This week’s question is about the live foot traffic from customers patronizing local restaurants. The question on the minds of restaurant owners is, “how do I build loyalty and get my business to thrive?”
This is a great question because last weekend my wife and I went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. I enjoyed the Carne Asada Skirt Steak – but that’s not the point. When we checked in, they took our name, put it on the list and gave us a remote. (I’m not sure what the technical term is for those things the host uses to buzz you when your table is ready.) Remember back when those things came out and we thought they were so cool?
Now they’re lame. Why? By using them, restaurants are missing a huge marketing opportunity. Everyone already has a remote in their pocket — a cell phone — and it works well more than 100 feet away from the restaurant.
Restaurants have to try innovative and creative marketing techniques so they don’t become a statistic. I believe many could overcome those challenges with good local marketing. While I’ve never owned a restaurant and I’ve haven’t tried any of these ideas in practice, they are ideas for ambitious restaurant owners to implement. I’m sure they’d work better than traditional forms of marketing with their guests.
- Take a very logical opportunity to get people’s cell phone number and email address with permission to contact them through those methods.
- If I had a restaurant that uses “remotes,” I’d replace them with the patrons’ own cell phone numbers. I have the host say politely, “Can I have your cell phone number, so we can text you when your table is ready?” Once she notes it down, I’d have her say. “Thanks. We can also send you occasional coupons and discounts by text. Would you mind if we sent you a text coupon once every two weeks?” If the person says “yes,” then I’d put that person on a text autoresponder sequence that sends a text promo every two weeks.
- The first text I’d send would actually direct them to the restaurant website to download their coupon. I’d have that coupon behind a web form where I’d collect their email address (along with permission to send offers via email). Once they fill out the form, I’d deliver the coupon and start that person on a bi-weekly email autoresponder sequence.
If there aren’t any remotes in use, I’d find other ways to get permission to email and text.
- Offer a free menu item in exchange for an email address or phone number (making sure to always ask permission to send offers).
- Contact local networking groups and offer to host their next networking party in exchange for a promotion to their list of networkers. Use that promotion to drive email and/or text opt-ins.
- Offer “off-menu” or “chef’s special” items through text/email only! This will also have people pass along worthy items to their friends and drive more referral traffic.
- Use text or email as a way to track membership rewards. “Buy 10 meals, get 1 free” is a common tactic for small restaurants. Instead of using a punch card, use email addresses or cell phone numbers to track their purchases on your computer.
- Send coupons on slow days during slow times to boost profitability. If you know that Mondays between 2pm and 5pm are bad times for your restaurant, send a coupon on Mondays at 1:45pm that expires at 5pm that day. Turn your slow times into good times. (Be respectful to not bombard your recipients, too.)
- If you do direct mail, use those mailers to drive traffic to your website or text opt-ins. All you have to do is offer something that is valuable enough for the recipients to give you their permission to market to them.
Those are several ideas to increase the responsiveness, effectiveness and overall profitability for restaurants. If you read these ideas closely, you’ll see they aren’t isolated to restaurants; rather, any business that has a desire to get more leads and repeat business from their customers.
Feel free to share your crafty marketing ideas in the comments below. If you have a question that our team of small business growth experts could help with, let me know in the comments below.