Marketing Your Restaurant: Part I

Aug. 15, 2005
"Get 'em in the door the first time. Bring 'em back again and again." How often do we hear that type of rhetoric from restaurateurs to retailers? We often overlook the fundamentals of marketing our business; using the term Marketing, we're not speaking of newspaper advertising, or advertising in the Yellow Pages—radio or television promotions, or online ads on local ISPs—but the Marketing that our restaurants practice—day in and day out. All of these constitute elements of marketing, but not Marketing the Business.

Perhaps you're confused.

I'll admit, when I asked one of my newest Managers what he was doing to "Market" his restaurant, he immediately tapped into his daily changes on the readerboard; his use of the local radio station to tap into promotional activity and giveaways, and his advertising tie-ins supporting the national ad calendar.

All these responses were great, but were—unfortunately--the wrong answers to the right question.

When we speak of Marketing your business, we're seeking the true holistic Marketing of your business: It consists of anything you do to impact the image the consumer has of your business—and it starts at the front, in the parking lot—and goes all the way beyond the dumpster area to the back of the landscape.

Wait a minute. Surely, I'm not going to tell you that Marketing means keeping the landscape and exterior of your premises in top-notch shape, too, am I? You bet I am!

And next, you say, "you're going to tell me that Marketing means keeping the rest rooms spotless; making sure the HVAC vents are clean—even keeping the light fixtures cleaned and spotless?" That and even more.

I'm going to tell you all those various items complement the overall Marketing image of your premises—and the image they convey to the consumer. If we don't view our locations as the customer views them—from the front/back—from the outside/in—and from the inside/out—we're not doing the job to "Get 'em in the first time" or "Bring 'em back Again and Again."

Whenever you lose sight of the element of overall customer satisfaction, you've lost the war.

Think about this.

No matter how many small battles we win with great employee selection, great customer service, beautiful product presentation, a great new menu mix of flavors with great new product ticket boosters and extension items—if we don't get 'em in the door, none of this makes any difference in top line sales generation.

Remember this, if nothing else: The satisfaction index starts at the curb or the property line, and builds in the mind of the consumer.

Making the assumption you understand what the Marketing of your business is all about, let's talk about ways to increase sales through better and more focused Marketing.

Sales increases can and do come in a variety of ways, but in our Consulting practice, we generally focus on two key elements: either increasing trial, or increasing frequency.

Increasing trial means getting more customers in the door that may have never "tried" your restaurant; increasing frequency means bringing them back more frequently—more often—to enjoy what you offer.

Most benchmarking studies measure the frequency of the average guest visit in User Occasions. An average restaurant might receive 1.7 Visits per month from what is classified as a "regular" user. If we are able to increase that average to 2.1 User Occasions per month, we will see a substantial sales increase from the property. If we're taking a Balanced Scorecard Approach in computing profit, and assuming all other financial variables remain equal or only slightly increase, the percent of profit generated will increase.

Conversely, if you develop Marketing materials designed to stimulate trial, you have the opportunity to convert a zero user occasion customer to a positive number. The best aspect of trial generation is where you may have "rejectors"—customers whom, for whatever reason, may have tried your restaurant and have planned never to return; customers that don't like the appearance, or the long lines, or the exterior colors---or the menu. They may have visited on an "off" night or they may have entered the restaurant and not liked the ambiance.

Let's think first about how to increase trial of your restaurant.

Increasing trial generally requires a targeted advertising promotion, some type of sales promotion or PR element, or some type of direct customer contact such as a Direct Mail or flyer.

 Think of it in this way. A customer may not know about you. How will you tell him who and where you are and how great your food tastes?

For those that say advertising doesn't work, let me assure you that I have a friend--a bankruptcy Attorney—who will be the first to tell you how wrong you are. If your business is not successful, and the premises and equipment must be sold, how does he make the public aware of it? Through advertising. There are reasons that national chains require a percentage of sales to be contributed to advertising. It works.

Results of various promotions stimulating trial are subjects of continuing discussion among experts. Email us and we'll offer you some insight from our 20+ years of experience.

How well do you know your current customers?

There are probably 500 different frequency builders available in the marketplace which have been tried and proven. Knowledge of what elements are bringing customers to your door will assist in development of successful frequency building promotions. Successful frequency promotions drive customers to your door again and again because they're happy customers—not because they're displeased. Learn about and embrace those elements which make your customers happy.

In our next segment, we're going to take the holistic view of marketing to the 30,000 foot level, in "Make Sure Your Guests are Flying With You When They Leave."

Topics: Food & Beverage , Marketing

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