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Restaurant marketing strategies should start with Local Store Marketing and build outwards. Local Store Marketing, or marketing that directly targets certain groups of customers in the vicinity of the restaurant, is one of the cheapest types of marketing, but it boast one of the higher returns on investment. Because of the intimate way you interact with customers, a restaurant really cannot afford not to do this kind of marketing.
In layman’s terms, the idea of Local Store Marketing is to extend your restaurant’s brand into the community, building new relationships and solidifying others. When effective and well-planned, community-based marketing can introduce new customers to your restaurant while simultaneously ingratiating familiar customers. It may be time-consuming, but Local Store Marketing is a personal, tangible approach that improves your restaurant’s relationships with customers. It means catering an important meeting for free, or handing out coupons at a big event. It means sponsoring the little league team in your town that competes on a national level. It means intertwining your business with your community and its residents.
Indeed, Local Store Marketing takes time, but probably not as much as you think. The problem is that restaurant owners/managers head out into their community without setting clear objectives. For example, a restaurant owner should decide what of the four marketing aims they are after: new customers, greater visit frequency, increased party size, or larger checks per customer. I’ll cover them in the context of Local Store Marketing, suggesting what an owner should reflect on. At the end, I have a summary of Local Store Marketing’s applications.
As we established before, obtaining new customers are the most difficult of the four methods to grow a restaurant, and rarely deliver immediate results. Therefore, if done recklessly, it may waste the owner’s time and money. In short, any attempts directed solely at new customers need to be even the more effective and thought out.
Similarly, before you send out your marketing campaign into your community, a lot depends on if a restaurant owner has done his homework. Undoubtedly, a mistake often made is that restaurant owners forget to analyze who their current customers are in addition to identifying the potential groups of customers that will likely become long-term customers. Who does your restaurant appeal to? Along with that in mind, considering the demographics of the local community will assist in predicting your results and setting goals.
No matter the problems, bar none, Local Store Marketing is the strongest at bringing new customers into your restaurant. Here’s why. Rather than through an impersonal medium, or a deal for an unproven service, by using Local Store Marketing, you can, along with expanding brand awareness, put a human face on your restaurant.
Greater visit frequency, increased party size, and larger checks per customer take more subtlety and a keen eye. Observing and talking with customers can give you hints about how to proceed. Yet, if you can manage to motivate customers who come to your restaurant regularly to spend more money at your restaurant, it can cause substantial growth. While new customers functions like addition, positively changing the habits of familiar customers multiplies revenue.
What comes to mind first is loyalty or rewards programs. Yes, they are normally worthwhile because a little improvement is significant when its your regulars. But my opinion is that loyalty and rewards programs are too often formulaic and don’t get enough mindshare to really motivate customers in the way you might hope.
It comes down to this. Saving a couple bucks is a good motivator, a win win of sorts. But loyalty programs normally do not create an impression, do not generate a strong desire and do not truly change the customer’s relationship to the restaurant. So loyalty or rewards programs cannot do any harm, but without an expression of the restaurant’s personality, it’ doesn’t produce more than modest results.
Frequency and Party Size
A lot of Local Store Marketing intended to increase party size and visit frequency has to do with pride and identification. Pride is a social phenomenon. It’s someone bragging to friends or family that he or she knows the best Japanese restaurant. Other than exceptional food and service, a restaurant owner should look to the Unique Selling Point (U.S.P.). Give your customers a specific reason to justify their appreciation of your restaurant.
For restaurants, identification is the sense that the restaurant is “yours” (or even more powerfully “ours”). It’s like rooting for a sports team, but it can go even deeper. This kind of loyalty, where the restaurant becomes “our” diner, is quite durable and even ritualistic. Other than if the customer moves or he or she breaks up with the person they associate it with, it may go on for years, decades even.
For generating larger checks per customer, simple is best. My preferred method is bundling dishes together so that a customers buys more than they would otherwise. They buy the salad/soup with the entree because it’s only three dollars more. Bundling is a reliable way for a restaurant to encourage customers to spend more.
Upselling can also produce real results. As you may imagine, training of servers is the critical link here. Of course, getting them in the routine of upselling will be part of that training. However, you want to do whatever possible to stop it from becoming ritualistic. Don’t make upselling a mindless drill. Customers notice that the server is upselling when they, like a reflex, shoot out suggestions and add-ons when you order a dish. It’s easy of course when a customer asks for advice, but if a server is too fast or machine-like while trying to upsell, the illusion of the server trying to help the customer disappears, and the server, who is supposed to seem looking out the best interests of the diners, becomes just a representative of the restaurant’s bottom line. It’s important to train your servers to make upselling natural and not disturb the conversational tone when customers place an order.
As I only gave a short overview, there is much that can be done to market to customer once they are in the restaurant, but always prioritize relationships over selling, particularly with familiar customers.
Real Examples of Local Store Marketing
I will give you a rundown of basic ideas that may see how to incorporate Local Store Marketing into your overall marketing strategy. I will explore these ideas and many more in detail in the book version. You want your restaurant to be associated with causes or organizations that they value. Prominent charities or clubs come to mind. Putting aside a portion of the check for a charity that reflects your community’s values can show that your restaurant knows its existence is based not on profits but people.. A presence at big events where you give coupons and/or food donations can spread your brand. A visible sponsorship (you don’t want to be just another listed business), especially of a successful team, can push your restaurant into the public eye. Being active in your Chamber of Commerce raises your restaurant’s capital (though I would dissuade a conspicuous role in politics besides advocating for SMBs or restaurants). The simple things cannot be ignored. Streetside signage, if there is foot traffic outside your restaurant, is a must. Give passerbys something tangible, a dish, event or deal to think about. The temptation is to send employees and managers to events if it involves attending something off site. If you have a particularly charismatic and social representative, that’s fine, but customers are more impressed when an owner comes in person and serves as the face for their business. I lumped these ideas together. Some, like food donations and coupons at community events, target new customers. Sponsorship endears current customers, reminding them of your restaurant and with a little luck, giving them the chance to praise you in front of their friends. See what fits for your restaurant’s brand and customers, and with an effective Local Store Marketing strategy, you will become essential, vibrant part of your community.