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.

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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