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A Restaurant Survival Guide (continued)



The Back Burner’s Restaurant Survival Guide continues with some more tips on how to keep customers coming in the door in these tough economic times.

Take your product to the customer. You have already developed delicious entrees, trained your kitchen staff to cook them, and purchased all the equipment you need to produce on a large scale.

Yet your restaurant is seeing falling or stagnant visits every month.

You’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.  So go out.

Many large chains like Applebees, Chili’s, and O’Charley’s have developed very successful fast takeout operations to supplement sales of their core menu items.

Now some of these businesses are getting into full catering services as a way to boost sales in a gloomy economic environment.

Recent surveys of restaurant patrons have indicated they plan to stay home in record numbers in 2009, but that doesn’t mean they always want to fire up the home kitchen.

And small to medium sized get-togethers (of 10 – 50 people) still happen all the time, just not at your restaurant.  Customers see a great value in serving familiar foods from their favorite eatery right in their home, and you already have the staff and tools to service them there.

A little marketing, a slight adjustment in your menu offerings, and you’re on your way to finding your customers even if they aren’t coming to your restaurant as often as they used to.

Gift cards help. More and more chains are marketing gift cards, and smaller operations can do the same.  Not only are gift cards a quick and convenient gift for your customer, but they guarantee future sales that can help you through slow times.

They can also help bring in new clientele if they are offered as a promotion.  And best of all, customers who use gift cards tend to overspend the gift card amount, which means some added sales for you.

Meanwhile, the customer leaves full and happy, having spent less than he or she expected.

You can survive. The salient point here is that customers still want your product.  They haven’t forgotten how good it tasted two years ago.

They just don’t want to pay the same amount for it.

You have rising expenses to deal with, but that doesn’t mean a little repackaging and some clever marketing can’t help your customer realize exactly why they fell in love with your restaurant in the first place.

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3 Responses to A Restaurant Survival Guide (continued)

  1. Scott Taylor February 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    Many large companies have business meetings catered on a daily basis. If you can go out and make contact with the right person at these companies, then you can become part of their regular rotation for catering. Many caterer’s already provide this service as a way to ensure business during down times for weddings or other events, I see absolutely no reason why a restaurant could not take advantage of this segment of the market too. As far as gift cards go, always a good idea, but with the recent scare over the past holiday’s with companies going bankrupt, some consumer’s are a little leery of gift cards at the moment. Another trend I am seeing (and I think another article here touched on it) is weekday specials on select entree’s, like a ‘Recession Wednesday’s’ promotion, with maybe special pricing or portions. Really, any method that gets your name out there is important right now when people are looking closer and closer at where their dollar is going.

  2. Kevin Loving February 27, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    I heard a story a long time ago that this entry brings to mind.

    At the turn of the century (1900), there were more than 30 companies that made carriages. With the advent of the automobile by 1930 all but 1 had gone broke. The people who ran those business make a fatal mistake! The fatal mistake was they didn’t know what business they were in. That were not in the carriage business; they were in the transportation business! Had they known what business they were actually in, there would be a lot more than the “big 3 auto makers” today.

    We have to always keep in mind we are in the “prepared food” business! Not the restaurant business. If you think of it that way, it will free your mind up to take your product to the market (where ever that market is). Don’t let your business “smarts” stop at the door of your restaurant. Use the Chamber of Commerce to develop leads (you have been paying dues for years after all). A little leg work on your part will pay off big time when you get that standing every week agreement to provide food for the weekly office meeting at the company just down the street.

    Here is a aditional idea; I would make a effort to contact drug reps for the major drug companies. These Rep’s often will bring a catered meal to a Doctor’s office large enough to feed his entire staff. See if you can provide the food for these events.

    Get out of the “restaurant” business and get into the prepared food business!

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (Quote from COC website: “You too could live the fantasy” )

    • Greg McGuire February 27, 2009 at 8:16 am #

      I agree. Thinking outside the box is going to be the only way restarateurs survive right now. The weak ones will be separated from the herd, but the smart ones will keep running strong by expanding their marketing and operations strategies until they find the combination that works.

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