The front page of Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle headlined a story about the plight of restaurants in the Bay Area. According to the author, Stacy Finz, there is a new class of diner in the Bay Area: Non’Tree. The term is pronounced, non-tray and is used on those customers who opt for a few appetizers rather than a full meal.
Finz’ overview of the dining/restaurant climate in the city is as bleak as most other areas of the country. However, the article does highlight the fact that owners need to promote and create more today than they ever have before.
And, although promotion takes creativity, insight and an ability to read your customers needs and wants, it also takes the input from your staff. If you are not necessarily a hands-on owner, or are a chef-owner who spends substantial time in the kitchen, it may take more input that you might have to develop an advertising campaign that is creative and meaningful.
I recently worked with a company that was run by an individual who felt he was the master of every department. His talent was limited as a CEO and although he was intelligent, his foresight and vision into the future, along with his respect for his customer base was jaded, at best. Try as he might, he continued to develop new products and continually missed deadlines, only to use the excuse that every software company misses deadlines. In one product meeting I asked if I could invite one of our leading sales people into the meeting to review the product. “Why would I want that person in the meeting, she is just a stupid woman,” was his reply. I immediately realized who the fool really was. I explained that the ‘stupid woman’ was in contact with our customers daily and that the knowledge she gained from that contact was worth a fortune in information that could be used to further develop the product he was about to launch.
Restaurant owners have an incredible opportunity if they use the waiters on the floor as a sounding board from the customer’s viewpoint. Seldom do businesses have as strong a group of people in direct contact with their customer base as restaurants develop between their waiters and customers. The information the staff cam compile on a daily basis about the demographic they serve is invaluable to plotting a course and changing the direction you need to prosper and grow.
This week make sure that the staff knows you will be relying on them to read their customers. Let them know that you want to talk to them, in a meeting, to discuss how you should advertise, promote, and get the message out to your clientele that you appreciate their support.
If you were to contract with a focus group company to gather research on your neighbors and compile input on what they thought of your restaurant it would cost almost $1000.00. Yet, you can do it nightly for little more than a thank you to your staff. Remember, you and your staff are one. If you work as a team the data you compile will make it easier to get through the slowdown. Don’t hesitate to ask your staff’s opinion on how to increase business and customers..
They should know, they are on the front lines talking to those who matter the most: the customers that will keep you moving forward.