Ah, yes, the capricious foodie: that enigmatic character who can turn 100 people into loyal patrons with a glowing mention of your restaurant at every dinner party – or become the bane of your existence with nasty reviews on sites like Yelp or a sarcastic blog post.
Especially in competitive urban markets like L.A. or New York, courting the foodie crowd is an essential part of becoming a successful restaurant. As any veteran restaurateur knows, that courtship can be difficult.
Pleasing the foodie once they’re in the door is one thing. That’s up to the countless hours you’ve already spent developing a menu and a kitchen that can produce your culinary vision.
Getting those foodies through your doors is an entirely different matter. I’m sure you’ve heard it all – create buzz about your restaurant online, through social media, with smart marketing, etc. etc. For every 10 strategies out there designed to help restaurants get the opinion makers of the local foodie population in your door there are 25 restaurants that have gone under having failed to do so.
Black Board Eats, founded by the former food editor at Yahoo, is a concept so simple in design and application that it makes one wonder why it took so long for anyone to think of it. It works like this: Black Board signs up as many foodies as it can to its email newsletter. Then they go out and get good restaurants like yours to offer an exclusive promo deal. Some common examples include 40% off lunch or a free flight of wine tasters.
Black Board sends these deals out to its network of foodies, who respond to the promos they like and get a coupon that’s good for 30 days. Soon you’ve got a rush of young, connected customers buzzing about your establishment.
Restaurateurs who have used the service report a surge in customer traffic after sending out a promotional deal through Black Board. And while repeat customer business after the promo fades (those Black Board foodies are chasing the next deal), the buzz and word-of-mouth referrals you gain during your time in the Black Board sun can be priceless.
A service like Black Board seems to work best for new restaurants and for established businesses looking to promote a new service or feature. Being able to tap into an existing network like the one Black Board has put together is priceless; and while you might not do it to gain a slew of lifelong customers, you can definitely benefit from having the place bursting at the seams when its important – during opening week, after adding a new dining area, or after revamping your lunch menu.
Being successful can be a lot like a popularity contest, and Black Board gives you an easy way to win the competition, if only for a day.