BigHospitality puts one reader’s question about how best to market their business to restaurant consultant Victoria Searl.
Problem: “We get lots of excellent reviews from happy customers, mostly complementing us for our superb food but being based in Rotherham we’re not exactly on the culinary map. I want to know how best to get the word out about my restaurant.” Trevor Dakin, Rotherham.
Solution: If restaurateurs have an Achilles Heel, it’s more than likely concerning marketing, yet aside from the obvious requirements of sensational food, service and ambience it’s the most important piece of the jigsaw when operating a successful food and drink business.
A marketing and operations ‘audit’ can help provide an objective view of the business, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. Ask staff and customers for their input and be prepared to not like everything you hear. What are your expectations? Are you looking for a 15 per cent uplift in sales or a miracle? How much can you afford to invest, per month, consistently over the coming year? Marketing is a long term commitment.
You also need to know your business. Who is your target market? Has it changed since you opened? How much does your target market have to spend? How often do your customers visit and why?
Consider your marketing activity as being a combination of a strategic campaign, (with well planned opportunity and event driven activity throughout the year), and more 'reactive' marketing, (identifying short term weaknesses in trade and reacting to them quickly). Use a variety of platforms to create the biggest reach.
Start by making a calendar of events over the coming year, including university graduation days, local festivals and events as well as all the obvious opportunities. You’ll need to keep one step ahead as the really successful operators have made plans, defined the mechanics for each event and produced printed marketing support often months in advance. Christmas may be in December but offices start searching for venues once they’re back from the summer.
With research suggesting 76 per cent of people use the internet to search for restaurants, it’s clear a substantial chunk of your budget should be spent online, with email marketing and booking engines providing complete measurability, showing your exact return on investment.
Use tools such as Twitter and Facebook as well as listing and review sites to drive visits to your website as well as building real loyalty. Make your team and menu your in-house focus.
Tips for effective marketing:
- Don’t cut corners with your website. It’s probably your biggest marketing tool. Make sure your copywriting, design and photography is top-notch.
- Review your marketing constantly. It’s a fast changing market so make sure you’re still hitting the spot.
- Make connections. The florist down the road might visit you once a year but she talks to hundreds of people a month planning birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
- Get in the papers by raising money for charity or hosting a tasting event but try to avoid ‘novelty’. Let your food, drink and people be the stars.
- Be creative. If your area isn’t known for its gastronomy, get together with other restaurateurs to create a food festival, drawing in outsiders.
- Ask for help. Marketing companies can help with the bits you find the hardest like design or copywriting.
- Increase your reach. Have a homemade soup your customers can’t get enough of? See if your local deli might stock it.
- Always strive to increase footfall but don’t forget about sales per hour. Give people reasons to spend more.
- Make sure your staff know how every dish tastes. Few people believe an advert these days but most will believe a personal recommendation so get staff talking up those desserts.
Do you have a problem that needs solving? Send your questions for our panel of experts into us at firstname.lastname@example.org.