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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Promoting Restaurants

Promoting Services is a really complicated exercise and particularly restaurant business is quite tough to operate in competitive market place. Anniversaries happen once a year, so do birthdays, dates happen across various locations, and that is why restaurateurs find it difficult to do promotions. To generate enough footfalls every day you have to have a really large clientele.
However, a reputation once created and regularly reinforced by sustained good experiences can act as a sustainable competitive advantage making a player successful in spite of the competition. A lot of new sets of ideas can be generated by focusing on the customer life cycle.

The customer Focused approach - attaching to the customer life-cycle
Touch points for various customers are different. As a person goes from age of college and dating (hopefully a lot of dates at the same place!), to jobs and marriage (and commitments along with it), the priorities change drastically. The expectations from a restaurant, as a result, changes. Some of the expectation changes could be mapped as below:
1. a hangout place
2. an exotic place for pampering your date,
3. a place where you get a meal fast during office lunchtime,
4. a place where you bring your clients to,
5. a place where you want to celebrate your anniversary,
6. place where you want to go after a movie (along with your wife)
7. a place to socialize to enhance your interpersonal relationships (for career growth)
Along these lines the strategy can evolve to attract people.

For example, as a hangout place, there may be designated days (Wednesdays / Thursdays nights, Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings - not Mondays/Tuesdays as you are not in the mood for hanging out then - No Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights as they are “primetime”). The menu should also reflect the change (out goes the wine and in comes the beer - 2 mugs against a cover charge - coffee and grub take preference over cuisine - music changes – layout changes lounge sofas come in – concentrated lights creating luminous circles on tables and dark spaces around them hiding the people - etc)
A Client Meeting place should involve telephonic reservation facility, customized menu card (with sponsor companies name and charge column left blank- chefs specialty included – can be made by any creative DTP person). As earlier the layout and arrangements should change – exotic wines – signature accessories – welcome boards at restaurant entrance (marking the guests name correctly) – company specific welcome drink branded in sponsor company name GE special banana milk shake (with a unique recipe of course not replicated on other menus - will work well with local businesses) - lights should be good enough for people to see each other clearly – small laptop stool should be made available along with notebooks and voice recorder if required. Client meetings should be available throughout weekdays.

Office time meal approach calls for pre-paid coupons – meal packages – meal cycle (set of varying menus that office goers can pick-up so that they do not get bored (same combo repeats once in two months), are well fed, meal is complete in terms of vitamins, calories, no-fat, fiber, carbohydrates, etc. Here too company sponsorship may be possible – company can sponsor dietician to customize the menu for their staff – this will be special menu – dietician has to work with restaurant menu as a superset of staff menu.

Finally a small note - care should be taken to keep tastes distinct, an ordered meal has to taste special and office-time meal has to taste homely. Restaurants are all about tastes – some in the mouth and some in the mind. Further, a lot of ideas can be developed by learning from the clubs of London of 18th and 19th century.