Restaurant Marketing Report - 7 Secrets To A Full Restaurant

Simple ideas and strategies to put "bums on seats" and fill your restaurant or cafe with paying customers.

We help Restaurant and Cafe Owners to magnetically attract more customers, increase the average customer spend and to put more money in your bank account.

Not getting the results you want? Reserve your Rapid Results, Business Growth, Breakthrough Session HERE

Monday, 19 May 2014

Restaurant Owners - Don't make this classic mistake!

How good is your customer inquiry system?

I remember doing a targeted direct mail for a large restaurant one Christmas. It was sent to only businesses who had more than 20 employees. We were targeting large group bookings of 50 to 100 at a time, so each telephone response was worth on average more than $4,000 in potential sales. 

There was something like 6 responses, but only 1 sale. The number of responses was quite good, bearing in mind the timing of the promotion, and the quality of an unproven list. The sales conversion rate, however, was very poor.

Yes, we had failed. I had done my job in generating the leads. Not bad in a single mailing where in normal circumstances I would have run a 3 step campaign and doubled, if not tripled that number, but time had run out. Where, I had failed, was in assuming the restaurateur had the systems and processes in place to be able to convert the sales leads to “bums on seats”. He clearly didn’t. 

This begs a wider question... 

When your phone rings, or if you have other interactions via your web site, or other contact points do you have a-
·         Process for managing inquires?
·         System to collect customer information, whether they book or not?
·         System to automatically follow up each inquiry?
·         Questioning process to drill down and understand your customer needs, and make them feel important?
·         Promotional package and collateral to give them with menus, options and suggestions for holding a successful function?
·         Way of adding value so your prospective customer feels you are the only place to hold their event?
·         A system for measuring the metrics, i.e. How many inquiries do you get? How many book straight away? How many inquiries do you miss? How many do you follow up and get the booking? Etc.

Do you find out-
·         How they heard about you?
·         Have they dined at your restaurant before?
·         Why, or why they didn't book with you?
·         Any other relevant information that helps you understand the potential customer better, and enable you to segment these type of inquires in your database so you can contact them again about other events and functions?

Yes, this one simple touch point can make or break your business.

Now would be a good time to audit your inquiry process and understand what is actually happening? If you measure and know what your conversion rate on inquiries is you can work out how to improve it.

May be even asked someone to do a mystery shopper for you and get them to give you some feedback. Or, get a coach. Don't make the mistake I did of assuming all is well... It probably is not.

Alistair Gray

Thursday, 24 April 2014

10 Low Cost Ways To Market Your Café or, Small Restaurant

“Why didn’t you tell us you make Chai Tea?” I said to the coffee shop owner, as nowhere was there a menu. 

Almost affronted, she responded in a hurt tone: “I don’t know how to market my business!” 

I bit my tongue, as little did she know I helped restaurants with their marketing and I could have sat down with her for a long chat. We had just finished another weeks holiday at Pacific Palms and were about to start our journey home.

Her small café was located in amongst a small group of shops, with nice outdoor tables in a covered area, creating shade from the sun and protection from the rain. Her business has the benefit of both local trade and the bulk I suspect from seasonal holiday makers, like us, who just wanted to sit down, enjoy a coffee and read the paper or catch up with friends. Weekends, would be peak trade.

We had been coming here for the last 4 years for our short one week, off season break. This time it was a couple of weeks before Easter, and the town seemed to be filled with retired “baby boomers”, and a few young families with kids on holiday.

What are the simple, low cost things I would do to boost sales and repeat business-

1. Have a selection of daily newspapers on hand for customers to read. Make a deal with the local news agent. Once your customers know you have daily papers available to read they return.

2. Offer free WIFI access. Talk to your local Telco. You can limited access time and create download limits. When travelling and away from home WIFI access is a big attractor to many.

3. Create great external signage, that gets the attention of passing traffic. Also, being in the country, you could put a number of signs, strategically placed on the highway to attract customers to your café. Create specific reasons for customers to visit, other than best coffee, best service as all your competitors also say that.

4. Create “4 Walls Signage” that focuses on making “impulse” or “easy to buy” sales. Don’t put your entire menu on a blackboard at the back of your restaurant, in poor light, which is hard to read. It may suit you, but you are not your customer. Customers, like time to consider their options. The simple goal is doing whatever it takes to make it easy for the customer to buy. Lead with price leaders, not, for example the most expensive breakfast option on the menu. Highlight the daily special.

5. Create easy to read, laminated menus for your everyday offering. You can always add a fresh printed sheet for your daily specials. You can strategically highlight by boxing, or shading on your menu, one or two items encourage customer purchases in a certain direction. Limit this to higher margin items.

6. Create value packages. The goal is to increase the average ticket size. So make it easy for a customer to buy, by creating an incentive for them to purchase more. Eg. Buy the mega breakfast and get a free coffee; Buy a large coffee and save $1 on any cake purchase; Buy a large Coffee and Muffin after 3pm and get the Muffin for 50% off. Taking a reduced margin on the add on sale is better than no add on sale at all.

7. Build alliances with other business owners. Being in a holiday town, it may make sense to work something out with the local real estate agent who is doing all the holiday lettings. When the visitor collects their keys from the agent, they could be handed an envelope with a letter from the agent thanking them for their rental with a couple of thank you gifts. Maybe a voucher for a two for one breakfast, or a free coffee and cake, or whatever. This would work well over the long holiday breaks, with the goal to get the visitor to make the first visit. You could do the same with other business owners. Don’t forget surrounding suburbs.

8. Focus on selling, up selling and additional orders. The key here is to help customers to buy. If they ask for a cappuccino, ask them if that is a large one today? A lot of the time they will say yes, and you have increased the sale size. Talk about the freshly baked scones, or muffins and encourage them to buy. Take time to visit your tables and ask customers if they would like another coffee, or want to try your special dessert. Just by asking you will increase your sales. Use the opportunity, to build connections; to chat and learn more about what your customers are looking for. Don’t assume they know what you have to offer. Encourage the coffee customers to come for breakfast or lunch. Be continually  planting seeds.

9. Make sure you have the product the customer wants to buy, or they know you will make it for them. Have jars of melting moments, chocolate chip, and peanut brownies, and other old favorites available for the quick and easy impulse buy. Baby Boomers and self funded retirees, are generally not afraid to open their wallets, but often only want simple fare, like sandwiches, wraps and salads.  When on holiday, they love to eat out for breakfast and love simple value options. So give them what they value.

10. Always be encouraging repeat business. Getting customers to return again is a simple success factor. The old coffee card is great, particularly for your locals. Short term visitors tend to want to go to different places and try things out. Though, they too can quickly become loyal if you treat them right. Offer a friendly welcome, great service and good coffee, and other incentives to return. They will soon be yours. Think about using simple, bounce back, targeted offers to get them return, or to try breakfast, or lunch if they haven’t tried that before. Knowing your numbers, and selective targeting is the key here. Something, you can do easily in a small Café.

Need help marketing your cafe or restaurant? Want better results? Want more "bums" on seats? Reserve your personal "Rapid Results, Business Growth Breakthrough Session" HERE.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Read what others have said about Alistair HERE

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Going the Extra Mile!

I was reading an article the other night by one of my writing mentors Steve Slaunwhite where he tells the story of when he was staying in a hotel and ordered peanut butter for breakfast. He is a peanut butter nut just like me. They did not have any and he was offered Jam instead. The next day the same thing happened. On the third day the waitress had gone out of her way to get him peanut butter to go with his toast. It was ordered in especially for him. Imagine how he felt?

This reminded me of when I used to travel a lot.  I developed the habit of often staying at the same hotels and eating at many of the same restaurants. Being away two hundred nights in a year you tend to be on auto pilot and when they did something special it really did get noticed and appreciated. One restaurant I used to visit in Perth called the “Greek” used to serve fabulous seafood and be famous for its black mussels. I used to go there a lot.

In the summer you would sit outside and enjoy the warm temperatures. In winter they have a roaring log fire. I remember arriving on a cold winter’s night after walking a kilometer or two and being offered an arm chair right in front of the fire. This was to give them time to prepare my table and to give me an opportunity to relax with a good glass of red.  I was really comfortable and the owner could see this too, and offered to bring me dinner on a tray so I could continue to enjoy the warmth of the fire. Wow! This was great. It was like being at home and a big contrast to being stuck on another table to eat alone yet again.  They hit the mark that night. I was definitely the envy of some of the other diners; so good and so appreciated.

The thing is they knew I travelled a lot and was a regular visitor. They went out of their way to welcome me and do something special to make me feel at home. I very much appreciated that and still today, whenever I go to Perth this restaurant is the first place I visit… they had won my loyalty forever.

The question is… what things do you do in your restaurant to go the extra mile? What things are you doing to create extra special experiences for your customers? Things that are unexpected and make you stand out as special. Things that make your customers want to come back?

It may be as simple as a little hand written card on the table saying thank you; or a personal telephone call the day after to say thanks. Or, seating the regular customer at their favorite table, or bringing out a yellow rose for a lady to take home. Whatever it is, be sure not to take your regulars for granted instead have a strategy of recognising, listening to their needs and surprising them.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Restaurant Marketing: 4 low cost ways to boost sales to existing customers

A simple dessert tray will boost dessert sales

1. Gratitude Marketing – the easiest way to differentiate you from your competitors is to send your customers a thank you card after they have dined at your restaurant. It is simple. It is easy and most of your competitors are unlikely to do it.

Think about it. You have a great night out and then a few days later you receive a hand written thank you note from your favorite restaurant. I bet they will get a buzz from that. Wouldn't you?

People love to do business with people they know, like and trust. The next time they are looking to dine out they are more likely to think about you. You could also include in the card a small bounce back certificate or maybe even a customer referral card. It is about thinking through the right strategy that fits for your restaurant. Of course, another gratitude strategy is to simply pick up the phone and thank your customer.

2. 4 Walls Marketing – Helen and I were dining out with some friends at a full service restaurant (not fast casual) with the white table cloths, and I noticed 2 discrete marketing pieces placed right in the middle of the table, lying flat. One was to advertise their Valentine’s Day package and the other advertising their daily leader specials for the week. They were printed about DL size from the restaurant’s printer on white 80 gsm paper in black ink, with some smart layout.

What was interesting… they stayed there all evening, unobtrusively on the table. They fitted… white paper on a white table cloth. Everyone at the table at some point looked at them. So often I get told we can’t do this in a "nicer restaurant" yet here was an excellent example of it working in this restaurant.

3. Dessert Tray (see picture above) – having trouble selling desserts? Try using a dessert tray. I noticed this immediately draw a response from someone in our party who never buys desserts. Give it a try.

4. Prepayments/Gift Vouchers – I received a letter from the Rugby Club this week offering me the opportunity to purchase some tickets for the British and Irish Lion’s Tour. Part of the deal was if I bought some tickets I could get a $75 bar tab for only $50 obviously paid up front of course.

You could do the same in your restaurant e.g. “Dine midweek this week and you can purchase a $100 gift voucher for only $50” or “Book and pay for our 2 courses midsummer special and you can purchase a $75 beverage tab for only $50”. The opportunities are endless.

My business partner in the States in his restaurant has an annual gift voucher sale. From memory it is  for 3 or 4 days where he discounts his gift vouchers of up to 50% and usually brings in an extra $40/$50,000. Not bad for his little 40 seater restaurant. Think about it… not only has he got a heap of cash up front, he has locked in all those customers. A percentage of the vouchers never get redeemed which offset the discount, you are rewarding your existing customers and most spend more than the voucher amount anyway.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Thursday, 10 January 2013

5 Marketing and Service Lessons from your local Asian Restaurant

It was hot yesterday and my wife Helen decided she wanted to go to the pictures. She pulled me kicking and screaming away from the office. She just wanted to get cool. So off we go to Burwood; join a queue of about 50 people (this is not my idea of fun). “Les Miserables” is not starting till 7.30pm and it is now about 6pm. Food time.

Out we go into the heat. It is 40C plus.  When you have been in the air con it feels like hitting a furnace. We walk into almost the first restaurant. It is Asian; about 80 seats; no fancy fittings; just simple tables and chairs and hand written signs everywhere. Everything is in Chinese. We are the only Europeans in the place. It is "chockers"; full of people eating their dinner.

Within seconds a table miraculously appears . Next we are handed the English version of the menu and a handwritten specials menu. There is a simple photo book with pictures of each dish (and there are a lot) with a handwritten description and price. There are some lessons here.

The staff are running; the owner a good looking Asian lady is out on the floor directing traffic, moving tables. She is cool and calm and very much in control. I watch as she juggles tables and squeezes more and more people into the restaurant. People are queuing now to get in. I am waiting to be asked if I could let someone sit on my shoulders, it's that busy. This is Tuesday night and most of the European restaurants are empty.

We immediately get a large pot of Chinese tea… complimentary and when we are ready our order is taken. There was no rush and the waitress was helpful despite the organised chaos around us.  The meal comes in about 15/20 minutes.  It is superb.  We look at the dishes around us and know we must come back with friends for more. This place is good.

I come to pay the bill and I literally have to fight my way to the counter; do a waltz with a couple of waiters as things are so tight and the bill is waiting for me. No last minute adding up; they were prepared all ready to go. I pay the bill. Wow, that is refreshing.

The lessons…

Now, I am the first to acknowledge this is not your standard European restaurant; the cultures are different; there is no ambience but the lessons are everywhere…

Four walls marketing – everywhere there is handwritten notices telling the customers about the specials and the dishes … most restaurants simply do not have good signage, do not use their walls inside and out to effectively communicate their offerings. Think about what you can do
Photographs of your dishes – pictures tell a thousand words and having available a photo book of dishes could well boost sales
English menus – French and Italian restaurants often make the mistake of thinking their customers understand what their dishes are when the menu is written in their native language. If your customers don’t understand what they are buying, they buy less. There are more than 160 different cultures living in Australia and we tend to forget that English is often a second language.  In this part of the world many customers may never have had any exposure to European languages and so will struggle with your menu. Be aware of this and cater for it. By catering for different languages and you may well open up a whole different market of customers
Conduct the orchestra - manage your people, customer flows and experience. Have someone to actively manage the process so customers are immediately met and seated; that customers are not left waiting for attention; drinks are poured and orders are taken; tables are cleared promptly; empty tables are not left vacant. Pro-actively manage the game. This means less doing and more managing of the process
Bill ready - watch for the signs when the customer is finished and pro-actively have the account ready for payment. Don’t start adding up the bill when the customer is ready to pay.  This causes delays. Also when you have a rush of customers wanting to settle their accounts at the same time this can make any delays even worse.  Instead pro-actively manage the process and have your bills ready. Your customers will appreciate this and be impressed with your efficiency.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Saturday, 5 January 2013

007 will never assume anything. Do you?

It is obviously summer time as we yet have another feast of James Bond on Free to Air TV. Personally, I love it; being a James Bond fan of more than 50 years (wow that dates me) I remember well being taken by my dad to watch Sean Connery do his thing.

Last night it was “For Your Eyes Only” with an array of beautiful girls; car chases, ducking bullets; escaping from helicopters, sharks and other underwater challenges in the Mediterranean to some fancy skiing and then impossible climbing in Greece.

Have you noticed how James Bond never assumes he is safe? He always has options. A second way out; a last minute quick thinking always saves the day.

In your marketing how much do you assume?

Do you assume…
Just because you have great food and service your customers want to dine with you when your competitors are also offering the same
Your customers think about you first when deciding where to dine
Customers and the business community know you cater for weddings; business functions and briefings; special events and other occasions
They know you do provide catering services; help with event planning; will operate outside the normal business hours; etc. etc.
Customers know you sell gift cards and other services
You have to discount your services to fill your restaurant
Customers know the special dining packages you offer
All your customers will see your Facebook posts, your emails, your newspaper ads and  other promotional material
You don’t have to regularly communicate with your customers

Marketing your restaurant or any business is not a “one night stand” it is a continuous program of education using multiple media and channels to get your message through. 

This means constantly reminding them…
That you exist
The reasons why they should dine with you
The services you offer
That you care about them and your community
That you offer great food, great service and great value

Of course, one simple way to do this is with the Restaurant Sales Builder Program. To find out more call me 1300 654 252 or email me at

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Friday, 7 December 2012

How Restaurants Boost Christmas Profits

Christmas is only a few weeks away now and your restaurant should be buzzing with party goers looking to celebrate Christmas and the end of the work year.

Careful planning and training will boost restaurant profits in pre-Christmas trading.

Refocus on the basics, creating good impressions, creating a fun party atmosphere,  getting customer details, add on sales, up selling and packaging, executing strategies to get customers to return in the new year are some of the things covered in this short video.

The list is far from inclusive but is intended as some quick thought starters to help you make this important time of year more profitable for your business.


Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit