers her first dinner in that restaurant with her boyfriend when she moved to live in Seattle.

Yes, restaurants create memories. They are not just places where people go to fill in their tummies or have a drink. They are places where people go to have a conversation with friends, to share a good meal with people who they like and appreciate, to have a good time…

This is why it is so important that you focus your energy in creating great memories for your customers. Once you can provide your clients with emotions that they associate to your place, you will have won their hearts and souls forever.

This is also why it is so devastating when they don’t get the experience that they are looking for. If instead of a good memory shared with people that they care, they get a bad experience, in their minds that bad experience will multiply a hundred times. They will exaggerate small issues that for you are perhaps not that important and will become your worst critic.

They are not thinking logically, they are thinking emotionally and emotions provoke very strong feelings. You must try to mitigate any negative feelings by compensating your clients so that they come back to your place again and give you a second chance to give them an emotional experience.

Only this way you will have repeated clients willing to give you their money on exchange for a good time at your place.

Never let a customer leave your place unhappy. They won’t come back and won’t forgive you for giving them a bad experience.

How Newspapers Going Out of Business Impact Your Restaurant Marketing

The Seattle Post Intelligence, one of the two still remaining daily newspapers in the Seattle area, just published the following (bad) news:

“After 146 years of delivering news, the Seattle P-I faces becoming what it has chronicled: history. The Hearst Corp., said Friday that it has put the paper up for sale, and it will stop publishing unless someone buys it in 60 days.”
 
This is not the first and won’t be the last newspaper to bite the dust. And what does this have to do with your restaurant you may ask?
 
Plenty, please bear with me and keep on reading.
 
This is the sign that more and more people are looking for their news online (actually the Seattle PI is thinking about having a Web only presence) and buying less and less newspapers and printed magazines.
 
PC Magazine was another casualty of the Web. They’ve stopped printing their magazine (to which I was a subscriber) in January 1st this year and they have an only Web presence now.
 
The reason why the printed media is becoming extinct is because their main source of revenue: advertising is dying.
 
Most newspapers and magazines can’t cover costs by selling them to their readers or subscribers. The revenue making piece is (or was) their advertising. Since more and more advertisers are taking their business online, the traditional media is getting less and less revenues from their printed versions.
 
Consider the damage that online classified ads such as Craiglist (free for everyone to post and read most of the ads) has done to newspapers where people used to pay quite a lot to run an ad. All the sudden people are not paying anymore for posting printed ads since they can reach an even larger audience and change the ads on the fly (or retract them once they sell the items). And the best part is that they can do all of this for free!
 
Now, going back to your restaurant. This should hint you several important trends for your businenss:
 
If you ares till spending money in printed ads (in newspapers, magazines and yellow pages, for example), you are probably wasting your money and reaching less and less of your potential customers.

  • You must have an online marketing plan with as many as the following offerings as possible:
  • A streamlined and excellent website
  • An email list of your clients where you send them updated information about your restaurant
  • Presence in Social Networks such as FaceBook or MySpace
  • A Twitter account where you send updates, discounts and interesting news to your followers
  • Online booking system
  • etc.

Your customers are online. They go online to look for news, for reviews and for recommendations about restaurant. You better be online as well to check what they are reading and commenting about your place.

There are things that you can do to improve your reviews and ratings but above all, you must always keep your clients happy and provide them with excellent food and service. Compensate them for any mistakes or issues and don’t even give them a reason to write a bad review about your place.

An online bad review will mean a loss of potential customers who will read the reviews and decide to take their business elsewhere.

Reviews are also a great direct feedback. Try to respond to it and take action so that you won’t repeat the same mistakes again in the future.

So there you have it.

Always be alert about the continously changing marketplace and try to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to adverstise and market where your customers are.

Statistics tell us that most of them are online now so you should be there as well.
 
Happy sailing,
Jose L. Riesco

Restaurant Marketing Top 20 Questions and Answers Free Videos

Hello everyone,

Today, after a long and hard work, I finally managed to finalized and upload to my website 20 videos (actually there are 3 extra ones but these don’t count) with questions and answers about restaurant marketing.

You see? For several months now I’ve compiled questions and concerns that restaurateurs, just like yourself, asked me when they subscribed to my free Restaurant Marketing Strategies Newsletter and Book Summary.

Then, I’ve categorized the questions and selected the top 10 questions that restaurateurs asked me. To answer the questions, I’ve created 10 short videos (2 to 5 minutes each).

But I still wanted to do more to help you with your marketing, so I decided to create another 10 videos with the top questions that restaurateurs should ask me about Restaurant Marketing and my answers to these. These 10 additional Questions and Answers follow the chapters of my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book.

So the total number of videos is 20 and the best of all is that they are all free for you to get.

That’s right; you just need to go to my website www.myrestaurantmarketing.com and enter your name and email and you will get right away the first video as well as my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book Summary.

You will also get subscribed to my Restaurant Marketing Strategies monthly newsletter.

I hope that you find the videos useful. Again, they are all free for you.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco

Having Other People Writing Content for Your Restaurant’s Blog, Website or Newsletter

So you have a website and, since you have done your homework, you have also a subscription form where you capture your visitor’s names and email on exchange from some freebies or discounts to try your restaurant (because you do this don’t you?).

So now what can you do with all these names and emails?

Well, of course, you are going to send them newsletters, or emails or refer them to your blogs to keep your restaurant fresh in their minds.

But, who has the time to write all the content for the newsletter or blog?

You can write some of it, specially if you talk about your new staff, your offers, events or any other special celebration that happens at your place since this is your turf as the restaurant owner or manager.

So what can you do if you don’t have any event or special celebration or any other interesting news to share with your clients?

Easy: you can borrow content.

Yes, that’s right; there are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers out there who write regularly (unfortunately I am not one of them, I should dedicate some more time to write my blogs) and will be more than happy to share their content with you, on exchange for a link in your website or acknowledgment of their contribution

Whatever topic you can think of, there are somebody in the blogosphere writing about it.

So think about topics that you can include in your regular emails or newsletters, or if you have a blog yourself, in your blog.

For example do you have an ethnic restaurant? Then you can write about your country, or your specific region or about some interesting information about the foods and drinks that you sell in your restaurant.

What about if you have an all American restaurant or a fast food place? You can still write interesting facts about your area, recipes related with the food that you serve, etc.

So where can you find bloggers willing to share their stories with you?

Fortunately there are many resources available in the Web that can help you find the perfect blog for your content.

You may want to check out http://www.blogcatalog.com/ it is one of the largest blog directories on the Internet.

If you want to use the king of search engines, Google also has a blog specific search engine. You can find it at: http://blogsearch.google.com/

Another popular way to search the blogosphere is Technorati. In their directory at: http://technorati.com/blogs/directory/ you can find a Food and Wine category that can help you out.

These are just a few examples, there are many more. Just do a search, browse the blogs and, when you find one that talks about topics that you think would be interesting for your clients, contact the blogger and offer to publish their blog in your site/newsletter/email/website on exchange for full credit and a link to their own blog. Most of them would be very happy to do so.

So here you have it. Keep in touch with your clients and get free content to share with them.

This is a win/win proposition.

Happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Follow me in Twitter: http://twitter.com/jlriesco

Your Restaurant Marketing Needs to Be Creative in This Economy

In an economy where many people are trying to reduce spending, going out to eat is probably one of the first expenses to cut. Many restaurants are feeling the slowdown and seeing their revenues plummet these days.

So what can restaurateurs do to bring customers back?

First, let me tell you what you shouldn’t do: You shouldn’t reduce your marketing efforts to save money. Notice that I’ve said marking efforts, not marketing expenses.

Most restaurateurs are spending a lot in marketing without getting a good return of their investments. They are basically wasting their money.

So first thing that you need to do is sit down and look at all your marketing expenses. Make a list and eliminate the ones that you can’t measure and test. If the results are not tangible, you shouldn’t spend your money on them.

Next, categorize the rest starting with the ones that work the best and make sure that you keep on investing in these ones. Cutting down effective marketing campaigns is a big mistake in times of crisis, when customers need to hear from you more than ever.

Finally, try to come up with creative new marketing ideas that can bring you results and don’t need big investments.

Think for example how can you motivate your current customers so that they come back to your place. What incentives can you give them to bring them over again and again? Most people think coupons but there are many other mechanisms to keep people coming to your place. Here you have a few ideas:

  • Create a wine club and offer discounts in selected wines to your best clients.
  • Offer to reserve their favorite table if they book the place right after they finish their meals and before they leave your restaurant. Many people really love to have dinner in a specific table.
  • Make easy for them to make reservations via your website, OpenTable, Twitter, etc.
  • Offer them a special dish and tell them that it is not available to the regular customers, only to select clients (just like them). You can have a special dish made just for your best clients. People love to feel special.
  • If they don’t drink a whole bottle of wine, offer to give them a good wine by the glass that you normally don’t serve. You can use the same bottle for your frequent clients. Pick a good quality wine and don’t overcharge them for it. You can even charge them to just make a little profit. The idea is to attract them back so that they have a motivation to come to your place.

These are just a few ideas. As you can see, they don’t cost much to implement and can motivate your best clients to come back to your place.

Do you have more ideas? Share them in the comments field.

Happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Restaurant Inefficiencies

Yesterday I went with my wife to meet some friends in the bar of a restaurant. It was Friday night and, although the crisis, the bar was packed. Perhaps because it was 5:15 p.m.: Happy Hour time.

The bar was just next to (and open to) the, restaurant, which was almost empty, just two tables were busy. So we went around trying to find our friends but they weren’t there yet. One restaurant manager came to us and told us that if wanted to enjoy the Happy Hour, we needed to wait in line. There was already a line of people forming by the entrance.

I politely asked the manager why they didn’t use the restaurant space, since it was empty and was still too early for dinner anyway. They could sit people there and tell them that happy hour will finish at 6 p.m. (which it did) and after that time they needed to leave the restaurant area and relocate to the bar if tables were needed. Probably by 6 p.m. many of the people in the bar would be done anyway because it was the ending time of the happy hour.

I thought that this was a fair agreement and we would be totally willing to take it. However, the guy looked at me like I was speaking Klingon. “Sorry Sir”, he told me, “but we can’t do that. The restaurant is for dinner only”. He took our names and asked us to wait.

Obviously, most of the people who were sited to enjoy the Happy Hour just arrived so they weren’t going to leave anytime soon.

Many of the people in the line behind us started to leave the place. Many other people came, asked, and then when told that they will have to wait also left.

One of our friends came and we talked about going somewhere else. Since we were next in line, we agreed that she will leave and looked around to find available space. Five minutes later, she called us and told us that she found available tables in a restaurant located one block from there. Of course, we also left the place and join her over there.

Now, think about it. This place had plenty of people leaving because they didn’t fit in the bar. It also had around 40 empty tables “waiting for people who may come or not for dinner”.

They were leaving money walking out the door!

Does this make any sense to you? It surely doesn’t make it to me.

They were blindly following some nonsensical rule that dinner tables were only for dinner, and letting people walk away while having empty tables. It would’ve been so easy for them to follow my recommendations and use the restaurant space… Instead, they preferred to stick to their guns and let people leave the place unhappy.

Now, if you follow my blogs, newsletters or read my book, you know how important is for restaurants to make their clients feel happy and special.

Do you think that they accomplished that? I don’t think so, I’m surely won’t go back to that place.

There is plenty of restaurants with bars and happy hours to make me happy without to be waiting in line next to empty tables.

Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

How Customers Are Looking for Restaurants

If you think that your potential customers will find your restaurant in the Yellow Pages, think again.

First watch this video, and then keep on reading…

Did you get it? People, (and not only young people, this also includes your potential customers) go online to look for places to eat. No more browsing in the paper ads or opening the thick yellow book. No Sire.

The Web not only provides them with information regarding the offers around them, but also gives them a map with the location, photos of the place, directions to get there and the most important, opinions from other people about the restaurants.

You can spend fortunes in marketing printing ads in newspapers and magazines, buying half pages (or whole pages) in the Yellow Pages, advertising on the radio, etc. but nobody really cares. Your customers are not looking there, they are looking online. They use the Web to search for the best places to eat.

So what can you do to attract them to your restaurant? Simple; have a great website with lots of useful information (I wrote an article about web presence in one of my monthly newsletters. It is called Restaurant Online Marketing. You can also find other interesting archived newsletters in my website, here: Archived Newsletters

But more important, have great reviews from anybody who goes to eat at your place.

And how do you do that? The answer is simple in words and difficult in execution: Make everybody who goes to eat at your place very happy. Exceed their expectations. Deal with any potential issue generously and never, never argue with a client, even if they are wrong. You will regret it later on because they will let the whole world how bad your place is.

And guess what all these people who are looking for restaurants online will read? Exactly, how bad your place is.

Don’t make that mistake. Think about any complementary food that you need to give away as a marketing expense. Just make everybody happy and don’t give them any room for complains. This is the only way to have great online reviews, this is your advertising and all your marketing should revolve around this idea.