Restaurant Marketing: Effective Strategies for Acquiring New Guests in Your Community

Restaurants spend a lot of money every year trying to attract new guests. It is by far the largest portion of the marketing budget. Data collected from Tuee using over 30,000 data points, indicates that new guests only account for about 25% of a restaurant's total business on average.

What does this mean? It is not saying that attracting new customers isn't important, but perhaps you should be careful about spending too much time on it, if the effort does not equal the reward.

This unfortunate reverse example of the 80/20 rule, whereby about 80% of your efforts and marketing budget goes to only about 20% of your revenue generation. Think about that! Now think about how you can get out of this debacle, because new customers are important to keep your restaurant alive. Nonetheless, something that accounts for 25% of your revenue should probably only receive about 25% of your time and money, right? Keep reading if you want some quick and affordable ideas on how to attract new guests to your restaurant.

1. Partner with other local businesses
Many restaurants have successfully used other businesses to market their restaurants. Most often these other businesses are looking to create mutually beneficial relationships and are more than willing to work with you.

For example, your upscale restaurant could partner with a flower shop – let the flower shop include a subtle and stylish note on the table decorations in exchange for free or discounted flowers. An extension of this used to attract guests could be a "dinner for two" which includes keeping the romantic single rose that adorns the table.

Other ideas include go to the local bakery for a supplier. Granted it may be a little more expensive, even after negotiating a price, but let them put up a sign in the store to "Visit Mike's Seafood Restaurant for great meals using our signature bread" and you can make sure to mention them in the menu or a table card: "Tomato and Basil Bruschetta served on Mama's Home Bakery baguette slices."

2. Host Local Community Events
Get to know the local community and host some local events. This will allow the people locally to get to know who you are and earn you some brownie points as a business that helps out the community. People are often inclined to dine at businesses they have seen active in local community events.

For example, a sports bar/restaurant might partner with a local team to be their designated after-game drink location for their once-a-week games. No matter the sport, no matter the level. This will attract a few core customers who are likely to become repeat customers, but it will also bring a few new tag-alongs with each visit. Many of these customers are then likely to come back even when there is no game.

Other ideas include sponsoring a local high school sports team. Any restaurant could see if there is a rotary club you can work with or a PDA meeting that wants to avoid the monotonous classroom or gym for their meetings. You could also put a little more skin in the game by sponsoring a local high school sports team. Connect it to a healthy children initiative in your area. Let people know that your restaurant is a place where healthy food/living can be expected. Viola - successful marketing!

3. Host Combined Events with People who have a following
One of the best ways to promote your restaurant to new guests is to work with a well known local individual and provide them with a place to reach their audience. If possible, allow an influential person to host their event at your restaurant.

For example, if you are trying to attract affluent people and young professionals, you could host a comedy night and invite local comedians who will benefit from the exposure. The night itself should be profitable and the event will draw the right kind of crowd to become repeat customers.

Other ideas include having local associations do their weekly or monthly meetings at your restaurant, like the real estate group, or even the local restaurant association.

In conclusion…
These are mostly give and take strategies that are mutually beneficial. What in life isn't a give and take, right? Give 80% of your marketing budget to 20% of your business or spend a few hours in meeting local businesses to set up relationships that will pay dividends for a long time to come. The restaurant business is a human business. Don't let that stop with the server-guest interaction.

Get to know your guests and find out what they want. Many want a trusted source to recommend places, a partner to interact with in the community, and a venue to socialize with their friends and associates over a drink or good food.

This guest post written by Vikram Rao – co-founder of Tuee - redefining restaurant guest relations.



Restaurant Marketing: Top 7 Newsletter Issues You May Have Missed

Restaurant Marketing: Here are the top 7 restaurant marketing newsletter issues you may have missed these past few months – September and October.

Each were featured in WOW – The Intelligent Marketing Newsletter … For Intelligent Restaurant Owners.

  1. What Apple Just Introduced On Their iPhone & You Need To Take Advantage Of It, Now
  2. This Restaurant Is The Church Of The Customer Experience
  3. Why This Is The Most Fabulous Parking Lot Sign Ever
  4. This One Question That Will Determine If Your Restaurant Will Survive The Next 5 Years
  5. Winning The Battle Against The Mega-Chains. One Simple Strategy
  6. Take The 100-Day Dream Plan Challenge: Your Sales Will Soar
  7. Boring Newsletter?: How To Add Simple Animation

Restaurant Marketing: Top 10 Newsletter Topics You May Have Missed

Restaurant Marketing: Here are the top 10 restaurant marketing newsletter topics you may have missed while you were away this summer.

Each were featured in WOW – The Intelligent Marketing Newsletter … For Intelligent Restaurant Owners.

  1. If Starbucks Can Raise Their Prices, Then You Can Too
  2. Declaring Your Restaurant Independence
  3. Is Your Google Listing Hijacked?
  4. Employees or Customers: Who's First?
  5. What You Need To Know About "Local SEO"
  6. Your Online Listing Is Wrong: How To Check It
  7. Boring Newsletter?: How To Add Simple Animation
  8. StorySelling: The Burrito of Your Dreams
  9. Huge Restaurant Newsletter Tip Revealed
  10. The Best Social Media Review Tool Ever

Restaurant Marketing: Staff Replaceable Or Indispensable?

Restaurant Marketing: Who on your staff is replaceable, who is indispensable?
Employee turnover is one of the most critical issues in the restaurant and hotel arena. But what would you expect when a lot of restaurants hire people who are "replaceable" – people who have been hired simply because you urgently need staff; people who have been hired on the cheap; even hired people who have no idea what hospitality is, let alone not even it being part of their DNA.

Many restaurants are just paying people to "show up" – to open the doors, to serve food and to robotically say, "Is everything okay?" or "My name is John, I’ll be your server tonight." Anybody can be trained to do this.  

Since anybody can do this, these people are easily replaced, whether they leave on their own, or you let them go. And, when times are tough, these people are the first to go. Why? They don’t make a difference.

When people are replaceable, rather than indispensable, you're going to have turnover issues.

Woody Allen said 80 percent of success is just showing up. I disagree. The truth is that 80 percent of success is making an impact.

So, here's something novel: What if, instead of paying people just to "show up," their compensation plan was based on making a difference, making an impact or a connection with your guests and those in your community?

That’s when replaceable turns into indispensable. And that’s what building a championship team is all about – having a staff that's indispensable.



Restaurant Marketing: Are You Wowing With Words?

Restaurant Marketing: You can Wow up your presentation to your customers just by the words you use.

You say, “It’s just coffee!”  I say, “It’s hot, freshly brewed coffee.”

You say “cheesecake.”  I say, “Our rich, creamy New York style cheesecake that’s topped with strawberry syrup.”

You say it’s your “soup of the day.” I say, “It’s our original homemade vegetable soup.”

What do you do? Put Wow Words into your table presentation. Your
guests will have great pictures of what you’re talking about. And, if
you do it right, they’ll end up ordering whatever you want them to


Restaurant Marketing: It’s Tough To Describe Your Business

Restaurant Marketing: One of the toughest challenges is to describe your restaurant so it fits in the consumer's memory banks is is "rememberable." What does your restaurant do? What does it offer? What differentiates it from the competition so that you stand out from the others.

Here's what Panera says:  "At Panera, we celebrate bread every day. Think about
the way its smell intoxicates innocent bystenders. The way it brings crustiness
and softness together into one perfect bite. The way it balances other foods
with its warm, collaborative flavor, making them more than what they would ever
have been on their own. Everything we make, everything we serve, everything we
do to make you smile – it's all related. And it all starts with bread."


Restaurant Marketing: Just a Thought About Groupon

Restaurant Marketing: Instead of giving half of the money to Groupon, ($30 offer for $15, half of which goes to Groupon), why don't you just do the offer yourself to your database or a newspaper ad and keep the money? Although offering this to your current database won't help in new guest acquisition, it may be perfect for a special event, like a restaurant anniversary.

While there's a lot of controversy about Groupon, as I've noted in my subscription based newsletter "WOW," it seems that Groupon only works best to your advantage when you're targeting new guests outside of your trading area and you've got a concept where there's a huge opportunity for a good upsell.


Doesn’t Have To Cost A Cent To Increase Your Dollars

Last time I heard, it doesn’t cost a cent to smile and actually sit down and talk to a guest.

Last time I heard, it doesn’t cost a cent to go out and greet your neighbors with a hand-shake, your business card and some good conversation.

Last time I heard, it doesn’t cost a cent to speak in front of a group of 100 potential guests at a networking function.

Last time I heard, it doesn’t cost a cent to call a company on the phone and invite their staff to a special after-hours event.

Last time I heard, the only major cost of growing your business … is when you do nothing.


Restaurant Marketing: When Fresh This Morning Means Stale This Morning

Restaurant Marketing: Fresh donuts, fresh pastries, fresh coffee, fresh bread … ever asked HOW fresh? Went into a donut shop at 11am and asked how fresh were the donuts, before I ordered one. The counter person said, "they were baked this morning." I asked, "Does this morning mean 1am or 30 minutes ago?" Apparently it means 1am … which means the donuts were going on 10 hours old.

Which means "freshly-baked this morning" now means "freshly stale this morning."



Restaurant Marketing: Groupon Ain’t The Magic Answer

Restaurant Marketing: Contrary to what they may think and hear, the  Groupon concept is not for every restaurant. While the program is incredibly popular with customers – (what customer is going to turn down an offer to get a $50 steak for $20, or a $15 entrée for $8?) – you should be aware that it could potentially devastate your bottom line.

I delve deeply into this in my subscription based WOW newsletter that's specifically for restaurant owners who want to grow their business in an intelligent disciplined manner.