Unless you have a chef as famous as Gordon Ramsey or Mario Batali, you need to constantly produce innovative ideas to bring new customer to your restaurant. Advertising alone does not help much cause there are millions of restaurants popping up. Being in the Food and Beverage industry all my working life, I am always searching for new ways of promoting my product and services. Some might not be possible to your restaurant or business. But some have worked for me.

Can we take just a moment to talk about this term “Mystic Marketing”?

Based on some definitions, “Mystic” can seem to be something that mystifies, confounds, and defies explanation.

In many cases, marketing campaigns which have an amazing impact relate to ordinary things. After all food service is a simple necessity each of us takes part in several times a day. People eat to sustain their lives. Customers choose where to eat because of what they believe.

What do customers believe about your restaurant? Poor reputation and poor customer feelings need more than “marketing.”

If you are in the restaurant business, there is more than just a product to sell. Smiles, comfort, and quality of life are also a part of what you give. Supplying an experience to remember (or forget?) is what will separate your restaurant from hundreds of other choices.

To this end, we will review some Marketing Tips for Restaurants that defies the classic trends. None of which are “traditional” since I know you are interested in something new. Hopefully, you will have the same success that will seem “mystical” as others have.

Bounce back Gift

This is an excellent idea when you have a slow month after a busy month.

Prepare small envelopes that has a 10% or 20% discount on meal, a free dessert or main course or even a BHD10 gift certificate. You can put in a lucky draw bowl and let the guest (who dines a certain amount) pick one. The vouchers are valid for the next month (the slow month). If you are running a Chinese restaurant, you can put the vouchers in angpow (red packets) envelope and distribute them during the Chinese New Year period. The guest can claim their prize next month. This will then increase your clientele on a slow month.

Employee Marketing Challenge

Create vouchers and pass to your staff. Have them sign on the back of the vouchers. Let them distribute the vouchers to any one they want. The vouchers can be discount for purchase for a meal. Give a prize to the staff that has the most vouchers coming back to the restaurant. This makes the staff feel important and if he/ she wants to win a prize he needs to give to people that he/she knows will come and dine.

Always have some method of capturing email addresses

  1. Have a monthly give away of something fun / popular such as an iPhone.
  2. Have the staff talk it up and get email addresses so the customers can be notified if they win
  3. Be sure to have opt-in entry forms available and getting signatures is even better
  4. Check to be sure customers have signed, giving permission to contact them by email
  5. Team up with one or more other businesses to offer a bigger prize to share costs and email addresses on the entries.
  6. A common trend is to offer a free product item for email address.
  7. Fish bowls are traditional, but they work. (have a daily drawing for a smaller prize)
  8. Use any of the other tips to focus on gathering email addresses.
  9. Coloring contests, writing contests, any kind of drawing attracts attention.

Communicate with your customers

Regularly communicate with your customers. It can be either via a newsletter, a letter written to them personally or paying them a visit. This is the reason you see famous brands like Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colgate spending millions of dollars for advertising even though most people know these brands. Even a kid knows who Colonel Sanders is. By regularly staying connected, your customers will feel like they are an important part of your establishment and this will encourage them to return far more often. There are a few key things to remember when creating a newsletter. Firstly, you will have to do it on a regularly basis but do not do it every two weeks then this will be a junk mail. A monthly newsletter is more than enough. Keep your content interesting and add in exclusive offers here and there. As for me apart from printing flyers and putting on cars and in mailboxes, I sent personally signed letters highlighting our specials to our regulars. This is what I have learnt recently from a marketing article which says to take care of the 20 percent that give us 80 percent of your business. The 80/20 rule. But you must remember to continuously add more names to your list. Reason being people might shift or get transferred out. So, you will constantly have a new list. Each letter is signed by name of the regular instead of Dear Sir. So, they will feel that I am writing to them personally. As my list is getting bigger, I will be buying a stamp with my signature on it so as I can sign more letters. Bahrain is known for its diversity and multicultural community, you will find a variety of festivals here. I visit our regulars bringing some festive goodies to say hi and thank them for their business. When I visit the westerner’s regulars during the festive season, I bring stolen bread or chocolate. For the Muslim regulars, I visit them during the Eid al Fitr bringing halwa and the Indian regulars bringing Indian sweets. This makes our regulars feel important and we are their first choice when they need a place to dine. You do not have to go on the day of the festival, I do it about a week before the holidays.

That’s all for today, give a try to the tips above or start some of the action and let me know how you customer reacted, share your thought. To the next article.

Treat your steward well

The steward is a significant and integral part of a well run and organized kitchen. Dishwashing is often the lowest paid, most criticised and mocked position in the kitchen, but undeniably important to basic running. The steward is mistreated by cooks and service staff alike, given the dirtiest jobs and the longest hours and is expected to show up with complaint.

The wisest chefs and owners treat their stewards with kid gloves, giving them the choicest titbits and decent pay. Nothing will bring a kitchen to a relentless halt faster than a busy restaurant where the steward has gotten fed up and walked out or not shown up for work because he was working for slave wages and has been neglected.

The Chef, the cooks and sometimes the service staff and owners are then left trying to play catch-up with the dishes and pots and pans along their own jobs. It creates an atmosphere of animosity. “It’s not MY job”- and when a kitchen only has a certain quantity of sauté pans and the cooks have to wash them as they use them on a busy night, it slows everything down. This effect the food getting cooked, as well as it being served and presented in a timely manner to the customer.

Treat your steward well and you will avoid having to deal with the angry chef griping that he was there until 2:00 am mopping the floor because there was no steward to do it for him.

Treat your steward as the integral part of a well run and organized kitchen that they deserve to be and your operation will run like the well oiled machine it is supposed to.

Is Your Food Truck Concept Feasible?

Main Components of a Feasibility Study:

Unique Selling Point (USP). Having a unique selling point (USP) is crucial to your business’s success.  Ideally you should try and distinguish your food truck from the competition by providing a menu that customers can only get from you.  Even if you are in a market with several similar mobile food vendors or restaurants you can still distinguish yourself from the competition through your product and the service you provide your customers. Find more info on USP here and how to work on them.

Competitive Advantage. Proving that your food truck is better than your competitors is crucial; you need to determine why your menu or service will beat the competition.

The main ways to beat the competition:

Price – where will your prices fall?

Convenience – are your planned parking locations close to your target market?

Quality – are your ingredients high grade, sourced locally or organic? Is your service faster or more efficient?

Market Analysis. You need to prove in this section that a market exists or will exist for your food truck’s menu items. Some market research is essential here. Get the help of consultant to determine your market.

Google – search engines contain lots of useful information but be prepared to spend a long time looking for what you need.

Libraries – most local libraries contain trade journals and local information you may find useful.

Social Networks – Use a service to conduct surveys via email as well as social networks (Facebook, Quora, Twitter) to find out what people think of your idea. A couple well written tweets in peak hours may generate valuable feedback.

Technical & Operational Requirements. In this section you need to cover the basic requirements your truck will need to operate (licenses, commercial kitchen space, and parking). It’s always best to plan the first year in detail, and then look at the next two years on a summary level.

Financial Information. Making profit is the most important area to use to determine if your concept is feasible. Be very conservative with your estimates in this section.

You will need to determine:

  • Startup costs
  • Revenue expectations for first year
  • Ongoing expenses for first year
  • Cash Flow for first year

If you are finding it difficult to plan revenue and expenses, you should speak with a consultant familiar with the food service industry to help you.

The Bottom Line

When you start planning out your food truck and before you invest too much time and money it is very important for you determine if your food truck concept is feasible.  Not only with this will speed up the process of knowing to start over or to proceed with your plan, it will also provide you with most of the information needed to complete your business plan.

Is your food truck concept feasible? Do you have any additional advice on this topic? Share your thoughts in the comment section or on social media.