5 Key Principles Of Restaurant Marketing

1. Marketing has to pay for itself (it’s never an expense, it’s an investment)
The whole idea of a “marketing budget” is wrong. Most restaurants define it as a percentage of their sales. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
If you had a reliable and proven way of investing $20 and getting back $30, how many of these $20 bills would you invest? I hope you answered, “All the $20 bills I could get my hands on. And also all the $20 bills I could borrow!”  Good! Then why would you cap your marketing at some — largely arbitrary — number?  A-ha! You probably do that because you are NOT sure if a $20 bill invested in your restaurant marketing can reliably and predictably bring you back $30 or $15 or any money at all.  And if that’s the case, you need to radically change the way you approach restaurant marketing. There is always a way to measure and to know how much money each marketing campaign is generating for you.

2. If it ain’t broken, break it (to give a way to the new and better)
In many locales, we see restaurant chains move in and independents wane. And it is believed that this happens because the chains have more money in their corporate coffers and because they get better discounts from the distributors.  These are largely not true. On both counts (and I’ll leave this at that now and cover this topic in the future articles.)  However, the main reason chains are generally more successful than independent restaurant is because they always break what’s not broken. They constantly test new menu items, tweak their pricing, adjust their internal processes and marketing campaigns. And once they find something that works extremely well in one locale, they roll it out to all of the other stores.  Most independents we know abhor change. Aside from new paint on the walls every 5-7 years and the new menu covers every 3-5 years, most independent restaurants are frozen in time. Which brings us to the next point.


3. “The world doesn’t need another restaurant” (and it’s your job to prove them wrong!)
I first heard this phrase from Bill Marvin (a.k.a. The Restaurant Doctor). Maybe he’s the one who coined it, or maybe he heard from someone else, but this is the one that you need to make your mantra.  I have two very big questions for you:
1. What makes your restaurant unique and special?
2. Why should I, a customer, come to your restaurant versus all the other options I have (including doing nothing)?
If you can’t answer these questions well, the world certainly can do without YOUR restaurant. Think about it.

4. Restaurant business ain’t easy (however it can be simple if you follow the right formula)
Do you have an operations manual? If not, why not? How often do you and your staff refer to it?  For how long can you afford not to be AT your restaurant? Is that one day? A week? What about a month?  If your business depends on you being there all the time, you don’t have a business. That simple. What you have is a job. And nobody wants to buy a job, especially yours.

5. The biggest asset in business is relationships (and it’s better than cash because it can be turned into cash over and over again)
You may be in love with the equipment you have in the kitchen. Or with the building you’re in. Or with all the furniture and fixtures that you have purchased and installed. Or maybe you love your recipe book and the beautiful menus that your graphics designer created for you.  This is all good. However, all that has very little to do with the real value of your business.  What you need to be in love with is your customers. You also need to be a freak about maintaining an up-to-date list with all their contact information as well as birthdays and other important dates in their lives.  It’s the new era in restaurant business, the era of Relationship Marketing. We have arrived. If you have been slow in getting on the bandwagon, you need to do that now.

Alex Makarski is Chief Commando of www.RestaurantCommando.com, a restaurant coaching and consulting firm.

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