Having spent my first year in New York as a bartender, I had a vast array of friends who owned restaurants with great bar action. Late one evening, after an Upper East Side pub crawl, I ended up at a well known Second Ave. saloon. While sitting with the owner, a rough and tumble Irishman who loved cigars, I was told to dance with his stunning, 21 year old daughter, who had recently signed a modeling contract. Sinatra was crooning from the corner, albeit from a chrome and glass box, and other’s were dancing to the dimly lit air of romance wafting through the cocktail sipping Deb-Set filled room. Having had more martinis than most could handle, I was still bright enough to realize holding this guys daughter in my arms under any circumstances would have been a mistake of Irish sized proportion. Opting out gracefully, I claimed that if I did in fact dance with his daughter, there was a good chance he could become my father-in-law. Hearing those words, a smile graced his face, his cigar moved by tongue propulsion to the right side of his mouth. “So’s you know, Foley, I may go to jail for murder, but I will never be your father-in-law.”
Restaurant advertising is often look upon as a single dance in a romantic room late at night. When the dancing is done, everyone just sits around and waits for something to happen. And, although expectations hit high ceiling heights, the results are always the same. Zip. Nada. Nothing. No response.
As restaurant owners we can no more expect one ad, placed in a beautiful publication, to get any more results than one dance. Advertising is very similar to a relationship. It must be attended to, paid attention to, nurtured, caressed, tweaked and cared for. And, when it doesn’t work, it is time to move on to other opportunities.
And in today´s world, expensive, out of reach advertising programs are not as effective as they once were.
However, new opportunities are extensive. Most of us already have a good portion of real estate dedicated to advertising that we do not use, or worse, even think about. At the turn of the century, (I love using that term, it sounds so distant, but was so recent), every restaurant owner decided the answer to the ad buck dilemma was a web site. We all have one. But few have developed a relationship with it. To most, it is a second class citizen. And, that is the wrong way to look at something none of us could wait to own.
You do own it. It is real estate. And it should be developed to promote your business. It is the perfect foundation for your advertising program. And with a simple plan, the web site can be more effective than most ads you have haphazardly run in the past. The web site isn´t the problem, the person who is supposed to update it, is.
Today, Internet advertising is the most cost effective media in the world. The key is targeting your market and developing a plan that will enable you to advertise effectively on line for a reasonable amount of time and money.
Take for example, Little Switzerland in Sonoma, Ca. The beer-garden bar and restaurant updates their entertainment calendar religiously. And, as the line of customers on weekend nights winds around the door waiting entrance, most have looked at the web site.
But a more common example, is a restaurant in suburban Minneapolis. Their web site claims they offer a half priced bottle of wine on Tuesday nights, when in fact, they close throughout the winter Monday through Wednesday until the ice melts on Lake Minnetonka.
Today, you don’t have to spent a lot of time and money to promote your special promotions, your menu, or your restaurant. The key is to develop a plan that you stick to. Make it as much of a habit for yourself as you would like it to become for your customers. Your web site is another location. Promote catering on the site. Take a picture, with your phone, of a great looking entree and post it with the recipe. Through the brains of modern technology, anyone with a kindergarten education-and that is where they´re teaching this stuff- can change the design, post articles, and pictures to their web site with the click of the mouse.
But, you also have to do more than just change your web site. You have to promote it. Email the link to your customers. Send a short email teaser to those customers that you have in your address book. And, ask them to mail your site to their friends. Food is the new horizon. It is what people do with their disposable income. Begin to network. You’re foodies. You have to realize your promotional strong points and use them to t your best advantage. Work that web site. Ad a new picture, a recipe or two. Let your customers know that you are remodeling your web site location and offer something of interest to them.
Everyone with a web site has a wonderful advertising foundation. But in order to establish a worthwhile, profitable relationship, with your customers, through that site, you have to do more than share one dance.