If you own a restaurant, you're competing in one of the toughest industries in America. You may be serving the finest food in your town, but if your marketing mix isn't right, your business could be doomed from the very beginning.
According to Sage Journals, more than 60 percent of independent restaurants fail during their first year of operation. And even with great resources and an existing brand name, around 57 percent of franchised chains fail during their first 12 months.
Avoid these six common marketing mistakes to help your restaurant defy the odds and become a resounding success.
Too many independent restaurant owners treat their website and review sights as an afterthought. But an increasing number of customers check out an eatery's online presence before they visit. They do this to get a feel for the place, look at the menu and search for customer testimonials. If your digital presence is uninspiring, difficult to navigate and lacking information, your customers could have a negative opinion of your restaurant before they even walk through the door. Your website, social media feeds and review sights (Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews) will often be the first experience a customer has with your restaurant, so make first impressions count.
While seeking out new customers is vital to the long-term success of any restaurant, maintaining the loyalty of existing patrons is equally as important. Getting people to come to your eatery is a huge achievement, so you should do everything in your power to impress them when they arrive. Create incentives such as "bounce back" offers that offer discounts or other inducements to return within a particular period of time. Treat your customers as if they've already decided they're never coming back, and you not only impress them, but you also inspire them to tell their friends about your restaurant.
Marketing should not be viewed as a fixed expense; it should be treated like a long-term investment in your business. You have to spread the word about your brand if you want to succeed in the long term, so set aside a healthy marketing budget to grow your restaurant's reputation.
As a simple rule of thumb, you should be earmarking between eight and 15 percent of your overall operating budget for marketing -- simply to maintain your current market share. If you want to grow your market share or launch a new brand, however, you should be spending something in the region of 15 to 25 percent.
Your restaurant's marketing campaign should encompass everything you do. Whether it's the color scheme you choose or the list of appetizers on your menu, everything relates back to your overall brand-- and nothing is more important than customer service in this regard. Any experienced restaurant manager will tell you that the biggest food disasters can be turned around with great customer service. If you and your team are attentive, efficient and friendly, word will spread quickly, and you'll earn a reputation that will grow organically.
Digital media can provide your business with access to a potential market of millions. There should be several strands to your digital marketing strategy, including an engaging social media campaign and an active email newsletter campaign. By collating emails addresses, you can build a database of engaged consumers who will be receptive to special offers, newsletters and news of your latest menu items. Implementing an A/B testing strategy within your email marketing campaign will help you to discover exactly which approach works best.
Use an email distribution platform such as Campaign Monitor to manage your email marketing strategy effective. But before you do anything, it is absolutely essential that you put together a cohesive digital marketing strategy that encompasses all of your campaigns. A haphazard approach to digital marketing could prove ineffective and very costly.
The standards you set -- whether they relate to food, uniforms, decor or customer service -- define your brand. In fact, your brand standards are all that separates you from your competitors. If you neglect any of these standards, you're devaluing your brand in the eyes of your customers. At all costs, never compromise on any of the standards you set for your business. The moment you do, your customers will start looking elsewhere.
With a clear marketing strategy in place, your restaurant has a solid base from which to grow and prosper. Without one, it will struggle to survive in an increasingly competitive industry.