Over the course of the past few weeks we’ve been diving into data looking for ways to improve our service. In doing so, I came to the realization that marketing is whole lot like being in the restaurant business. How do I know? Well I spent 5 years in the restaurant business doing everything from washing dishes to waiting tables. Now I spend my days trying to understand customer needs and product/service value then connect them. Creating a dish, serving it and getting a positive reaction and repeat business.
As the economy continues to recover, it’s estimated that the restaurant segment will grow this year slightly. 2012 wasn’t horrible for most restauranteurs but the sluggish economy kept consumers weary about eating out. Secondly, as healthcare laws kick in and food inflation continues to raise costs, it’s important for restaurants to be consistent with the basics of their marketing plan and to find ways to get more bang for your buck.
Assuming that you have a consistent, killer menu and provide a great customer experience what are the most cost-effective methods to promote your restaurant? Here are some of our suggestions:
1. Identify every instance your brand connects to a consumer and use it.
Entrepreneurs sometimes think that advertising a business means a newspaper ad, radio commercial or online advertising. Actually, any time your brand comes into contact with a consumer that’s advertising. From your outdoor signage to table toppers. Your waitstaff are valuable parts of your marketing mix. Make sure they are well trained and understand your menu and your entire company. If you really think about it, there are several free ways to spread your message.
2. Create things to talk about.
Is January Fajita Month? Or is Willie Nelson doing an unplugged concert in your dining room? Good restaurants keep creating ideas that generate buzz and drive people through the doors. Specials are always winners. Of course, everyone loves free. If it makes sense, do it.
3. Word of Mouth is changing but it’s the most effective way to communicate.
We don’t think of Word of Mouth as a media channel but it is. You can either be playing in that channel or not.
Word of Mouth is now all over the internet. From blogs to review sites. Your social media is becoming significant in forming opinions about your restaurant. By the way, 90% of moms between the ages of 18-36 are online and account for over 2 trillion dollars in buying power. That should tell you something on how you think about your online strategy.
Finally, don’t forget about creating loyalty programs. This is a great way to keep those customers coming back for more and having them spread the word.
4. Be a good business neighbor.
Do you have a community strategy? Are you working with your local elementary school or church? Do you even know who your neighbors are? Restaurants, now more than ever, have the ability to closely connect to their communities offline and now online. In most instances, these people become your core customers bringing friends and families to your business. Get that plan and work it!
5. Local is better.
I find it interesting how people who rely so much on local customers hire companies from other cities to do their marketing. Not only is using local or regional ingredients a popular trend, using local marketing and advertising resources is equally important. Being able to have your team in your city following local trends is so valuable to how quickly your marketing reacts. There might be opportunities that exist in your target that only those who live in the market would know about. Consider your marketers network and experience when hiring.
Of course we believe that if you sit down and build your marketing plan and devise strategies you can maximize your efforts and create buzz and generate sales. So get out there, work that plan or bring in a professional to get more bang for your buck.