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

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.

Hungry

Seth Godin has a really good blog call Hungry. You can check it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/11/hungry.html

If you don’t know Seth, he is the bestselling author of more than seven books. He writes about marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. (This bio is taken from his Squidoo page). I really recommend you to subscribe to his blog since he usually posts really insightful and interesting information.

The point that he makes in his blog Hungry, is that people are not really hungry most of the time. They just want to experience the satisfying feeling of fullness or the satisfaction that people associate with eating good food.

If we extrapolate this idea to the restaurant business, your restaurant provides (or should provide) your clients, not only with food to fuel their bodies, but with an emotional experience to satisfy all their senses (yes, with emphasis on the senses of taste and smell, but without forgetting the rest).

This is why it is so important to appeal to your clients’ five senses all at once:

  • Sight: With beautiful and tasty decor and ambience. Put some art if you can afford it, and above all, have your place spotless clean.
  • Hearing: Have some good background or live music to make their dinning experience even better.
  • Taste: The key one for obvious reasons. If your food is not good, the rest doesn’t matter really.
  • Smell: Closely related to taste and specially appealing if you are selling good wines or other aromatic foods and drinks.
  • Touch: This one is interesting. The quality of your silverware, your plates, your glasses, your tablecloths (if you have them), napkins, etc. they all contribute to the overall experience.

Most of the restaurants provide satisfactory experiences to at least two or more of the senses, but not many restaurants are able to provide with the whole experience to all senses simultaneously. Some of the best restaurants in the world are considered best not only for their exquisite food or drinks but because they appeal and massage all senses at the same time.

Only when you can pamper all 5 senses at once, you will move from the category of good restaurant to the category of excellent restaurant. You will provide your clients with an “incredible dinning experience”, a experience that they will remember and tell all their friends and relatives giving you the best advertising that you can get anywhere.

Give it a try. Look at your place and make a list of things that you can improve to appeal all the senses. You don’t need to spend a fortune, just be thoughtful and think how can you improve the sensorial experience of your clients. You both will be happier. I guarantee you.

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

How the Crisis is Affecting the Restaurant Industry

A good friend of mine who owns an upper scale small family restaurant called me in panic. The business is slow, in fact it is so slow that she was afraid that she will have to lay off people because her cash reserves were getting depleted.

It is true that with this uncertain economy, with the stock market collapsing, the sub-prime mortgage down the tubes and the credit taughter than titanium, sometimes it seems like the end of the world.

So what can a restaurateur do to keep the business going?

The best course of action is to focus on the bases. Yes, the economy is not good, yes people go out less and eat less in restaurants because they have less money (specially if they invested in real state or the stock market) or they are just afraid that the economy will collapse and want to save some money… but you know what? This is more an emotional reaction than a real depression with lots of jobs being lost.

Most the people are still keeping their jobs and there is always enough people who go out to eat to fill in your restaurant IF (and this IF is really important in these taught times) provides them with something better than your competitors.

In easy times it easy to make money by just about anybody with a business. People are happier to spend their money when the economy is vibrant and there is plenty to spend and they are less picky where they spend it.

However, turn the economy around, just like now, and people start watching really careful where they spend their hard earned dollars. If they decide to go out for dinner, they better hand pick a restaurant that it will guarantee them a great dinning experience.

This is where your restaurant should shine and set apart from your competitors. Focus on your clients with a laser sharp intensity. Make their dinning dollars count by giving them the best food, best drinks and best service that you are able to provide at your place and they will be grateful to you and come again looking to repeat that great experience.

Also, don’t skimp in your marketing. this is a mistake that many restaurateurs do. In times of crisis, they start cutting down their marketing and sales effort and this brings less clients and less revenue.

Try no to panic and run your business the best you can. This is the only way you can weather these stormy times. Hang in there and wait for the economy to recover and people to come back to eat at your place.

Good luck!

Marketing Your Restaurant in a Slow Economy

It looks like you can’t turn on the radio or TV these days without hearing about the crisis of the economy and recession in the country.

If you just listen to these (bad) news, it looks like the sky will fall on top of our heads any minute now. Restaurant business is a economy driven business and perhaps eating out is the first thing in the chopping list when people don’t have enough disposable income.

However, the good news is that there is always enough people to fill in your place if you don’t get scared and make the following 4 main mistakes:

  1. Reducing Your Marketing and Sales

⁃ This looks like a no brainer. If the business is slow, you need to beef-up your marketing, not cut it down.
⁃ However most restaurateurs make the mistake of reducing costs by reducing their marketing investments. Please notice that I am not proposing to spend more money in marketing. There are many ways to increase your marketing presence while decreasing your marketing costs.
⁃ If you haven’t done so yet, setup a formalized referral system. This is the best and cheapest way to get and maintain quality clients.
⁃ You can find more information about referral systems in my free audio interview. Download here: http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

2. Cutting Corners in Quality to Save Money

⁃ You may feel tempted to cut down in the quality of your ingredients to save some money but, believe me, your clients will notice that the quality of your dishes is going down and then they will take their money to some of your competitors.
⁃ Because it is a slow economy, this also means that your clients will be more selective in their restaurant picks. Don’t lower your quality to save a few bucks. Your clients will resent it and so will you when they don’t show up anymore in your place.

3. Reducing Your Work Force

⁃ It is OK to adapt your work force to the needs of your restaurant, but don’t make the mistake to have so few people in your staff that your service will suffer. Great food and service are the cornerstones of any restaurant and you can’t afford to cut any of them.

4. Caring More About Saving Money Than Taking Care of Your Clients

⁃ Never forget what your restaurant is all about. It is all about your clients. Without clients, there is no business. Without business, there is no restaurant. Don’t ever forget that.

Your clients are the lifeblood of your restaurant and in tough times is specially important that you make them feel like royalty. If they are going to spend their hard earned money in your place, you better give them a great reason to do so. After a great dinning experience, they will be more likely to go back to your place than to give their money to your competitors.

This is it, if you can avoid these mistakes, you will be better off than many of your competitors. Don’t forget that there are enough clients to fill your restaurant. Only the restaurateurs that forget the basics and try to save money in the wrong places, will suffer the down turn of this always variable economy.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Restaurant Blogging Strategies

I’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they’re letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.

The Restaurant List Co.

I’ve just read a short article in the Orlando Business Journal (Yes, this is the beauty of the Internet, you can read about local news globally!) about two entrepreneurs that came up with an idea to create customized lists for hotels that cite restaurants by category with brief descriptions, addresses, phone numbers and maps, all updated on a monthly basis.

The Restaurant List Co. started in Nashville, Tennessee about a year ago and wants to include more than 100,000 restaurants and 12,000 hotels.

Their business model is to offer the list to hotels for free and make money in the back end from the restaurants that pay between $10 to $300 per month to be included.

So you think this a good idea? Should you advertise in this list if you city happens to be already included in their database?

My short answer is No, I don’t think so. I will explain why I think that this is a waste of money (your money) and why this is an almost obsolete idea in these Internet times:

  • The list will be distributed in hotels. This means that it will capture ONLY people who are traveling and therefore may go to your restaurant once in a blue moon. And this is assuming that they go to your place; remember, there will be hundreds of restaurant listed there! Now, if you are familiar with my restaurant marketing strategies, you know that I recommend cultivating your best existing clients and promoting for them to come more often and bring their friends and family versus expending lots of money trying to attract new customers. This initiative focuses exclusively in this expensive strategy.
  • People who frequent hotels, (at least that your restaurant is located in a turistic area) are usually business travelers. These are technical savvy people who will use the Internet to find good places to eat. With the proliferation of free user-rated sites such as http://www.citysearch.com, http://www.yelp.com, and other more prestigious sites such as http://www.zagat.com, http://www.restaurant.com, etc. who needs a printed list to chose a restaurant?
  • Since this list is on a per-pay model, any restaurant will be included, mixing high quality expensive restaurants with fast food places and making the clients confused about their choices.
  • Finally, if you really want to attract people who stay in hotels near your place, the best way to do it is to “bribe” the concierges. Offer them a complimentary meal once in a while and they will refer lots of people to your place for much less money than the monthly fee that you’ll have to pay to be included in this list

So there, this is my opinion of the whole idea. If you think that this would work for you, then at least try to track how many people will come to your place because of the list. Make the ad in the list so that the clients coming give you a code or something on exchange for some freebie. This is the only way to track the success of this marketing investment.

Remember, never invest in marketing if you can’t track its results! If you do nothing else and follow this golden rule, you will be way ahead of your competitors and invest wisely your marketing dollars.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Jose L Riesco

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.