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My Restaurant is Starving!

Marci Whitman


Marci Whitman

Estimated Reading Time

2 minutes


I recently had a coaching session with a new restaurant who said to me, “My restaurant is starving!” At least the owner has a sense of humor to use the play on words. But, it was no laughing matter!  His restaurant was barely making ends meet, and I’m not sure how he made it to the six-month mark. Let me share a little background about his story and then the three suggestions I offered.

The mom and pop restaurant had been open for about six months when he called to take advantage of our Free Coaching Friday session. Everything he had was in the shop… mortgaged his house, savings, his parents put up some cash and, not to be forgotten, the sweat equity to get open. What was missing? Marketing. Throughout the entire time they were doing tenant finishing they should have been marketing! From changing out the window signage with teaser text or big pictures of their entrees (professionally) shot, to spreading the word in the local neighborhoods, they lost valuable time.  See, folks are curious by nature.  They see a new business coming in and want to know what it is.  The window signage could have been a fun avenue.  Each day adding a teaser, sample photos, watch us on Facebook, register to win an exclusive opening night dinner package (while collecting email addresses for future promotions).

By the time opening day rolled around people didn’t know anything about the new restaurant, or that it was a restaurant at all.  As the months have rolled by, the owner has been in a daze and in panic mode. Here’s the tricky part… the owner is not comfortable with social media, doesn’t have a background in marketing or any experience promoting or running a business.

If ever there was a need for a do-over button this is it.  The passion was there for the owner to succeed he just needed the support, encouragement and know-how to make it happen.

The three suggestions to turn this around:

Get Social! With only a one page website from the phone company, priority #1 was a mobile enabled website. Heck, you don’t have to go extreme here.  WordPress has so many options for getting a small business website up and going.  I suggested a new website with menu,  take-out order form and call ahead wait-list.  Once the site is complete, start optimizing it for local search, Google Places, restaurant directories, local guides, etc.  Next, get social with Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and Yelp. These are a must for retail and restaurant businesses. Twitter especially, as you can Tweet a coupon or any promo offer and quickly have that go viral.

Call local Networking Groups! Many local groups need a place to host their meetings.  For a restaurant who maybe isn’t open in the AM consider opening one or two days a week so attendees get to know your location and service. You can get 20-50 people who otherwise wouldn’t know you were there.  Pass out coupons or craft a dinner special for two people or family four packs which will encourage folks to come back.

Spread the Word! Since the restaurant isn’t open for breakfast guess what the morning is. Marketing time!  Make a goal to visit five or ten businesses within walking distance and hand out lunch special flyers.  Encourage them to call ahead and you’ll have it ready for pickup. Stop by City Hall and hand out the fliers, call the local paper, who in the city seems to be influential? Use the morning to set the stage for a busy lunch and dinner.  I know that the morning is when you prep for the day but without marketing and butts in the chairs you won’t need to prep for long.

Eating out tends to be a coupon, impulse, price point purchase.  Restaurant owners need to be creative in their marketing and encourage groups to come.  You can build loyalty through apps like FourSquare and building an email list. Social media is a must.  Watch what the big named franchises are doing and learn from them. Why reinvent the wheel… take their tested ideas and put them into play for your establishment.

Sometimes bouncing a few ideas around is all a business owner needs to get motivated and take their business to the next step.  To schedule a coaching session with us jump on over to our online calendar.