What small operators have that the giants don’t

Aug. 3, 2011 | by Tim McCallum
What small operators have that the giants don’t

While attending the W.I.S.E. Summit in Chicago last week, I listened to some of our greatest examples of entrepreneurship and success from the likes of:

  • Richard Melman, founder and chairman of the board at Lettuce Entertain You
  • Drew Nieport, founder of Nobu
  • John Schnatter, the Papa John himself
  • And Antonio Swad, my good friend who takes Pesos for payment at Pizza Patron.

They are all geniuses to me -- a boy who grew up in less than modest surroundings. I could only be in awe of their accomplishments and continued innovation in food and customer experience. From pizza and grilled halibut to peppers and asparagus, they were so passionate it made me proud to be a restaurant owner and operator.

On my plane ride home to Dallas, I had time to reflect on what made them successful and what makes my small pizzeria a local success. I honed in on one topic mentioned by the masters --innovation and responding to the younger generations.

Hmmm ... what does that mean?

I realized one thing they all were missing after further contemplation. None of them had a great mobile presence. The younger demographic was likened to the Holy Grail, but technology was another man's issue to conquer or a staff issue. How can a giant have an inferior mobile program to the local pizzeria? Well, they will say it's their size, vast infrastructure, mountains of employees or the learning curve, testing processes or simply the lack of time to handle what they perceive to be a complex problem. They are simply underutilizing a powerful marketing tool to reach America's youth and they don't even realize it.

This is YOUR opportunity to compete.

Today there is a lot of talk about mobile, but few realize the youth of America will reach and exceed the 100 percent penetration mark soon. How is that possible? Because penetration is measured by who has a cellular device. When the population from 14-25 has an iPod and iPad, they exceed 100 percent, and we are headed for that mark within a few years. This group already accounts for two-thirds of all wireless usage.

So what do we do?

Go Mobile! Get a mobile program. Start with SMS, and use couponing. Couponing in pizza is the No. 1 driver of sales (unfortunate but true). Next, find an off the shelf app for online ordering if you haven't already. No need to break the bank, but spend about as much as one direct mail campaign to invest in creating an on-going relationship with consumers. I do it, and it means big savings, tens of thousands of dollars a year in costs and even more in sales. Last, don't be like the giants. Your costs are not as low, your marketing budgets are not as big and your TV commercials are not as good -- if you can afford them.

You have something the giants don't ... YOU! You don't have the staff to get in the way or the years of experience to scare you away from technology. You can make it all happen in one afternoon. In the end, your one afternoon will help you turn those phones into tools and your money into table turns and pick up orders. Cha-ching!

Topics: Marketing, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Operations Management

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. wwwView Tim McCallum's profile on LinkedIn

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