How To Be A Zebra In A Herd Of Horses - Restaurateurs It's Time To Stand OutImage credit: Dana
With areas becoming heavily populated, the economy regrowing, more independent restaurants opening up, as well as chain restaurants becoming more competitive - it can sometimes feel like everyone is after a slice of your action.
Restaurant owners can find themselves worrying that there's no way to compete with the prices some local competitors are offering, or perhaps simply don't know how to approach adding value to their product without seriously cutting into their bottom line.
Fear not: it is more than possible to compete locally without resorting to a price war. it simply takes a little bit of forward thinking, creativity and a 'can do' attitude. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Get The Product Right
Your priority should be your product - a nice frame on an ugly picture doesn't make the picture any more attractive. If you want return customers, a great reputation through word of mouth and social media and you want to truly shout from the rooftops about how incredible your product is - get the food right. Is your menu a bit tired, are you the best within your niche, could you make slight adjustments to ingredients to make your food stand out that bit more?
The more incredible your food, the easier it will be for you to compete with cheaper restaurants. Are you the best in your niche? Shout about it. Offer organic or locally sourced produce? Shout about that too.
Anything that makes your food stand out - shout about it. If your food doesn't stand out, go back to basics and get that right before trying anything else. People will pay more for a higher value product.
Offer Online Extras
Online marketing is an important tool when it comes to competing with competitors. You get an incredibly broad outreach and you can reward people who follow you online with exclusive deals.
It could be an email offer for a 2 for 1 night, a Twitter or Instagram competition where the first 200 likes or favourites get a free side with their food, or even a promise of a discount next visit if customers tweet or Instagram a picture of themselves enjoying your food.
Build a relationship with your current database and utilise it - they're already interested in what you have to offer, all you have to do is seal the deal.
Be Flexible But Not Too Flexible
It is important you offer something for everyone in some shape or form. Whether that's a kids menu, one vegan dish, or some gluten free options. If you can offer something to suit everyone that doesn't require much effort, do it.
However, don't overstretch yourself and lose your identity. A lot of restaurants can include a million different dishes on their menu, and try so hard to please every different type of customer they simply water down their product and end up losing customers. Add little touches to show you're flexible, but don't dilute your product.
People really do love getting something for free, which is why loyalty cards for restaurants are so popular. Reward loyalty in any way you can, whether it's with a loyalty card offer where a customer gets a free side or drink with their tenth meal with you, or perhaps a 'customer of the month' picture on social media.
Be creative - do you frequently change dishes up? Perhaps a loyal customer could name your latest dish of the day. And don't forget customer service goes a long way with rewarding loyalty - remember frequent customers by name and make them feel special, it will keep them coming back.
Get Involved With The Foodie Revolution
Everyone who's anyone is posting pictures of their food online, and that should include your restaurant. Create an Instagram account and get posting beautiful pictures of your food and of diners enjoying themselves at your restaurant. Help diners relate to your brand. Post amazing pictures to encourage them to visit you.
You should also share some of your recipes with customers via a blog and/ or social media. Brand the recipes, but don't hold back. A lot of restaurants don't do this because they don't want to give away their secrets. Consumers of today don't value secrecy they value transparency.
Don't be afraid to share your recipes for certain dishes, or even just certain parts of a dish like spicy mayo or rainbow salad. Customers will respond to you giving them even more value for their interaction with you and they will trust you're a leader in your industry.
Can You Offer A Takeout Service?
Don't panic, this doesn't mean you suddenly become all plastic boxes and napkins. A lot of restaurants offer a takeout service - even ones you wouldn't expect. You don't have to offer delivery - just the ability for customers to order with you and collect.
The easiest way to do this is with a mobile phone app as mobile phone apps for restaurants they are the dominant force when it comes to consumer activity relative to this industry. Alternatively offer the service through your website in a mobile friendly format - just don't forget to advertise it!
Offer Epic Customer Service
Can you get through a whole day without a TV programme, newspaper, friend or colleague mentioning rubbish customer service? With increased competition on the highstreet, consumers have become a lot more demanding when it comes to customer service. A frosty hello or unwillingness to help from staff can not only lose you one customer, but cause some pretty horrific damage to your business via word of mouth and social media.
Fabulous customer service can make the difference between a customer who never visits again after a meal wasn't quite right or service wasn't as fast, and one who is loyal no matter what because they have such a lovely time at your restaurant because staff put so much effort in.
The restaurant next door might have cheaper food, but they don't have waiting staff that bend over backwards to help you, or smile at you as soon as you walk in. Customer service really does make a difference, never underestimate it's power.
Make Sure Your Branding Is Coherent
Marketing in today's world isn't just a one directional approach. You have to think about utilising all the different marketing tools available - social media, web design, email marketing, search marketing - there are so many different ways to get your brand out there and get it noticed by everyone.
Competitors might have cheap deals, but your fantastic product, excellent customer service and epic marketing strategy will enable you to stay ahead of these continual trials and tribulations of the hospitality industry.
We offer a wide range of services web marketing and design services that will help you stand out from your local crowd. To talk to us about your challenges and how we can help, get in touch today.
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