OK, so firstly I want to start off by saying that running a restaurant is not the dream most people hope it will be. The hours are long, the stress levels high and the profit margin sometimes feels like it’s barely worth the effort.
Whatever reason you do it (the love of people or cooking or the loan you took out) at some point in between cooking up a storm and running around like a headless chicken, you might have time to think about marketing.
Unfortunately, when you do get around to typing in “restaurant marketing” into Google, the results are pretty depressing — just companies trying to sell their latest products by telling you what you already know.
So here are some genuine examples of great restaurant marketing campaigns from around the world and what you can learn from them (and apply in your own way).
1. Hipster doofuses
Urban Eatery in Minneapolis put up this billboard down the street from their premises:
“ATTENTION HIPSTER DOOFUSES: Sorry about that, but it’s not easy getting the attention of people who reject mainstream consumerism like billionaires reject tax overhaul. Here’s the thing: Do you ever wake up in your designer platform bed in your urban loft, shuffle over to your espresso machine and wonder: Is this all there is? Day after day of wearing ironic vintage tee shirts and searching the Internet for nu rave techno rap bands from Uzbekistan? Don’t you wish you could let your androgynously cut hair down, wear some not-quite-so-painfully-skinny jeans and kick back and watch the grass grow? Not to get all marketingy, but at Urban Eatery you can take a break from looking vaguely disinterested in everything while wearing your favorite organic fedora. We use fresh ingredients from local farms and offer free valet parking — and free is nice if you have one of those hipster liberal arts degrees. So why not take some time out of your busy schedule of wrestling with existential angst and drop by Urban Eatery. After a hard week of conforming to nonconformity, you’ve earned it.”
This is brilliant because it defines who its target market is and aims specifically at them. Any restaurant can serve good organic food or offer valet services. Often restaurant owners get mistaken by thinking that offering “the best” or a certain kind of food will get the most customers. What they should be aiming for is to target a specific niche and provide services for them specifically. And it’s ironic. Which is ironic, because Hipster Doofuses like irony. Ironic, right?
2. Free coffee
There is a little coffee stand at the Roma Street Train station in Brisbane, Australia. It’s next to three other little coffee stands that offer the exact same thing (coffee).
But it’s much more popular than the others. Why? Because unlike its competitors, this coffee stand offers 50c small coffees on Friday’s, and a free one if you refer a friend.
So let’s do a little analysis:
- Our little coffee stand is located at a train station.
- This means it’s very likely that the same people are going to walk past it every day.
- These people will probably be on their way to and from work (and need a coffee).
- So if our coffee shop does a ridiculous discount on a Friday (and likely runs at a loss) to attract customers, it’s more than likely these same customers will come back every other weekday.
- Hence our little coffee shop is sacrificing a small loss for a much greater gain (customer loyalty every other weekday).
Offering discounts willy-nilly is just silly; offering them when there is a thought-out reason can have some pretty impressive results.
At New York’s Japanese restaurant Ninja New York, the staff are ninja’s. Firstly, I’m not suggesting you go and hire ninja’s to increase your marketing (although I’d be impressed). I’m talking about focusing on providing an experience.
Offering something that sets you apart from your competition (but still appeals to your target market) can be a good move. You can have the hottest chilli burger in the state. You can have an “eat-free-if-you-finish-it” heart-attack steak. Whether you are the closest restaurant to the beach, the cheapest restaurant or the best in fine dining, create a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart.
Three ideas to think about
1. Consider your niche. Not what kind of food you’re offering, but who you are selling to.
2. Use discounts, but only when they serve a purpose.
3. Have a USP that sets you apart.
Chris writes a blog about restaurant marketing at www.foodiebizz.com