It will happen, in an area near you, eventually. When The Greene opened in
So disastrous in fact, that some of the owners are contemplating shuttering the doors for good. Before that happens however, – which could be a year away- the 20 restaurateurs have band together, held meetings to discuss a plan to combat the chain invasion.
“We have all worked too hard to just walk away without a plan. But we don’t know if we have the resources or staying power to be able to develop a campaign that will attract our regular customers,” observed Weigele.
Getting a fair share of the disposable culinary food budget is no longer as easy as it once was. The competition from grocery stores with home-meal replacement programs, fast food giants with drive through windows supporting menus with more items than Country Buffet, and quick quality joints on every corner, the restaurant dinner house must stay one-step ahead of the pack. However, when you find yourself playing catch up there are ten quick moves to make that may boost biz.
1). Form an independent restaurant group- an advertising and marketing alliance- all the members need to be single-unit operators from your immediate area and must realize it will cost money to compete with the corporate culinary giants. You don’t ant to waste time convincing members that it costs money to compete.
2). Decide and develop combination advertising. If you begin to advertise as a group, you will be able to afford more impact advertising on a regular basis. Have a meeting with your local newspaper publisher. Explain your dilemma. Request a special advertising rate if you advertise as a group. The last thing the publisher wants to lose – 20 potential advertisers.
3).Contribute to the community. With good weather just around the corner, sponsor a little league game each week with tasting samples of your menu. Done on a rotational basis each restaurant will have the opportunity to offer goodwill to the parents of those little league kids
4.) Recipes- everyone is now collecting them. Even people who don’t cook at home want to have a recipe collection. Develop a program and create a weekly recipe email registration card. Distribute a weekly recipe, by email, from a group member restaurant.
5). Design a direct mail coupon campaign. One offer from each association member. Developed simply and inexpensively on a computer, the campaign can be mailed with a letter, to the residents in neighboring zip codes.
6.) Spruce up your staff, dining rooms, and menu. If the new chain restaurant is nothing more than a professionally run, freshly painted property with an enticing menu it will attract your customers. You have to compete on this level, also. A coat of paint, new uniforms, and a few fresh menu items will not only prove you are paying attention to the market but that you are as creative as the new guys.
7). Spend more time at your restaurant. We all tend to spend less time at the restaurant when things are not going well. Get fired up- this is culinary battle- get back on the door- buy a few more drinks, appetizers and desserts for your customers. Make your new customers feel as though they are lifelong regulars. Let your lifelong regulars know you appreciate their support.
8). Don’t mention the new restaurants. The worse thing an owner can do is to talk poorly about the competition…especially when the competition is hurting business. If the subject comes up, just claim you haven’t been there yet, too busy…
9.) Capture every email address of every business in a five-mile radius. If you go to the hardware store- email address from the card on the counter- dry cleaner- email address from the card on the counter- vendors- email address from their invoice. These people eat out, too. Begin a weekly broadcast email blast from the names that the people in your group have accumulated- menu specials- coupons- great meals- great deals. Be creative. Have a waiter handle the project for a few extra bucks a week. Split between the group, it will amount to almost nothing compared to the return on investment.
10). Form an association before the corporate culinary giants break ground in your neighborhood. We all know, eventually they will be our neighbors. And, an advertising alliance may make competing with the chains a little easier and a lot more enjoyable.