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Protected: How Well-Meaning Restaurant Owners Deprive Themselves Of Time, Profits, and Success… and How To Avoid Making Their Mistakes

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Grand Opening? Soft Opening?

grandopening

Lori, a reader from Florida, says she’s opening a restaurant (congratulations!) and asks this:

“What is the best to open this restaurant? Grand opening or soft? Have heard arguments for both…”

Well, let’s see…

The arguments for either one are missing the point. It’s not one versus the other.

Doing just the soft opening is silly. It like saying, “Well, let’s see if this whole restaurant thing is for me. If enough people find out about me, I guess we’ll keep on cooking.” You quit before you’d started. And when you did start, you did it with a severe handicap to your competition.

On the other hand, starting out with a bang and succeeding in attracting a lot of people fast could be as bad. Your kitchen may implode on the very first night. The logistics get intricate and the sparks fly when you have 50 four-tops sitting there for 2 hours waiting for their plates to come out. Ugly.

The correct answer is, you need a soft opening followed by a grand opening 3 or 4 weeks later. The soft opening gives you a chance to work out all the logistical kinks, train the staff, tweak the menu, and really understand who you want to attract as a customer. This way you are in a position to hit a home run on the night of the grand opening.

That’s why soft opening first, then grand.

Also, the idea that there can only be one Grand Opening for a restaurant ever is totally, utterly, absolutely false. You can — and should — have as many grand openings as you want and need. Once it gets too repetitive, you can call them “special events”.

And this is when the calendar becomes your biggest friend.

Which is what we cover in depth in the Instant VIP Clubs course.

Higher Menu Prices and Congruency

Menu Prices and IncogruencyA fresh restaurant marketing story for you with a wee bit of a moral in the end.

In order to be able to set and maintain higher menu prices than those of your competition, you need to carefully “choreograph” all elements of your customer’s experience. And in that, no detail is too small.

Onwards to a story.

We just had a nice dinner in San Simeon, California. A tiny village halfway between LA and San Francisco with a population of 400, it consists of a gift shop and maybe a dozen of hotels and restaurants on both sides of Hwy 1.

Given the geographic location (middle of nowhere), we didn’t expect much from the seafood restaurant attached to the hotel where we stayed for the night. Least of all did we expect their menu to demand a more-than-respectable $21+ average per entree.

Yet that’s exactly what it did.

A family with 2 kids at the table next to us, not able to cope with the sticker shock, got up noisily and hurried out the door in search of a more affordable option. (Kudos to the Maitre D’ who was prompt, vocal, and sincere in thanking them for coming and making it appear to the other guests as if he was parting with his best friends.)

We stayed. Part too lazy to move our buns, part curious to see how the kitchen would live up to a relatively high bar they’d set for themselves.

The restaurant was about half-full. The day being Monday, and many of the kids being back at school, that looked like a good night.

The waiter did his part well all the way, from offering the drinks to suggesting the specials, to becoming invisible when we didn’t need him, to re-appearing when we did. The food was worth every dollar the menu demanded for it, and possibly more.

Looks like we had a winner.

Except for one small but nagging detail.

Which was the busgirl (the person making the least money of all the people at the store that night) who answered every “thank you” with a dewy-eyed “uhuh”.

Now, since when does “uhuh” mean “you’re welcome”?

I found myself thinking about how well everything that night was orchestrated to make my experience congruent with the menu and to make me happy to part with the money.

And also thinking about how every lumpish “uhuh” thrown at me negated everything good that had happened to that point, and reminded of how far away from the city we were.

That is called incongruency and it is your biggest obstacle to your ability to increase and maintain higher check averages.

When it comes to restaurant marketing, little things aren’t little anymore. They are everything.

Three questions for you to ponder (your restaurant business will soar once you find answers to these):

  • How should you “choreograph” your customers’ experience?
  • How do you train your waitstaff now and how should you really train them?
  • How can you ensure they don’t bring their hapless social habits into your restaurant?

Restaurant Coupon Marketing: The 2-For-1 Deal Is Dead

Restaurant coupons are a double-edged sword.  Used the right way, they can get you a swarm of new guests. Used the wrong way, they will train your existing customers never to buy your food without a discount.

You can hardly surprise anyone with a 2-for-1 deal these days. You can hardly entice them either. A discount that is attached to an entree is like a vacuum cleaner sucking the cash out of your wallet. This is NOT the right way to run a restaurant.

Here’s the deal.

A discount is just one of the ways to create value for your customers. One of many.

Once you understand this, you’re on the right path to what my good friend Nathan Gilder calls “clever coupons.”

Here’s an example of a clever coupon:

“Free Homemade Brownie with Footlong Sub!”

Some guests have a weird craving for chocolate after downing one of our famous subs. Well… we give in… for the next three weeks you can get a free, delicious homemade brownie with any footlong.

This is a real one used by a restaurant owner who enjoyed an extra $1,225.87 in profit that month.

Clever coupons are the kind that:

  • create curiosity;
  • offer a bundled deal, never a blatant discount;
  • give away something that your customers want and that is NOT an entree;
  • require customers to do something to qualify for the special;
  • are unique and unusual.

Nathan has put together a Special Report entitled Using Restaurant Coupons and that’s where I found the example above. The report has several more outstanding examples in it. Go there now. See it for yourself.

(Note: There is a video of the new online coupon system. Watch it first, then request the Using Restaurant Coupons report using the form below the video. It’s yours gratis.)

D.I.Y. Restaurant Marketing Research

We took them to the water.

We wanted to see if they would drink.

The first “beta tester” group of restaurant owners and managers had completed Week 1 of our Instant V.I.P. Clubs program and we were keeping out fingers crossed hoping the aha‘s, the revelations, and the excitement that had come out during the conference call would still be there, a few days later.

Will they actually take all the great information and the tools we’ve given them, and the ideas they have come up by following the process — and implement them in their businesses?

You never know what’s going to happen.

It’s a moment of truth in this game.

Our information is worth exactly as much as they will apply it in their business. Full stop. End of story.

Motivation is transient. Entertainment is worthless. The ooh‘s and the ahh‘s don’t count for anything. Only results do.

The first workbook is all about defining the restaurant marketing target.  Who are your customers? What do they want? What else do they spend money on? What are they passionate about in their lives?

Toni, one of our students, did an outstanding job in the virtual “classroom.” Yet she had some questions left. The kind of questions that nobody can answer for her, except… her.

And she did. Check out this note from her:

This morning there was a scheduling mishap and instead of trying to cover the cashier’s shift I took it as an opportunity to do some research. I found out as much as I possibly could about every customer that walked through the door. I recorded answers to the questions I would ask and observations that I made in my notebook that I kept under the register. I wrote down details like ages, how they looked, what they ordered, where they worked, if they used a coupon, marital status, whether they had families, what kind of hot sauces they like (if any), whether they were first timers or not, how they heard about us, who they were with, whether they were in a hurry, if they ordered to go, if they tipped (server thing), rated their enthusiasm and basically made a judgement weather or not they would be good candidates for our V.I.P. club. I encourage everyone to do something like this and keep a daily log of current customer traits. It was very informative and exact.

Amen, sister. You rock!

Now, is there something that Toni did and that you can’t? Nah, don’t think so. If you are too lazy, or too stubborn, or too “above it” to do what Toni just did, you have no right to be mopey about the state of your restaurant business.

Want The Password?

Would you like the password for the prior posts?

Sorry. It’s too late.

But it’s not too late to sign up to get access to RestaurantCommando.com’s password-protected posts in the future. We post them every time we have something extra exciting to share with our subscribers.

Subscribing is free. It’s easy. And it’s safe.

Here’s how it works:

1. Find that picture of a special report in the upper-right corner (yeah, that one with a girl on the cover.) Found it? Beneath is a form. It only asks for two items of information about you.

Enter your name in the first blank. You can enter a fake name. That’s fine. You can enter just your first name. That’s fine too.

Enter your email address in the 2nd blank. You must enter your real email address. We’ll be sending you future passwords by email, so if you don’t enter a real email address, you won’t get them.

2. Click the button to submit your information. It’s safe with us. We won’t share it with anyone. We will only use it to send a short email telling you each time there is a new blog entry. The password will be included with any password-protected blog entry.

3. Go to your email box. Find the confirmation email we sent you. Follow the directions and click on the link in the email to confirm your email address.

That’s it.

In the future, when we post a password-protected blog entry (and those are always the best blog entries, with the most valuable information), you will get the password by email. Easy, huh?

Every single email we send you will have an unsubscribe link. So you can change your mind at any time. If you want to stop getting blog announcements, just click the link provided in any email we send you. It’s that simple.

What are you waiting for?

Regards,

Chief Commando

Protected: One Burger, One Fry, And One Jay Leno

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Managing Food Cost Recession Style

Two weeks ago, we talked about the futility of managing food cost by compromising quality, reliability, or supplier relationships. (See Food Cost: This Horse Is Lame. Stop Beating Her, Brother…“)

Here’s the deal: You shouldn’t be paying more for the ingredients than the other guy but you shouldn’t be spending the majority of your time checking prices either. Cost is just a part of management and not a whole other job.

It is easier to grow your revenues by 5%
using the right marketing tactics than it is
to bring your food cost down by the same 5%

I know it’s a stretch but… if you were to knock down your food cost by 5%, what would it mean to you in terms of profits? On a $100K monthly revenue and $30K in food cost, that’s  a respectable $1.5K in new profits. Not bad so far.

Alas, you don’t have to be a betting man to know that inevitably food cost will go up again, wiping out the savings you have worked so hard to create.

On the other hand, when it comes to marketing, you have 2 options:

  1. Get more new guests to check out your food, or
  2. Bring in existing customers more often.

The latter is much easier than the former. One good way to do that could be a V.I.P. Club. Not only can you get them to come in more often, you can get them to bring their friends too.

A V.I.P. Club that increases your revenue by the same 5% will put an extra $3.5K in your pocket — that’s $5.0K in extra revenue minus $1.5K in food to feed all the additional customers!  The best part is, you can do this again and again, month after month. Once a successful marketing method is in place, it works month after month, indefinitely, with little additional effort.

Now, which one would you rather have: A doubtful $1.5K once or a more likely $3.5K over and over again?

Restaurant Menu, iPod, and Your Underwear…

davidCelebrity chef David Adjey (star of Restaurant Makeover, and a chef to other celebrities like Dan Aykroyd), opens his book with his version of culinary “commandments”. Quoting as I remember it, one of them goes like this:

“Never order anything off a menu that is longer than your underwear.”

Green with envy that David has found this uber-powerful metaphor, I think of it every time I’m at a restaurant. (Even though I don’t need to pull down my khakis to know that the menu is ugh.)

The menu should never be taken lightly. Each item is a salesperson. A salesperson that doesn’t sell needs to be fired. A menu item that doesn’t sell need to be cut. Fast and to the bone.

And then some.

Because there is no room for things coincidental and circumstantial. The menu needs direction and purpose.

And focus.

A lot of it.

The kind of focus that makes it impossible for one’s mind to wander away even for a second. The kind that makes a buying decision a snap. The customer is here to have a great meal and definitely not to spend time solving charades and puzzles. The menu is a shortcut between a craving in the stomach and a hot dish on the table. Anything but, and trouble is imminent.

“iPod” has become a synonym for “MP3 player.” An indisputable market leader, it is very possibly a player with the least number of functions. Which is counterintuitive. Yet it sells like gangbusters, understandably torquing off all their competitors who just don’t “get it.”

A brief history lesson: When the first iPods hit the market, their hardware included an FM tuner and a voice recorder. Yet these two relatively important functions were not enabled on purpose. Steve Jobs (the CEO of Apple) decided to sacrifice functionality for the sake of clarity and simplicity. As a result, an entire new industry was created.

Same applies to the menu:

Less is easier.

Less is faster (faster order, faster dish, faster table turn-over).

Less is more money in the bank account.

PS: We recently recorded an interview with someone who reduced his menu to just one entree, one side, and one drink. His sales are going through the roof and people fly in to eat at his restaurant from all over the world (even Tokyo). Heck, he even appeared on Jay Leno! While the interview is being sound edited, all subscribers will receive an “uncut” version of the interview. (And if you’re not a subscriber, you need to sign up fast — there, in the top-right corner.)