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I was in my restaurant Friday, like most weekends, and I was talking to my regular guests and making special stops to get to know our newest customers. I just love to greet new patrons. Don't get me wrong, the regulars make it fun to be an owner, and when they call you outside of work to talk about golf, that shows you how your food fuels your life and relationships.

But when someone new comes in, how do we get them to trust us and be part of those relationships? I think through low pressure, self-guided marketing that creates a high impactive, one-to-one relationship. The ultimate trust is represented in their cell phone number. I have 10 times more cell phones numbers in my restaurant database than the industry average, and its growing. Here's how we do it:

This Friday, like every day, while the sun was up and we were getting prepared for a busy night, we prepared to market. Since I own a media company as well as my restaurant, we have an awesome text message platform. On each table we have a table tent with an instruction sheet on how to join. People text the keyword in, and they are signed up, and we give them a dessert as a thank you.

It's that easy.

Almost. To be successful and harvest those phone numbers, we do a few things differently than most. First, we prep to sell the low-pressure way. That means we make sure we let every guest know about the program on the table tent; we just tell them the instructions are there if they want to join -- no pressure -- and remarkably we get an amazing response. We add about 400 to 500 people per month in one location, when the industry average is about half that in total.

Lots of businesses are doing it, but most never get the return they expect. Even the likes of Brinker needs some help with low redemption and high opt-outs. My redemption is more than 40 percent on coupons and offers.

Here are my keys: First, keep it low pressure and stay away from gimmicks. Second, Prep! Have daily goals and tell your staff exactly what you want them to say and when (I like at the end of the meal). Last, whether e-mail, text or newsletter, you must Communicate, Congratulate and Compensate.

Remember, people want real offers, and to be told happy birthday, but they don't want to hear about your new fajita pizza -- unless you give them a deal on it. So keep sending those offers and watch the contact list build. Next time we will go in depth on my 3 C's. Happy Selling!

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Ed Zimmerman

    I think you are on the cutting edge of how to really connect with customers. It seems everyday there is new start-up with a goal to replicate the group buying experience. Our economy is difficult so "deals" rule, but in the long-run, Americans are independent minded and want an individual relationship. Keep it up Ed Zimmerman,
  • Matt Heres
    How do you redeem the dessert? Do you send them a coupon? Do you send them an email that they print and bring in? Does the patron show their cell phone to the server with the offer on the screen? How do you track it? (POS system or manually).
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Tim McCallum
All things mobile fuel Tim McCallum, president and CEO of Raze Media, a leading, cutting-edge mobile marketing solutions company. McCallum is also the owner and general manager of Vapiano, a unique Italian fast casual concept, in Mockingbird Station.
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