A rise in expendable income means diners are likely to eat out more, but this is no time to sit back and relax
It's never been more important for restaurateurs to get really good at marketing.
Customers are more choosy about where they spend their money and competition is increasing. They have more expendable income but also wider choice. With that comes an increase in expectation, increased cynicism and the need to see real value.
The key to successful marketing is to test and measure everything until you find the elements that work best. And that doesn't mean launching ad campaigns.
It means regularly making small, low-cost changes until you see results.
Doing the unexpected gets you noticed and helps to change how people think about you.
This, in turn, can lead to great PR and publicity, increasing your profile even further.
Happy staff are better at great customer service, which includes spotting sales opportunities. Treat your staff the way you want them to treat customers, and authorise them to go the extra mile to make sure your customers receive outstanding service.
If there is a simple side dish or larger portion you could offer for a slight price increase, customers will feel they're getting value for money and may be tempted to buy it again at a later date. Also, the fact that they didn't pay much for extra food generates loyalty and may compel them to return the favour by continuing to purchase from you; a natural obligation develops.
If your restaurant isn't located where your customers work and shop during the day, what about walking around with sample trays at lunch-time? Or inviting local businesses to attend tasting sessions straight after work?
Through your customer communications, you can provide information, reviews, reports and details to position yourself as an expert.
Communicating with customers more often could take the form of newsletters, emails, a website, mailshots, letters, advertising and PR, events, brochures and literature.
Do you have a dish or dishes that receive the most compliments? What about providing recipes online in return for contact details?
Customers often don't know the right questions to ask so help them out. Perhaps you could inform them about the sources of ingredients, special cooking techniques you use, or the health benefits of certain foods?
As part of your customer feedback process, you can establish what it would take for a customer to refer you and bring referrals when you know you are delivering to their standards. Loyalty schemes also provide a great reason to keep in touch with customers and invite them to exclusive new menu tastings or special events.
Do you have an entertainment licence? You could be showcasing local bands or hosting talent nights. By following the example of those successful people at Harry Ramsden's, you could even host the Welsh National Opera and transform a graveyard Monday night into a six-month waiting list.
If live entertainment isn't your thing, how about turning your quietest night into a venue for networking or speed-dating? You could even offer free desserts to couples who come back to you for their first date.
And the lure of joint ventures shouldn't pass you by. Who else has a relationship with your customers and prospects? If you serve Mediterranean food, for example, what about a joint venture with local travel agents, offering their customers a discounted meal on their return from a Mediterranean holiday?
You could work alongside bridal shops to host special pre-wedding parties, or cinemas and theatres to create the ‘perfect evening out'.
Why not try…
- Breaking down barriers between you and customers and let them sample your food for free.
- If your food is of the highest quality, cooked in unusual ways or sourced from exclusive suppliers, shout it from the roof-tops.
- Communication builds rapport, so keep in touch with regular emails, calls and mailouts.
- Find out why your customers like you. You can never know too much about why people buy from you, so make sure you know for certain and build on it.
- Do customers admire your unusual ashtrays, top quality pans or beautiful glasses? Why not let them buy keepsakes of your style.
- Make sure that your discounts are infrequent and have a specific purpose, otherwise the perceived quality of your restaurant could suffer. Are you offering special rates because of excess stock or to reward loyalty? If so, tell them why.
- Team up with other companies that your customers buy from and present them with a unique offer.
- Try something new. But don't stop doing anything that already works.