Category: Restaurant Marketing

Discover your Restaurant's Target Audience

Do you know who dines at your restaurant? I don’t mean take a look around and see whose butts are currently in your seats. I mean, are the people that you wanted to target when you first thought about opening your restaurant the ones actually dining there? More importantly, do you even know WHO your target market is?

Before I go any further, it’s important to define what I mean by target market:

A target market is not who YOU WANT to sell your food to. Instead, it’s the type of people that are EXPECTED to buy what you’re selling.

You can’t open a vegetarian restaurant, hoping to target steak eaters. Similarly, you can’t open a steak house and expect your customers to be women who are passionate about eating healthy. Make sense? So how do you decide who to target?

Start with the facts.

What is your unique selling point? What makes your restaurant different than anyone around you? Or anyone in your same industry? Your unique selling point will drive the type of people who will frequent your restaurant. Take into consideration the following:

  • Age
  • Income Level
  • Education or job status
  • Marital status
  • Size of household
  • Housing/Rental prices
  • Local Businesses

Begin to create a fictitious profile of your average customer based on the above criteria.

What defines your target market?

What are the values, opinions, culture, lifestyle and topics of interest that makes up this demographic? If you can’t hire a marketing research firm to find out the information for you, consider doing the research yourself. Get to know the people in your area. Frequent shops, other restaurants, local events, etc. where your proposed target market shops, eats or hangs out to observe their character and buying habits. Check the social media profiles of these shops, as well as competitors, to see what customers love about these companies. See if there are any voids that need to be filled, which could lead to opportunities for your restaurant. Add these findings to the profile you began to create in step 1.

Does your target market live or work close enough to your concept to help support it?

Once you’ve defined the demographics and characteristics of your target market, are they anywhere near you? The U.S. Census Bureau is a great resource to use to find out. Type in your locations zip code, and the U.S. Census Bureau will spit out frequently requested data about your community (population, income, housing, etc… all the criteria you used to complete step #1!) Why is this helpful? If your marketing to college kids, but the nearest college is 30 miles away, your restaurant might have a problem. The closer your target audience is to your concept, the more likely they will come.

But it doesn’t stop there…

What is the generational profile of your target audience? Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen X’ers? Each group has different needs and values, which will effect your marketing messages and the platform you use for your target audience. For instance, Boomers are more likely to visit dining-in restaurants, while Millennials opt for delivery. Millennials rarely look to Facebook to keep up with brands, while it’s the predominant social network for Gen X’ers. Speak the language that best resonates with your target audience, give them offers that align with their values, and seek to connect with them on the platform where they can be found.

Whether your restaurant is established, or your concept hasn’t been built, learning about your target audience is a critical step to developing the right promotional strategy… and it’s never too late to get started. Give us a shout if you would like some assistance defining your audience. TweetFacebook us, or comment below!

Time for your restaurant to refresh?

Recently, I was talking to one of our client’s about updating their logo. Their company has been around for close to 20 years, and from the day the doors opened, the look and feel of their company identity remained the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

However, their business was undergoing some changes. The original owners, a husband and wife team, were gearing up to retire in a few years, and their daughter, a recent graduate from college, was being groomed to take over the business.

Their biggest competitor was a nationwide and popular brand whose identity is modern and refined. Our client’s identity? Not so much. While their existing branding served its purpose well, it was apparent that a refresh could take our client from looking like a small mom and pop business, to a much larger one that could give this national brand some competition.

Even though our clients were on board with redesigning the identity, there was still some concern.

How would our existing clients feel about changing the identity that they’ve grown to know the past twenty years?

It’s a valid concern, and something that should not be taken lightly. Most people aren’t fond of change, so it’s important to handle a rebranding, or an identity update, with care to make sure your current customers stay with you throughout the entire process.

First, we must make it clear that a brand isn’t considered a logo, stationery, or a package design. A logo is simple in definition: a mark or symbol that companies use to promote their business to help with visual recognition for existing or potential customers. A brand is different, because it is the total package; the promise that you make to your customers and the feeling they get when they hear your brand’s name. For example, when someone thinks of Subway, they tend to think of a quick, healthy option to fast food that publically displays fresh toppings and meat available for sandwiches or salads, hence the tagline “Eat Fresh.” The brand wouldn’t have the same feeling if you walked in and noticed the veggies were soggy, the cheese was sticky or had mold on it, or if they served your food in a brown paper bag. Instead of white wrapping in clear plastic bags.

Now, back to our client’s story. Yes, it’s always a gamble to change a company’s identity, and there’s a good possibility that customers might leave once the switch has been made (remember that fear of change thing?). However, as long as the original brand promise is still in tact, and being met, it’s a much easier process.

Here are a few ideas to consider when changing your identity:
  • Bring your clients and employees in on the process. Survey them before you change anything to see what they thought about your old identity. What was it they liked? Was there anything they didn’t like? Look for similarities between answers to see what can be improved upon or what features or feelings need to stay. Then, after the new identity is created, show them the final result to get any feedback. There will always be something that someone doesn’t like (i.e. “I hate orange”, “That font isn’t exactly what I would have chosen”, etc), however, getting feedback can also point out things that might not have been noticed before. If you’re interested, Google “Sun Rise Sushi” and you’ll see how customer/staff feedback probably would have been a good idea!)
  • Get personal. Personal connections keep customers happy. Take the time to reach out to customers and personally talk to them about the identity change. Assure them that although the look of your company might be changing, they can still rely on the same level of customer service, personalization, fair pricing, etc. Ensure the brand promise they’ve grown to love will remain the same no matter what the new identity looks like.
  • Repetition. Most people need to see things more than once before they commit it to memory. Make sure all follow up correspondence, social media graphics, envelopes, packaging, etc. contain your new identity. Check analytics to make sure your messages are being read, or follow up with customers to make sure they’re receiving, and reading, your correspondence. Until the new design is committed to memory, you don’t want them missing out on an important email, letter, or package.

Remember, there’s a difference between refreshing an identity and refreshing a whole brand. Rebranding is a longer, more complicated process. As far as our client’s story goes, we haven’t finished our client’s new identity just yet, but we’re well upon our way and things are already looking promising for them! Keep tuned to this blog to see their final product, or, if you need help with your own identity refresh or rebranding, give us a shout! TweetFacebook us, or comment below!

GoogleAlert

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to certain things I like to cut corners. I’m always looking for grocery store BOGO’s, sometimes even pairing them with coupon’s (watch out!). I’ll run multiple errands at one time to save gas. I’ll even pick up things around the house in pairs so I can drop them off at once to save time.

As a restaurant owner, keeping up with your company’s online reputation, what your competitors are doing, trends in the marketplace, etc. can be a daunting task. (Remember that “be present” thing I talked about in my last blog post?) But, how in the world are you supposed to fit maintaining and establishing an online presence when you have staff to manage, financials to monitor, maybe even food to cook?? Not to mention the thousands of other things on your to-do list??

Well don’t fret my pet, I have a corner cutting secret that will cut your Internet researching time down tremendously… sign up for Google and/or Talkwalker alerts!

These powerful (and free!) tools make it easy to conduct online “intelligence” on your company, your customers, your prospects, or even just for fun. Both of these services monitor the web for words and phrases you’re interested in, and sends you an email every time it finds a new result. Don’t worry, you can set up email preferences so you’ll receive updates as often as you’d like, whether it’s daily, weekly or to update an existing RSS feed.

Want an example of how I’ve used alerts? After college, I moved to Atlanta, GA to start a career, and it didn’t take me long to discover Mellow Mushroom, a local pizza gem. Since 1974, Mellow Mushroom has been baking the most delicious, craveable pizzas on the planet (as noted on their website – and I completely agree!)

When I decided to move to Florida in 2000, there wasn’t a Mellow Mushroom within 200 miles. Once I discovered Google Alerts, I quickly added their name to my alert list to stalk…err–follow… one of my favorite brands. In 2006, a dream of mine came true when I received an alert announcing a new Mellow Mushroom store location… five minutes from my house!

Now, I use Google/Talkwalker alerts to keep up with Mellow Mushroom current news and events, such as “Way Back Wednesday.” In honor of their 40th anniversary, Mellow Mushroom “turned back the clock” and offered items on their menu the same price as they were back in 1974: Cokes were 30 cents, selected beers 75 cents, and a small cheese pizza was priced at a whopping $2.50! How else would I have known about this special event? I guess I could visit my local store everyday… but that might not be the best idea for my waist line.

Intrigued? You should be. A free, time-saving, business booster and information gathering tool… what more could you ask for? Maybe some direction on how to get started, and ideas on what to do with the data you collect? I thought you’d never ask! I’ve put together a handy resource guide that details out how to get sign up for one, or both of these services, along with ideas on how to use the information.

To download, simply enter your details below and the guide will be delivered to your inbox. Or, if you’re already using Google or Talkwalker alerts, let us know how they’re workin’ for ya. Love them? Or, not so much? Tell me about it! Tweet, Facebook us, or comment below!

waiter serving young people in restaurant

Once upon a time there was a small, locally well-known, restaurant that approached Exakt Marketing with a laundry list of concerns they were looking to fix. Among them were concerns that their sales were flat, and while they attracted a decent lunch crowd, they wanted to get to a point where there was a steady stream of traffic throughout the day.

At a time where restaurants open and close at the blink of an eye, they also felt they had an amazing story to tell: they’ve been in business for over 100 years, have a positive reputation around town, and a loyal and friendly staff, some whom have been with the company over 40 years!

After not seeing the results they had hoped for dabbling in offline print and commercial advertising, they thought it was time to establish a greater social presence, to keep existing customers engaged (sharing photos of food, and in-store activities), informed (being able to broadcast weekly specials quicker), and also as a way to attract new ones (by telling an engaging story). They felt confident this was the missing link to help their business reach the next level, and couldn’t wait to see their business take a turn for the better.

And they all lived happily ever after… the end.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. As we started to do some initial research, it became apparent the root of their problem wasn’t the company’s absence from the social sphere. Instead it was much deeper… it was a lack of understanding about their customer’s expectations. Were they doing everything they could to satisfy their needs in order to create the best overall experience? Or was the restaurant being run (and marketed) by what the management team THOUGHT their customers wanted to see and hear?

Be present.

Within five minutes, and a quick Google search later, we discovered complaints about inconsistent food preparation and quality. Many were about items that the restaurant was locally “famous” for.

According to Qualtrics.com, “The single greatest predictors of customer satisfaction are the customer experiences that result in attributions of quality, which is often measured by: overall quality, perceived reliability, and the extent of customer’s needs fulfilled.” If the restaurant had taken some time each month to scan through online reviews (i.e. via Yelp or TripAdvisor), they would have noticed a disparity in the quality of food their customers were expecting, versus what they were actually being served.

But but but… “being present” is going to take too much time!

Being present and aware of what’s going on inside your restaurant doesn’t mean you have to sit at a table every day and observe your surroundings. It also doesn’t mean you can sit on a beach somewhere, surf the internet, and get reliable feedback. Instead, a good balance of hands on and hands off monitoring should be on all restaurant owners’ agenda. After all, happy customers = happy to return (hummm…didn’t I say that in my last blog post?)

So here are five suggestions on how you can monitor what’s really going on inside your four walls:

  1. Talk to customers directly
    Reward your customers! Randomly pick someone and offer to buy them dinner in exchange for 15 minutes of their time. Maybe it’s after they finish their meal… or maybe you set up another time for them to come in. Make sure they understand you value their time, and won’t keep them long, but their feedback is important to keep your restaurant on top of its game. Hint: While it might be easier to survey a “regular customer,” the goal is objective opinions. Would a “regular” be completely honest? Or, survey both and compare the results.
  2. Conduct surveys
    Setting up a brief customer service survey can have powerful effects. Not only can you identify underlying problems, but it also can show your employees the importance of fulfilling and exceeding your customers expectations. If your restaurant collects customer’s email addresses, there are free online survey software programs, such as SurveyMonkey, that distribute survey’s via email. Or you could set up a dedicated landing page on your restaurant’s website for customers to visit and fill out an online form. Provide the link (and remember to offer a reward!) at the bottom of each customer’s receipt.
  3. Hire mystery diners
    Mystery diners, or shoppers, will dine and survey your restaurant to make sure customers have the most pleasant experience they can. They take all touchpoints into consideration from ease of parking, to employee relations, and food quality. The best part is they’re disguised as regular customers, so no one knows when they are coming, or who they are. Then they provide detailed reports on their findings. Sounds a little scary, but then again, if you’re doing everything right there’s nothing to worry about right!? The reality is you’re hiring them to tell you what you can improve upon.
  4. Set up Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts
    Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts are free services will allow you to set up email alerts when anything associated with your restaurant’s name, industry, food style, etc. is mentioned on the World Wide Web. Email alerts can be sent daily, or weekly, depending on your preferences. It’s a great way to know who’s talking about you, if you can’t consistently monitor everything yourself. Hint: Make sure to put any words in quotes that you want the service to recognize together. For example, if your name is Ruby Tuesday, you should type in your alert as “Ruby Tuesday.” Otherwise, you will see results for items mentioning “rubies” or events or stories containing the word “Tuesday.” However, if you’re looking to monitor all information pertaining to food trucks, simply typing in food truck (with no quotes) could be sufficient. Adjust your alerts to find the right combination that works for you. (Also, check out my latest blog article for more on this topic)
  5. Monitor Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon reviews, as well as social media
    These powerful online services can give insight on whether or not your customers’ needs are being met. Pay close attention to any negative reviews and decide if you’re able to make some adjustments based on their feedback. When you have customers who’s experience was less than par, make it easy for them to tell you about it (not someone else), and make a point to acknowledge their feedback. Let your customers know what’s being done to fix the issue, so there won’t be a repeat upon their return. Hint: Find a way to keep in contact with your customers so you can let them know when changes and improvements occur. This might be through social media outlets, email blasts, or within an announcement section on your website’s homepage.

Whether you implement one of the suggestions above, or all of them… you monitor everything yourself, or hire someone to do it for you… it’s imperative to not assume you know what your customers want and need. The only way to find out, is to listen.

What are you doing to be present when it comes to your restaurant? Anything different than the suggestions above? Tell me about it! Tweet, Facebook us, or comment below!

No Excuses

Do you remember when cordless phones were cool?  If you wanted to order takeout, you could call the restaurant from the staircase instead of standing in the kitchen where the phone was hanging on the wall.

Fast forward to now and you can call from your cousin’s staircase in the next county over thanks to those trusty sidekicks we call mobile phones.

In other words, there are no longer any legit phone excuses because the technology has improved so dramatically that virtually nothing is impossible.

The same thing is true for restaurants and readable versions of their menus that can be accessed via their website.  There are NO EXCUSES for not doing something about having a readable menu accessible from your website!

There are 2 basic ways to add your menu to your website:

  1. Dedicated pages on your website
  2. A downloadable PDF version of your menu accessed by a link (button or text link)

The first option is only feasible for operators with an internal web person or team, or that have an external team like ours in place, or if they personally have experience in web.  Otherwise, it’s a whole new expertise that they’ll need to learn.

The second option however, can be done by anyone that has an internet connection and knows how to access a browser.

DIY Restaurant Menu PDFs

How to create an easy PDF menu for download

Before I go any further, I want to give the disclaimer that this is a no-frills menu PDF.  It will not necessarily look like an agency did it for you (but then again, if you’re good, it might).  And I am not endorsing Google Docs in any way.  But since they offer a free tool that gives businesses options while saving money, I felt this was a good option.

We’re developing a guide for designing much more intricate menus, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

  1. Using Google Docs, choose “Create” + “Document”
  2. Name your document (e.g. “Summer Menu”)
  3. I would suggest a two-column format.  Unfortunately, with Google Docs, there is no way to just click a button to go into two-column mode like in Word.  So, the easiest way that I’ve found to workaround this inconvenience is to use a table.  Click the “Table” option, hover over “Insert Table” and highlight two columns by as many rows as you think you might need
  4. Use the first row to name the respective columns (e.g. Salads | Burgers)
  5. Use your “tab” button to navigate between cells
  6. Type the name of the menu item, then press “Enter” on your keyboard to add the description and pricing (optional)
  7. Continue doing this until you’ve added all of your menu items
  8. If you need additional rows, click “Table”, “Insert Row Below”
  9. If you want to add some color to specific items (cells), highlight the cells that you’d like to change the color for, and click “Table”, then “Table Properties”.  Click the drop-down arrow underneath “Cell background color” and choose the color you’d like to change the highlighted items to
  10. Highlight specific sections of text that you’ve typed to change the size or color to make menu item titles pop
  11. Add a Header and Footer to add some extras like your logo and other nutrition information that doesn’t quite fit into the menu item format
  12. Add additional pages as necessary by clicking “Insert”, “Page Break”
  13. When you’ve finished adding and formatting all of your information, you have a couple of options.  But we’re only going to talk about how to get your menu PDF now.  Click “File”, “Download As”, “PDF Document (.pdf)”
  14. When the ‘save as’ dialogue box comes up, just choose where you’d like to save your new menu PDF.

Then all you need to do is store the menu PDF in your media library on your website so that people can access it by using the link for where it’s stored.

If you like learning these restaurant marketing hacks, please sign up below for my weekly emails.  They’re short and sweet and meant to help you handle your marketing like us pros without overwhelming you.  I’d be honored if you joined me.

 

waiter serving young people in restaurant

In my previous article, I talked about how slow service can impact a restaurant’s bottom line (more than you think!). 51% of people surveyed by Consumer Reports (published August 2014) said slow service was their top gripe when it comes to eating out. So what can restaurants do to prevent annoyed customers, and increase the likelihood of them returning?

Make sure your staff is properly trained, and happy.

Restaurant diners want to be treated well, and restaurateurs want to keep guests returning. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how amazing your food is, or how beautiful your restaurant décor might be, if the overall customer experience doesn’t meet or exceed their expectations, there’s a good chance they won’t return. Customer experience touch points can cover different parts of a restaurant’s day-to-day operations, however, hiring and training the right staff is a big piece of the pie. Here are four tips for how your restaurant can stay on top of service:

    1. Be present Let’s face it, everyone has an off day every once in a while. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how stellar an employee is, or how well they’re trained…things happen. However, no restaurant owner, or restaurant GM, should assume they’re perfect. Yes, we’re all extremely busy EVERY DAY. But the difference between creating a positive customer experience, versus a negative one, can be as simple as being present and aware with what’s actually going on inside your four walls. Take a few minutes each week to listen to what people are saying, both inside the restaurant and online, about the service your restaurant provides. Get to know your customers. Find out what their needs are, and if you’re meeting them. If not, what can you do to improve? Briefly talk to them while they’re enjoying their meals, conduct surveys (you frequently see this advertised on the bottom of receipts), ask someone to be a secret diner, and pay attention to social media. Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews are helpful. Even better, set up your restaurant name as a Google Alert for more frequent chatter updates.
    2. Hire and train people smarter than you Take the time to hire the right people for the job initially, and adequately train your current employees. Consider letting go restaurant staff members that are holding you back. One Negative Nancy, or Corner Cutting Chris (I just made that up), can drag down your whole team. Create your “Dream Team.”
    3. Culture is King Great people attract great people. When developing your “Dream Team,” it’s critical to create an environment where everyone works together. Michael Jordan, as great as he was (Go Heels!), didn’t win the 1984 and 1992 Olympic games alone. Even though staff members work individually for tips, why can’t they also work together to help each other succeed? Taking a drink order, or filling the water glasses of a table nearby takes seconds and won’t diminish the level of service for their own tables. After all, there’s no “I” in team, remember?Ever heard the phrase “Monkey see, monkey do?” Employees follow the lead of their management team, so make sure you’re setting an example to follow. Listening is key. Give employees your full attention, keep them informed of restaurant goals and how you’re meeting them, and make all employees feel important by encouraging participation and paying attention to feedback and suggestions. Creating an atmosphere of support, cooperation, and positivity will benefit not only your employees, but your customers as well.
    4. Don’t hit the snooze button As a restaurant owner or manager, you’ve decided to listen to your customers, train your staff and develop a spirit of teamwork. Awesome! You can now go on a year-long vacation right? Wrong. When you plant seeds in your backyard you can’t expect them to grow on their own. You must water, fertilize, and pluck the weeds. Otherwise they may not develop the beautiful blooms or delicious vegetables you crave. Get my point? Be there, be aware and never be complacent.  Even if you have the greatest GM, or staff, in the world, don’t take things for granted. This is your creation and ultimately, your responsibility. If you want to go sit on the beach somewhere, pray you have enough in your 401k plan, develop your exit strategy and get the hell out of dodge. A non-existent owner or boss does nothing for employees but confuse them.

Just because we might have had that one bad experience at a restaurant, doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t return – but we would hope our next experience would be different. Remember happy customers become loyal customers. Loyal customers not only come back, but also want to shout to the world how great your restaurant is, which ultimately means a typical $50 check might turn into a $100 check if you play your cards right. How does your restaurant stay on top of service? What are you finding successful? Was there anything that you thought would work but took a dramatic turn? Let’s discuss! Tweet, FB, or comment below!

Couple taking a selfie with smartphone at a restaurant

I left my smartphone on the table in that restaurant!

Have you ever had that panic moment when you can’t find your smartphone, only to find it actually pressed against your ear?

…sigh…I’ve done it way more than I’d like to admit, but I don’t believe I’m the only one.

And what about those moments when you’re not talking on your phone, but you really don’t remember where you left it?  That one is the worst feeling.

We panic because our smartphones have become a part of how we function.  It’s the one thing you don’t leave home without.  Not to mention…smartphones aren’t exactly cheap.

Recently, a NYC restaurant operator hired a firm to find out why they kept getting negative reviews, and posted the results on Craigslist.

According to the firm’s research, comparing service from 10 years ago against service in 2014, the main culprit for the surge in complaints of slow service stemmed from customers using their smartphones.

While I’ll agree that people could always be a little bit more considerate in their smartphone usage in public spaces like restaurants, the blame doesn’t rest solely on inconsiderate customers.

Some portion of the blame falls on restaurant operators.  I say this because PEOPLE ARE GOING TO USE THEIR SMARTPHONES.  That is a given.  Being inflexible and finger pointing only exacerbates the situation.

Is there an opportunity for compromise here?

Smartphones in restaurants are actually kind of a good thing

Yes!  Restaurants have the opportunity to stop viewing the smartphone-using consumer as inconsiderate, and remember this:

  • Every time that connected consumer shares a photo, or checks in, you’re getting an opportunity to reach their whole network that you would not have had otherwise
  • It’s free advertising for you

As for consumers, we need to take responsibility for our part in slowed service.  And then stop blaming restaurants for slow service at times when we’re part of the cause.

The bottom line is, the time has come to take something that appears negative (smartphone use in restaurants), embrace it (yes, it’s going to happen) and find a way to use it to our advantage (involve the consumer in the service process).

Then everybody wins.

 

moneyoutwindow-2

I don’t know about you, but I hate losing money. Even if I were ultra-wealthy, I don’t think I’d ride down the road tossing $50 bills out the window. That would be crazy right? (Well, maybe not to the lucky ones who pick those bills up!)

But that’s exactly what I saw happen a couple of weeks ago: On a whim, my husband and I decided to meet up for lunch at the Brick House Tavern and Tap in Tampa (say that three times fast!).

We were looking for a good meal, and to have a beer in a fun and lively atmosphere. We’ve been there before and we’ve had good food, and better than average service.

My husband frequents Brick House more than I do, and although he’s experienced slow service in the past, neither of us imagined we’d experience a problem at 2pm on a weekday.

We were greeted right away at the door, and promptly seated at our booth, where we proceeded to sit… unrecognized… for 15 minutes. Servers were eagerly waiting on tables in front of us, behind us, at the bar, across the way, outside, you name it; while we sat memorizing the menu and dying of thirst.

After stopping two servers to see if they could find someone to help us, and continuing to wait (were we ignored? forgotten about?), we took our $50 and walked out the door.

And that, folks, is how slow service will make you lose $50 in 15 minutes.

Sure $50 in the grand scheme of things might not sound like a lot. I mean, don’t restaurants make thousands of dollars a day? Yes, some do, but consider this: if two tables were to walk out each day at $50 each time, we’re talking about $36,400 in lost revenue each year!

With an average profit margin of only 2-3.5%, restaurants need to  do everything they can to avoid throwing money out the door.

The August 2014 edition of Consumer Reports (already published), features a national survey titled “The Gripe-o-Meter”.  In that survey, 51% of those surveyed said “slow (or maybe non-existent) service” was their top gripe for restaurants.

51%! That’s over half the people they surveyed, who must have experienced something similar to us.

The good news is that there are ways that you can be on the right side of that statistic.  Check back next week for my next post that will give restaurant operators 4 ways to stay on top of their service.

In the meantime, what is your gripe? Are you one of the 51% or do you gripe about something else? We want to hear from you! Tweet, FB, or comment below!

Things that make you go poo.  Not “hmmm”.

I’ll never forget it – that gurgle in your stomach that’s just a little bit off, signaling something bad is on the way. And that bead of sweat that forms on your forehead, partly because you’re about to come down with something and partly because you’re begging your body – “NOT HERE PLEASE!”

I was sitting in row 2 of business class on a flight from Barcelona to Houston (and then Houston to Tampa) when that all-to-familiar feeling hit me last August.

It turns out, I was about to experience the worst 8 days of my life because I, friends, had picked up a nasty little food borne bacteria called Campylobacter [pronounced kamp-pil-o-back-tur] from a restaurant in Barcelona.

All I can say is…don’t get it.  EVER!  So as long as your restaurant, or the restaurant you’re in handles and properly cooks meat, especially chicken, this nasty bacteria can be avoided.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with Facebook right?

Well I thought it would be an interesting exercise to check out the Facebook pages of some of the restaurants reported closed on one of the numerous ‘dirty dining’ reports that each of the local news outlets seem to produce to see if we could find any connection to the way these folks handle their social media (Facebook) and the public’s reaction to violations.

I didn’t have to dig too deep to learn something right away.  Whether you like Facebook or not, you need to have an active page for your restaurant.  Because if you don’t, the consumers will do it for you…and if they’re controlling it, it may not be so pretty.

Take for example the restaurant at the Inverrary Resort.  It was closed for 5 violations including roaches.  On closer inspection, a much better story unfolds and it starts with Facebook.

When i searched for the resort/restaurant, the first Facebook page I found on ‘the graph’ was this.  Yep, that’s right…either some pissed off customer, or past employee, or just plain old concerned citizen has started a page that talks about the rodent problem At Inverrary Resort.

But this page dates all the way back to 2011.  Now it could be argued that since they’re still in business, this has no effect on the restaurant and resort.  But one look at Yelp and you can see that the Inverrary Resort is operating on borrowed time.  That bill is going to come due with a vengeance.

Get this though: there was another establishment listed in Boca with 6 violations – 1 more than Inverrary.  But you take a look at their Facebook with 6,400+ likes, and 15,000 check-ins and you can see that people are taking their violations in stride.

“Things like this happen” right?  Yes, they do.  But when a restaurant takes the time to communicate with their customers…especially on Facebook, incidents like this for them seem like they at times, can be worked through amicably.

Plenty of restaurants have been forever marked by poor Facebook etiquette like Chik-Fil-A or the worst Facebook meltdown in history – Amy’s Baking Company.

What every restaurant needs to know about Facebook

Facebook cannot be ignored by restaurants.  Eating out is a social action by nature, so it stands to reason that social media fits nicely into this activity.  With Facebook being the 800 pound gorilla in the room of all things social media, it is just a matter of time before your customer will take over the reins of your social media persona if you won’t.

Now I could go on about how hard it is for restaurants to gain organic audience these days, and that’s very true. You almost have to ‘pay to play’ to get any eyeballs on Facebook FOR YOUR CONTENT.

But here’s the thing…if you’re not playing nice with your customers now on Facebook…when something negative happens related to your restaurant – AND IT WILL…you won’t remotely like the firestorm created by the rapidly-gained detractors that you will surely acquire.

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If you want your website to earn money for you, read on.

When I opened my very first business I just knew that the day that we launched our perfect (or so I thought) website, that we were going to be overwhelmed with business.

We launched.  I waited.  Crickets.

It didn’t make any sense to me.  We had spent hours coming up with the perfect words. The perfect colors. The 10 Restaurant Website Hacks [Infographic]perfect pictures…and I think we probably had a whopping 100 visitors 3 months in.  Disappointing results to say the least.

But the nice thing about failures is the lesson that you have the chance to learn if you’re open to seeing it.

And although my first colossal website failure was not a restaurant website, the lessons can be applied perfectly to restaurant websites.

I read a surprising statistic in a study SinglePlatform and Chadwick Martin Bailey conducted (I would recommend giving this a read).

The study found that out of 1,497 surveyed consumers, 92% searched a restaurant website through a web browser in the last 6 months.

92%!  1,377 out of 1,497 people searched a restaurant website through a web browser!  Those numbers are ‘nothing to sneeze at’.

Bottom line: you need to have a website – a good one for your restaurant.  It’s that simple.

10 Website Hacks To Get More Customers Walking Through The Doors Of Your Restaurant:

  1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Then go through every piece of your website and observe the experience.  If it’s not easy and intuitive to follow, change it.  View every action to be taken as an experience, and make sure it’s a good one.
  2. Keep the design clean and simple.  See hack #1…remember what your customer is coming to your website for. So, for example, if your restaurant doesn’t have any outside seating, then there is no need to place a weather widget on your home page.
  3. Make sure it’s responsive.  Responsive means that your website is built to detect what type of device your customer is accessing your website from and automatically “responds” to make the viewing experience great.  In other words, minimizing the acrobatics (scrolling, changing orientation, etc.) while viewing your site.  If you don’t have access to a web developer or designer,  you don’t have to worry. There are tools to add responsive functionality to existing websites like the WPtouch Mobile plugin for WordPress sites. Just remember to add tools that are specific designed for the platform your website is built in.
  4. Create a digital menu in an easily readable format (no matter the type of device it’s being viewed on). Remember, it’s pretty hard to view a menu as a picture from a smartphone or even a browser.  At a minimum, a pdf is an option, but actual dedicated, responsive pages on your website is a considerably better way to go.
  5. Make the access point to your menu prominent.  Access to your menu needs to be so obvious that even the most technologically challenged person can’t miss it.  That study that I mentioned earlier found that 80% of consumers think it’s important to see a menu before they eat there.  It’s pretty hard to argue with those types of numbers.
  6. Place your address and phone number in a very visible and intuitive location.  The main reasons that your potential customers are visiting your restaurant website can usually be attributed to 1 or a combination of these 3 things: 1) your menu, 2) your address or, 3) your phone number.  And don’t forget your hours of operation.
  7. Add links to your social media profiles.  No matter what you do, people are going to take to social media to discuss their experience at your restaurant.  The easier you make it for your customers and potential customers to access these other communication tools, the better your chances are to stay on top of addressing feedback – good or bad.
  8. Use photos wisely.  See point #2.  The best photos to have on your website are professional ones.  But for many operators, it’s not feasible from a cost perspective.  The good news is that with the right app and a smartphone, you can still put together some pretty decent photos.  We’ll be showing you how next month with our Photography for Restaurants course.  Be on the lookout for details.
  9. Anticipate customer questions.  But more importantly, make it easy to help them find the answers.  You already know the questions you get asked repeatedly.  Make this a part of your website and therefore the experience.
  10. Add an “order online” function.  Again, there are tools available to add this functionality to sites – platform specific.  Try a Google search like “online+ordering+plugins” and see what results are returned for the platform your website is built on.

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