Long Term Investment in Your Restaurant Clients

SavingsPig_Full.jpg When you deal with your prospects and customers, you have to always think long term. For each action that you take with them, think that you are making an investment, because you are. This will also help you think more strategically whenever you have a problem with one of your customers.

For example, imagine that you have a table of four people, and that they are not in a very good mood today. No matter what your staff does, nothing seems to please them. Minor details that other times pass unnoticed, today seem to be a big deal. What can you do about this?

First, always try no to take the issue personally. Try to evaluate objectively if they are totally right and effectively there is something wrong with your food or service that day, and if so, of course take immediate action to correct any wrongdoing.

However, sometimes there is nothing wrong with your food, service, or ambience, and the problem lies within your customers. They are probably having a bad day, and they are looking for any external excuses to blame their internal feelings. We all do. Better for them to pick in your place than in their friends or spouses, at least for them…

So even in this case of unjust accusations, look at the big picture and think about that specific table as a long term investment for your business. You could take the short-term approach, recognize that it is their fault or problem, and do one of two things:

1.- Confront them and tell them that there is nothing wrong with your restaurant. Your pride will be very happy, but you will lose these customers for life and will get many negative reviews about your place in online social networks and offline referrals. This could mean tens (or even hundreds depending of how big their social cloud is) of potential new customers lost.

2.- Ignore their behavior and do nothing. You don’t confront them, but you don’t recognize the bad experience that they are having.

If you take this action (or inaction), in both cases these customers will leave your restaurant with a negative memory (it’s unfair, I know, but that+ ‘s life). So they will be less likely to come back to your place.

Or you can think more strategically and take this negative event as an opportunity for you to think long term. What if you could compensate these customers so that they leave your place really impressed with the way you handled the situation? Imagine that you approach the table and tell these people: “I apologize that you are not having an excellent dinning experience today. I want to make it up to you so here you have two gift certificates (and you handle one to each couple) valid for a free meal. I want you to come back to my place and try again. I promise you that next time will be much better for you.”

Now, how do you think that these people will react? Deep down they know that there wasn’t anything specially wrong with your place or your food, and however, you still acknowledged their feelings and tried to compensate them for something that you didn’t do wrong. I can guarantee you that this small investment that you made (two free meals), will pay you back a hundredfold in free advertising and referrals from these people. They will tell all their friends and family how gracious you are and how wonderful your place is.

If you think about compensating unhappy customers as a long term investment, you will remove any personal feelings from the situation. You will be more inclined to be generous with them, and they will leave your place with a really good feeling about your restaurant and your behavior. This is a win-win situation for both parties.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

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Changing Your Restaurant Marketing is Difficult

Emerging monarch

I’ve just read another great blog from Seth Godin called:”Priming the pump of efficiency”. You can read it here:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/priming-the-pump-of-efficiency.html

Basically Seth states that changes are difficult and often involve an initial setback before they produce the desired outcome. Have you heard the saying: “Things will get worse before they get better”?

This is what Seth is talking about.

For example, if you change from your old manual booking system to a new computerized one, you will probably run into initial setup and learning issues. Your staff will complain about having to learn yet another system, you will sometimes get lost and blaming the new system when something doesn’t work as you expect, etc.

However, after a while, you will be able to do things that you couldn’t do before with your old system such as printing profiled lists of your customers, or just emailing them to notify about a special event or promotion, etc.

The same thing applies to your restaurant marketing. You are very familiar and comfortable with the traditional marketing venues: ads in newspapers and magazines, coupon books with discounts, ads in Yellow pages, etc. However, these traditional marketing vehicles are slowly dying and extinguishing, just like the dinosaurs, and you are probably wasting your marketing budget on them.

You see? Your customers are now mainly looking online. They don’t open Yellow Books anymore. If they want to go to a restaurant, they browse the Web and read restaurant reviews from other customers. They look at restaurant websites to get a feeling for the place. They read the online menus to see if they like them, and check prices to see if they can afford it. They are, most likely, also making reservations online right there in the restaurant websites that have an online booking option. Do your website has one?

So what are you doing about it? If your answer is nothing, then you better start thinking about moving your marketing online, fast. Your competitors are surely doing it…

Once you make your mind and start marketing online, tweeting your specials and promotions, creating a Facebook page to share with your clients, making your website attractive, and specially useful, to your prospects and clients, you will probably see that it will take a while before you can harvest the results of your initial investment.

But make no mistake. You can’t just afford to ignore moving most of your marketing online. Not only is much more efficient and inexpensive than your traditional printed marketing, it is also “trackable”. You should always invest in marketing that you can track and test.

And if there is any final doubt, the World Wide Web is the place where most of your clients are now. You must also be there if you want to reach them!

Happy marketing,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Investing in Restaurant Marketing

Investment.jpgMarketing is one of the key ingredients in your restaurant success. It is the vehicle that lets people know that your restaurant exists (if they’ve never been there), or reminds them that you are a great place to go and have a great experience (if they’ve visited your place before but forgot about you).

However, marketing can also be an incredible source of expenses and a bad return of your investment if you are not careful how you expend your marketing budget.

You should think about marketing not as an expenditure but as an investment so you should treat it with the same care that you would treat your regular investments. For example, you wouldn’t invest your money with a financial institution and then never check back the results of your investments would you? I don’t think so.

However, many restaurateurs invest money in marketing blindly. They buy advertisement, ads and promotions, and never bother checking if they make a profit in all these marketing investments.

Think about marketing as you would think about your investments. Study the possibilities and track and analyze the results of your marketing investments. If a marketing investment is positive, keep on doing it. If not, cut your loses and move your money into a new, more profitable marketing investment. By doing this, not only you’ll know that your marketing works, but you will see a tenfold increase in your restaurant sales and performance.

Happy marketing,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Restaurant Marketing Strategies: Are You Wasting Your Time?

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Restaurateurs are busy people. Always running around solving problems, paying bills, meeting with people, making sure that everything is ready; every single day…

So being busy is part of the job description, but the question is: Are you being productive? There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. You see? You can run errands the whole day and keep your hours busy doing a million things that, at the end of the day, don’t add up to your bottom line.

Being busy is just filling in the time that you have available. Being productive, on the other hand, means moving in the direction of your goals. And I guess that this is where the problem lies. Many restaurateurs, unfortunately, don’t have a clear and define goal. They don’t have a vision and a strategy to take them there so they just work, day by day, hoping to make a lot of money and bring back many happy clients.

If you want to succeed in your business, and use your time efficiently, you need to have a vision and you need to create a strategy to take you there. This is the only way for you to know that each and every day, you are moving in the right direction and working on tasks that will take you there.

For example, your vision may be to work fewer hours so that you can spend more time with your family. Then your strategy should be to hire bright, honest, and hard working staff that you can start delegating on, and your daily accomplishments should be to delegate a new task that somebody else can do equal or very often better than you.

Or perhaps your vision is to expand your restaurant and open some other restaurants so that you end up with a multi-unit. In this case, your strategy should be to systematize and document your processes: from written recipes and cooking techniques, to interaction with your clients, from the moment they make a reservation to the time that they leave your restaurant. You must have clear and documented processes if you want all your restaurants to work and perform consistently.

You see where I am going? Without a clear vision and a defined strategy, you may spend your day running around and wasting your time in tasks that somebody else could you do for you. You should know what your strategies are and spend most of your time working on them. Everything else won’t take you anywhere, and it will leave you exhausted, frustrated, and working 16 hours a day without really accomplishing anything worth it.

Sit down, take a few hours os uninterrupted time and thing what is your vision, what you ultimately want to accomplish with your restaurant in, let say, 5 or 10 years from now. Then, once you have this figure out, write the strategy that it will take you there. Finally, share your vision and strategies with your staff and your family so that everyone is crystal clear about it and there is no doubt.

Now you are ready, each day, to work on tasks that will fulfill your strategy and, ultimately, your vision.

Would you have perfect productive days this way? No, you don’t. In the restaurant business there are a thousand daily interruptions and fires that need to be dealt with, but you will have a good sense of accomplishment each day that you make progress, even if it’s just a little, and move into the right direction.

Having a vision and a strategy is like having a compass that points you the right direction. Sometimes you won’t be able to go in a straight line. There will be mountains that you must go around and rivers that you must wade, but eventually, you know that you are moving towards your final destination.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Restaurant Marketing Strategies: Should You Give Away Free Food to Attract New Customers?


I was reading today in the news how KFC, Quiznos and some other fast food chains are giving away free food to attract media attention and capture new customers.

Should you, small or medium size the restaurant owner or manager, do something similar to compete with these chains? The short answer is NO, you shouldn’t, and I will tell you why.

Your marketing goal should always be to convert prospects, and occasional customers, into long term repeated clients. Anything that you do towards this goal is good, and it moves you in the right direction. Anything else will make you waste money or just attract customers who are probably just interested in getting the cheapest meal they can get anywhere without any loyalty to a specific restaurant.

Giving away meals to attract people without a long term vision or marketing goal is not a wise strategy. Yes, you may get lots of people going to your restaurant to take advantage of the free food, but this doesn’t mean you will make any profit, or that they will become future clients of your restaurant. What you should do instead is to implement a formalized referral system, where you select your best clients and give them special gift certificates that they can share with their friends and families. In this way, although you are giving away important discounts, you are doing it with a purpose: to bring new prospects to your restaurant. To bring quality people who have been recommended by their friends or family members. If you follow this strategy your restaurant will also gain instantaneous credibility, since people believe more the recommendations of people whom they appreciate and trust than any other form of advertising.

You should always have a long term marketing strategy instead of trying to jump into whatever marketing trend is fashionable presently. In this way, you will know the direction and the final destination where you want to take your restaurant. Yes, your circumstances and the economic reality can change, and you may follow different roads to reach your destination, depending of your needs, but if you have a master plan, a strategy, and a vision, you know that you will be going in the right direction, and eventually you will reach your goal.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
twitter.com/jlriesco

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Offering a Consistent Experience to Your Restaurant Clients

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One of the things that people really like and expect in a business is consistency.

Think about it. Imagine that each time that you want to buy a book in Amazon.com you’ll find a different User Interface or a different buying experience. You soon will get frustrated and abandon the site.

The same thing happens with restaurants. I don’t know how many restaurant reviews I read where the theme was always the same: “My husband and I went to the XXXX restaurant for the second (or third) time. We had a great experience in our previous visit, but this last time was horrible. The service ignored us, or the food was very late, or not good enough, etc. We won’t be going back any time soon…”

Does this sound familiar to you? Because people expect consistency, if they had a previous great experience, they expect to have a good experience every single time that they go to a restaurant, and they get very disappointed if they don’t.

For the same reason, if their first experience is not good, people expect that each time they go to the same restaurant, they will have the same experience. Consistency is also in the mind for the negative.

So what can you do to provide your clients with a consistent excellent dinning experience? To start with, you must have good and properly trained staff working for you. Turnover is one of the major causes of inconsistencies since new people need to be trained and have a ramp up curve. High turnover is a sign of employee unhappiness with the working environment.

Also, you must have clear processes defined.

From the moment somebody picks up the phone to make a reservation to the goodbye when they leave your place, you should have clear and defined policies about how to greet and treat your customers, how and when to handle and deliver the food, etc.

If you don’t deliver a consistently great dinning experience, your business will be leaking customers and you will have to deal with bad reviews in social media networks and restaurant review sites. You don’t want to do that.

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

Restaurant Owners: Would You Go To Your Own Restaurant?

Grey Man USP.jpg
This sounds like a ridiculous question. “Of course I would. My restaurant is great!” would be probably your first initial reaction.

But, I want you to think a bit about it. The question is not “Would you rather stay home and cook, or come, and have dinner at to your restaurant.”

The question is “Why people should go to your restaurant instead of going to any of your competitors?”

This changes the perspective, doesn’t? Now you need to start thinking, and that’s good. I guess I should also ask you: “Do you know your competitors?” Have you taken the time to visit their restaurant and have lunch or dinner there as a regular customer? Have you observed their place? Their food? Their service? What’s good about it? What could be improved?

By knowing what works well, you can get ideas to improve your food, or service, or operations. By knowing what can be improved (or what you do better than them), can help you focus on the strengths of your restaurant.

Once you are familiar with your competition, ask yourself: What does my restaurant offer to my clients than my competitors don’t? In other words, what makes your restaurant special and unique?

This is what is called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and if you don’t have one you better start thinking about it. You see? If people who go to restaurants don’t think that you have anything special to offer, then they will go to a restaurant that has. It doesn’t have to be anything really fancy. Perhaps you have a special menu item that nobody else offers, or perhaps you have live music and your competitor’s don’t… you get the idea.

Once you have identified what’s unique and special about your place, make sure to let everybody know (and I include here your employees as well). You must live and breath your restaurant USP if you want your customers to believe it and go to your place because of that.

In my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book I dedicate a whole chapter to explaining and helping you create a powerful USP step by step. I would encourage you to check it out if you don’t have a powerful and believable USP.

Happy meals,

Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

twitter.com/jlriesco

Are You Leveraging Your and Your Staff’s Strengths?

Most of the companies and businesses focus on improving their employee’s weaknesses.

I should know, I worked in a large corporation where each fiscal year we would have a performance review where I had to write my yearly accomplishments as well as my areas for improvement.

Of course, “areas for improvement” means to write down whatever you are not doing particularly well and the company wants you to improve.

Now my question is this: Nobody is perfect. There is no one single employee who can excel in all areas (yes including the CEO’s of the companies), so instead of losing perfectly good time and energy trying to improve something that you suck at, why don’t they focus on promoting for you to improve what you do best?

I don’t know if Picasso was really good keeping his books or Bill Gates is able to empathize with a sad person, but you know what? I don’t care and you shouldn’t either.

We should just care that Pablo Picasso was able to create amazing paintings and spent his live improving his painting skills while Bill Gates has incredible business skills that now applies into helping people to fight diseases.

The point that I tried to make is that if somebody was forcing Picasso to improve his accounting skills or Bill Gates to improve his interpersonal skills, it would’ve been probably a waste of time. None of them would become great at it and it would’ve detracted them from became better at what they do best.

The same applies to your employees. When you hire people to work at your restaurant, don’t try to hire all your employees with the same skills. Of course, servers and hostess need to have good social skills and be people friendly since they will be facing your customers, but perhaps is more important for your bussers to be detail oriented and for your Chef creative (even if he doesn’t like shaking your clients hands).

But these are the basics, then each one of your employees probably has special abilities that can help you improve your business. For example, I know the case of a waiter who was an incredible sales person but quite sloppy at cleaning and organizing the tables silverware and china. This restaurant was small and sometimes didn’t have a busser to do this job. The owner of the restaurant didn’t appreciate that and fired him because the rest of the waiters were complaining that he didn’t do his job after the customers were gone.

Now, you can hire bussers for the minimum wage. Wouldn’t be better to pay few hours to a busser to clean after this waiter, and give the waiter a commission for extra sales instead? He was excellent at selling but not a very organized person so the owner of the restaurant tried (and failed) to make him work in his weakness instead of filling his gap with somebody else and freeing him of his duties cleaning to focus his energy on cleaning.

Same thing with other skills. I bet that if you are hiring young people you have some of them with computer or technical skills. Are you leveraging them? Or are you paying somebody else to do a job that your own staff can do for just a few extra dollars an hour?

Try to leverage your strengths and your people’s by giving you and them assignments where they can excel, not only they will be happier, but your place will escalate to a higher level of performance and satisfaction.

This by the way is an excellent method as well when you hire new people. Try to hire people who complement (and not overlap or compete) the skills that you already have available in house.

Happy leveraging,

Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Follow me in Twitter: wwww.twitter.com/jlriesco

Boost Your Business With A Restaurant Newsletter

With any restaurant, customers are the cornerstones to success. In order to fill tables frequently enough to make a profit, you have to attract new customers and retain loyal ones. While restaurant atmosphere, quality of food, value for the price, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff are important components for a good running business, long-term success requires a solid combination of sales, marketing, promotions and public relations.

A restaurant newsletter is an ideal way to boost your business and develop a relationship with customers. It can be done in electronic form and sent to email lists and posted on your restaurant website, in print form to be mailed and given to customers at the restaurant, or a combination of both.

The look of your restaurant newsletter should reflect the image of your restaurant. If you are a formal dining establishment, you newsletter should look upscale and sophisticated and be written with flair. If you are a casual, family restaurant, then your bulletin should have a fun and friendly look and be written in an upbeat, casual tone.

In any type of printed or online materials about your restaurant, relevant information should be provided somewhere, whether in a box off to the side, as part of the title box, or as an informational line at the bottom. Pertinent information includes name of restaurant, street address, phone and fax numbers, hours of operation, website address and email address.

The content of your restaurant newsletter should be less self-promoting and more customer-focused. Inform customers about specials of the month, charitable events you are hosting, the new seasonal menu, and changes in chefs, a story behind a recipe, new features in the restaurant and industry trends.

Frequency of a restaurant newsletter is important. If you overdo the communication, customers will view it as advertising rather than information. A monthly publication is probably best if you have a lot going on, but if you change menus seasonally and don’t hold many special events or fundraisers, then consider a quarterly one.

A good restaurant newsletter is one that customers can quickly read. Write brief articles and use short sentences. Catchy headlines and dividers to separate articles also help. Be sure to break up text with white space. Include only one or two small images, whether of food, staff, or other appropriate photo, so as not to jam a persons email box.

With any restaurant newsletter, be sure to provide links. If you’re doing a printed publication, include the links so customers can visit when they have available computer access. And remember to include instructions on how to subscribe to your newsletter list, as well as a forward to a friend link. You might want to consider offering an incentive to new subscribers and to current subscribers for referrals. Encouraging feedback by asking a question or taking a poll is also a great feature to include in a newsletter.

Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.

www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Follow me in Twitter: wwww.twitter.com/jlriesco