As with all start-up businesses, many will fail before they reach their first birthday. Various stats are routinely reported, with anything from 25% to a whopping 70% of restaurants said to fail in the first year. This shouldn’t put you off opening a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop though.
Demand is on the increase, with more and more people in the UK spending money on eating out and as consumers become more sophisticated, they are demanding a wider range of foods, providing excellent opportunities to cater to this demand.
With long hours, demanding customers, dealing with suppliers and juggling 101 other responsibilities, running a restaurant on any scale isn’t easy, but your restaurant can succeed with careful planning and strategically driven marketing activities.
Below you’ll find our 6 marketing tips that will help to ensure the success of your restaurant.
1. Know your customers
This might sound obvious, but sometimes your vision can cloud the practicalities of what will actually work. The customers that you will attract to your restaurant relies largely upon your location. This doesn’t mean you have to provide a ‘me-too’ offering, but you need to know, or at least have a good idea of what might work.
If you live in an area with a large student population, high priced gourmet food just isn’t going to work. Likewise, if you are located in an affluent area full of older residents, super trendy and adventurous fusion foods probably aren’t going to hit the spot.
You should carry out local market research before you set your menu in stone, and you can revise and refine your menu as you go on. Be aware though, the more you deviate away from your original vision, the more of a mixed identity you’ll have, which can make effective marketing more difficult in the future, so make sure your research backs up your vision and if it doesn’t, tweak your vision until it is a better fit.
2. Find your niche
It goes without saying that you need to make sure that what you offer, suits the demographics of the area that your restaurant is located in. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to offer the same thing that other established establishments are offering. Who needs yet another ho-hum sandwich shop using cheap bread and nasty catering size tubs of margarine, when you could be offering sandwiches using artisan bread, local organic butter and inspired fillings?
Find your niche, and you’ll also find that you can charge a premium, as people are more likely to appreciate and see the value of what you are providing, (assuming your marketing gets this across sufficiently well that is).
Finding your niche is all about finding something unique that you can exploit, essentially, your brand. If you stand out in the minds of your customers then they will remember you. That means they will not only talk about you to their friends and leave positive online reviews, but they’ll come back to you again.
3. Let the local community know!
I live in a small rural town, and including takeaways, coffee shops and cafes, we have the grand total of 41 eateries to choose from in the immediate area. When the restaurant nearest to my home was sold and changed hands, I watched with interest as new signs went up and the restaurant was reborn.
6 months on, and I’ve still not visited the new restaurant. Aside from confused signage which makes it difficult for me to understand the kind of food or style of eatery it now is, I know nothing about it. Living just 500 metres away from this restaurant i’m baffled as to why they didn’t drop flyers through the doors of local residents introducing themselves, providing a sample menu or a special opening offer for pre-booked tables.
It’s not enough to open your doors, put up your website and expect people to come. A pre-launch marketing campaign is critical. Most restaurants have a huge pool of potential customers surrounding them, if only they’d take the time to let those people know something about them!
4. Put customer service first
Focusing on customer service is an excellent way of differentiating from your competitors and is the ideal way to create a strong, positive bond between yourself and your customers. Even if service isn’t perfect, being friendly, approachable and taking the needs of your diners seriously can make all the difference.
Focus on getting the flow of service right, eliminating any un-necessary delays and as the weeks go on, you’ll learn to spot potential stress points and can work at erasing them. Keeping your customers informed and feeling like their needs are being attended to, is very important.
If the kitchen is struggling to deal with the volume of orders, mention this to your diners as you welcome them in, seat them or take their order. Keeping customers informed helps you to effectively adjust their expectations, making them less likely to be cross that they’ve waited longer than usual for their meal or to receive their bill.
5. Ask happy customers to spread the word
Of course, you aren’t always going to get it right, so ask customers how their meal was when they finish dining. Consider asking those who are happy to leave an online review for you or letting their friends know.
If you find customers report that they are unhappy, encourage them to talk to you there and then about their experience. Being given the opportunity to vent any frustration can help diminish any negative sentiment that they might be feeling after a poor dining experience, and bringing it up with you there and then, will effectively decrease the chance that they will go away and write a bad review.
6. Get mobile
More and more customers are searching for restaurants and places to eat when they are out and about and using their mobile devices. If your website isn’t easily viewed on a smartphone or iPad, you will be losing out.
Google has just launched Google Menu’s in the U.S.A and it’s only a matter of time before the service is launched here in the UK.
Google is preaching the importance of responsive websites for SEO, but it’s also super important to make sure that your customers are able to find you on their smartphone too. Having a standard website won’t always cut it, as it can be difficult to download or view PDF menus, and if your website has Flash content, then forget it.
Make sure that your website can be easily found in Google search and make sure that once on your website, it is easy to navigate to and obtain relevant information on mobile devices. You may need to invest in a mobile version of your website, or even better, update your website so it’s responsive.