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Top Four Restaurant Marketing Tips

Aug 17, 2007
Successful restaurant marketing is a mix of art and science. As an industry, the restaurant business showcases a wide diversity of experience and inexperience. Some proprietors grow up in the family business and understand their restaurant as a work of the heart. Others come into the restaurant business out of a love or passion for fine food or wine.

Most importantly, what this diversity demonstrates is that there is no single perfect strategy for effectively marketing your restaurant. Instead, it takes careful deliberation and constant refinement.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; instead, I would like to highlight the top four areas that our restaurant marketing program focuses on in order to grow your business:

New Clients
Returning Clients
Check Size
Staff

Let's look at each of these to understand how to approach your restaurant marketing strategy:

New or first-time clients are guests who have never visited your restaurant before. These guests are by far the most expensive clients you will acquire, as you have to cut through the advertising clutter to gain some element of interest or desire in order to get them to visit you. Nevertheless, new customers are the foundation for a successful restaurant, and any marketing strategy must include at least a small emphasis on generating new visits.

How to get new clients?

In order to generate new clients, it's important to combine strategic promotions with compelling advertisements and appealing restaurant. First off, and perhaps most obvious, is to ensure that people walking past your restaurant see a clean, bright, inviting location. But how to get people who aren't walking by to stop in? Forget about big, brash, expensive advertising in television or radio. When you get right down to it, great restaurant marketing is all about the offer!

I am a strong proponent of advertising in local papers; usually local papers have a loyal readership and are fairly inexpensive to advertise in. As a small restaurant owner, this is exactly what you're looking for.

So what should your offer be? Something free. It doesn't have to be expensive, but offering a free appetizer, dessert, or beverage goes a very long way to getting people interested in visiting your restaurant for the first time. Once they are there, and have enjoyed your menu, the atmosphere and the outstanding service, you're on you way to creating customers for life.

Also, keep in mind that it doesn't matter how good your offer is, you're going to need to repeat it several times before your see any real traction. Throughout your advertising, it's important to track all of your results: monitor which days people come in, which day of the week is the best for putting out an advertisement, and track which offers generate the greatest response. Over six months, you will have a great deal of experience that will help you advertise your restaurant effectively for years to come.

The second area to focus on is returning customers. There is no sure-fire way of guaranteeing a satisfied customer will return, but there are several things you can do to increase the likelihood they will come back.

The most powerful thing you can do is make sure the experience is memorable. A memorable dining experience is something guests will share with family and friends, ensuring a constant stream of new and returning clients.

So, how do you create that "memorable" dining experience? Three things will help: provide outstanding customer service, provide a well-rounded and unique menu, and ensure your restaurant is clean and appealing. Make it a no-brainer for customers to come back by offering loyalty rewards, or even more simply, by personally thanking them and inviting them come back as they leave.

As mentioned, it is much easier to get an existing customer to return than to get entirely new customers. There are two reasons for this: they have already demonstrated a propensity to purchase your type of food, and you have their attention when they are sitting in your restaurant. Existing customers are your most valuable resource and should be treated with the highest regard.

So, now that your getting customers in the door, what next? The next step is to increase average check size. A good way to look at check size is to average it out by person at a table. Once you know how much your average per-person check size is, it can be a relatively easy process to increase your restaurant's sales by targeting very specific increases to how much each individual sells. For example, a very powerful technique is "up-selling" or offering menu suggestions or add-ons. If a guest orders a burger, ask if they would like guacamole; if they simply want water to drink, ask if they'd like bottled or spring water. Small, incremental sales such as these can add 10 to 15 percent to a bill, which will have a noticeable impact on your bottom line.

Finally, one area that ties all the others together is staff. Your staff is the face of your restaurant; they can be the reason a first visit is memorable, the reason why customers come back time after time, and the way to increase overall restaurant sales. So the lesson is, take the time to select great staff who will be passionate about your business. And make them partners to your success: train them effectively, listen to their suggestions, and monitor their sales results on a regular basis.

All things considered, there is a great deal of variability in what is successful restaurant marketing. Typical restaurant marketing budgets should consist of 5% to 7% of your sales, and should be directed at the most cost-effective mediums. And if there's one thing I will emphasize over and over it is this: test, test, test. No advertising campaign is perfect from the start, so monitor results as you get your message out.

Finally, don't get caught following the crowd. Just because you see big national chains spending large amounts of money advertising doesn't mean you should. Mass media advertising often provides a dismal return. Instead, focus on community-level advertising, increasing the frequency of visits, and increasing average check size. Remember these core elements and over a period of time you will inevitably see your overall sales results increase.
About the Author
Michael Lee-Smith has been creating effective restaurant marketing programs for over a decade. Learn more about how you can succeed at restaurant marketing at our website http://www.myrestaurantcoach.com.
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