Tag Archives | Restaurant Business

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.

170 Disgruntled Customers

Disgruntled CustomersWe’ve all had one of these …

Last year Irina and I were on a business trip to Salt Lake City. We had some time to explore the area and found ourselves in a small town halfway between the city and Antelope Island. It was dinner time and a small constellation of restaurants just off the freeway looked very inviting.

A Vietnamese place seemed like a good idea. We got in and placed an order. Fifteen minutes later, out came our appetizers — “fresh” rolls. The very first bite revealed a stink coming from what looked like a strip of pork gone bad inside the roll. Cancel the order we did, and out the door we went, still starving and ready to settle for anything that would be borderline edible.

Where am I going with this?

There are a lot of moving parts in your business. Many things may go wrong. You don’t have to try to kill someone to spoil their experience. It could simply be slow service or the way your staff treated the customers.

Granted, it’s hard to deliver great food and outstanding service with machine-like consistency, especially with the minimum-wage workforce in your employ. But the price of not doing that could be too high.

How high, you may ask?

Let’s put some numbers on it. The best related stats I know of come from a customer research company called TARP, based Arlington, Virginia. Here’s what TARP research has to say that is important to this discussion:

  • On average, one disgruntled customer will share their experience with 12 other people;
  • Each of those 12 people will in turn mention it to 6 others
  • And if you add the original customer who actually had the bad experience, we are talking about (1 person you pissed off) + (12 people that person has talked to) + (12 groups * 6 people they contacted) = 85 people will no longer think very highly of your restaurant just because of a little mess-up!

And we’re not done yet.

If you think that most dining parties are made of two people, you have to multiply that 85 by 2, giving us a total of 170 people you have no hope of EVER doing business with!

We should also think about ChowHound and gazillions of similar sites where people discuss their restaurant experiences. There could be half a dozen sites covering your restaurant and you may not even know it! Your mess-up may end up being inspected by thousands of people trying to decide where they’re going to eat tonight.

Going back to my story, we didn’t know anyone locally to share our experience with so it’s hard to calculate the real damage there. But we are definitely not going back there this August when we visit Salt Lake City again. And hey, I’m writing about that incident here in this blog, right?

Now let’s try to put a price tag on this.

There are 2 ways to do that.

One is to use the Average Lifetime Profit Value. Say, your guests come — on average — 4 times a year for 5 years. That’s 20 checks. And let’s say they typically spend $24. So a guest is worth to you $480 in potential revenue or $160 in gross profits (at a very hypothetical 1/3 food cost, 1/3 labor, and 1/3 gross). Multiply that by 170 (the number of customers that one bad dining experience could cost your restaurant) and that’s $27,200.00 in lost profits!

The second way to see this is to look at your marketing cost. How much would you have to spend on marketing to get 170 people in? If you don’t know that number, you should. I betcha your Yellow Pages ad doesn’t pull in that many peopl,e and it costs you many thousands of dollars.

Now, given these numbers, how many “little mess-ups” can you afford before it’s all over?

Do The More Successful Restaurants Offer Better Food Than The Ones That Are Not So Successful?

Do the more successful restaurants offer better food than the ones that are not so successful?

Not necessarily. Or at least, not always.

Knowing how to cook is never a guarantee of success. And we all know of restaurants with “so-so” food and recipes that have managed to create a virtual monopoly in their markets.

One thing is certain though: If your product is bad, you can’t fix it with more marketing. The product needs to be at least “okay” or “good enough.”

The food is only a small part of the equation. Your customers have a number of “wants” and “don’t wants” when they visit you. The “don’t wants” are rather basic, really:

(a) They don’t want to get poisoned;

(b) They don’t want to be ignored or — worse — talked down to or yelled at; and

(c) They don’t want to wait too long.

The “wants” are a bit more elaborate, but they are nothing that you can’t provide if you’re running what could be the beginnings of a real business:

(a) They want their entrees hot and their salads cold;

(b) They want the wait staff to be helpful yet relatively invisible; and

(c) If they are dining with someone else, they want that person to commend them for suggesting your restaurant.

Notice that the grandma’s recipe from the old country or the fancy wallpaper on the wall don’t even enter the equation yet. Nor does it matter if your recipes are authentic, exciting, or were devised by Gordon Ramsey himself — unless and until you can fulfill the basic “wants” and “don’t wants” of your clientèle.

And if you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, but we’ve got it covered; these things never happen in my restaurant,” think again.

Even the best restaurants can’t deliver on all six items with any level of consistency. They recognize this fact and they work on it daily.

Which is what makes them the best restaurants around.

Hey, did you just say, “But my business is different!”?