Restaurant Marketing.

Welcome to the Restaurant Doctor UK guide to restaurant marketing.

Restaurant marketing is not something you should be afraid of, it is a worthwhile activity you should definitely spend some time doing. The benefits of marketing your restaurant are that you define who you sell your products to, why they choose your restaurant and you target your advertising effectively in order to achieve the best results. The aim of this guide is to provide you with a straightforward, straight to the point knowledge of restaurant marketing. We have included only the information that is relevant and useful to you and kept all the boring and confusing stuff out, so you can get to work on your marketing strategy faster and confidently.

What is restaurant marketing?

Basically marketing is the identifying of your customers wants and needs and providing products and services to meet their requirements.

Needs. Needs are simply the basic requirements we have to live our lives, e.g. food, drink, shelter and clothing.
Wants. Wants are the individual items that satisfy a need. E.g. your customers need to eat, but they want a particular type of food to satisfy their need.

Although this doesn’t mean you just create a menu and give it away for free, there are other things to consider when you are concentrating on your marketing efforts, these are:

The Price you charge.
The location of your restaurant and your target market.
How you are going to promote your products/services.
How you are going to follow up on your customer’s satisfaction.

There is a marketing principle that covers the basic marketing requirements you need to investigate and concentrate on when you are planning your marketing strategy; this is known the ‘Marketing Mix’.

The Marketing Mix.

The Marketing Mix is concerned with the 4 main factors you must consider when targeting and attracting customers to your restaurant, these are known as “THE 4P’s”:

Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

Product.

This is what you sell, although it should be noted that it is not just what is on your menu that is part of the product you are selling. Other factors such as your disable access, the exterior and interior of your restaurant, the quality of your wine list, the level of training of your staff etc all have a strong part to play in the product you are offering. The product is not only what the customer is buying from you; it is also the experience they are getting with it, and the benefits your product brings to them. You should consider what you could offer your customers other than a meal in order to attract and retain them. If you think about it your customers can probably get many of the items on your menu elsewhere so why should they come to you?

Below are some of the things you may want to introduce or improve upon to increase your customer’s perception of the product you are offering:

Is your restaurant children-friendly?
Do you have an attractively painted and well-maintained exterior?
Is your restaurant neat & tidy?
Are your tables arranged for customer comfort or just to maximise the number of covers you can service?
Are your staff friendly, courteous and well trained?
Is your restaurant layout appropriate for people who require a wheelchair?
Do you offer a decent selection of vegetarian, vegan or gluten free items?
Do you offer healthy options in your menu?

Improving the product you offer increases the number of people who want to dine in your restaurant.

Price.

This about how much you charge for your product. Although it should be noted that you don’t just charge what you think is best or how much you think your product is worth. You must consider the following when pricing your products:

How much does it cost you to produce your product? This is the cost of buying your ingredients, staffing your restaurant, paying your bills etc.
What profit margin do you want to make? You may want to have a higher turnover of customers by pricing your product lower; this may be when you want to undercut your competitors.
Do your customers see your product as value for money? If you buy cheap ingredients the quality of your food is compromised and your customers will feel like they have been ripped off if you charge them a lot for it, however if you operate a no-fills restaurant and charge reasonable prices your customers won’t feel ripped off, unless of course you serve them cat food and charge them £5.00 for the pleasure!
Is the price of your product reflecting an offer or promotion?

What you should always consider is your customer’s perception of the price you charge for your products, if they see it as a waste of money, they will not come to your restaurant, if they perceive your product as value for money then you are much more likely to attract customers to your restaurant. You will be surprised at how effective lowering your prices slightly can increase turnover.

If you currently charge £15.00 for two courses and you attract 20 customers a night, you will make £300 a night, or £2,100 a week turnover.
If you dropped your price to £12.50 you would appeal to more customers so let us say you now get 30 people a night, you will make £375 a night, or £2,625 a week turnover..

Place.

Is concerned with where your restaurant is located and how your target market will receive your product. Obviously you can’t just move your restaurant to the ideal location, you are where you are so you make the most of it.

The factors affecting the location of your restaurant, and customers visiting it are:

Is it in walking distance?
Is it in a safe area?
Is there a bus stop or train station close to your restaurant?
Is it expensive to get a taxi to your restaurant?
Is it a short drive to your restaurant and do you have a large enough car park?
Would it be financially beneficial to offer a delivery service to increase customers?
Also is it in an area where there is a lot of competition?

If it is inconvenient for customers to travel to your restaurant then the chances are they won’t come, so you have to take action to make it worth their while, this can either be by providing transport, which is not cost effective for you, offering a delivery service, or improving the product you sell or the price you sell it for to give the customer an incentive to make the effort to travel.

Promotion.

This factor relates to how information about your product (and restaurant) is communicated to the people you want to come to your restaurant. There are various methods available to get the information passed around the market these can be described as:

Controlled Methods Of Promotion.

Controlled methods of promotion are the activities you control regarding your promotion, such as:
Sales Promotions.
Advertising.
Public Relations.

Uncontrolled Methods Of Promotion.

Uncontrolled methods of promotion are concerned with other people’s opinions of your restaurant, whether it is positive or negative, such as:
Personal recommendations.
Press editorials.
Word of mouth.

The other main difference between the two is that controlled methods of promotion cost you to create, whereas uncontrolled methods are free, so you should do everything in your power to ensure that any word of mouth is positive. You should always conduct business in a way that your customers will perceive as positive. This can be a very useful for generating and maintaining a positive image, if you show that you have ethics and care about your customers, community and staff then you are going to be seen as the caring and trustworthy business.

The ways you can increase your image are:

Treat your staff well, they will tell people what a good boss you are.
Get involved with a charity, either make a regular donation or assist them with their cause.
Always offer your customers value for money.
Have special rates for pensioners, everyone appreciates it if you look after the elderly.
Be nice to people, let them like you!

Keeping an eye on your competition.

It is very important that you are constantly aware of what your competitors are doing to entice customers into their restaurants. Remember that your competitors are trying to get the customers you want too! You might think that competition is a bad thing, but it is actually a very good thing for you, as the threat of other businesses ‘muscling in’ on your territory or customer base keeps you on your toes and therefore makes you constantly improve your product and service.

What should you know about your competition?

Where they are?
How much they charge for their products/service?
What products they offer?
How they treat their staff?
How long they have been in business.

You need to know this because their marketing efforts directly affect yours and the more you know about your competitors the more competitive you can become. Don’t just slash your prices that is no good for anyone in the business. The better way to compete is to offer higher quality products or better service or have better ethics than the competition; you create a better deal for the customers than your rivals. Don’t assume that only restaurants that offer the same type of menu as you do are your competitors, there are a lot of businesses out there who want the same customers as you do, these are:

Supermarkets.
Takeaways.
Pubs.
Hotels.
Indian, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, Italian restaurants etc.
Also, people having dinner parties at home.

Just remember to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing and how well they are doing.

Restaurant Marketing and Advertising Strategies, the next part of our restaurant marketing feature can be found here.