Two years ago this week I spoke with Gary Wiegel of the Peerless Mill Inn in
The last nail has been put in the historic
I began thinking of
The art of social media – both attracting it and combating it, is a new element in the equation of successful restaurant ownership. Unlike other retailers, restaurants suffer immediately from a slanted review. I am a strong believer that the community is a tremendous advertising vehicle. The social media sites of today are merely yesterday’s word of mouth. But, the reviewers online can now shout their opinions whereas before customers might only whisper them.
Make sure that you study the community you serve and pay close attention to what the neighbors are saying, online, about your service, ambiance, food portions and prices.
1). Form an independent restaurant group- all the members have to be single unit operators from your immediate area and must believe that it will cost money to compete with the corporate culinary giants.
2). Decide on 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 wants a new one. . Even people who do not cook at home want to acquire recipes. Have 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. The new kid on the block is professionally run, freshly painted property with an enticing menu. 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 restaurants.
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 apiece.
10). Remember, social media is just word of mouth with shouts rather than whispers