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How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Historically, the holiday season is a very profitable time for restaurants, and this year promises to be no exception. As a matter of fact, Experian predicts 2013 holiday spending will increase by 11 percent over last year.

So how can your restaurant really take advantage of this season of spending? Let’s run though some smart holiday promotion strategies …

Communicate with your current patrons

Time to put that email list to good use! Email is an easy way—and quite cost effective—to spread the word and bring in customers over the holidays. If you don’t have an email marketing provider, MailChimp is a great option, and they have a free plan that will accommodate the needs of most small establishments.

Table displays (tents, postcards, etc.) are another good option because they take advantage of your captive audience. Also: train hosts and hostesses to mention your holiday hours, promotions, menu items, etc., when answering the phone.

All the work you’ve put into building your social media presence and attracting a following? That effort is going to pay huge dividends during the holidays! Be sure to beat the drum over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et. al, to get folks excited about your seasonal offerings.

Another idea: a direct mail campaign, while somewhat pricey, can be an effective way to reach potential customers over the holidays.

Connect with folks who haven’t dined with you yet

Have you considered running a promotion on a daily deal site? Sites like Groupon and Living Social have gotten a bad rap lately, and there some truth to the notion that these deals can be great for customers but terrible for small-business owners. However, there’s still a time and place for this marketing tool, particularly if you don’t have a large email list or social media following and you want to reach a big audience quickly. What’s more, if you design the right offer you can certainly make the financials work!

Do something special

It’s the holidays, so business as usual won’t cut it. (Nor will simply changing the satellite/Pandora radio station to Christmas tunes.) If you want to attract customers this November and December, we suggest tapping your creative imagination. Maybe new table displays, a cozy cocktail list, or even a totally revamped holiday menu.

Make sure hungry holiday shoppers can find you

These days everyone carries a smartphone, and they’re using them to find nearby bars and restaurants. According to one study from Nielsen, 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert immediately or within an hour!

Does your restaurant show up when customers search online? Improve your visibility and ensure accuracy by updating your important local directory profiles on Google+, Yelp, etc.

Ideally you have a website that looks decent and displays quickly on a 4-inch smartphone screen, but if you don’t … at least try to position the key info that customers need—your address, phone number, hours, menu link—front and center. It’s hard to hunt for information on a tiny screen! Smartphone users are famously impatient, so don’t make them work/wait for it—because they’ll just tap away to competitor’s site.

Another method you might try is slightly “Minority Report”-ish but could be really effective this year: reach nearby shoppers with geo-targeted ads. Google, Twitter and Foursquare currently offer this service. Why not give it a shot?

Last-minute catering services?

In most cases, larger companies have already made holiday-party plans, but if you’re late to the catering party (so to speak), you might still have a chance to pick up some catering business, because this time of year there are always contingencies—companies that forgot to book a venue (small firms are notorious procrastinators) or catering companies that accidentally double booked themselves. You never know!

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QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

Regardless of what industry you’re in, participation in mobile advertising is becoming necessary to remain competitive with today’s smart phone technology. QR codes [quick response codes] are one way restaurant owners can quickly spread the word about their services, promotions and news.

What is a QR Code?QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

A quick response code is a two dimensional barcode originally designed for the automotive industry. QR codes have become popular in a variety of industries due to its large storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. A standard QR code consists of square dots arranged in a square pattern on a white background. These codes can store virtually any sort of data.

QR Codes Benefits:

Quick response codes can be put on virtually any sort of advertising; including posters, banners, napkins, disposable cups and menus. In addition, QR codes can be placed on billboards, buildings, flyers, taxi cabs, subways, trains and buses.  These codes can be used to provide a variety of information, including pictures, videos, menu items, promotions, events and coupons. Customers access the content from QR codes through smart phone apps like Red Laser and Barcode Scanner.

Restaurants that embrace mobile advertising will thrive in today’s electronic society. QR codes are free to set up so no matter what size restaurant you own QR codes are another tool that will set you apart from the competition.

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Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation

In the fast paced world of write-what-you-will-when-you-want internet blogging, reviewing, and all around tom-foolery, you’re able to find varying opinions on just about anything. From bashing faulty restaurant equipment to condemning an establishment’s service, it would seem that opinion makers particularly enjoy targeting the restaurant world. Inhabiting an industry that’s so inherently subjective, restaurant owners need to be in the know when it comes to how customers, and the public in general, view and talk about their eatery. Not monitoring your online reputation, or worse yet ignoring the opinions you do uncover, can lead to customers not coming through your doors and eventually those doors closing for good.

Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online ReputationSocial media, review sites like Yelp, and literally any random person with a voice wanting to be heard, can be both an excellent way to spread positive feedback or negatively criticize a restaurant for poor quality. With 84% of American consumer’s decisions affected by online reviews being on top of the pulse in terms of watching what people say about you is crucial. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the naysayers and building relationships with your optimistic fans.

Actively listen. All too often people are just waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening to what’s being said. If you take this approach when reading negative, or even positive, reviews you can really miss the message and come across as ignorant and inattentive. Open up those ears and take it all in, one disgruntled customer at a time, and realize that the opinion surrounding your restaurant can’t and isn’t molded by your hands alone.

Start with the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and branch out to more specialized review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and the likes. Additionally, you can comb the entire internet with Google Alerts and have it scour the web for mentions of your restaurant’s name. The tools are out there, you just need to use them.

Interact. If you’re not responding to your critics and formally thanking your fans you should be. With an internet era that’s all about conversation it takes more than listening to truly understand where consumers are coming from and what they’re expecting in regards to your restaurant. Make sure to create a dialogue with both your critics and your regulars and let them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Just remember to follow a few common-courtesy rules during the conversation and you’ll be in good shape:

  • Don’t insult people
  • Avoid acting defensive
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back

Have a voice. Instead of letting those who talk negatively about your restaurant form your online reputation you need to take action and do more than simply notice the public. Saying Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputationthank you can go a long way, but offering an alternative viewpoint for people to weigh when making a decision is important. Rather than letting your potential customers believe a non-flattering review they come across, use discussion and interaction to provide an inside look into how your restaurant operates. Offer blog insights and helpful tips (Facebook & Twitter are invaluable when it comes to spreading information) and you’ll be surprised how many people will tune in.

Customer research. Knowing your customers is the key to providing them with the best service possible and exceeding expectations. In line with actively listening, once you’ve established a conversation it becomes easier to cater to needs and discover trends. If you see social media and active response as an opportunity to know customers better than they know themselves (in terms of what flavors suit their fancy) you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

Monitoring feedback and staying in-the-know when you’re being talked about is easier than ever. Whether you’re trying to attract a new customer or attempting to turn a bad experience into a second chance prospect taking the initiative by managing your online reputation is step in the right direction. Granted, living up to a positive reputation requires dedication, but learning the habits of your customers is satisfying when you can take them from trying your food through having their expectations exceeded. Often satisfied customers are more than happy to help you spread a positive word!

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Instagram: A Social Media Must For Food Service

Instagram: A Social Media Must For Food ServiceIsn’t it ironic, after years of striving for flawless, lifelike images of the highest achievable resolution, people are still drawn back to vintage photographs with light-leaked softness? There is just something about the tones and hues of the snapshots that add character and personality to even the most ordinary day-to-day events in life.

That is the perception Instagram hit the ground running with and they were dead on. Since launching in October 2010 Instagram has captured 80 million+ registered users, 4 billion+ uploaded photos, 5 million+ photos per day and they are still growing beyond belief. And it’s obvious that among those millions are chefs, restaurants and foodies who are using the app to connect with their fans as another social media avenue.

Instagram is mainly used as a personal mood board but there is, however, a fraction of chefs and restaurateurs out there using the app for much more. The cleaver tool becomes an outlet to show off food porn including new menu items, fancy cocktails, tasteful desserts, customer and employee candids and artistic close ups.  Below are a few great example of how Instagram is being used in the Food Service industry to inspire and reel in fans.

Food trucks can also greatly benefit from Instagram. Take daily portraits of your ever changing and creative menu – the tasty food items themselves, not the chalkboard menu – as well as snapshots of private events. You can also mix in some silly photos of staff, hanging out at home with a decadent cocktail in hand or researching new fancy flavors. It’s truly the personalization that lures fans in. They become more invested in your brand when you let them into your personal life than if you were just a random food truck they only came in contact with once a week.

A neat feature Instagram encompasses aside from 18 filters is the sharing option. You can share your photos taken through Instagram on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr and foursquare. Sharing your photos is a great and easy way to let existing social media fans know you are present on Instagram. In addition, when posting a picture, don’t forget to geotag, hash tag and call out other users in your photo’s description (ex #Tequila tasting with @mgpatter0106 at Zolo Grill). Again, easy ways of letting fans find you.

Lastly, customers, friends and family have the option to engage with you through the app. Similar to Facebook, users can comment and “like” your photos. In fact, if they really dig your picture, they can tweet it to their followers – BONUS!

In the end, the technology is there for your taking. You can use it for your personal photo album or a soft-filtered glimpse of your restaurant and workings of your business. Just remember that is it a fun, free way to connect with your fans and it’s not going away anytime soon!

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Followerwonk: Why it’s Great For Your Restaurant

Followerwonk is like a pet gopher. This mega tool digs deep into your Twitter data and reveals everything you could ever care to know about your Twitter world. Use it to track your follower gains and losses, compare Twitter accounts, do global searches in Twitter bios, and analyze any account’s followers! Soon enough, this tool will be able to make you hot cocoa and crumb cake because it pretty much does everything!

Do you want to search Twitter bios to target and connect with anyone?

Followerwonk has a unique bio search function that allows you to find potential new customers, friends, talent or even competition. Let’s try a search!

Let’s say I am opening a new Vegan restaurant in Denver, Co. I want to see if I can reach out to Denver based Vegans so I’m going to click “more options” to get a location based search field.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Voila!

Now you can sort the list by criteria such as tweets, following, or followers. This is a good way for restaurants to find customers, future employees and content developers within a specific niche. Then you can start an outreach campaign!

How to Compare Twitter Users:

Compare Twitter users to see whose followers or followed accounts overlap. Use this to see if you are missing any customers in your niche. You can also use the overlapping metrics to see how you stack up against influencers in your business. Let’s search!

When doing a search you will need to compare at least two Twitter users. You can look at either who they follow or their followers. When the results load you will see a breakdown of their followers/followed and an awesome bubble graph.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

 

From here you can click on any of the categories to get a report of shared followers or unique followers. You can also click “follow” next to users that you are not currently following. Make sure to pay close attention to to the influence, tweets, followers and following sort options to ensure you are not following spammers or nonactive accounts.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

The bar graphs at the bottom of the page help you see things like influence and activity on Twitter. It’s a great way to see how competitive your competition really is in the Twittersphere.

How to Analyze Followers:

Analyze any account’s followers/followed to see a treasure chest of data. You can look at metrics on influence, gender, location, languages, and much more. Let’s go!

Type in the Twitter account you want analyze (in this case it’s @NoochVegan) and choose whether you would like to look at followers or who they/you follow. The first thing you will see is a map of the world. This map is interactive and can show you the geotagged locations of your followers/followed. It’s a great way to get an idea of where your audience is hailing from.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

After you track down your followers like James Bond; you can check out a plethora of other metrics displayed on interactive pie charts.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Each section of this delicious data pie can give you insight into what accounts exist in each range. Just click on the section you want to look at and you will get a comprehensive report of the followers in that data set.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

You can also check out when your followers are most active on Twitter. The graph is based on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), but if you hover over the bars you can see your local time. The last thing that makes my eyeballs spin with radness is the word cloud report.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Followerwonk also allows you to track gains and losses of your followers. You can see which followers put you on a pedestal and those who drop you like it’s hot by unfollowing you.

Unfortunately Followerwonk can’t pull historical data on your account so you can only see the losses and gains for the time period Followerwonk has been tracking your account.

In a few days after joining you will be able to see your daily followers, gains, losses or days without change.

The Twitter analytics that Followerwonk returns is insane. From searching Twitter bios and comparing users to analyzing and tracking followers you can optimize for social growth in no time. It’s never too late to connect with new influencers in your niche. Followerwonk is such a great tool for restaurants who are on Twitter. If you’re restaurant is not on Twitter yet, well then, that’s a whole other story…

For more on how to use Followerwonk check out this awesome video from SEOMoz – They acquired Followerwonk in August and believe me, they know their stuff!

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6 Key Elements that Make a Strong Brand

When you hear the word brand, what do you think of?

Maybe BMW or Google comes to mind. Others may envision Wal-Mart or Coca-Cola. People all over the world would recognize these brands after just a glimpse and immediately associate it with past experiences. For BMW many people think of luxury and fine automobiles; while for Wal-Mart discounts and enormous retail stores comes to mind.

A brand is a promise. It’s a consistent message to the consumer about what the company does, how they do it and why they do it. This message should be so clear and obvious to the public that just seeing a logo or a sign will immediately provoke specific thoughts and emotions connected with the company.

Branding is a very important step along the path to success for any business. No business is too small for branding. Creating a unique and consistent experience for customers every time they visit the business will keep your loyal customers coming back and also attract new customers. A brand provides a sense of security to consumers; it’s comforting to know what you will get from a business every time, no matter what.6 Key Elements that Make a Strong Brand

Branding is especially important for restaurants. A strong restaurant brand can build a loyal customer base that a company can rely on. One of the best examples of a strong restaurant brand is Chipotle. Chipotle has built a brand that stands for organic, quality ingredients. This is clear every step of the way. The name Chipotle refers to a jalapeno pepper, the company’s tagline is food with integrity, the ingredients are in clear view for diners and even the bag is covered in text about the quality ingredients. Chipotle has many devoted customers and some of them can absolutely be attributed to the strength of the restaurant’s brand.

Establishing a strong brand is a process and takes time to be successfully completed. Before any branding can begin the company needs to set a clear message from which the brand will be based. Remember this message is a promise to customers about what to expect when dealing with the company at any point in the future. Once this message is clear, branding can begin. A company’s brand should be evident during every aspect of a customers experience with that company.

Business Name

In most situations a business’ name is the first piece of branding a customer is exposed to. The business name in most cases will become the most recognizable piece of the branding strategy. The name needs to logically correspond with the desired brand.

Logo

A logo is another extremely visible part of your branding campaign. This design should be symbolic of the company’s overall message or theme that has inspired the brand. The keys to having a great logo are consistency and awareness. This decal should be easily recognizable by customers so that just catching a glimpse of it will remind them of your business.

Color Scheme

It is important to pick the appropriate color combination for your brand to help set the mood and feeling that customers experience during every visit. Different colors have different effects on people. For instance, many restaurant chains utilize warm colors (red, orange, yellow) because they are known to stimulate hunger. Choosing a color scheme gives you the opportunity to influence what customers will feel when walking through your restaurant’s door.

6 Key Elements that Make a Strong Brand Uniforms

Uniforms add to the customer experience and a brand’s consistent presentation in two ways. First, uniforms add to the brand’s presentation simply because all of the employees are dressed in company designed clothing that complement the restaurant’s atmosphere. A dress code also positively impacts workers’ attitudes. Marilyn Schlossbach , principal partner of Kitschens Hospitality Group, says, “Being in uniform puts you in a frame of mind of being at work and getting into the role for your theater production.” The theater production is employees playing their role and doing their part in the effort of presenting the brand in a positive fashion.

Tagline

A good slogan is something a company can hang their hat on. This is a brief message that sums up the company’s mission in a few words. A good tagline must be original and creatively specific to the company. Some good examples of successful slogans are:

•    Nike-Just Do It.
•    Wendy’s-Where’s the beef?
•    M&M Candies-Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

Customer Experience

The final and most important element is customer experience. This includes the way the food is cooked, how customers are greeted at the entrance, average time they have to wait and every other experience they have while at the restaurant. This experience needs to be consistent every time the customer is in the restaurant. This will make customers more comfortable visiting your restaurant because they know what to expect each time they come in.

A superior branding strategy has to be unique and consistent. Straying away from the overall theme or message at any point in the process can result in a weaker brand. Maintaining a strong cohesive brand throughout all company media elements will give your restaurant an advantage and set it apart from the competition.

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Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant Employees

Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant EmployeesSeveral different factors can help market a restaurant to the public. Quality ingredients, good service and of course tasty food are the first to come to mind. Other standards must be met or exceeded to maintain a good public image. These are factors like food safety and ethical employee treatment.

Failure to meet expectations in theses areas can result in bad publicity and loss of business. Today diners are very interested in the ethical treatment of animals in the food industry and now they’re beginning to focus some of that attention on human rights in the industry. Creating a quality working environment for a restaurant staff is not only the right thing to do, it also helps market your business.

Some businesses in the restaurant industry have been exposed for poor treatment of employees, which draws diners’ attention to the issue. Providing workers with paid sick leave and proper wages will give you a leg up on the competition for all the right reasons.

According to the 2012 Diners’ Guide by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), some popular restaurants in America are not providing proper wages, benefits or advancement opportunities to their employees. ROC United is a nationwide organization that is dedicated to improving wages and working conditions for the low-wage restaurant workforce. The organization was founded after September 11, 2001 in New York City. ROC NY experienced a great deal of success and in 2008 the founders decided to take their cause to the national level. The organization currently has 8,000 low-wage restaurant workers and is growing fast.

The Problem

The report states that many restaurant employees do not get paid sick leave. The ROC surveyed more than 4,300 restaurant workers and in this group 90% said they aren’t offered paid sick days. 2/3 of these people reported cooking, preparing or serving food while sick, potentially putting diners’ health at risk.

Some restaurant workers are not only denied paid sick days but they also receive extremely low wages while working. As reported in the Diners’ Guide more than half of restaurant workers nationwide are below the federal poverty line.

The last troubling trend highlighted by the Diners’ Guide is occupational segregation. The report says that employees are discriminated based on sex, race and immigration status in some restaurants when being considered for career advancement opportunities.

ROC United conducted 4,000 surveys in 8 American cities for a report entitled “Blacks in the Restaurant Industry Brief.” The brief found a gap in pay between black and white restaurant workers of more than $4.00/hr. ROC also discovered that in fine dining restaurants bartenders were 3 times more likely to be white than black and servers were 4 times more likely to be white.

ROC United Takes a Stand

The Diners’ Guide is an attempt to bring awareness to this growing issue and as a result fight back against poor working conditions. The ROC’s ultimate objectives for the Diners’ Guide is to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, provide workers with paid sick days and to eliminate occupational segregation in the industry.

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is currently $2.13. ROC believes this is not nearly enough for people trying to earn a living working in a restaurant. They are teaming with congress members and other organizations to pass the WAGES Act. This act would increase tipped minimum wage to $5.

ROC United is also teaming with a large group of organizations to support the Healthy Families Act. This bill would offer all people working in the United States 7 paid sick days. The bill would help support our public’s health by not forcing sick restaurant employees to report to work while they are sick and endangering the health of their customers in doing so.

ROC is also fighting back against occupational segregation by urging employers to have clear promotion policies that are based on time worked at the establishment and the quality of that work.

The Other Side of the Story  

As a restaurateur the ROC’s Diners Guide must be troubling. If your restaurant is above the problem and treats employees correctly then this report is troubling because your business is being portrayed in a negative light by being grouped into the problems of the industry as a whole.

For restaurants that are not treating employees fairly this is eye-opening because of the possible repercussions in the form of lost business. Either way this is the time for restaurant owners to take a stand and make their own statement on how restaurants treat employees. Fair treatment of employees is both ethical and constructive. If your employees are treated right the quality of their work is likely to increase because they care more about the company and doing their part to improve business.

A few organizations opposed to the Diners’ Guide findings include the National Restaurant Association, Darden Restaurant Group and other advocates for the restaurant industry. These groups believe that the Diners’ Guide is an unjustified attempt to tarnish the industry’s image. They say that the restaurant industry is one of the largest job providers in the country and that they do not deserve this bad publicity.

Darden Restaurant Group restaurants were rated as some of the worst for ethical employee treatment in the Diners’ Guide. The company is accused of several different cases of wage theft, worker discrimination, paying poverty wages and not providing paid sick leave. An example of this alleged employee mistreatment comes from a Capital Grille located in Chevy Chase, MD. Employees claim that several African-American servers were fired because they didn’t “fit the company standard.”

Darden Restaurant Group is closely reviewing its own policy and evidence of how their employees are treated daily. According to Rich Jeffers, Darden’s director of media relations and external communications, the company believes the accusations of wage improprieties and racial discrimination from former employees and ROC are “baseless.”

The world’s largest full-service restaurant company says that to their knowledge they have done nothing wrong and point to awards they have received in the past in support of their case. Darden Restaurant Group has received awards from Black Enterprise and Diversity Inc. for being one of the top companies for diversity in the country. The company was listed in Forbes “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2011 and 2012. Finally, Darden also received the National Restaurant Association’s “Faces of Diversity Award” in 2007. Darden believes that its awarded track record is proof that it treats employees ethically.

The National Restaurant Association is standing behind Darden and other restaurants that were negatively exposed in the Diners’ Guide. NRA spokesman Scott Defife says the guide is a “transparent attempt to disparage” the restaurant industry. He goes on to point out that the industry has continued to be a leading job creator in the country.Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant Employees

These groups are united in their belief that ROC has not provided enough evidence for their findings and that the restaurant industry has not earned this negative publicity.

What You Can Do

Restaurant owners and managers are in a position where they can directly help solve this problem. It is pretty simple. If you are ethical about your employment practices then great, keep doing what you’re doing, but if not then fix them by doing what you know is right. Doing so will be obviously beneficial to your employees first of all but it will also be good for your brand’s public image.

With the new information circulating about poor treatment of restaurant employees diners will seek eateries that are above the problem. If you treat your workers right, then let people know and your business will be positively impacted.

The low wages and poor conditions that restaurant workers have to endure is a serious issue. In a time where the restaurant industry is beginning to take a stand for animal rights and sustainable farming practices it is time we stood up for the workers. Read the Diners’ Guide today and fight back by improving your employee treatment standards and informing others in the industry of this serious problem.

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10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue

10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue
After a year of dedicated blogging on The Back Burner, I took a minute to reflect recently about where the food service industry has been and where it’s going in 2010.  That reflection got me thinking: after a year and 350+ posts, what were the 10 simplest, most effective ways for a restaurant to boost their business?

Over the course of the last two months, I combed every resource and post I had and started putting together a list of the most effective restaurant marketing tips I could find.  Then I condensed them into a single article that was easy to read and even easier to implement.

I’m calling this article “10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue,” and after two months worth of effort, I think it’s a pretty good practical guide for any restaurateur looking for easy, affordable ways to get more butts in seats in their restaurant.

This article is posted on The Back Burner’s sister site www.etundra.com and is free for anyone to download.  If you’re looking for a competitive edge for your marketing efforts, you need to download this article right away.

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8 Restaurant Marketing Tips

In these tough times, restaurants can use all the free marketing they can get. If a pricey restaurant marketing consultant is not in your budget, read on to discover ways to get your eatery in the customers’ minds, without spending a dime.

1. Talk to your customers.  Ask how they found you. If it’s not your usual source, follow up to see if you can connect with that niche market.

2. Don’t play by the rules.  How about honoring one of your competitor’s coupons on a night with slow traffic? Or, offer a really attractive loss leader, one that garners you some serious buzz. Take a tip from the gas stations that offered gas for 10 cents a gallon at the height of gas prices—not only did they have lines stretching down the street, but they usually got free publicity from the local television news and newspaper.

3. Use technology.  Submit your web site to the search engines, start a blog, open a Twitter account and figure out how you can use it successfully. Don’t have a website? Why not? You can start a blog easily and for FREE with Blogger or WordPress.

4. Collect customers’ email addresses.  Used cautiously, email is a great, free way to speak directly to your customers and showcase your events. Just be sure not to spam your customers and make the subject line grab attention!

5. Get involved in the local community.  Make a personal difference. It’s good for both you and your business. Volunteer and encourage your staff to as well or donate snacks and drinks to local groups working on improving your community.

6. Cultivate referrals.  When you thank your customers for coming in, remind them to tell their friends how much they enjoyed their meal. Word of mouth is THE most powerful marketing tool you have.

7. Speak with confidence.  People love a winner. Be sure your staff projects the same attitude.

8. Be honest.  Build your customers’ trust with everything you do. People recognize when they are being treated fairly and honestly and they tell other people.

Erin Martin is the Online Editor of MustHaveMenus, an online company that provides restaurants with an online Menu Editor and high quality menu
templates. She blogs her thoughts on menu design trends and restaurant marketing strategies at http://blog.musthavemenus.com.

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Why Fast Food Lunch Is Good For Your Restaurant

Why Fast Food Lunch Is Good For Your RestaurantOne restaurant that has been doing just fine during the economic downturn is McDonald’s.  Their combination of convenience and affordability has made the golden arches the restaurant of choice in tough times.

As consumers become more and more health and value conscious, restaurants have an inherent advantage over fast food chains during the lunch hour.

The one element holding you back from expanding your lunch rush is time.  People just don’t have as much time during lunch as they once did, and in an on-the-go society, a leisurely lunch just doesn’t realistically fit into most people’s agenda.

Chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Houlihan’s have effectively maximized lunch traffic with a simple formula: value – time = more customers.  In other words, the more value you offer in the shortest amount of time, the more lunchtime customers you’re going to see.

Both chains offer “speed lunch” promotions, where the customer’s meal is guaranteed on the table in 15 minutes or it’s free.  Servers place a timer on the table when the order is taken and after that, it’s off to the races.

Houlihan’s has made landing lunch on the table in less than 15 minutes and turning the table in 30-45 minutes an exact science, and any restaurant can benefit from their example.  Customers appreciate your restaurant accommodating their tight schedule and still delivering a quality product.

Here are some strategies to help you implement your own speed lunch promotion:

Cut down the menu.  You don’t want your kitchen staff prepping and cooking a variety of menu items when they’re on such a tight timeline.  Stick to your core offerings that have good margins (because you might be giving away a free one!) and are relatively easy to prepare.

Develop benchmarks for meal prep and service.  Houlihan’s requires that servers enter orders in 2 minutes or less after they are taken to allow the kitchen as much time as possible.  Servers are then given 2 minutes to serve the meal after it’s ready.  No matter how much time your speed lunch allows, make sure you have benchmarks so that you and your staff know when you start getting into the dangerous free meal zone.

Leverage POS technology.  More than likely you have already invested in a POS (Point Of Sale) computer terminal system that allows orders from the front of the house to be entered electronically.  A POS system is vital to the success of a speed lunch promo because it greatly increases the efficiency of transferring orders from servers to the back of the house.

If you already have a POS system, consider adding more terminals to reduce lines and distance so that servers can meet their order entry deadline.  If you don’t have a POS system, taking on a speed lunch promotion is going to be very interesting.  Investing in one not only helps the success of your speed lunch promo, it also improves efficiency across your restaurant.

Leverage restaurant equipment.  Before launching a speed lunch promotion, carefully analyze the cook times of the items you’re going to offer and make sure your staff can consistently produce under a given time limit.  Quick and efficient cooking equipment like steamers, broilers, and microwaves should be used whenever possible to make sure prep times stay down.  Food prep equipment like food processors and vegetable cutters are great ways to increase your kitchen staff’s efficiency.

Continue to analyze preparation and cooking techniques and look for ways to improve efficiency.

Make sure your staff is ready.  You may want to schedule extra staff for speed lunch promo days, especially when you first start out.  Evaluate staff performance and put teams together that operate well under the deadline pressure.  Keep top performing teams together so that familiarity breeds added efficiency.

A speed lunch promo is a great way to create lunch crowds in your restaurant.  And the challenge for you and your staff to perform can make it an exercise in teamwork that can have many unintentional benefits for your business, such as finding ways to increase efficiency and teamwork.

These new findings can be applied to the rest of your business easily, and while your dinner rush might have a little more time, the lessons you learned turning tables at lunch might help you make an extra buck at night too.

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