There is nothing more fear-inducing to a restaurant owner than seeing empty tables on the floor. Is it the food? Is it the staff? There are a thousand possibilities but by following these easy steps, you can ensure that your marketing plan isn't to blame.
However, before we delve into the specifics, a dose of reality. It is important to remember that even in spite of the most professional marketing strategy it is more than likely your restaurant will be less busy on a Tuesday than on a Friday. You attempt as many promotions as possible, but it is near impossible to convince people to change their habits and weekly schedule. However, that being said you can still try!
Another necessary disclaimer. You must ensure that your restaurant is prepared for success. This may sound obvious, but if you're regularly expecting a 50% booking rate on a Friday night and it jumps to 80%, you need to ensure that you're equipped to handle the influx of new customers. If customer service or food quality drops due to the increase in workload, it has a more negative effect than any positives gained from the new clientele. Ensure you're getting the most out of your employees so that they can help you get the most out of your business.
So all that being said here is the trick: Focus on your busy days...
1) Promote All Week
The most successful promotions don't simply run on a Monday afternoon, instead they become a fixture of your restaurant. Having a promotion run from Monday-Thursday means that you miss out on the majority of your customers. Although trying to entice new customers through the door is goal, the best way to do that is to please your returning customers. The best form of review remains word-of-mouth (although online reviews are catching up!).
Do you have an app? Why not?
Instead of viewing promotions as a risk of incurring a loss you normally wouldn't, view it as a chance to invest in a customer relationship. Return business, rather than occasional, remains the life support of the food industry.
2) Promote Your Brand
Your promotions should match your brand. Although it is tempting to lower prices to encourage new customers, you have to ask at what cost? Will lowering costs reduce the quality or atmosphere of your restaurant?
For example, if you own a Mexican-themed restaurant would a basic Happy Hour really improve your business or set you apart from your competitors? Nothing would enhance your business except for slightly cheaper drinks.
Instead, why not host a promotion with works with your brand. Hosting a weekly 'Margarita-special' or a '2-4-1 Taco Thursday' night can both illustrate your brand and the quality of your business. Be innovative, be different.
3) Customer Service Is Key
Customer Service (should!) be the cornerstone of your business. Every aspect of your business from the decor, to staff, to food, to ambiance, should be geared towards enhancing the customers journey. Why wouldn't your marketing strategy?
Customers tend to remember the little things about their time at your restaurant which all add up to form the whole experience.
Olympic winning cycling coach, Dave Brailsford, referred to these as marginal gains. He believed that doing 100 things 1% better would result in a far better overall performance by his team. The same principle can be put in practice with your customer service, everything adds up to form the overall experience.
Why not offer your customers an extra which lifts you above your competition?
For example, if owning a Mexican restaurant where there is often a wait during the weekends, why not ensure your customers are satisfied by offering them free chips and salsa while they wait for a table?
This small outlay for the restaurant comes at little cost, but can have a huge benefit in enhancing a customers opinion of the restaurant. After all, everyone loves freebies!
In essence, a restaurant marketing strategy can have many different elements. However, the key is that each individual element complements your brand rather than reducing it. Experiment, be creative, and differentiate yourself from your competitors. The easy part is getting new customers through the door, the difficultly comes in ensuring they return.
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