Opening a restaurant is a top dream for many foodies. However, with the food industry being more competitive than most sectors, many restaurant owners find it hard to cope not only with the legal constraints, but also low customer numbers. As it is, to thrive in the restaurant business – and the hospitality industry in general – one needs to master and incorporate both creative artistry and good business management skills.
Attracting and maintaining a large and loyal customer base for your eatery is not rocket science, neither does it require massive capital outlay. It can be as simple as taking the following three approaches:
Work With a Concept
To paraphrase an old school marketing trope, you can’t attract or appeal to everyone. You have to find a specific audience and dedicate most of your resources and time to them. And it all starts with establishing a concept, or theme.
You may choose to be a fast food cafe, a BBQ restaurant, a coffee shop, or even go with a Create Your Plate theme. You can also go full tacky and conceptualize your eatery around a famous couple. Whatever concept you choose, make sure that everything, from the wall colors to the logo to the menu and staff uniforms, go together with your concept.
Have a Flagship Dish
Once you zero in on your overall restaurant theme and your target demographic, come up with a dish that will define your business and appeal to your market.
Think of McDonald’s and their hamburgers or Chick-fil-A and their famous chicken sandwiches. Of course, you should diversify your menu, but still, having one or two special dishes that everyone will identify you with is one of the best ways to create a loyal customer base. Notably, it shouldn’t be anything complicated. A simple, straightforward menu is easier and cheaper to prepare and also easier for your guests to remember and share with their friends.
Human beings are intrinsically social creatures, stuck in a permanent struggle to fit in and be admired and acknowledged by others. This is why, in the increasingly powerful digital economy powered by universal internet access, influencers are taking all the big bucks. For the uninitiated, influencer marketing basically involves people with big or respectable followings in social media platforms being used to market different products.
Influencer marketing in the restaurant business can take many forms. For instance, you can work with a famous YouTuber to shoot an episode of their vlog in your premises, showing the food and overall experience. You may also offer a free meal to a famous restaurant connoisseur passing through your town in exchange for a writeup in their blog. In the short and medium terms, contracting influencers is much cheaper than doing television or newspaper ads.
Passion and hard work are great and all, but will only take your restaurant so far. To consistently fill your restaurant, you need to have a workable plan and roadmap, ideally centering on the above points. Such a plan will keep you on the right track and provide you with a way to measure your progress.