I am considering using a promotion I saw back in the early 90s. You purchased an 8-ounce coffee mug from a big 24-hour burger chain in Texas (Whataburger) that also sold breakfast and whenever you brought it back you could fill it for a nickle. I am considering a 14-16 ounce travel mug for a quarter. Of course, the idea is that if they come back to fill the mug they will (usually) figure “I got my coffee cheap, I guess I could spend $1.50 on a sausage biscuit or $2.50 on a breakfast burrito”.
The NRA, National Restaurant Association has all kinds of Marketing Help. May be worth joining.
One other idea (again not original). I have to assume that you have the usual high-markup additions to you menu. When local groups hit you up for prizes for whatever contests they are having, offer coupons for one or more of these items. It increases your reputation, lets people know about you, and, frankly, how many people are going to go into your restaurant alone, take their free soda or fries, eat them, and walk out?
DItto about Groupon; I recently read an article (did someone here post it?) about how waitstaff have discovered that Groupon customers tend to tip based on what they pay, not the original price of the food. The result is complaints on both sides, where the service staff complain about the customers, and the customers complain about the lousy service they receive.
How about putting a high visibilty sign out front, and run a crazy special for a week or so….I bet it would get a lot of people in the door….
For instance, when I open my concession trailer I am going to run a grand opening special….I’m going to put a big sign out front with balloons…
My special to get people “in the door” will be 2 dogs any style, fries, and a drink for 3 bucks
A local place near me used to do an early bird dinner special. The portion may have been slightly smaller but it brought a very loyal customer base of older people in. They eventually got so busy that they no longer do the special but the same customer base is still there regularly. It is worth giving a try if you are a sit-down type of place.
Dr of BBQ
I’m not a fan of discounts in any way shape or form with one exception, and that is volume. If the volume is really big then I’ll discount the price. But that said I offer this study:
Study: Deal sites help restaurants draw new customers[/h2] September 19, 2011 | By http://nrn.com/alan-j-liddle-0 Alan J. Liddle[/h2] A study of restaurant consumers who use group or daily-deal websites, released last week by Rice University and Cornell University researchers, indicates that while deep discount offers may cause sales cannibalization, they also bring in new guests with positive attributes.
Read more: http://nrn.com/article/study-deal-sites-help-restaurants-draw-new-customers?ad=consumer-trends&utm_source=MagnetMail&utm_medium=email&[email protected]&utm_content=NRN-News-NRNam-09-20-11&utm_campaign=Meet%20Wendy%27s%20new%20burgers#ixzz1YUedBS38 http://nrn.com/article/study-deal-sites-help-restaurants-draw-new-customers?ad=consumer-trends&utm_source=MagnetMail&utm_medium=email&[email protected]&utm_content=NRN-News-NRNam-09-20-11&utm_campaign=Meet%20Wendy%27s%20new%20burgers#ixzz1YUedBS38
I just re-read the article on Groupon, and did some of my own research. Here’s the thing: you cannot think of it as any other thing than an advertising plan that you pay for in your costs, as opposed to cash. If your delta cost is low, then you can get some really nice advertising cheap.
The ads only stay up for a relatively short period of time; their audience is people who are constantly texting and going on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. My guess is that these are mostly younger people who give low tips out of ignorance more than cheapness. So another key is to remember that it is you, as the owner, who are paying for this, and you need to ensure that your staff doesn’t end up footing part of the bill for you. In other words, except for perhaps getting paid today for coupons that may not be redeemed for a year, or, at all, you are probably going to lose money on the actual coupons; the profit, theoretically, is in attracting new customers, notably among those who just see your ad (Groupon uses professional copywriters who use a “house style” designed to promote the business, not the discount).
The trick is to figure out a discount that will be attractive, won’t cost you too much, and avoid a deal that will attract too many people who would not otherwise use your business. Also, you have to decide whether the continuous texting crowd is who you feel will make good customers. For a diner-like ambiance, probably not.
This all came about because, by strange coincidence, a (non restaurant) client was considering looking into Groupon and asked me to do the research. In my particular case, it’s a difficult fit, because while the grouponers are an attractive market, their ability to give an attractive while not too expensive discount is very limited.
I just signed up with txt180.com to do text message marketing. I know it won’t drive any new customers my way, but if I can use it to increase my existing customers frequency of visits, that will help the bottom line. I’m going to do weekly text coupons, occasional specials, and also use it as an alert system to tell subscribing regulars if I will be closed on a certain day. I figure the more they hear from me, the more I stay on their mind.
I am so glad I found this forum! I joined to ask your advice on this topic. I own a small restaurant with a local diner “feel” to it. We hav the regulars that come in but I am looking for a way to attract new customers. I have been approached with ideas but they eat away (excuse the pun) at my profits. I was told by an Internt friend of mine to use MailChimp to start email marketing but I don’t know how to get a list of new people. Any ideas? I don’t have a huge buget and local print ads don’t give me the reach or response I need. Has anyone heard about restaurant giveaways? they are at and offered me the chance to list a giveaway for free. They have people that will enter and they said I can use it to build a relationship with these people. It sounds good but I want to know if anyone used them. They said they have a free option but before I waste any time, I would like to know for sure. Thoughts? Please? Anyone? any other ideas would be helpful as well.
another idea im trying to get hooked up with is a couple of local radio stations are doing there own respective versions of a “feed me friday” promo you get tons of free local radio hype for the promotion, callers try to be #9 during the week, and then fridays they pick a name from the #9 callers to get a free lunch for up to 15 people wherever the winner works(workforce lunch patrol) the following monday….. and all weekend long they are promoting the winners getting ready for monday, and you get 7 days a week, probably 6-8 spots a day free advertising
i plan on doing the “10 card” also, everyone i speak to says it works great, keeps loyal customers happy with the occasional freebie, and helps new customers decide where to go back to…..
i had an idea about a “master card” play on the 10 card….. whenever a customer cashes in a 10card offer them a “master card” and punch it every time a 10card is redeemed…. when the master card is punched 10 times, give them 2 hours catering at a kids b-day party or something (simple hot dogs/hamburgers kind of thing) with limits of course……because now, you have just opened yourself a new door with all the neighborhood moms
I try not to give away anything, no combos etc. If you want it you need to fork over the cash. I would love to walk into a Dodge dealer and be able to buy a truck and get my pick off the used car lot for free. Ain’t going to happen.
Seriously, get out there and promote your business, print menus and fliers and hit the street! Do the buy ten free cards, they work and I will do those, but don’t just give away food to increase business. Loyal customers are one thing, but giving away food to attempt to increase business is just foolish in my book.
Try to create one awesome food item that you can put out quickly and that is unique. I have two items, MY BIGGEST SELLERS and the two HIGHEST priced items on my menu that I specialize in. One is a Chicago Dog @ $3.50 ea and the other is a 9″ Philly Cheese Steak @ $7.75 ea. I use all Vienna Beef product for the Chicago Dogs, and source all of my Cheese Steak ingredients direct from Philly, including the Amoroso rolls and real Cheez Whiz. My food costs are right around 27-28% on these two items, which again are my best sellers, do the math.
My secret, I used to live in Chicago and Philly, I know what the customer wants and I know what I like. I continually point out that I lived in both towns, poo poo Pat’s and Geno’s (YUCK), pump Vienna and put out the product that I found the best in both cities. I just wish I could get some 18″ Amoroso rolls to make a true masterpiece, I could pump these out at around $14 a pop all day long.
Where exactly are you in Toledo? I’m just up the road from you not far from Ann Arbor. Depending on your actual location you may be sitting on a gold mine if you do it right. Do you have a beer license?
Marketing is an area that I struggled with when I launched my first business. I found that radio advertising had one of the worst ROI for me. Instead, marketing directly to local businesses and volunteer fire departments gave me the best ROI. I would give them a menu and provide them with some free food samples. Most would return the favor and give me business..then it is up to me to retain their business. There is a new concept coming out that a friend of mine beta tested with amazing results..It basically allows restaurants the ability to handout a branded “coupon” with a unique code on it. Customers would login to the homepage, type in their number / email address and they would go to a branded page with prize squares. My friend put %off amounts, buy 1 entree get free appetizers, and even gave away mp3 players and a cruise. Most were just discounts to drive more business in, but the bigger prizes forced people to see what they won since they knew there was a chance to win something big. In the end, they clicked a button and a prize was chosen by the website and an email was sent to the winner. In that email, he posted additional marketing including giving them the chance to like them on facebook, join mailing list, etc.. I am signing up when this goes live later this year (their site says fall of 2011). I won’t post the URL, but its called Cinco Squared.
Also, I have heard great things about Mail Chimp…the problem is getting email addresses…that is where collecting them via campaign as I outlined above or by performing a google search for “Contact email” and searching for .xls files…Or you will have to open your wallet and buy database with email addressess…Getting past their spam filter or drawing interest is not easy though. The key is to have the ability to quantify your marketing success so you know if it is worth it.
I always though pizza and a movie might be a cool idea…DVD rentals are dying, but a nearby rental place might partner with you. It would be convenient to have pizza and a dvd delivered and then picked up on your next delivery…just thinking out-loud.
A number of our customers read our FB page and follow our tweets. Maybe it the the Oregon food truck thing, but that is how we promote news items. I don’t discount, I believe in selling value not price, even at a food cart.
As we mainly go to farmers markets and events, we let those organizations do most of the spending for marketing. Saves me a bundle.
A couple of things: Know the difference between marketing and sales. Some of the ads you see are marketing ( e.g. brand positioning and brand awareness…) some ads are sales campaigns. Ensure that you understand which one you want to do and are willing to pay for.
One useful tool for sales is the sales funnel. i’m writing an article on our site (this is not trolling, I’m not in the ad business, just don’t want to type the same stuff twice). But there are some good articles on wikipedia and other spots that bear some review.
Loyalty marketing, buy 10 get one free cards can work well. Most folks rarely hold on the cards long enough to collect but if the do God bless em, they are regular motivated customers.
Using a free give awas service like groupon or the like is a horrible move. You only attract penny pinchers that will only purchase when the can get something that will cost you money and don’t come back for full price. The only one making money on thost things are the folks that sell the promotion.
localnet if on the money with getting you menu to all local businesses, schools etc.
Schools and local civic groups are also a way to get the word out. Contributing Cupons for free combos when they have fund raiser or events will get the word out that you are a part of the community and bring in new local customers.
Never buy an e-mail list and send to it, that’s spam and its only popular fried in Hawaii.
Set up a Facebook page and have folks friend you on it. You can then contact folks with specials through it and they can send those special to friends. Those specials should still give you a profit however.
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