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Restaurant Marketing: Joel Cohen is a leading authority in restaurant marketing, hospitality marketing & retail marketing, coaching aggressive-thinking hospitality firms across the USA & Canada.


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Restaurant Marketing Wow Issue #519

Why Are Restaurants Infatuated With "Averages?"
  • What's with our love of averages?

  • I'm always hearing claims such as: Our average ticket is $50. Our average customer count is 2,000 a week; our average food cost is ? you know what I mean, and I can go on an on.

  • If you're measuring your business on averages, you're missing out on important warning signs ? and important opportunities.

  • Why are averages meaningless? The average annual temperature in Houston Texas, according to the US Climate Data is 69 degrees.

  • Sounds like a pleasant place to live until you dig deeper: seven of those months, the temperature is in the eighties, nineties and hundreds and in the winter it can be quite cool. Which means an average of 69 degrees is a misnomer and totally inaccurate as a measurement and a realistic description of Houston's weather. I know; I used to live there.

  • So, what's so special about average? Nothing. We know from a marketing and dining experience, average is boring.

  • From a metric point of view, it says very little other than to make you believe that a $50 average ticket is great. Or is it?



  • Rather than looking at the average, it's more meaningful to look at the distribution of the numbers. How many customers, in our example of $50 average, are spending $80 and more? How many are spending $20-$40?

  • Customers are not created equal, but by digging deeper, you can see there are opportunities: how do you get those spending less to spend more? What are you doing to get those spending more to increase their frequency to your restaurant?

  • You shouldn't market to both groups with the same message. If you do, you're working with averages in a business where there's no such thing as an average customer.



Want To Increase Profits? Read This & You'll Understand Why We Should Talk!

Restaurant Marketing: How To Be The "Only" And Own A Position In Your Customer's Mind

  • Restaurant marketing isn't only about promotions or giveaways. It's about developing a restaurant strategy to be re-memberable ... owning a position in the customer's mind with a message that's different and not already occupied in an already over-crowded customer memory bank.

  • For example, you're doomed if your position is based on "better product, cheaper price." That space is already overcrowded and cluttered; easily forgettable and lacks customer loyalty. That's one of the tenants of restaurant marketing.

  • One of the first critical steps in creating a restaurant marketing program is to develop an exclusive claim or position that you would like to own in the memory banks of your customers, and develop elements of your program around that claim.

  • One the best positions to take that solidifies your restaurant is being an "only."

  • Being an "only" puts you above every one else with a claim that has exclusivity. It puts you in the leadership category a position that has shelf-life in a customer's memory bank. Simple restaurant marketing: be memorable.

  • A number of years ago, I advised a western-themed casual steakhouse in South Carolina to develop a position. They were located along one of those restaurant rows with other brand-name steakhouses.

  • They didn't have a compelling claim to separate them from the others. Result: declining sales. I developed a position for them based on the fact that they were the only steakhouse in the area that sold a 40 ounce steak. Allowing me some creative freedom as they were a fun place to go, I developed this line:

  • Gabby's is the only restaurant in the Carolinas that features a 40 ounce Texas-size steak for hungry cowboys & cowboy wannabees ... who want to impress their cowgirls ... (and later added ...) and prove that they're a real man!

  • Here's the secret to the line. Note that it includes a benefit. Most would just say, "we're the only restaurant that serves a 40 ounce steak" but when you add the benefits, it becomes a much more interesting story to tell.

  • Take time to figure out your "only." Do you have a position, a claim to fame that's shareable? And, note, the position doesn't necessarily have to be about the food.

  • This is your exclusive weapon: If you don't have a position in your customer's mind; if you don't have an "only" - then let's talk about honest restaurant marketing that works.


Restaurant Marketing: How To Be The Successful In The Restaurant Business

  • To be successful, you should always be a student, seeking out and following those who already are successful.

  • Follow what they do; copy their strategies and tactics. The amazing things that amazing companies in every business category are doing are all out there to be seen, heard and even copied.

  • There's no greater guarantee of success than to model what you do after those who are already successful doing it. Restaurant marketing is consumer-based marketing and starts and ends with 'people.'

  • The Southwest Airlines Culture, Delta Airlines Strategy of Smiles, Mellow Mushroom's hiring special people, Angus Barn's Church of the Customer Experience, Tijuana Flats' Salute to the Vets are just a few of the many remarkable companies I've written about in my Wow Street Marketing Report - companies that have great "templates for success" - models that can be put into any restaurant concept.

  • I wrote about Uber's strategy for success: "Win every potential customer and you will attract an abundance of the most reliable drivers, which will cut wait times for customers, who will then become loyal Uber clients and by word of mouth attract still more clients." A strategy that's adaptable to your restaurant.

  • And Campbell Soup's strategy for success: "To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. We're obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center." A strategy also adaptable to your restaurant.

  • Look beyond the restaurant business because what is successful for one business category can be refined to fit your business. So, rather than wasting time and energy looking for the next big thing, just study what's working already. The Ritz Carlton's Gold Standard Of Hospitality can work for your restaurant. Starbucks pricing philosophy can work for you too!

  • Most interesting to note, the success of all these companies isn't defined by their product price or category. It's not the coffee, not the hotel, not the soup, not the taxi, not the airplane, not even the pizza or steak. The success is defined by the "experience." Your restaurant marketing mantra: "If it doesn't Wow, then it's boring."

  • The driving question on how you can be better has already been answered; it's already out there. All you've got to do is find it. I guarantee you, it's already staring you in the face. And if it isn't, then let's talk about honest restaurant marketing that works and what I've done for great companies like Landry's Seafood Restaurants McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Casa Ole and many many more.


Restaurant Marketing: What Are Your Restaurant Employees Worth?

  • What are your employees worth to you? Are they justifying their wages and enabling you to get a return? Or, are they scaring your customers away?

  • We all realize the importance of hiring great people who will be an asset to your restaurant. But it goes way beyond that. Those you hire should be an asset not only inside your restaurant, but outside and online!

  • Hiring great people is both an art and a science. There's no real magic formula and sometimes it's done by your best gut decision. While there are firms available to assist you with various testing, the real test is what happens inside the restaurant with customer interactions.

  • You can make your hiring much easier by noting that the best candidates are those that have previous experience -full or part-time - in the "caring and serving" industries, hospitals, hotels, airlines, non-profit organizations and even those who have participated in volunteer work.

  • They already understand the importance of "we're here to serve you" and have already embraced it as part of their DNA.

  • If you're hiring a part-timer who goes to college, there are some key points on their resume that you should focus on - yes, even without previous job experience, candidates must have a resume, so you can see their writing skills.

  • Look for, besides the obvious good grades, their involvement in university clubs and organizations. What clubs did they belong to? What role did they play? What club-level or NCAA sports did they play? What community service projects did they participate in?

  • Once your choice is made, one of the key parts that seem to be neglected is instilling a sense of pride in the employee that he or she is proud to be part of your team and is made to feel as an integral part of its success.

  • This pride is critical because it's at the heart of your employee talking about you within the community, to friends and family. It's at the heart of the employee boasting about you in a Facebook posting.

  • There's a lot that goes into hiring great people. And there should be. As a restaurant owner, your business is on the line with each interaction a server makes with a customer. And so is your judgment and hiring skills.

  • Take a look at each employee. What are they worth to you? Could they be worth more? What could they be doing better? What do they think of your restaurant? Have you instilled pride in them? What are they interested in? Which employees have a vision of what they want to do? Which have leadership qualities and are the best value to your business?

  • Having said that, should we get rid of the word servers and employees? Would "partner" be a better word? I'll leave that up to you. But, isn't this really a partnership between the restaurant owner and the employee, with you giving the employee the privilege to set up his/her own little business within the confines of your restaurant?


Restaurant Marketing: After 35 Years, Why The Grateful Dead Are Still Alive

  • All things being relative, few restaurants command the loyalty that the Grateful Dead has. Their concerts continue to sell-out, despite not having a hit record in years.

  • What's their secret to successful longevity? What do the Dead have that continues to attract thousands of fans to stadiums across the globe?

  • It's really no secret - they're doing things - and they've been doing those things since the 1980's (yes, the '80's) that restaurants should be focusing on today.

  • One would think the band's ability to still sell-out concerts is extremely challenging: their product being the "music" - today, people can easily save their money, stay home and listen to their songs on iTunes.

  • The first big factor to the Dead's success is this: the real reason for attending a Grateful Dead concert is the 'experience.' Without the 'experience,' there's no sell-out, no excitement, no word of mouth.

  • The second big factor to the Dead's success - they continue to give back to the community.

  • Starting in the flower-power Haight-Ashbury days of San Francisco, the Grateful Dead were always giving back to the community with various benefit concerts. In 1983, the band established the Rex Foundation, where they could channel many of their worthwhile community causes.

  • So, here's a band that originated in the drug-crazed days that still saw clearly enough to understand the benefits of giving back.

  • And 35 years later, they're still giving back. Result: there's still a huge loyal Grateful Dead following who are extremely grateful for what the band has done for various organizations.

  • The Grateful Dead provides two valuable restaurant lessons: While your product may be great and similar products may be available cheaper, faster or more convenient elsewhere, it's the 'experience' and how you make your customers feel, that will earn their loyalty to you.

  • The second lesson: Giving back is an important sign of caring. It shows you have a personality. It shows you have feelings. It shows you're not a food factory.

  • What to do about this? Get involved in a community program. Coordinate this effort with leaders in your neighborhood. Do it now. Do it before your competitor does it.

  • Why? Customers only care about you - when they know you truly care about them.