A quick story today with a critical take-away for your restaurant business, and an important announcement at the end.
Onwards to a story…
Last week I decided to pop in on the Darden Restaurants shareholder conference call. When a company like this is sharing what they do and why, and what they see going on in the market place, I sit up and listen. Nobody gets to be a 170,000-employee company by sheer luck. There is always a reason and a method.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one listening to that call (manufactured laughter goes here). The next morning food-service & restaurant publications were super-prompt to announce that Darden was “finally” experiencing a slowdown because of the state of the economy (big deal).
And they entirely missed the point that I found the most important.
Yes, pretty much all of Darden’s concepts were down by about 3.7%, which is on par with the overall foodservice industry index. But… Olive Garden (one of Darden’s concepts) was doing extremely well.
Olive Garden grew 5% compared to the same quarter last year!
Not a single analyst noted this very remarkable fact — Olive Garden is doing well. In fact, so well compared to the rest of the industry, it deserves a look to understand what specifically they do and how they get to be so successful.
So here’s a list of 5 things that you should do in your restaurant to replicate the success they are experiencing (loosely based on the information of that conference call, with my interpretation):
1. When the economy is slow, step up your marketing.
When the cold winds of the economic slowdown come to the city, most businesses respond by canceling their advertising. They crawl into the shell and try to wait it out, hoping for a miracle.
Smart restaurant owners do the reverse. They ramp up their marketing: It’s so much easier to get heard in the market when everybody else is hiding. Smart restaurant owners also know better than to equate marketing to advertising: There are marketing methods that are more effective and less costly than advertising.
2. Stay on their minds.
Olive Garden uses creative advertising to remind their customers they are still here. They manage to stay at the forefront of their customers’ minds via TV ads.
As much as this approach could be good for a large company like Darden, however, such a stunt could be suicidal for a small restaurant: Running image ads on TV is a costly and arguably the least effective way to advertise. It is called “branding,” or more specifically, “macro-branding.”
The other, less expensive, and more targeted way to stay on your customers’ minds is called “micro-branding.” This includes a variety of ways to “touch” them, via email newsletters, event announcements, greeting cards, phone messages, and printed newsletters. Many of these tools are either free or inexpensive. And they are relatively easy to track. There is no excuse not to use them.
3. Create reasons for them to come in again and again.
Olive Garden keeps coming up with new items and specials, and they synchronize promotions with the release of the new menu item. You can do the same. And it’s easy to inform your list about new menu items. That is, if you have a list (see strategy #2 above).
Also, you can create many more reasons for your customers to come back — many of which may have nothing to do with the food (e.g. special events and “happenings”).
I’ll cover two more lessons in a separate post, tomorrow.
Now, the announcement.
We are running a 2-day intensive Restaurant Profit Bootcamp in Austin, Texas, on October 6 & 7 — see www.RestaurantProfitBootcamp.com. We can only accommodate 28 people (that’s 30, as allowed by the fire code, minus the two instructors), and 6 seats are gone as I’m writing this.
If you’re serious about becoming a true Restaurant Commando and receive a complete arsenal of tools to deal with any hostile market situation, you can’t afford to miss The Bootcamp.
READY TO TAKE YOUR RESTAURANT BUSINESS SERIOUSLY?
Say "enough's enough" to half-empty dining rooms, humdrum shifts, and wondering which half of your marketing budget was wasted.
73% of teenagers and adults are walking around with a smartphone (iPhone, Android, or Blackberry) in their back pocket. They use is for everything: Playing games, checking emails, texting their friends and ... googling your restaurant's website. If your website is not mobile ready, you're missing out on a lot of walk-ins. Download our Restaurant Commando's Mobile Readiness Checklist.
Watch this quick video about how to set up a Birthday Club that practically runs on an auto-pilot. This is going to be the easiest, fastest money you will ever create in you restaurant business.
Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.